Once again I find myself on the floor of a back corner of Miami International Airport where I will be spending the night before jumping on the bus back to Key West. This after two days or 30 hours of riding the Amtrak from Pa. to Florida. This was my first really long train trip and I was anxious to see how it went. After 30 hours, I’m tired of course but overall the trip was ok. There was some good and not so good along the way.
The first leg of the trip was aboard the Pennsylvanian. This was a four hour ride past the old towns where I grew up, into Amish country and close by this famous place.
Eventually the train made it’s way into Philadelphia where I spent a 2 hour layover sitting in a genuine old school train station.
This place looks like it could be set in the 1930’s, minus the tv’s and fast food places. The main terminal is huge with ornate wood and an old fashioned board which updates mechanically with all the arrivals. And it was busy. Lot’s of people are riding the rails these days.
From there I boarded the Silver Meteor. Starting in New York this train goes all the way to Miami. And yes, it is the very same one which had the run in with the back hoe a week ago. No, we didn’t hit any backhoes on this trip.
The train left on time at 5:00 on Monday and wound it’s way south through all the major cities along I-95. It was a 25 hour trip altogether and I felt it towards the end. Everyone who was getting off in Florida was packed into one of the cars so it was a bit crowded. Even though the seats are big with plenty of legroom, I had a hard time getting comfortable and didn’t sleep very much. The rest of the time I was able to work on the computer and get a few things done.
Each seat has a power outlet for charging devices and the train does have it’s own free wifi. I tried it with mixed results. It was slow and the signal was weak but it could get one through if one’s needs were not too much. Most of the time I used my hotspot.
The train itself was very quiet. You didn’t hear the engine and rarely heard the whistle. It was quiet enough to talk normally or make a phone call. However, on this trip, and not 3 rows in front of me, was a 2 year old kid. The little darling fussed, squealed, and cried nearly the entire trip, stopping only when he passed out. The parents did little to help. By the end we were all ready to strangle the little bastard.
There was a snack car where one could purchase drinks, coffee, sandwiches, and snacks. And tables to sit down and enjoy the repast. But the prices rivaled the airport. A sandwich and soda could easily cost over $10. Many brought their own food.
The train was relatively clean, at least to start. The bathrooms are little more than glorified outhouses and towards the end of the trip, got a bit nasty after being used by over 50 people during the trip. The conductors did go in now and then to clean up but it was still a bit smelly.
And speaking of smelly. Any trip would not be complete without at least one crazy person and we had one on this train. He was an older man, obviously mentally deficient. He would occasionally shamble through the car, bouncing into people and talking to himself. But what was really bad was the smell. At some point he had…um…defecated…in his pants, and made no effort to clean himself up. During the last hour of the trip he walked up and down the aisle of our car, stinking up everything and pissing off all the passengers. The conductors did nothing. He was still on the train when I left.
Finally I arrived back in West Palm, where I took the Tri Rail down to the airport, and where I am writing this post at the moment. I’m pretty tired so please excuse any typos which may slip through.
Overall, despite the obvious, the trip wasn’t bad. I wasn’t in any kind of hurry so the schedule didn’t matter. We were about an hour late getting to West Palm, but when you are traveling over two days, and have no deadline to meet, it don’t really matter.
The big advantage was price. $168 one way. And I could change my schedule at anytime without penalty. There were no big lines to wait in, no security although the station at Philly had a large police presence. But then again, we are talking about Philly.
I will use the train again. I have another trip to Pa. coming in late May. Assuming airfares don’t drop drastically, I will take the same route only in reverse. It was well worth the price and I did enjoy it. Kind of nice to be able to sit back for a while, and not worry about driving, nor any of the other pressures of travel.
If time is not of the essence, and you want to save a few dollars, the train is a viable alternative for a trip. I recommend it if nothing else, just for something different. Just hope you don’t get the crazy guy with the bad bathroom habits.