Sunday, October 4, 2015

Broadway/Capitol Special Inaugural Train (1990)

Saturday, November 10, 1990 marked the last departures of Amtrak's Broadway Limited and Capitol Limit that traversed Conrail's Fort Wayne line between Alliance, Ohio and Chicago. Beginning with the next day's departure the Broadway would back out of Pittsburgh to the connection with the B&O at Bloom and then take an all B&O routing to Chicago via Youngstown, Akron, Fostoria, Garrett, and Napanee. The Capitol would continue on its present route to Alliance, Ohio where it turned north toward Cleveland and connected to the present route of the Lake Shore Limited. This made Pittsburgh to Cleveland travel by rail possible (albeit very inconvenient) for the first time since the inception of Amtrak.

To celebrate this new service, Amtrak ran a special inaugural train for dignitaries, travel agents, media, and other invited guests. I was lucky enough to be sent an invitation, and so on the previous Tuesday night I boarded a USAir F100 for Chicago. After a pleasant dinner with my sister and a friend, I went to bed early anticipating an early wakeup on Wednesday morning. At 4:20am(!) my alarm went off, and I got ready for a big day of travel. I arrived at Union Station about 5:15am and proceeded to track 28 where the special train was waiting.

The inaugural train
The train consisted of two F40's, a baggage car (for supplies), two Amfleet II coaches, a full diner, a dome, a Amfleet II lounge, two more Amfleet II coaches, and Amtrak 10001, a track inspection car. This was the first time I'd had a chance to see 10001. It was built from a wrecked Amfleet I car and had a standard office car configuration (from the rear: open platform, lounge area, a number of private bedrooms with bathroom and shower, a dining area and a kitchen/pantry area. The curved sides of an Amfleet car made the side standard side passage a bit awkward, but otherwise it was practically indistinguishable from Amtrak 10000. (In my experience the 10000 rode better, however.)

Amtrak 10001 brought up the markers
By 5:45, various of my friends who also had been invited, had arrived, and we settled into our seats in the lower portion of the dome car. The train pulled out a few minutes late at just past 6am. Shortly after departure, uniformed attendants passed out orange and apple juice, along with a continental breakfast. This was just the start of an almost continuous stream of goodies and souvenirs that were showered upon us during the two days.

For most of us the attraction of this trip was to be able to see the lines traversed in daylight, something that aren't possible with the overnight schedules of the regular train. The train pulled into Napanee, it's first stop at about 9am to an incredible crowd. This was Amish country, and there were horses and wagons surrounding the station. A very anachronistic sight. Probably 200 people showed up to greet the train and listen to the speeches by local politicians and Amtrak officials. About 100 of them boarded the train for the short run to Garrett, the next stop. This scene was repeated at every stop along the way, except with somewhat smaller crowds.

Amish at Napanee
The train was on-time all of the way across Indiana and Ohio. An unscheduled stop was made in Ravenna, Ohio, a town that felt slighted because it was not a scheduled stop on the route of the Broadway Limited. Amtrak officials thanked the crowd for its support, and indicated that they may consider this request at a future date. Also, the people of Lordstown, Ohio (where there is a big GM plant) were out protesting that it wasn't a stop.

At Youngstown, a major crowd (and a band) boarded, ready to party to Pittsburgh. My friends and I finished a game of Rail Baron (begun in Charlotte) in the lounge, but by the time we finished it the noise level of partying Youngstownites had made the car unbearable, so we retreated to the dome. It wasn't much better (the NARPites had taken it over as their private preserve), so we decided to ask the diner crew if they would heat some Steak n Shake burgers that had been delivered to us at trainside in Garrett (from Fort Wayne). While we waited an Amtrak attendant served us Korbel Champagne and we have photos of us eating Steak n Shake hamburgers in style.

The completion of a game of Rail Baron started weeks previously
The train refueled in New Castle (so that it didn't have to do so overnight in Pittsburgh) and this put us a little off schedule. We reached Field (on the B&O...Bloom on Conrail, hey it's in Bloomfield!) the junction of B&O and Conrail tracks in Pittsburgh a few minutes after our scheduled 7:30pm arrival and backed into Pittsburgh station at about 8pm.

After a all-too-short night at home in Pittsburgh (mine, not my friends), we reboarded the train (which had been turned overnight) for a 7am departure. This time we chased some of the NARPites out of the dome and settled into some seats there for part of the trip to Cleveland. Before we left Pittsburgh, one of the last eastbound Broadway Limiteds over the old route arrived. The run along the Ohio river to Rochester, PA was fun, complete with a scenic tour of Conway Yard once one of the biggest, and before long we were in Alliance, Ohio where we diverged north to Cleveland. A good sized group boarded at Alliance, including some of the Ohio folks who've been pushing for Pittsburgh to Cleveland service for years.

Alliance to Cleveland was a very busy railroad (Conrail routed much of its traffic from Pittsburgh to Chicago this way...hence the desire to downgrade the Fort Wayne line) and we found ourselves behind at least one and maybe two freights. We'd come upon signal after signal lit approach medium. The schedule accounted for this, and we were likely to end up ontime into Cleveland, when we came to a red signal, and there, just ahead of us was PIEL8 (Pittburgh, Elkhart, 8) stopped. It had gone into emergency for no apparent reason, and while they decided what to do we sat...just 7 miles from our destination.

The finally got the freight out of our way, and we did the last few miles to Cleveland in good time, arriving at Lakefront Station at about 11:30 instead of 11:00. There were bands and a good sized crowd there to meet us. We didn't stay for the celebration which was to go on until 7:30pm, with invited guests having luncheon on the train, and a public display before the train ran non-stop to Chicago (scheduled arrival 2:30am!)

My friends from the Chicago area rented a car instead, and railfanned their way across Ohio and Indiana. They planned to stop at the Fort Wayne Steak n Shake, and also to get pictures of one of the last Capitol Limiteds on the Fort Wayne line, and get home at a more reasonable hour (though at a higher expense). I caught a plane for Washington, and a business meeting.

A very enjoyable trip. Amtrak was to be congratulated. They knew how to throw a party.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds delightful. Makes me want to get on a train.