28 June 2007

Fun with Trains

Kim and the girls took a train from Utica to Albany yesterday, where her mom met up with them and drove everyone down to NYC for a few days (I'm driving down on Friday to join them, and then we'll all drive back together). It was the kid's first ever train trip, and they were really looking forward to it. However, it just might be their last.

The train was supposed to leave Utica at 1:20 and arrive at Albany by 3:30. No big deal, right? I drove them to the station, where we found out the train was 2 hours late. The station is 30 minutes from the house, so it didn't make sense to go home to wait, since we'd just have to turn around again (so we thought). As clever readers have probably guessed, there were more delays, and they didn't end up leaving until after 5!

It gets better.

A storm blew through and knocked out the signal (whatever that means). I got a call from Kim around 8 (thank goodness for cellphones!) saying the train was stopped... somewhere. They didn't hit Albany until close to 9, at which point they were very much ready to eat some dinner. They finally got to NYC sometime after 11...

The girls were real troopers, well behaved, and made lots of friends on the train. Kim is amazing and was well prepared with snacks, games, books, and awe-inspiring patience (I'm SUCH a lucky man). All's well that ends well, but I don't imagine we're going to do much rail travel again anytime soon. I'm amazed that Amtrak turned what could have been a 90 minute drive into a 9 hour ordeal. Yikes!

I'm sure Amtrak isn't always this bad, but gosh, it was worse than flying... and not only could they not tell us when the train would arrive, most of the time they couldn't even tell us where the train was (information a cheap GPS receiver and a cellphone would easily provide).

I'm glad we weren't planning for it to be a two-way trip!

Anyone else have any train stories, good or otherwise?


lisa said...

I'm sorry to hear the ladies had such a horrible experience. I have quite a travel bug and usually start to get restless about 3 months after having returned from a trip. (I've now been in the US for about 6 months since my last trip...I'm dying!) I take Amtrak (or Metro North) into NYC often and I've had pretty good experiences. The trains run on time and service is good. I do know that upon occasion there are delays because of some situation but those situations are pretty much justified (accidents, storms, etc) which is not always the case when flying. Delays when flying are part of the package.

Gabe said...


One of the gentlemen I used to work with there in Rome often took the train on business. It was never on schedule. And one of my friends on several occasions took the train to Chicago. Again, it never made it on time. I'm not sure that Amtrak is ever eally on time. Ever! Reminds me of this months WIRED article .

Gabe said...

Whoops! Shoulda looked like this:

Gabe said...

Or maybe this (I'm not much of an HTML artist)

Train Link