I like to travel by train rather than plane. Many times, my wife and I have gone to Florida on a train with a Deluxe Bedroom.
At first, that accommodation had a VCR that offered several choices of movies, and we looked forward to watching them. But apparently, they required a lot of maintenance, so Amtrak finally decided to stop using them. They also used to have a bed-time sweet, but that stopped, too. We’ve gone as far as Denver, going west, and from Glacier National Park back to New York going east. We still like the trains. It’s comfortable, we meet new people when we go to the dining car (included in our fare) which offers very good meals, and it is forced relaxation.
Once, after a business trip to Boston, I was going to spend a few days with my sister Nancy and her husband “Big Bob” in nearby Winchester. So, I showed up at the commuter rail terminal and purchased a ticket. Normally, I carry all my paper money in a billfold, but this day I had a one-dollar bill in my pocket along with a substantial amount of change—more that I usually carry. The ticket cost $4.85. So, I pulled out the rumpled dollar bill and counted out another $3.85 in change and gave it all to the ticket agent. The agent said to me “Gee, did you save up for this trip.”
Another time, I was traveling alone from Rochester, NY to Poughkeepsie, NY. I boarded the 2PM train, which was two hours late, so it was about 4PM when I got on. For some reason, I prayed that the trip would be OK. It was about a six-hour trip, and after my supper I fell asleep. I woke up when people started to exit the train, and because it looked kind of like my stop, I got off with them. I got to the terminal after climbing many stairs. Then I found out that I was at Rhinecliff,
one stop before I was supposed to get off. It was supposed to be the last train of the day, according to my schedule. I asked to ticket agent for help.
He told me that the train coming south from Montreal was two and a half hours late and was going to come into the station in ten minutes. I was to get on that train, explain to the conductor that I got off at the wrong stop, and go on to Poughkeepsie, and that’s what happened. I’m so glad I prayed.
One time my wife and I traveled from Poughkeepsie to Port Kent, NY. Poughkeepsie had both Amtrak and a commuter train to New York City. The terminal was old, but grand in its day. Several hundred cars parked there every day. Port Kent, only a summer stop on the line, had a small concrete platform with a roof over a small bulletin board containing the northbound and southbound schedules. From there we were going to catch a Lake Champlain Ferry boat to Burlington, VT.
We had two hours and forty minutes before the last ferry of the day, according to the train schedule, and we hoped we might catch the one that left two hours before that. The train left New York City, where it started, an hour late because of engine trouble on the original locomotive. Another one had to be obtained from Sunnyside Yard, where extra train locomotives and cars were kept. We kept that hour late until we got to Schenectady, where we split off from the line to western New York and advanced along the Lake George—Lake Champlain corridor. Some consider this the most scenic route in America. But today, we weren’t thinking about that. We were thinking that we were crawling along very slowly because of track work that was going on. Instead of seventy-nine miles an hour, we were going much slower. We thought that we still had plenty of time to catch the last ferry. But as time went on, and we kept crawling, we weren’t so sure of making the connection. We asked the conductor, who assured us that we would make it. A little while later, he came to us and said that there was another couple getting off there and wanting to take the ferry, too, and that we would make it. The next time he came through, he said that when we got within five miles of Port Kent, the engineer would blow his whistle repeatedly to alert the ferry that the train was getting close. Finally, he said on a final time through that we should pray.
As we neared the station, the conductor said he would let us off on the wrong side of the train, giving me precious extra time to run down to the ferry dock and ask them to hold off. We were between five and ten minutes later than the last ferry departure time when we got to Port Kent. I could see the ferry engines running, but it was still there.
Huffing and puffing, hauling a suitcase, I got to a deckhand and told him my wife and another couple were coming, too, and please wait. He tried to calm me down, and he and another man, possibly the first mate, explained that they knew the train hadn’t gotten there, and almost certainly there were some passengers on it that wanted to take the ferry. No matter how late the train was, they were going to wait for it, so it was no problem.
It was a nice ferry ride, across the widest part of Lake Champlain. But on the way back, eight days later, we got caught in a rainstorm and my wife and I got soaked. But we had our suitcases with us and were able to change clothes.
Wouldn’t you know, the same train conductor greeted us as we got on, asking us “Did you make the ferry?” That was so nice that he remembered us, and we told him so, and we wrote to Amtrak extolling his virtues. Years later we went to Montreal by train, and we met him again, and recalled that trip.
Ray Dupere says
Bob, I enjoyed that story. I may just have to look into a train trip some time. Years ago I traveled by train a few times in Russia. And Nick Psaki and I even once tried to take a train from NC back to NYC while we were cadets. As it happened Nick’s Mom had mis-read the schedule and we had to get off at DC and take a shuttle and cab in order to make it back on time. Anyway, I may take a closer look at the idea.
Kent Jordan says
Thanks for this, Bob. Your story about falling asleep on the train and getting off a station too soon made me laugh because, one time, when he was coming by train from D.C. to see me and Michelle in Wilmington, my dad fell asleep and called me from Philadelphia to come get him. I’m glad he didn’t sleep all the way to Boston!