This is a trip report for a journey I took in August 2012.
It was time to move on from Baltimore to my next destination of Philadelphia, so I checked out of my hotel and caught a tram to the now familiar Baltimore Penn Station. I had about half an hour before my Amtrak North East Regional service arrived, and as I waited, a MARC train arrived from Washington, hauled by 2 AEM-7 locomotives arrived. I started photographing, and as I did, the Driver approached me. Expecting to be told not to take photographs, I was happily surprised when the he invited me into the cab of the old electric locomotive and gave me a quick “guided tour”. After a few minutes, he apologised and asked me to leave as he had to move the train out of the platform.
After this train left, I observed an odd combination on another platform; a short 4 car MARC train led by a single deck cab control car with 2 other single deck cars and 1 double deck car being pushed by an MP36PH diesel locomotive. This was unusual for several reasons; so far, all trains I had seen at Baltimore Penn station had used electric locomotives and had been about double that length with a majority of double deck cars.
The short MARC train trundled off for Washington, and soon after, my Amtrak service arrived; an 8 car train made up of Amfleet cars, hauled by an AEM-7 locomotive. The train was a Northeast Regional service which had originated in Washington DC and was bound for Boston. I found a seat on the unreserved service, and we raced along through the Maryland countryside at speeds of up to 125 mph (200 km/h). Although the cars were old (early 1980s), they were in good condition and rode smoothly. Power points were available for charging phones and laptops, and the train was equipped with free WiFi, which worked well. There was a cafe car, which was serving basic refreshments.
I left the train at the first stop (Wilmington, DE), about 45 minutes after departing from Baltimore, and had just over an hour before my next train departed. I couldn’t decide between taking a walk and staying around to take a few photos. In the end, I decided to stay at the station which turned out to be a wise decision, as I later found out that, Wilmington had the highest per capita murder rate in the USA (as well as being very high on this list for other crimes). I was pleased to find no shortage of rail actionat Wilmington; several Acela Express services passed through, as did a Northeast Regional service with double headed AEM-7s.
After about 45 minutes, my train to Philadelphia approached. I could have stayed on the North East Regional service I’d taken from Baltimore, and arrived in Philadelphia just over an hour later, but that would have been too easy! I’d decided to change to a SEPTA (South East Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) Regional Rail service, stopping all stations from Wilmington to Philadelphia. A 2 car Silverliner V set arrived into the platform from Philadelphia, and I boarded the EMU with a handful of other passengers. After a short turnaround, the little train headed back towards Philadelphia.
We stopped at all of the suburban stations, most with low level or ground level platforms. The SEPTA Silverliners have doors designed for high level platforms. At low or ground level platforms, the conductor opens the door, then releases a trap door to reveal a set of steps leading down to just above ground level; a seemingly primitive way to run a modern railway in a developed country. For disabled access, many of the stations had a very short wooden platform at door level. I never saw one used, but I presumed the idea was that one door would be lined up with the high level platform if required.
The little train was quite full as we approached central Philadelphia, and I left the train at University Park station. I changed to an Airport line train, this time a 4 car Silverliner IV, and travelled one stop to Eastwick station. Eastwick was even more primitive than the low level stations on the Wilmington line. Where they had had asphalt platforms, Eastwick’s was constructed of wood. The 2 platforms were low level, with an unprotected crossing running over the main lines from one platform to the other. The conductor opened a single door for the handful of passengers leaving the train.
I climbed down the steps onto the platform and looked at my surroundings; I appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. There were a few buildings near the station, but most of what I could see was trees and overgrown grass. I could hear the faint noise of aircraft in the distance (I was close to Philadelphia Airport) and roaring of the traffic on the nearby road. There were no footpaths, so I wheeled my bag along the station access road and headed in the direction I presumed my hotel to be.
I followed the directions I had taken down, and found the main road I previously heard the traffic from. It was a busy 2 lane highway, with a wide grassy median and although there were no footpaths, there was a set of traffic lights with a pedestrian crossing. I crossed the road and found the side street where my hotel was supposed to be, but I was becoming more and more doubtful it even existed. I and walked along the side street (still no footpath) and on rounding a corner, my hotel appeared from behind the trees; a clean modern and busy establishment in the semi-rural wasteland. After checking in and dumping my bags, I went to find out what Philadelphia had to offer in terms of rail action.