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NYP-WAS - first time traveller?


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#1 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 03:36 AM

Hello,

As a tourist, I am in the early stages of planning a train journey between New York and Washington DC as a same-day return trip, purely for the train ride itself as I thought it would be a good way to 'see' that part of the country as opposed to flying over it.

With that said, I am very keen to have a window seat on one side of the train for the southbound trip to DC, then to have a window seat on the opposite side of the car for the northbound trip back to New York as I would like to view the journey from both sides of the train. 


From my research I gather that seating allocation on NRE services is on a first come, first served basis.
In order to secure my preferred choice of seats, what advice can be given here? 

1) When boarding at NYP, are the NRE trains always empty of passengers or are some services a direct continuation from Boston (ie. passengers arriving from Boston stay on the same train as the new passengers join at NYP)?

2) What is the boarding process at NYP and WAS for the NRE services?
     I assume you wait in the departure hall until your train is called, then everyone rushes down to the platform to secure their preferred seat?

3) Are there recommended times during the day when the NRE services are at their most quiet/least busy in terms of passenger numbers?

4) I would prefer to travel in coach class, however will I increase my chances of getting my choice of seat (either side of the car for each trip) if I were to book a business class ticket instead?


Hope this made some sense to you.
Thanks,
A1



#2 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 05:29 AM

One place you may have a better chance of a window seat is in the quiet car.

I would think non “rush hour” would be good for times.
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#3 Johanna

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 06:01 AM

1. Some (about half, I think?) of the southbound trains from NYP originate in NYP, and the rest are continuing services from points north.  However, in my experience, that doesn't make much difference, as most passengers on the through trains get off at NYP.

 

Note that several of the northbound trains from WAS are also continuing services from points south (like Richmond and Lynchburg).

 

2. That's about right for the boarding process at NYP.  At WAS, however, platforms are announced well in advance - sometimes an hour or more - and people start lining up at the gate as soon as the platform is known.  If you don't mind spending your time this way, you can maximize your chances of being one of the first ones on the train.

 

I can't really help with 3 or 4.



#4 snvboy

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 07:49 AM

A business class ticket will also help put you in a (typically) less crowded car and therefore a better chance at the seat your want. And you get free coffee.



#5 the_traveler

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:07 AM

At NYP, even though some of the trains come from BOS, about 90% of the passengers disembark at NYP. Thus, it is almost like boarding a new train with plenty of seats.

I find the easiest way to be sure to get a good seat is to use a Red Cap at NYP and WAS. They usually allow you to board early. Best $5 (or whatever) tip you will spend!:)

Edited by the_traveler, 07 July 2018 - 08:08 AM.

Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!

#6 ehbowen

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:26 AM

I agree about the Red Caps. When I traveled to Washington in May 2012 with my elderly mother and a niece and nephew (then 9 and 12), I had planned to continue on to NYP while dropping them off at BWI so that they could catch a Southwest flight back to Houston. We found a Red Cap who took us first to baggage check-in (I was taking our three large suitcases back to Houston via the Crescent [from NYP...joyride up and back] and Sunset Limited) and then straight to the train where we pre-boarded for the trip up to BWI. Best $8 I spent that trip...I really should have tipped him more!


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#7 cpotisch

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 11:08 AM

With that said, I am very keen to have a window seat on one side of the train for the southbound trip to DC, then to have a window seat on the opposite side of the car for the northbound trip back to New York as I would like to view the journey from both sides of the train.

I could be misunderstanding, but it seems like you're saying that you should be on say the left side of the train on the way down, and the right side of the train on the way up (or vice versa)? That would mean that you'd be looking at the same scenery each way. Wouldn't you want to sit on the same side of the car each way, so that you would have a different view on the way down than on the way up?
 

1) When boarding at NYP, are the NRE trains always empty of passengers or are some services a direct continuation from Boston (ie. passengers arriving from Boston stay on the same train as the new passengers join at NYP)?

 
Just so you know, it's usually referred to as NER (Northeast Regional), which you might want to say instead to avoid confusion. To answer your question though, most Northeast Regional trains do not originate in NYP, so it is quite likely that passengers will already be onboard. The same thing applies on the northbound run - some trains originate in D.C, but there are plenty that originate well south of there. If that is a concern for you, I recommend you check to see if a train you might be taking starts before your departure station, by checking either the timetables, or just by doing a trial booking.
 

2) What is the boarding process at NYP and WAS for the NRE services?
     I assume you wait in the departure hall until your train is called, then everyone rushes down to the platform to secure their preferred seat?

You are correct that you wait until your train is called, but usually the boarding process is less hectic than everyone just rushing down to get a good seat. In NYP, everyone lines up, in front of an escalator, gets their tickets checked one at a time, and then heads down to the platform. I'm less familiar with WAS, but as I understand it, the platforms are pretty much public, and passengers line up on the platform to board. As has been said, I would recommend you avoid rush hour trains, since trains are usually packed.

 

 

3) Are there recommended times during the day when the NRE services are at their most quiet/least busy in terms of passenger numbers?

 

mid-late morning, early-mid afternoon. 

 

 

4) I would prefer to travel in coach class, however will I increase my chances of getting my choice of seat (either side of the car for each trip) if I were to book a business class ticket instead?

 

Business class is usually a fair bit more expensive, but it is usually less crowded, and comes with complimentary coffee and such, so might be worth it.

 

Hope this helps!


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#8 PVD

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 12:26 PM

Best deal is reserve far enough in advance to snag a saver fare, use a red cap to preboard at NYP to get best seat choice. Very little memorable scenery on this route (just my own opinion) If you want time to do anything in DC before returning, think about one of the really early outs, and one of the later returns. As a rule, I avoid last out flights and trains where possible for the "just in case" factor. You may be better off paying a bit more for a train that  suits your trip better, than one that may be cheaper, but allows you very little time. 


Edited by PVD, 07 July 2018 - 12:28 PM.

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#9 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:32 PM

Thank you all very much for your replies and useful information provided.
A great help.

NER - Yes apologies, that is what I meant (can't seem to edit the original post as a 'guest' member here)  :blush: Chalk up "NRE" to dyslexia.

*Travelling in the quiet car on a non-rush hour service suits my plans - thanks for the advice.
*Business class travel is a little out of my budget for this particular train trip, although it does confirm my belief that business class cars are often less-occupied than coach class. Will keep that option in the back of my mind.
*Thanks for the reminder about some services originating before NYP and WAS. I will make sure to consult the timetable first.
*Thanks for the explanation about the boarding process at Penn and Washington stations.

*Thanks for the tips regarding the RedCaps. My travel suitcase is a little larger than the recommended measurements for Amtrak services without checked baggage - therefore I thought I would be unable to bring it on a standard NER service, thus ruling out using the help of a RedCap....?    



#10 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:42 PM

cpotish - Yes thanks, I do wish to have a different view on the way up, that I did coming down. I take it from your response that in order to do this I need to sit on the same side of the car for both trips - this would suggest the trains are turned at their terminus stations (a practice we don't have here In Australia) - is that correct?



#11 cpotisch

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:51 PM

cpotish - Yes thanks, I do wish to have a different view on the way up, that I did coming down. I take it from your response that in order to do this I need to sit on the same side of the car for both trips - this would suggest the trains are turned at their terminus stations (a practice we don't have here In Australia) - is that correct?

I only really meant that you'll want to be on the left or right side both ways, not the actual side of the cars themselves, so didn't mean to imply that the trains are or aren't turned. That said, if memory serves, trains terminating in WAS are not turned there - instead they detach the locomotive (in this case the dual ended Siemens ACS-64) and put it at the other end of the train, and then turn the seats of the coaches. I'm not quite sure about how it's done at the other termini.


Edited by cpotisch, 07 July 2018 - 09:10 PM.

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#12 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 08:59 PM

cpotisch - I understand, thank your for help.



#13 bratkinson

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 09:32 PM

I ride the NER multiple times per year from Connecticut to New York, Philly, or Washington.  In fact, I'm doing it again this Tuesday to WAS and back...out on #141 and back on #148. 

 

I've found that riding on the RIGHT side of the train (in direction of  travel) is preferable due to the position of the sun.  Having the sun in my eyes for 7 hours or so is annoying, and makes reading the screen of my laptop almost impossible.  So, I see what's west of the tracks going down, and the east side coming back.

 

As far as crowds on the train, as remarked above, at New York, most through trains lose 50% or more of the passengers at NYP.  Southbound, at least in the AM, gets reasonably filled up by Newark Airport or Metropark.  Things start emptying out at Philadelphia.  So you may have to share the seat part of the way.  It's just the opposite in the afternoon.  The train gets packed at Philly and is maybe 20-25% filled after 'the mob' gets off at New York. 

 

Having a seat to ones self is sometimes impossible, especially leaving NYP 7-10 AM southbound or  PHL 4-6 PM northbound.  That's the busiest times.  But after having made many trips, I've learned to watch where the majority of passengers board.  It's always at the car(s) nearest the bottom of the escalator in New York, and closest to the rear car in WAS as it's a stub terminal and the train is backed in.  Getting on a car furthest away from those points will have the most empty seats, often getting a seat all to yourself.  Knowing that the unnamed regional trains (eg, NOT the Vermonter, Pennsylvanian, etc) are always in the same order helps.  From the front: 4 coaches, lounge, 1 coach, quiet car (coach), and business class at the back end.  Although I usually ride business class for the extra 5-6" of leg room (and 25% bonus TQP points), I've been leaning towards the quiet car lately, as it avoids the seemingly non-stop, loud passengers on their cell phones across or just behind me.  I like the peace and quiet.   

 

As mentioned by other posters, having a Red Cap take your bag, even just a briefcase, is the easiest way to ensure you'll already be onboard at the seat of your choice before the throng of passengers hits.  I've learned that traveling the same train from NYP multiple times, it usually uses the same track/gate every time as the train dispatcher for NYP, works by habit, just like everyone else.  Train 123 always on track 12, etc.  However that can change due to late trains before the one you're boarding or if your train is late.  Although the boarding gate will be posted soon, another 'trick' I've used is to observe what track number passengers are arriving at about 10-15 minutes before the expected departure of your train, then asking one 'what train did you just get off?'.  If that's your train, then go wait by the opposite gate (eg, 12West if the inbound passengers are coming up from 12East).  From Washington, however, generally 'the crowd' knows from experience which gate will likely be used and start lining up there (or, at least, filling the railing-enclosed area for that gate).  What I do is take a seat near where the front of the line will be and be one of the first in line when boarding starts.  Again, a Red Cap avoids all that hassle and you'll be on the train 5-10 minutes before the rest of them.

 

Oh, one more thing...Since Amtrak has gone 'fixed consist' for the NER trains, it's always been my experience that they DO turn the entire inbound train at Washington.  That avoids having to individually rotate 15-20 rows of seats in each car and keeps the business class car at the end, which has been the rule for more than a year.


Edited by bratkinson, 07 July 2018 - 09:40 PM.

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#14 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 07 July 2018 - 11:02 PM

bratkinson - Thank you very much for your detailed reply. A fantastic help.
I can relate to the way you think - factoring in the angle of the sun and which cars passengers naturally gravitate to when boarding are valuable tips.

Even if travelling with a small knapsack I can make use of the Red Cap service at the station? 
If so, how much should I tip the Red Cap staff to assist me board a non-rush hour NER service?

Thanks again.



#15 bratkinson

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 10:00 PM

The handful of times I've resorted to a red cap, I've always given them $5, even for handling my rolling brief case.  I've finally reached Amtraks' high-level frequent rider status (AGR Select Plus), and automatically get front-of-the-line boarding by showing my card, so I haven't used a red cap in several years.  Being an old retired geezer often gets boarding priority, too, mostly at Washington, though.



#16 cpotisch

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 08:33 AM

Even if travelling with a small knapsack I can make use of the Red Cap service at the station? 
If so, how much should I tip the Red Cap staff to assist me board a non-rush hour NER service?

Thanks again.

Red Caps are available for anyone seeking assistance to get on the train, regardless of how many bags you have. I second bratkinson that $5 is pretty fair.


Edited by cpotisch, 09 July 2018 - 08:45 AM.

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#17 Mystic River Dragon

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 09:30 AM

You might want to sit on the left going south, because that is where the view of Philly is best. You will see the lovely Philly skyline on your left, and if you look closely between the taller buildings you can just see City Hall (a white building) in the distance with the statue of William Penn on top. You will also pass the zoo and have a nice view of the Art Museum on the left. (This stuff is all still there going north, but you have to turn and look backward to see it.)

 

There are some lovely rivers as you go farther south (I think mostly between Wilmington and Baltimore, but others here will remember that better than I do), and you will see boats if you are going in the warm weather.

 

Going north, look for the mural of the whale on the left as you come into Wilmington.



#18 Guest_A1_*

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Posted 11 July 2018 - 10:00 PM

bratkinson / cpotisch - Thanks for the advice re. Redcaps.

Mystic River Dragon - Thank you for the suggestions. I'll be on the lookout for these landmarks.





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