My second long-distance train trip -- 1973, Broadway Limited

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by MARC Rider, Jun 24, 2019.

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  1. Jun 24, 2019 #1

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    After my first overnight train trip with the Scouts to Philmont in 1968 I didn't get any chances to take another for a few years. After graduating high school, I went to college in Beloit, Wisconsin, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago. My normal travel plan to get to school from my home in Philadelphia was to fly standby from Philly to O'Hare, then take the CTA bus to Jefferson Park. (No Blue Line L to the airport back then, heck, it wasn't even called the Blue Line.) From there, I could either catch a Greyhound bus to Beloit, or if the connection was long (which it usually was), ride the L down to Clark/Lake in the Loop and catch the bus at the downtown Greyhound terminal. Another reason to do that was that you had a better choice of seats if you boarded the bus at its originating point. Even though it was expedient to fly and take the bus, I was perfectly aware that I had the choice to trying Amtrak, and I was waiting for the opportunity.

    The chance came at the end of winter term my freshman year in 1973. The spring break coincided with Passover, and my family was planning to spend the holiday with relatives in Baltimore. It turned out the overnight trip would drop me off in Baltimore at just the right day, and spare me a 2 hour ride in the crowded family car. Given that there were no smartphones or internet in 1973, I couldn't just make a reservation using the Amtrak app, I had to go downtown and visit a travel agency. They booked my trip and issued me a coach ticket for about $35, which was about the same as the standby airfare between Chicago and Philadelphia. This was a new experience from me, as usually when I traveled on the NEC, I purchased PRR/PC/Amtrak tickets issued at the station. I didn't realize you could buy them from travel agents, just like airline tickets. Hey, don't smirk at my cluelessness, I was only 19 at the time.

    My trip started with the usual ride on the Dog to the Loop. When I arrived, I had to consider how to transfer to Union Station, which was a decent walk. Given that my luggage consisted of a large backpack and a "portable" stereo that, for some reason, I used to haul home during term breaks, I decided not to walk and took a cab.

    I really don't remember too much of the Union Station of 1973. I'm not sure if they had already turned the gate area into the underground bunker that it is today, but, in any event, it was time to board, and they directed me to the Baltimore/Washington cars. They were what we now call "heritage cars", a little faded and threadbare, but the heat worked, the seats reclined, and the toilets worked. And they were a lot more roomy than airline seats. You can't complain too much about that. It was a pretty busy train, and while I was able to snag a window seat, I did have a seatmate, and older lady (probably a good bit younger than I am now), who was pleasant enough, but did dash my dreams of making friends with a hot coed sitting next to me for the trip.

    We pulled out the the station and were on our way. It was still light was we passed through western Indiana, and even in mid-April, it was still chilly and the trees were bare. I went and had dinner in the dining car, and unlike today's AU'ers, I don't remember what I head to eat, but it was probably OK. As it got later, I tried to sleep, which wasn't easy, but eventually I drifted off. Some time in the middle of the night, I woke, looked out the window and saw the front of the train across from me. I guessed we were negotiating the Horseshoe Curve. Then I went back to sleep for a while, and when I next woke, we were somewhere around Huntingdon or Lewistown along the Juniata River. On this side of the Appalachians, the leaves were already out and it looked like we had traveled from February to June on our overnight trip. We rolled across the Susquehanna River on the Rockville Bridge, and into Harrisburg, where the New York section was going to get an electric GG-1 locomotive, and the Washington section was going to ride down along the Susquehanna on the Port Road to Perryville.

    Except that wasn't what happened. The Port Road still had storm damage that hadn't been repaired from the floods caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972. Thus, our section was going to run nonstop on the Main Line to Philly and then down the NEC, with the first stop being Baltimore. Oh, well, I had wanted to ride the scenic route, but what can you do. It turned out to be a pretty fun ride. While the diner went off to New York, the observation car was part of the Washington section. This was one of those flat end PRR observation cars and had lounge seating similar to what is in the bullet lounge on the Canadian. I sat in the lounge chairs, drank coffee (they had cafe service) and basically enjoyed the view from the railfan window all the way to Baltimore. As I recall, we went at pretty high speed for most of the trip. Of course, we slowed down to pass through 30th St. Station. I also remember seeing grade crossings on the NEC in Aberdeen, with cars backed up at the crossing gates. All of the grade crossings have since been removed. I think that happened some time in the 1980s. We soon got to Baltimore, where I got picked up by my family.
     
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  2. Sep 20, 2019 #2

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    I did ride back to Chicago on the Broadway, too. After the holiday, we were back in Philadelphia, and soon it was time for me to head west for the summer term at school. I made another coach reservation on the Broadway from North Philadelphia to Chicago. I don't remember now whether I had our family travel agent book it, or whether I went down to 30th St. to buy the ticket.

    My mom drove me over to North Philly on the afternoon of departure. This was maybe a 10-15 minute drive from our home in Center City. The neighborhood around the station was pretty sketchy, but it was daylight, and the station was fine. The train came in on time, pulled by a big black GG-1, and I boarded and found a seat.

    Somewhere in Lancaster county, I went to the dining car for dinner. They didn't do reservations like they do now, you just showed up and the found a seat from you. Apparently the regular diner was bad-ordered, and we had a "diner-lounge," which had the "mafia seating" similar to the cross-country cafe Superliner cars. They had a full menu, though. I believe I had roast beef. I enjoyed dinner watching the Amish farmers plowing their fields with horse-drawn equipment.

    It got dark after Harrisburg, where the Washington section was attached to our train. I had about the same success (or lack thereof) sleeping in my coach seat. As dawn was breaking, we were pulling into Fort Wayne, which seemed to have had a large extensive station, which was by then mostly a half-ruin. We got into Chicago, either on time or not too late. As we walked towards the station, we passed the locomotive, a big black Penn Central E unit. Except for my ride on the Denver Zephyr, I think this trip was the first time I rode behind an E unit, as my youthful riding was mostly behind GG-1s.

    From there, I took a cab over to Greyhound, and then the Dog back to Beloit for a rather enjoyable summer.

    For the rest of my college career, I either flew home on term breaks, or after I had a girlfriend with a car, we drove back and forth. Two days on the Turnpike, sometimes in some crazy snowy weather, we had some adventures. For the next 15 years, except for a summer we spent in Japan, any rail travel I did was strictly on the NEC.
     
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  3. Sep 20, 2019 #3

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

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    Nice report, thanks for posting!
    Too bad you didn't get to dine in one of the regular twin-unit diner's that I believe were still assigned to The Broadway, at that time....
     
  4. Sep 21, 2019 #4

    Dakota 400

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    Dakota 400

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    Thanks for the memories. A very good report.
     

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