Railroading North America

03/ New York

03-montreal-border-102308-bw-reducedDAY 3

Amtrak Train #110, The Northeast Regional
Washington, DC to New York, New York

Amtrak Train #69, The Adirondack
New York to Montreal, Quebec
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I was on the second train of the day from Washington, DC leaving at 4 a.m. This was the only way I could connect with the only Montreal train of the day that would leave New York at 8:30 a.m.

Union Station proved to be an agreeable place at night and a good place to work. The only irritating thing was a reminder, every fifteen minutes, that “passengers must keep their baggage with them at all times” This assured that passengers waiting for the middle-of-the-night trains, like me, would remain in groggy alertness throughout the night should terrorists show up and go after someone’s bags.

A man on his way to Boston eventually surrendered his wall plugs when he left about midnight and I set about juicing up my I-Phone and MacBook. It took forever, for some reason, for my Apple MacBook to charge up. I decided it was because the station was just cold. Long before midnight I had pulled an outer jacket over my fleece and would have been snug had I not stuffed my ski cap in my luggage and checked it to New York.

the-adiron-useme1I did not spend the night alone. Besides a few other passengers waiting for the 3 a.m. trains I shared my corner of the terminal with a rat whose interest was a large waste can near where I was sitting. He kept in touch.

Once on the train, three dressed-for-success women settled in ahead of me and engaged to caffeinated chatter until they ran out of caffeine and fell asleep. Then I dozed too and when I woke, thinking I had dozed off for only a moment, the train was approaching New York.

I had barely 50 minutes in New York to catch the Montreal train and was apprehensive. I had to retrieve my checked bag, get my passport stamped and my bags tagged by the Canadians and I wanted coffee. All took mere minutes. I settled in at the Amtrak lounge, looked around and remembered how cheerless Penn Station is.

The original Penn Station (the one the Pennsylvania Railroad built on this site) was leveled in the 1960s in such an egregious act of desecration that New Yorkers passed tough preservation laws that have put a dent in further destruction of urban architectural masterpieces everywhere.

Today, atop the current iteration of Penn Station is also the latest iteration of Madison Square Garden (there have been several) and while this was not easy, Madison Square Garden rivals Penn Station in artlessness. I have a lot of history here — Jimmy Carter was nominated President in this building in 1980; so were Bill Clinton (1992) and George Bush (2000). I was in the hall each time and other times as well.

Leaving Penn Station the train passed under one of my favorite New York City (sort of) secrets. Under the Waldorf-Astoria a siding was built for Franklin Roosevelt’s train car in the 1930s. President Roosevelt could pull in right under the hotel and take an elevator directly to his suite. To this day an unmarked door on street level leads to vast rail yards below the hotel. Traveling north in Manhattan travelers can occasionally glimpse rock from which the rail tunnels were carved. This rock is why Manhattan was such a great place to build skyscrapers.

I had been trying to kill my I-Phone battery all night, planning to recharge it during the trip from Washington to New York. The battery had proven surprisingly durable and still wasn’t dead. I turned “brightness” all the way up, ordered it to incessantly search for a wifi site and booted a podcast video. It immediately healed over. I plugged it in and headed for coffee.

The snack car attendant on the Montreal train, The Adirondack, was humorless.

(Photo, the road north of the US/Canadian border where the train was halted for Canadian customs)


Amtrak Train #110, The Northeast Regional
Distance: Washington, DC to New York City 226 miles

Amtrak Adirondack Train #69
New York to Montreal,
Distance: 381 miles

Total today: 607 miles
Total trip: 1524 miles



  1. Have just started reading your trip blog…fun knowing how many places you are already familiar with….

    Comment by Jeanie...your older sister — November 30, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  2. Seriously I would like to do a road trip with you some day.

    Comment by Edward Betz — April 5, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

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