A cold misty morning ride turns into a blue-sky stunner of a journey.
There’s a crowd of slightly confused looking tourists collecting at Boston Back Bay Station…
It’s an odd sort of place, a mixture of brutal concrete architecture and cheery fast food outlets. Less than cheery, are the ticket sellers of the regional train lines who are clearly a little fed up of being asked about Amtrak’s National Service on a daily basis. When I enquire about platform details, I am quickly rebuffed with short thrift. It’s the first less than satisfactory encounter I’ve had with a Bostonian and I try not to hold it against him. Its 7:14 am and I feel like he’s probably been here all night.
Details of each National Amtrak departure is drip fed on to the tiny split-flap display. Each departure announcement leads to an excitable group of tourists collecting their bags, children and older folks (in that order) and hurriedly running down the escalators to the awaiting trains. The largest group remains for the train terminating at New York’s Penn Station, including myself and a travelling companion, attempting to stuff as many cigarettes into his mouth before our train departs.
After a few brief moments of confusion, we get to grips with where and when we should go. With some time to kill, we hit up a Dunkin’ Donuts. Its the only food outlet on this side of the station and is getting inundated with orders from hungry travellers. However, the workers all have grins on their face as their supervisor calls out orders and wishes people a good day. The Ham & Cheese Croissant is greasy and surprisingly chewy, the glazed doughnut is much better.
When our train number is finally called, we hurry down to the platform, along with about 40 other people. The Amtrak P42DC seems out of place sitting next to the grimy platform edge. 12 carriages long, its a shining silver behemoth, with smart horizontal ribs reminding of a tin of Baked Beans with its wrapping torn off. It occurs to my travelling partner and I that we have no seat reservations – in fact no one does.
We’re fortunate enough to get on the train ahead of the masses, with their sizeable carry-on cases and large groups. We sneak our way into a couple of seats in the centre of the carriage and settle in for a journey that should take us just over 3 hours.
Its fortunate that we’ve packed some food with us, because the options in the dining cart are pricey. As we crack open huge packets of crisps and admire massive apples (do they sell normal sized food in America?!) Boston is quickly whizzing away from us. Looking out our window to the South we watch the suburbs disappear, giving way to rural Massachusetts and then Providence. Soon we’ve joined the coast and the North Atlantic is breaking against the grey-green shoreline of of New London, New Haven, Stamford. Its not long until the towering structures of Manhattan present themselves to us.
An all too brief journey is over in a flash, stepping onto the platform of Penn Station, we’re suddenly struck by the sheer volume of noise and people.