Varna Trip Report, day one

[day −1]
[day 0]

2023-06-07 20:50 UTC−5 (still technically day 0)

I had left the Met. Lounge briefly and returned to find that they were already starting to board 48.  The lounge attendant said that a redcap was on the way and I should stand with several others also waiting for redcap assistance.  The redcap finally showed up around 21:10 with room for only four people to ride.  He could carry all the luggage, but two of the more capable of us had to walk behind.  I was glad I wasn’t one of the walkers because the train had been spotted all the way at the other side of the station on track 30.

The train departed promptly at 21:30.  We have three engine units one of which has a CPRail paint job, the Boston sleeper, the café car, two Boston coaches, three New York coaches, a Viewliner diner, two Viewliner I New York sleepers, a Viewliner baggage car, and a coach that, I guess, is deadheading.

Maybe the Boston sleeper is the Viewliner II on this trip…I don’t know for sure.  Both New York sleepers are definitely Viewliner Is.

2023-06-08 00:25 UTC−4 (now it’s day 1), we’re departing South Bend, already almost half an hour late at the first stop.

I woke up for both the Toledo and Cleveland stops.  There must be some schedule padding because we were out of Toledo right on time and arrived in Cleveland early and had a long stop waiting for the scheduled departure time.

The dining car folks don’t like making announcements on the PA, so around 06:40, I headed for the diner to find that they were already serving.  Don’t believe what I wrote in earlier posts about better dining on the Lake Shore Limited.  The car you’re riding in is a Viewliner diner; but the food is from the “flexible dining menu”, the same crap that I got on the Texas Eagle and would have gotten on the Capitol Limited had I taken that train eastbound out of Chicago.

A bit under half an hour east of Erie at 08:00, as we were passing a freight train, we had an emergency brake application.  I gathered from the radio traffic that one of the air hoses between two of the cars had parted* due to a defect that was reported to, but not fixed by, Chicago Mechanical.  (Folks who follow Amtrak will not be at all surprised by the condition of the trains that come out of Chicago.)

They needed a tripple spot at the Buffalo-Depew station, first for a crew change, then for the coaches, and finally for the sleepers and the baggage car.  After finishing the passenger work, they spent some time double-checking the air hose that had parted earlier; and we departed Depew just under one hour late.

At about 13:30, the conductor announced on the PA that we’ve got a stop signal, and we’ll be waiting on two westbound freights.  One of them passed right away, and the second showed up about eight minutes later.  We’re pulling again at 13:40.

An announcement at 14:10 said that the café car was closed.  Why would that be?  It turns out that this is a trip on which the Boston passengers get bustituted, and the Boston section deadheads to New York.

We made up almost all the late time on the CSX and arrived in Albany-Rensselaer only seven minutes late.

It turns out that the Boston section isn’t deadheading to New York after all.  Around 15:40 the head-end power (HEP, the electricity for the train) went off; and the Boston cars including the three engine units we started out with pulled forward and then shoved back to the yard.  They then added a dual-mode engine that can switch to straight electric for use from Croton-Harmon to Penn Station.

We got the HEP back at 16:04 and departed right on the advertised at 16:10.

We stopped shortly after leaving the station.  It turns out that we had to wait for another Amtrak train.  We’re pulling again at 16:22.

The ride on both the Amtrak Hudson Line and Metro North was very rough.  I don’t remember getting bounced around that much the previous times I’ve taken 49 westbound.  We finally arrived in Penn Station about 40 minutes late, give or take.

I got a redcap expecting only to be taken up the elevator and to the baggage claim area.  She actually walked me all the way to my hotel, which was just a block away.  I was embarrassed to give her only $3.00 for a tip because that’s all the cash I had.  I’d have been happy have given her a ten for her trouble.

*The way that air brakes work on trains is that pressure in the brake line holds the brakes off, and brakes are applied by reducing the pressure.  If the pressure drops quickly, for example if the brake line parts somewhere, the brakes get applied as hard and as fast as possible from a special air tank on each car.  That’s an “emergency brake application”.


  1. Katydid says

    Hooray for the redcap–I’m sure you thanked her very nicely. I’ve been hearing a lot of stories lately about people being kind to one another. It’s so refreshing.

    Your food situation seems to be just awful.

  2. Gary Kazin says

    The dual mode locomotives only use electric mode for a short distance, roughly the Jacob Javits Convention Center at 38th Street, through Penn Station to Sunnyside Yard. There is no third rail along the west side line between there and Spuyten Duyvil, so no electric power. The third rail between there and Croton-Harmon is of one design while the third rail through Penn Station is different and incompatible. Also, the locomotives aren’t designed for full power operation over long distances.

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