Pennsylvania tour: Planes, trains, and buses

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Friday, October 11, 2019

I’ve lost track of how many seats that I’ve been in today. It started with a car ride to the Milwaukee airport followed soon by a plane ride to Baltimore. Once in Baltimore, a bus ride to the airport rail station, followed by a train ride to Philadelphia and another to the airport. Then a bus ride to the hotel, another to the West Chester Railroad, the dinner train ride, and then on the bus back to the hotel. Whew.

Amtrak was disappointing, but I’m not surprised anymore. Upon boarding train No. 176 at the airport, where an updated station is in the works, a rather large contingent of guests determined that there were no seats available. One group walked from the rear of the train while my group walked from the front. When we came together in the middle of an Amfleet coach it was determined that no seats were available on the train. Soon, a conductor came through admonishing those standing to vacate the aisle. I asked where we were supposed to go so she directed us to stand in the vestibules, which we did until seats opened up at Baltimore Penn. At each stop announcements were made to keep open seats clear, the train was full. That wasn’t news to any of us who had stood waiting earlier. Upon detaining at 30th Street we heard another announcement noting that, perhaps, the train was oversold and every seat would be needed for those entraining. I was certainly glad to finish up this leg of the journey.

At 30th Street I switched to the SEPTA Regional Rail to travel to the airport. The “rail fan seat” up front was a first for me, and much appreciated. The general confusion for boarding was not, however. First patrons must purchase tickets from a vending marching, then activate them in a turnstile that you don’t necessarily pass through, then go upstairs through a turnstile that doesn’t seem to do anything other than slow down people with luggage. Oh, yeah, once you’re on the train then a conductor comes by to punch the ticket. The elements are all familiar to seasoned travelers, but the execution is simply not where rail transport should be in 2019.

The last train of the evening was a dinner ride on the West Chester Railroad. The food was remarkable and the crew genuine in its welcome. And Alcos. Don’t forget the Alcos. We were served a three-course meal, with a 30-minute layover at Glen Mills before dessert. Well, I’m told it was 30 minutes anyway. I was outside taking pictures. You know, Alcos.

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