Monday, February 11, 2008

Blog Post from Acela on the way to New York

I am not a seasoned train traveler even though I love trains. I learnt my lesson a year ago when my 2 trips to New York by flight had resulted in a overnight stay due to canceled flights. In desperation I took Amtrak back to Washington DC. This trip I did not even attempt to book a flight.

I left my house at 4 a.m for the Union station. My train was at 6 a.m. Without traffic and a very clear George Washington Parkway I reached Union Station parking at 4.40 a.m. By the time I went down 3 levels it was 5 minutes. The ticket machine recognized my card and easily printed the tickets. Now people who know me know I am an adventurer but not a avid risk taker but still decided to see if I could catch the 5 a.m. I asked the smiling lady at the gate what it would take to catch the earlier train. She directed me to the ticket window. I was second in line and the gentleman said it wouldn't be a problem and that I had enough time to make it to the train. I paid the $21 dollars to change the reservation and boarded the train with at least 8 minutes to spare. They asked for my id there.

The first coach was First class. From the outside I could make out maybe 8 people there enjoying their juice. The next coach the conductor informed me was the "quiet coach" ( No cell phones and no loud talking) Nope that was not for me. I went to the next one and there it had about 6 people. The train left on time, didn't hear a announcement from inside the car. The conductor checked my ticket and made me sign the top left ( I did not get that. Why?) Then On the seat he put a card that indicated my destination ( Not sure this is a practice on any other railway).

As soon as the train got underway the conductor told us the cafe was open. I was hungry and was the first one there. The lady had a pleasant demeanor and gave me my egg and bagel and coffee. a few minutes after I had returned to my seat I saw her again as she brought me a fresh cup of coffee since as she said she had noticed after I left that my coffee had grounds in it. I am amazed that Amtrak has some great people - I am going to try and send an email about her great service.

I am on Twitter using my T-Mobile Dash as a Internet connection. The Dash is such a handy phone. Posting to a blog from a train is not new but this will be my first mobile post from a train. I am returning back this evening and hope to twitter and blog. On purpose I did not bring a book to read. Since its too early on the East Coast a lot of my US Twitter friends are still asleep I think.

Having passed Baltimore and Wilmington the train is still quite free. Oh! before I end this post I must tell you a year ago my co traveler was the CIO of Fannie Mae Rahul Merchant EVP and CIO of Fannie Mae. What a great guy ? it was the best 3 hours. He was very down to earth  now that is probably another post.

We just left Wilmington Delaware. The ride is not smooth (No I am not blaming any typos on the ride !) . When I go to India next I want to check the trains again to see if they have become smoother. The middle tier/ business class was always quieter and smoother from what I can remember.

3 comments:

Dan Mosqueda said...

Do you have any sense of how fast the Acela is moving? Would you say it's, overall, a faster way to travel from DC to NYC?

Suki said...

Shashi,

I am so glad your trip was pleasant. The mark on the ticket (I believe) is so the conductor will know he has checked your ticket & by placing it above your seat it is faster method to identify which ticketed passengers checked.

Hope you have a productive day. I look forward hearing about the conf. Stay warm.

Shashi Bellamkonda said...

Dan,
I think Acela runs at speeds between 75 mph (120 km/h) and 150 mph (241 km/h). Thats slower than trains in Japan and Europe. I think if the Acela had its own set of tracks it could be faster and better. On the whole its a great way to travel between DC and NYC.

I will never take a flight on this route again.

Shashi