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Orcas Island to Melbourne Beach and back


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#1 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 09:48 PM

This was the first long-distance trip I have made on Amtrak in ten years, and my first cross-country trip in twenty years.  I simply love my home so much that I don’t want to travel.

 

I started out by flying from Orcas Island to Boeing Field on a Kenmore Airlines Cessna Caravan.  They provided a shuttle to Sea-Tac Airport, from where I caught the light rail to Seattle and rode around on it for a while to see the system.  I then went to King Street Station, and found a nice restaurant nearby for lunch.  After returning to the station, the westbound Empire Builder arrived over four hours late, with a BNSF unit on the point followed by two Amtrak P-42’s.  We ended up leaving Seattle two hours late, and more or less retained that tardiness the entire journey to St.Paul. My train #8 (Jan. 9) had a full consist of two locos, baggage, dorm, two sleepers, diner, and two coaches.  The #28(9) that joined us added one loco (which was cut off at Minneapolis-St. Paul), a SSL, two coaches, one sleeper, plus a SSL tagging along deadheading.  We maybe could have used that extra SSL, since ours had a heating problem (outside temperatures were well below zero in Montana and North Dakota).  The cafe remained open, but the attendant warned people it was too cold to stay in the lounge, and the toilets froze up.  I had a Family Bedroom on that leg, and enjoyed the wide lower berth and overall spaciousness and privacy, but I’ll admit that even with windows on both sides the view is not as good out of the small windows as the double-sized windows in a Roomette or Bedroom.  Also, there was occasionally considerable noise from the train kicking up ice—not bad, just something to consider.  My SCA was Zach, who usually works in the coaches.  He did an excellent job—he was always available when I looked for him.  

 

My brother met me in St.Paul, and I spent a few days with him in Willow River.  Before he dropped me off, we visited the Como Park Conservatory, with tropical gardens that were a nice break from the frigid temperatures on the days I was there.  I spent the night at the Hyatt Place hotel, which is in a refurbished customs office building right across the street from St.Paul Union Depot.  My room was very nice, and although they don’t have a restaurant they provided adequate food for my dinner, as well as a hot breakfast.

 

St. Paul Union Depot is beautiful.  There is a somewhat incongruous light sculpture on the ceiling of people swimming, but otherwise it has been renovated true to its original form. Also, it appears to get considerable use as a bus terminal. My eastbound Empire Builder came in about two hours late.

 

I took the Lake Shore Limited to New York, even though I was headed to Florida and the LSL  doesn’t connect with the Florida trains.  I had never been on that route, and wanted to check out the scenery.  Even though much of the route is dark in winter I think that the scenery is much better on the Capitol Limited.  The Fairfield Inn and Suites right across from the Farley building was my hotel in New York.  It was fine, just fine.  My wife once stayed at the Pennsylvania Hotel near Penn Station while connecting trains, and was somewhat disappointed.

 

I did not get the new Viewliner diner on either of the trains to or from Florida. The overall service, food quality, and state-of-repair on all of the trains I rode was adequate, with no major deficiencies.

 

There was a rocket launch scheduled while I was in Florida, so I booked a visit to Kennedy Space Center that day and was quick enough to get a ticket to a two-mile-away viewing site.  The countdown actually proceeded beyond the launch window, but launch was scrubbed in the final 40 seconds due to a small plane flying into the range.  I sat with my aunt on the deck of my hotel the next night and viewed the launch from 20 miles away.

 

AU member “Shanghai” met me for lunch when I boarded #98(21) in Kissimmee, Florida.  He has me convinced that I need to get to an AU Gathering!  We also met for dinner. I got off the train in Washington before breakfast, and caught the Cardinal to Chicago.  There were three full coaches on #51(22), with an unusually high number of women wearing pink hats.  The salmon I had for dinner in the Dinette was very good.

 

The Seattle section, #7(23), had only one sleeper and one coach.  My #27(23) offered the most disappointment of the trip, but certainly not bad enough to keep me away from Amtrak.  The SCA announced that there was only one water bottle per person. The LSA would not ask people in the SSL if they wanted dinner reservations, and her announcements were inaudible over the PA system. I had been accustomed to having enough pillows to sit up in bed (you need to fill that space below the head cushion), as there were six pillows in the family room and four in each of the Viewliner roomettes.  But this Superliner roomette only had two pillows.  The SCA did find two more pillows for me, but was otherwise pretty much absent.  The SSL on this train appeared and smelled as if it had recently been renovated—the windows were dated 10-2016.  But I noticed that my roomette’s windows were dated 1-2016, and they were so dirty it was impossible to photograph out them.  It was completely impossible to see out the window at the end of the train, and there were pieces of trash and washcloths under the seat in my roomette. Breakfast coming in to Portland was the only disappointing meal of my journey (the blueberry bar looked delicious, but was unpalatable, and the croissant was cold…)  

 

My northbound Cascades from Portland to Bellingham incurred significant delays from freight congestion.  And my southbound Cascades the next day arrived at the station early and departed on time, but waited 15 minutes just outside the station for an oil train to pass.  I was only on board for the half hour to Mount Vernon (26 miles), so this was relatively the worst delay of my journey.  The purpose of this short hop was to fill a critical gap in my experience of most of Amtrak’s system: it is the stretch of track closest to my home, and it is one of the most scenic segments in the country. 

 


Edited by Maglev, 13 February 2017 - 10:49 PM.

Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#2 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:29 PM

Here's Orcas Island Airport (ESD, for Eastsound) terminal building:

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#3 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:30 PM

My house is right smack dab in the center of this shot:

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#4 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:31 PM

The place I had lunch in Seattle has 1,650 bottles of whiskey on the wall:

 

 

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#5 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:33 PM

Here's a snow drift that accumulated in one of the coaches on #8(9) that had a tiny gap in the door:

 

 

 

 

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#6 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:37 PM

Light sculpture in St.Paul Union Depot:

 

 

 

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#7 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:38 PM

View of the Farley Building and Madison Square Garden from the Empire State Building:

 

 

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Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#8 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:40 PM

This is sunrise from my hotel room in Florida:

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Edited by Maglev, 28 January 2017 - 10:48 PM.

Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#9 Maglev

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 10:47 PM

View of the San Juan Islands from #513(27):

 

Attached File  IMG_6775.jpg   42.8KB   12 downloads

 

Another view from #513(27):

 

Attached File  IMG_6782.jpg   36.98KB   12 downloads

 

And finally, Cascades #510(27) was equipped with two Superliner coaches and a diner-lounge:

 

Attached File  IMG_6793.jpg   51.99KB   13 downloads


Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 

#10 Bob Dylan

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 11:36 PM

Nice trip and pics,thanks for sharing!

I have friends on Lopez Island and have enjoyed many wonderful days in the San Juans! (during the Summer! 😁)
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
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Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#11 jis

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 09:33 AM

Maglev, I see that you visited my neck of the woods here on the Space Coast. Glad you enjoyed it, and sorry that you had to suffer through a scrub. They actually happen quite often. That is why we the locals have alternate locations to watch these from, that does not require paying an arm and a leg. Though even from 20 miles away in Melbourne Beach i still quite impressive. I live about 20 miles due South of the launch pads in West Melbourne and I get a similar view from my back porch.



#12 JayPea

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 09:58 AM

Nice report!!!! I live near Pullman and made visiting all 39 counties in Washington one of my first travel goals. I finally reached that goal a few years ago when I went on a whale watching tour out of Seattle on the Victoria Clipper and the tour I chose docked at Friday Harbor long enough to explore it a little bit. That was my first visit to San Juan County. I know there is so much more to the San Juans; I plan to make a more thorough visit some day.

I like your attitude about taking the bad with the good when it comes to Amtrak. Your SCA on #27 sounds like the same one I had last year returning to Spokane from Chicago. Did as little as possible and griped about doing that.

I am going to Seattle in June and while there am taking the Cascades up to Vancouver and back for a day. Got to make use of my enhanced drivers' license!!!! That and like you fill in another gap in my Amtrak travels.

Glad you had such a great trip!
Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Pacific Surfliner, Cardinal.
 
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled:
Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle  (Union Pacific) Panama Limited (Illinois Central)

Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB),Galesburg-Bloomington (CZ/Lincoln Service )
 

Amtrak Miles: 81242

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8478

Bustitution Miles: 450

Excursion trains ridden:  Centralia and Chehalis Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, Alaska Railroad, 1880 Train (Black Hills Central RR) and trains at the Illinois Railway Museum, California Railway Museum, and the Monticello (IL) Railroad Museum.

#13 Ronbo

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 12:12 PM

Sounds like overall you had a very nice getaway, I like the way you started out by flying from Orcas. I live on Bainbridge Island, and have been up to The San Juans many times over the last 30+ years, only by ferries, never by flying! It looks like you had lunch in Seattle at F.X. McRory's? Been there many times, before and after sporting events and various other sorts of exhibitions etc. at the now gone Kingdome!

#14 oregon pioneer

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 03:45 PM

Nice trip report and photos. Like you, I live in a place that is nice enough (and remote enough) that I don't like to leave very often! :hi:


Jennifer

 

I'm a "little Old Lady in Tennis Shoes" (LOLITS) from Eastern Oregon. I love to travel by train, though I live way out in the toolies, far from the nearest Amtrak station (Chemult). My station would have been Baker City, but they cancelled the Oregon Pioneer just before I took my first long-distance train trip as an adult. I've taken most trains in the West, but I'm still exploring new routes in the east.


#15 Maglev

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 10:29 PM

I am glad I paid for the close-up launch viewing.  It was exciting to be able to actually see the rocket itself, and there was a running commentary by an expert that kept everyone biting their nails until the final second.  I think most of those who were there gained an appreciation for how complex launches are.  It is a miracle these things ever get off the ground at all, and scrubs are to be expected.

 

It's a little difficult getting to and from the San Juan Islands by train.  There was several years ago a passenger ferry from Bellingham (right near the train station) to Victoria that stopped on Orcas Island just a couple miles from my home.  Washington State Ferries operates auto and passenger service to the San Juan Islands and Sidney, BC, from Anacortes, which is about 15 miles from Skagit Station used by Amtrak in Mount Vernon (MVW).

 

Here's the Alaska Ferry arriving in Bellingham just before the southbound then northbound trains arrive:  

 

Attached File  IMG_6771.jpg   66.65KB   12 downloads  


Northeast corridor Heritage, Amfleet and Acela, CN Super Continental, Broadway Limited, Lone Star, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, Southwest Limited, National Limited, Champion, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Wolverine, Crescent, Empire Builder, Cascades, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Cardinal. 




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