Saturday, August 25, 2018

Retracing the Broadway Limited--Part I

Coming back from attending a conference in Chicago with Eileen, I opted to make the trip by train. She took the plane and arrived, of course, within hours. Not only did I arrange to travel on Amtrak but I included some connections to make the trip more interesting, although longer. (Eileen is willing to join me on rail for journeys no longer than one day and one night; this trip did meet that standard, if barely, since I departed Union Station, Chicago, at 6:40 P.M. and arrived at Union Station, D.C., at 7:40 P.M. the next day. There was precedent for her flying: when we were in the U.K. for almost a year, I traveled from London to Edinburgh on the famed Flying Scotsman, then a crack day train--Newcastle was the only intermediate stop--run by British Rail. She chose instead to go on the Flying Scotsman that flew.)

I started out on the Capitol Limited, Amtrak's fastest train between Chicago and Washington. There are two slower ways: the Lake Shore Limited, via the old New York Central "Water-Level" Route through Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, down the Hudson to New York, and then down the Northeast Corridor to Washington; and the Cardinal, through Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Charleston, White Sulphur Springs and Clifton Forge (for the Greenbrier and Homestead, respectively), Charlottesville, and Washington.

Having already ridden the Cardinal, which offers wonderful scenery in West Virginia especially, which would not be otherwise viewable except by hiking, but which is now one of Amtrak's smaller trains, with a tiny hard-pressed staff serving a sleeping car and combined diner-lounge. It now looks more attractive, because Amtrak is experimenting on the Capitol and Lake Shore Limiteds with prepackaged meals--the dinner was surprisingly good but I was at my first transfer point before it was time for what looked on the menu to be a rather uninspiring breakfast.

Instead, I was aiming to retrace the route of the Pennsylvania Railroad's one-time crack express between New York and Chicago--the Broadway Limited, the Pennsy's competitor to the New York Central's 20th Century Limited. Amtrak has chosen not to run the Broadway but does operate a day train between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia called the Pennsylvanian. My plan was to start on the Capitol Limited, change to the Pennsylvanian at Pittsburgh, and then board a Northeast Regional train at Philadelphia.

Both the Broadway and 20th Century Limiteds were exclusive, sleepers-only trains, with no coaches and no checked baggage. The Capitol Limited, which was one of the Baltimore & Ohio's top trains, was in that class, too, running from Baltimore to Washington, and thence west to Pittsburgh and Chicago. The Broadway listed its consist as a lounge car, at least ten sleepers, an observation car, and a diner.

Since the Broadway Limited route no longer functions in its entirety, I had to improvise as noted. But the first part of the Capitol Limited route actually uses the old 20th Century Limited (N.Y. Central) route from Chicago to Cleveland. From Pittsburgh, of course, the old Broadway route across Pennsylvania is the same as it was in the glory days. Coming into Philly, the train does head for 30th St. Station, while the Broadway turned north at the junction with what is now the Northeast Corridor (N.Y. to D.C.) route and headed to New York (Penn Station, naturally) only stopping at North Philadelphia in the Quaker City. (This is likely why Amtrak conductors for years would announce stops at 30th St. with the add-on "This is the only station stop in Philadelphia" because some trains turned west before reaching 30th St. but did stop at North Philadelphia, which comes before the turn-off.)

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