Monday 30 May 2011

Day 59: Amtrak from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

We left 30th Street Station in Philadelphia at 12.42 in the afternoon and rode through the farms of Lancaster county again, then along the red Susquehanna river.  Our seats are much larger than the ones on European trains and we are quite comfortable.  Mike has bought some kind of system that means we can have internet most of the time on the train.  He himself is watching episodes of the wire on his computer.  We had a minute's silence for memorial day announced by a girl with a nasal voice, then stopped for an hour or so in the middle of a wooded embankment to wait for a freight train with what seemed like some 50 or 60 wagons to go by!!  I had planned a whole unit study on trains this week for Antonia so it was nice that we got to admire embankments, cuttings, tunnels and viaducts as we crossed the Appalachians.  At one station we came to, I was amused by the lift for helping passengers in wheelchairs off the train.  It had to be cranked by hand, in this day and age.  Many of the towns we came through seem a bit dilapidated.  It's one of those places where you wonder what people DO.  I found the Appalachians mildly attractive.  They're not spectacular considering the landscapes I'm used to, but it's nice to be out of the megalopolis anyway.  

I kept my GPS on for most of the 8 hour ride, just so I could see how fast we went.  Oddly, the train seemed to be doing a 65 mph average when it was going so the only explanation for the incredibly long journey would seem to be a circuitous route and/or stations.  They tell me Philadelphia -> Pittsburgh can be driven in 4 hours.  We followed brown rivers pretty much all the way, but of course in the middle of the Appalachians they were narrower, and in the middle we were crossing rivers perpendicularly. 

I wasn't sorry that we were arriving an hour late in Pittsburgh.  Though it would make us eat quite late, it's all the less time we would have to wait for the night train to Chicago, just before midnight.  Or so I thought.  Of course, when you turn up in Pittsburgh on Memorial Day evening the place is dead.  Antonia said it's so the memorialised ghosts can look at the architecture.  We finally found two fast food restaurants side by side with not much to choose between the two of them.  Still, the civilized thing about rail travel in the US is that you can check your luggage on some trains, so we had parted with our heavy suitcases before we started wandering around looking for food.  So here we are in the waiting room of Pittsburgh station where we have at least one and a half hours to wait.  I have done this so many times in so many countries I am quite blase about it.

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