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I rode the Piedmont and Carolinian in June 2012. My ride on the Piedmont began in Cary. Since I had been working in the area all week, I first had to drop my rental car at the airport then take a cab to the train station. One of the big problems with using the train as an alternative to flying is the lack of car rental facilities at train stations. My taxi fare to the station was more than my train fare. The journey to Salisbury on the Piedmont was nearly on time and was very relaxing. Although the Piedmont uses older equipment, the coach had been nicely refurbished with large comfortable seats. The large windows gave the car a bright and open feel.
My return trip was on the Carolinian, traveling from Salisbury to New York. Although I had never tried it before, I figured riding in Business Class would be a nice experience for such a long ride. I also hoped that since it was a Saturday it would be less crowded than coach. When I boarded, although only the third stop on the train, Business Class was already largely full, with the only open window seats in rows reserved for groups. As a result, I was assigned an aisle seat next to a sleeping gentleman traveling to Raleigh. Not wanting to wake the gentleman to have him remove his belongings from my seat, and not really wanting to sit in an aisle seat anyway, I decided to ride the first part of the trip in the café car. Of course this meant I missed out on most of the Business Class beverages, but at least I could look out a window. When the café car closed just before Cary I returned to my seat and at Raleigh took the window seat. Sadly the window seat wasn’t much better than the aisle since most of the view was blocked by the large piece of steel between the small windows. I later noticed this was true for about one out of every three rows.
I was pretty disappointed that I had paid extra for Business Class. It seems like a poor design to have so many seats without real windows. Seating was still two by two, just like in coach, so the seats weren’t any wider, although they did have more legroom. Not wanting to stare at a piece of metal for the next eight hours I again moved back to the café car. I remained there happily for most of the trip, until it again closed just before Washington.
The ride went pretty smoothly in North Carolina, but in Virginia we ended up delayed approximately two hours due to track work and the need to pass other trains. We made up one of those hours between Washington and New York, so we ended up arriving about an hour late. Between Washington and New York the Carolinian discharges passengers only, so as Business Class emptied I was able to find a much better seat and enjoyed the rest of the trip from there.
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Copyright 2012 by Robert Mortell