Saturday, August 25, 2018

Retracing the Broadway Limited--Part II

So the link that demanded some scrutiny was between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Broadway Limited continued after Pittsburgh on the Pennsy Main Line and around Alliance, Ohio, which happens to be the only stop now between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, it headed west through Lima, Ohio, and on to Chicago. The train (Capitol Limited) now joins this Main Line eastward bound near Alliance, apparently on a Pennsy line that went to Cleveland and ended there. This whole segment was transited in the middle of the night so it was impossible to discern stations along the way that might have helped resolve the matter (I also was asleep a good deal of the time once we left Cleveland).

The first part of the trip resembled all train journeys from Chicago: leave Union Station to the south--the exceptions are northward-bound trains like the Empire Builder, headed for Minneapolis on the way to Portland and Seattle--and pass through the South Side, including a sweep past Guaranteed Rate Stadium, formerly White Sox Park, which replaced ancient Comiskey Park. I had been part of the 15,000 or so who watched the Sox rally to top the Twins--both mediocre American League clubs--the previous day.

Then we passed Lake Michigan on the left as the train sailed through Indiana, stopping at South Bend and then Elkhart before reaching Waterloo, which is now the station serving Ft. Wayne. Ft. Wayne was a station on the original Broadway Limited line, although the train did not stop there. Having enjoyed the prepackaged short ribs, I slept past Toledo and woke up as we edged into Cleveland, or a station that looked to be both new and nowhere near downtown. I can sleep on trains but this train slowed often, sometimes to let freights pass.

Arriving in Pittsburgh before daybreak, I had a two-hour layover before boarding the Pennsylvanian, the only other train that serves Pittsburgh. The platforms look ancient but the station is one of those newer Amtrak facilities designed for places with few trains. As we filed down the platform to the station, I passed a train on the facing track which, much to my surprise, the station agent--a gregarious, pleasant woman--told me was indeed the Pennsylvanian.

Two hours later we were on our way again, quite a few passengers having sat out the two-hour spell with me. Western Pennsylvania is rocky and mountainous, providing plenty of charming scenery. Greensburg is the first stop, about 40 minutes out, and has a wonderful old Pennsy station complete with clock tower. For a small town, it had a large building a block or so from the tracks that looked like a major hotel. 

Next stop was Johnstown and you can see the mountains on both sides, where high up on one was the infamous dam built by the one-percenters of those days for their recreation. When it burst, that was the Johnstown Flood. Then on to Altoona, where the Pennsylvania Railroad had its major shops. Just before you come down into the foothills of the Alleghenies, we traversed the famous Horseshoe Curve, an engineering marvel built in 1854 and at its centre is a park where several visitors armed with cameras captured our eastbound train, one of two to pass by there daily. The Broadway did stop in Altoona (Harrisburg was its only other stop between Philly and Pittsburgh), probably to pick up another added engine going westbound up the Appalachian slopes.

We moved slowly into Harrisburg, coming down from Lewiston, then and now the closest stop to Penn State (not all that close). The line reaches the Susquehanna some miles above the state capital, then crosses the wide, island-filled, non-navigable river on a low bridge just before Harrisburg. In the old days the train must have used the now-abandoned multi-arched bridge right at Harrisburg. :Leaving Harrisburg--we lost some time getting through a work area before that stop--we continued downriver, almost to Three Mile Island, and could see its now-familiar three smokestacks.

The train moved smoothly now through neat Pennsylvania Dutch farmland to Lancaster. Eventually we reached what still is called the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, beginning at Paoli, where we stopped. Then we passed multiple suburban stops until passing the last one, Overbrook, its high school perhaps Philly's most famous incubator of basketball players. 30th Street Station is actually the newest of the grand old stations with hundred-foot high plastered ceilings. The men's room was the scene of a tense encounter in the film Witness and you can get a decent cheesesteak and other good comestibles in the station, where I had another two-hour layover.

Had I remained on the Capitol Limited, I'd have arrived in Washington around 1 P.M. Now Amtrak was demanding a king's ransom to switch me onto one of the earlier trains I could've taken, so I enjoyed the always hard-hitting sports columnists of the Philadelphia Daily News, who couldn't decide whether they were more unhappy about the defending Super Bowl champ Eagles losing a preseason game to the Browns, possibly the NFL's worst team, or the Phillies for losing another. Since they remained six games ahead of the Nats, I figured they had little to complain about, but that's Philly sportswriters for you.

At last I boarded the train to Washington, which was amazingly on time and efficient, while also mostly empty since this was late on a summer Friday afternoon. It did improve my disposition by actually arriving in Union Station ten minutes early. The trip lived up to my expectations, especially, as anticipated, the classic section of the Broadway Limited route, now traversed from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia by the Pennsylvanian. The victuals served by its cafe car were well above average.

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