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To visit all of the Penn and Camden Line stations we had to take two trips on the Penn Line and one on the Camden Line.
Our first trip was on the Penn Line on 30 June 2010 when we rode from Perryville to Union Station in Washington, DC. We took this ride as part of a trip to Virginia, hitting the road before sunrise. We stopped at a Bob Evan’s in New Jersey for breakfast and then rolled into Perryville a bit before our train was scheduled to depart. It felt a little strange getting a local ticket from an Amtrak Quik Trak machine, and took awhile first waiting on line and then getting our tickets from the one machine, but soon we were outside ready to board on a warm summer day. Our train was delayed a few minutes waiting for an Amtrak train to pass, but once it did we crossed the Susquehanna River and were on our way. The train filled steadily all of the way to Washington, but especially in and after Baltimore. Many of the passengers were families which was a bit surprising since MARC does not give any discounts for children, focusing exclusively on commuter traffic. Our now full train arrived at Union Station, our first visit to this station. The part still used by trains seemed a bit cramped, but it was nice to see the grandeur of the old station had been preserved, now used as a shopping mall. We had a quick lunch in the station, and then headed outside for a walk to the Capitol and Supreme Court before heading back to the station to continue our journey on VRE. We arrived back at the station well before our train was scheduled to depart, but were able to access the platform and relax a bit before other passengers started to join us. Our trip on the Fredericksburg Line was our first experience riding in a Gallery Car. It was a treat to travel on nice new equipment. It was also nice that the train wasn’t very crowded. I think this was also our first time riding through a military base (no pictures there). We took the VRE Fredericksburg Line to Fredericksburg, where we were picked up and continued our drive to Williamsburg.
Our second trip on the Penn Line was on 12 August 2010. On our first trip the train had skipped the Seabrook station, so we began our trip in Seabrook this time. The train from Seabrook departed a bit later than the Perryville train, so we didn’t need to leave home quite as early and stopped for lunch near the station. Even with stopping for lunch we had quite a bit of time to kill before our train arrived, especially since our train was running late, so we spent the time watching the Amtrak trains scream past. There was no ticket kiosk at the station so we purchased our tickets on the train. Luckily the train wasn’t very crowded and we easily found seats and settled in for the short ride to Washington Union Station. Once again we took the VRE out of Washington, but this time we took the Manassas Line to Broad Run. Our connection time was short, so we didn’t need to wait very long until our train arrived. The ride to Broad Run was somewhat crowded. We were met at Broad Run and continued our journey to Williamsburg, unfortunately getting caught in a couple of traffic backups on the way.
It wasn’t until the next year that we rode the Camden Line, riding from Baltimore to Washington and back on 16 August 2011. We headed for the Baltimore / Camden station in the late morning, arrived mid afternoon, parked in one of the huge stadium parking lots, and waited for our train to arrive. It took us a little while to figure out how to get into the station building (the door had a tricky lock), but we eventually got inside and used the Quik Trak machine to buy our round trip tickets. The station has multiple platforms and tracks, and being right at two stadiums seems like a natural transit option for major events at the stadiums, but apparently the train is only used for commuting, with no service to support sporting events. The ride to Washington was enjoyable. The train was not very crowded, and there were some interesting things that caught our eye like an obelisk next to the tracks apparently not accessible except by train, and the decaying railroad infrastructure from the days when the Laurel Park station was a major stop. Now a couple of the stops including Laurel Park are just flag stops, but on the day we rode the train it stopped at all of the flag stops. Returning from Washington was a bit more stressful. Like many large stations the tracks were not posted until about 10 minutes before departure so there was a large crowd of people all waiting at the gates. Once the track was posted we moved quickly and found that our return trip was on the same train as the one we had taken to Washington. Luckily we got on the train early enough that we were able to still get seats together, but by the time the train departed every seat was taken. With each stop though the train slowly emptied until as we reached Baltimore, there were only a few people left on the train. We then began our drive home in the late evening, arriving home later that night.
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Copyright 2011 by Robert Mortell