Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ponto Station - Why the 784 is usually late.

According to Amtrak's official schedule the 784 arrives in Solana Beach at 7:13pm. This rarely happens. One of the things that prevents this is the lack of a double-track along the entire system.

In some cases one train will have to wait for another to pass before proceeding to single track. The 784 has a special place to stop in between the stops of Oceanside and Solana Beach.

There is a strange dead zone of the Carlsbad coast inhabited by a defunct self-storage site called Ponto Storage. I extracted the Google map and satellite photo to give a feel for this odd locale. I'll try to get some views from the train later next week. The place is truly worthy of a Steven King setting.

On average I think we wait here an extra  ten minutes about four times a week. One idea would be just to incorporate the stop and call it Ponto Station. Perhaps the California High Speed Rail project would be interested.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In The Dark

The ride home is always entertaining, but sometimes it crosses over the line and becomes strange. Last night was an example of the strangeness that can enter into an otherwise routine commute home.

Everything was normal as we made our way out of Union Station. The regulars were in their standard seating positions and the LSA was doing brisk business. The only items out of place were Big Al and Mark (the banker), who huddled in the corner instead of assuming their normal positions standing in the condiment section of the Cafe Car.

Things deteriorated 10 minutes after leaving the station when the internal power supply cut off. The train got eerily quiet without the normal background noise of the air conditioning fans buzzing. At that point we knew that this trip was going to have issues.

Close your eyes and imagine a 2 hour train ride without lights, air conditioning, flushable toilets... Now think of that ride without beer! The horror! Luckily for us, Big Al was hiding in the corner because he had brought a six pack of beer with him, and he didn't want anyone to see it.

Beer problem solved, we now had to fill the unusual quiet with chatter. I have a limited number of topics to run through in my chat files, so we recycle topics quite regularly. Every now and then you get someone who drops a doozy. Yesterday's tidbit was provided by a random passenger who, after a whole hour of silence dropped this nugget:

"I don't like Swedish people. I'm just throwing that out there"

After the shock of this guy saying something, and after processing just how ridiculous it was, I replied the only way proper. "Me neither... I have always been partial to Norwegians."

Such was the 784 on 2/22.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Express Service

Much marketing is going into the new "express" service (stops below). Strange thing is that it is only one train in one direction. I would rather get home 20 minutes early, so why not run an evening express train south? In any event, I expect this to be a short experiment as the coordination among the Coaster, Amtrak, and Metrolink is poor at best.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

Change isn't always good, and Amtrak recently instituted a couple of major changes to its Pacific Surfliner service that will have nothing but a negative impact to the commuters using its service.

The first and most publicized change is the new "express" train service from San Diego to Los Angeles. The second train (563) north out of San Diego each morning will now be an express train skipping several of the previous stops along the route. It will no longer serve San Juan, Santa Ana, or Fullerton. This will save an entire 15 minutes from SD to LA. That assumes the train is on time, which it never is...

Second, and most resentful, they are changing the menu in the Sea View Cafe. This is more than your standard increase in prices, they are cutting out two items critical to the well being of several of the "regular" commuters. No longer will they serve Courvoisier (sure to force a certain regular onto the Metrolink), nor will they carry the best food served on the rails. Posted below is a picture of the last JalapeƱo Burger. Shortly after this picture was taken it was cut into 4th's and shared with a tear in the eye...

The last Jalapeno Burger

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Amtrak Blue Card

When I first rode the train in 2009 there was a plastic rack in the Cafe car that holds train schedules, advertisements, and a special form we affectionately called "The Blue Card". Basically a complaint form to report bad service, bad quality etc.

We used to joke about filling these out every time the cafe car ran out of Stone Arrogant Bastard beer, which happens often on Fridays. But I  think I used this really only one time when a certain person was extremely rude and insulting. It disappeared forever shortly after that.

The image you see to the left is that of perhaps the last remaining copy.