I certainly understand Amtrak’s efforts to promote rail ridership in the United States. Even if the offerings are relatively poor compared to many other countries, it is important to keep awareness up and try to attract more riders. For the third year now, Amtrak has run a National Train Day promotion, with events around the country to promote their services.
The festivities this year started in New York City a day prior to the actual event, with Taye Diggs launching a kick-off party for the weekend. Also present was the crew from the Cake Boss show on TLC. They were filming an episode for the show based on the fact that there was an enormous cake display set up in New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They had a model train set and a “city” made of cakes. There were about 30 buildings and roughly 3000 pounds of cake making up the model, not to mention two trains running on different levels in the model. I didn’t stick around for free cupcakes, mostly because the TLC folks apparently weren’t happy with the initial crowd reaction to the cake unveiling so they were going to take the shot again.
Next up on the schedule was actually riding the rails. We were in Philadelphia this weekend and decided to ride the rails rather than a bus this time a round. Between rush hour travel and the general comfort factor that Amtrak offers, plus a pretty good sale on advance purchase fares, the train just made more sense. Given the 6:30pm departure time and uncertain dinner schedule on arrival in Philadelphia, we decided to go for a bit of a picnic on the train. A block of cheese, some pretzel crisps and a bottle of champagne, decanted into water bottles made for quite the enjoyable ride. The pressure in one of the bottles of bubbly built up enough that it sounded like a firecracker going off when I opened the bottle on the train, but no one really seemed to mind too much in the end. And apparently consumption of private-stock alcohol isn’t permitted in the train on a regular basis but we didn’t have any troubles. All in all, a quite enjoyable commute down to Philadelphia.
The third bit of National Train Day that we celebrated was in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, part of the main celebration event. It was a zoo. There were way more people out and about celebrating than I expected to see. We actually got shut out of a few of the exhibits – most notably the antique rolling stock – because the lines were too long. Still, it was nice to see so many avid train buffs taking advantage of the things Amtrak had on offer. Not quite as much history of the rails as I would have liked to see, but I can understand them trying to celebrate the future of rail travel more than its past. After all, that’s what is going to help them ensure their existence.
And, finally, for your foaming pleasure, a short video of part of my ride from Newark to New York earlier in the day. I was riding in the space between two of the cars and poked the camera out through the gap between the heavy rubber pads that separate the cars from each other.
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