They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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Unexpected Train Saturday

Plan C

Mrs. Dr. Phil took a day trip to Chicago to visit with a grade school classmate before they go back to Germany. Chicago is just on the other side of Lake Michigan, but getting there is another problem. There are two ferries which cross the lake, but one goes to Milwaukee and the other much further north in Wisconsin. (I'd love it if there was a direct ferry to Chicago.) I don't remember what Plan A was, but Plan B was to drive Mrs. Dr. Phil to Michigan City IN and take the South Shore electric train to/from Chicago -- particularly handy because that line also serves the Illinois Central/Metra line to Hyde Park. Then I pointed out that she could take the Amtrak train from Holland in the morning and the South Shore coming back, and we wouldn't have to get up nearly so early, so that became Plan C.

Spectacular weather for the 8:20am EDT arrival of the Pere Marquette, making its first stop in Holland after starting in Grand Rapids. Heavily funded by the State of Michigan, the Pere Marquette not only gets Superliner coaches, it gets a lot of passengers. Lots of people crowding the platform and the parking lot looked full. So I dropped Mrs. Dr. Phil off and then circled back to the lot to sit and wait to photograph the train.

A Strange Visitor

But what's this hanging on the end of the train? A private dome car?

A former Burlington Route stainless steel streamliner dome car, Silver Splendor.

Turned out it was being used by some group -- they were loading on a bunch of coolers and looked to be ready to make a party out of it.

The platform at Holland isn't all that long, so after they boarded the Amtrak passengers, they pulled ahead, blocking 8th Street, and then boarded the private dome car. There's a guy who's a regular railfan and sometime stringer for the local newspapers that I've met before at the Holland station -- and he was really surprised that the grapevine hadn't alerted anyone about the CB&Q dome car. (grin)

And Later That Night

There are two Michigan City IN South Shore stations -- and I've never been to either one. Or ridden the South Shore for that matter, despite all the years I was in Chicagoland. However, the Caroll Avenue station not only had many more parking spaces, it was closer to the freeway, so we decided to rendezvous there. Mrs. Dr. Phil's train was scheduled to arrive at 11:05pm CDT. Google Maps pegged the drive from Allendale at 119 miles and 2 hours 16 minutes. So I left around 9:30pm EDT and with stops for gas and slowdowns for all manners of construction, I arrived in Michigan City just after some rain about 20-25 minutes to spare.

The South Shore has always struck me as a very practical little railroad. The parking lots for 200+ cars are stuffed around a series of crossing railroad tracks and late at night on a Saturday were surprisingly full.

I turned the flash off to get this arriving blurred shot -- the guy in the reflective safety vest is from the car shops down the track. The four-car train was split in two and he took the back half to park overnight, while the remaining two cars went on to South Bend. He said they run over 80% on time, with a ±4 minute window, and they were right on the outside edge.

Anyway, Mrs. Dr. Phil had a lovely time. Amtrak was delayed twice on the way to Chicago -- once to wait for a long coal train to pass on the hill south of St. Joseph MI and once for the inevitable delays at the complex interlocking at Porter IN -- getting in about an hour late. So by the time she got home, she joked she was already running on about Plan G. (grin)

Just past midnight Eastern and it was still near 80°F and muggy. Got home around 2:30am. Nice to see some trains. (double-track-grin)

Dr. Phil
Tags: amtrak, chicago, holland, indiana, south shore, trains, weather, west michigan

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