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Alabama Trip:

Alabama Trip:




            After my Michigan Trip in 2012, I realized the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat would be coming up in 2015. I decided to mark the occasion by going to Montgomery, Alabama. I wasn’t sure if something would be happening down there to mark the occasion, but I would have at least like to fan the modern system in Montgomery 60 years to the day that Rosa Parks refused to move. I wasn’t sure if I would be hassled, but if I was, then 60 years later, lightning would strike twice in my eyes.


            I decided to take Amtrak there. My initial plan involved taking the Maple Leaf to New York and spending the night there. I would have then taken the Crescent to Birmingham and then a Greyhound bus to Montgomery as Amtrak doesn’t serve Montgomery. After spending a couple days in Montgomery, I would take Greyhound back to Birmingham and the Crescent to New York. In New York, I would connect to the Lakeshore Limited to Utica and then take the Maple Leaf home.


            However, two things complicated my trip plan: First was the CP Holiday train which usually comes to Toronto in late November/early December. It was to be in Toronto when I would have been away. Second, the southbound Crescent was sold out in coach north of Lynchburg! I did a little research and decided to see the CP Holiday train in Montreal instead of Toronto in order to see both the Holiday train and go to Alabama.


            In order to get around the Crescent being sold out north of Lynchburg, I would fly from Montreal to Atlanta and overnight there. The next day, I would take the Crescent to Birmingham and Greyhound to Montgomery. I would then come home as my original plan. The trip unfolded as follows.


November 28, 2015:


            I got to Union station at 8:30 am; 50 minutes before train #62 (formerly train #56) was scheduled to depart. I joined the queue line. Boarding began around 9:10 am. The escalator that would have been convenient for us to board was down for preventative maintenance so we used the escalator passengers for train #52 were using.


            I was seated in LRC coach #3301, a refurbished LRC coach. I was assigned a window seat on the right hand side of the train. I would have preferred a window seat on the left hand side. I wished that VIA would not have assigned seating as they used to. The train departed one minute late.


            When we passed the Distillery District, I saw a Ferris wheel for a winter carnival of some sort; but nothing like Carnival de Quebec.


            VIA train #651 passed, but I was unable to film it. I was also unable to film the TTC's Greenwood subway yard as we passed. I attempted to log into VIA's Wi-Fi.  The train stopped in Oshawa a few minutes later. The Wi-Fi worked for a little while, but it stopped working.


            A westbound VIA train passed. The train passed through Port Hope. We stopped at Cobourg a little while later.


            VIA train #61 passed, but I was unable to film it. I attempted to film the Memory Junction railway museum as we raced past.


            The Wi-Fi started working again around Trenton. We later passed through Belleville. We passed a CN freight train with a DPU in the middle of the train.


            I bought lunch from a VIA attendant. The train stopped at Kingston a little while later.


            Outside of Brockville, the train stopped in order to separate the train from train #52. Normally, I would have gone to the last coach to watch this, but there was a HEP2 coach deadheading on the rear of #62 making it difficult to watch them split the two trains.  I did photograph two CN GP9s in the yard though.



            VIA train #63 passed on the opposite side of the train so I was unable to film it. It appeared to be the many of the same coaches from when I rode it as train #64 on my way to Dorval to head off to Europe last August although it had different power. One thing to note is that two days after I returned from Europe, I saw the same coaches at Oakville running as VIA train #80! It did have a different locomotive though.


            HEP was soon restored and we departed. Train #62 no longer stops at Brockville and we ran past the station. We then passed the turn off to the Brockville subdivision. Recently, VIA bought the Brockville subdivision from Brockville to Smith Falls from CN.


            A little while later, we began overtaking an eastbound CN intermodel train. Outside of Cornwall, we slowed to a stop. VIA train #65 passed on the opposite side of the train so I was unable to film it. We stopped at Cornwall a few minutes later. We soon departed Cornwall.


            A little while later, we crossed into the province of Quebec. We were running alongside the CP main line. A westbound AMT commuter train passed by on the CP line.  We stopped at Dorval a few minutes later. I saw someone had placed a sticker on a shelter on the platform saying 9-11 was an inside job. Personally, I don't believe that 9-11 was an inside job; for one reason, Bush wasn't smart enough to pull something like 9-11 off!


            Shortly after we stopped, a westbound CN freight passed. The freight had a DPU in the middle of the train. Train #62 departed from Dorval a few minutes later. Between Dorval and Montreal, the train slowed to a crawl. We soon picked up speed. We passed by a stopped VIA train and I filmed it. We then passed a couple CN locomotives doing some switching. I caught a glimpse of some AMT Galley coaches and an ex GO coach sitting in the yard; presumably retired. We passed another stopped VIA train and I filmed it.


            We were soon approaching Montreal Central Station. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.


            Train #62 arrived into Montreal 12 minutes late. I got off and photographed the train.




            I then went upstairs to the main area of Central station. I saw a Christmas tree and decorations. I photographed them.



            I then went to a convenience store and bought a bottle of lemonade and then headed to the Metro. I bought a day pass and took the subway to Mont Royal station. I then transferred to the route #11 bus. For the first time since 2011, I was staying at the Hotel Parc Avenue. The bus ride was slow but I eventually got there. I then checked into the hotel and went to my room. I relaxed for about an hour and worked on this trip report some more.


            Soon, I decided to head out to see the CP Holiday train. I walked to the bus stop and caught a route #80 to Place Des Arts Metro station. I went to the subway and photographed the train as it came in. As per usual, it had the older MR-63 cars. However, the first six cars were wrapped.



            STM is in the process of ordering new subway cars. Presently a few new trains on property and have been seen being tested on the main line. However, they are not in service yet.


            I rode to Lionel-Groulx and filmed the train pulling out. I then left the station and went to see about the STM bus route #747 which runs express to Dorval airport. When the next #747 bus came, I asked the driver if I could use regular STM transfers to get on. I was told I couldn't and the fare was $10.


            I then headed back to the Metro and boarded an Orange line train to Villa-Maria station and then transferred to the route #162 bus. I rode to the Montreal West AMT station where the Holiday train would be later. The bus came about five minutes after I got there. I got on and the bus soon left.


            There were a couple people also going to the Holiday train. We soon got to Montreal West AMT station. The Holiday Train was not there yet. A few minutes later, an AMT commuter train pulled into the station. I photographed it.



            I filmed the train leaving the station. I waited for the Holiday Train to come. I learned it would be coming in from the west and pass by the station before it would pull in from the east.


            The Holiday Train soon came into view. It was facing west so it was backing up. I attempted to photograph it.



            I filmed the train reversing past. The train had 13 cars and GP20ECO #2323 as power. This is the second year in a row that those type of locomotives had been used to pull the Holiday Train. Previous years, it was pulled by an AC4400. When it first ran in 1999, it had an SD9043MAC for power.


            I had first seen the Holiday Train back in 2001. I missed it in 2002 because of SAIT, but I've seen it every year since 2003; prior to this year, the furthest I've gone to see it is Cambridge. I had thought about possibly taking a trip to see the Holiday train since 2006; however, it's usually been in and around Toronto on a day that worked for me so I did not have to see it elsewhere. It was scheduled to be in Toronto while I was away. If it was in Toronto on this day, I would not have gone to Montreal.


            I walked to a railway crossing east of the station to await the train to come back. I could see it off in the distance.


            After awhile, the train came back. I attempted to film the train, but my camera's battery died! I had a charged one, but I missed most of the cars.



            I then walked over and photographed the cars.















            The CP Holiday Train has a Christmas show and the performers travel on board. For this show, the band “Chic Gamine” was playing. I had seen this band perform a few years ago at a concert from Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe.


            The train had stopped in a way I couldn't get a head on shot of the locomotive. I wandered down a side street and attempted to photograph the locomotive.





            I went back to the first few cars. The crew let six kids into the cab. I asked if I could go and photograph the locomotive. However, the crew said I couldn't.


            I eventually went down the side street and found a decent vantage point to film the train. Went it pulled away, I filmed it pulling away.


            I then made my way back to the bus stop. My friend Larry phoned me and we talked for a few minutes. I eventually boarded a route #162 bus to Villa-Maria station. At   Villa-Maria I boarded a subway and rode to Namur station. I then walked and had dinner at the restaurant that looks like a giant orange. I then made my way back to the Metro and took an Orange line train to Lionel-Groulx station and transferred to the Green line. I rode to Place Des Arts station and then took a route #80 bus back to my hotel. I went to a convenience store and bought some cereal and some milk before returning to my hotel. I asked for a wake up call at 8:00 am and eventually called it a night.


November 29, 2015:


            I got up and got dressed. I took the cereal and milk to the eating area of my hotel and had breakfast. After breakfast, I went to my room and finished packing. I then checked out of my hotel.


            I walked to the bus stop and caught a route #80 bus to the Place Des Arts Metro station. I photographed the next train that came in.



            I got off at Lionel-Groulx and filmed the train departing. I then left the station and went to catch a route #747 bus to the airport. When the bus came, I had to pay the $10 fare in coins! However I was able to find enough.


            The bus ran express to the airport. I got off and attempted to photograph it.



            I then went inside and checked in with Air Canada. I was actually flying on accumulated Aeroplan points though I had to pay the taxes and for a checked bag.


            I dropped my suitcase off and went to clear security. Air Canada doesn't fly direct from Montreal to Atlanta; instead, I had to change planes in Toronto!


            I cleared security without incident. My gate was the closest to the security line; however, I still had over two hours before my flight was scheduled to leave. I went to see if I could get a massage at the place I had one the two times I flew to Europe, but I found out it was closed. It wouldn't open until after my flight left. I returned to my gate and went online for a few minutes and worked on this report some more.


            After awhile, I had lunch at the restaurant where I had dinner when I flew to Europe earlier this year. After lunch, I returned to my gate. The plane I would be flying was there. I would be flying on an Airbus A320. I photographed it.




            When I booked this trip, I could have flown that flight or a flight leaving an hour later. I chose the earlier flight to allow me to get through customs and reduce the risk of my suitcase missing my connecting flight. However, the later flight would have been on an Airbus A330 though. 


            Soon it was almost time to board. I learned the flight would be quite full and they asked passengers to consider checking their carry on bags. I did not check my backpack.


            Boarding soon commenced. I had a window seat. While I had a seatmate in the aisle seat, the middle seat was empty. The plane left on time. Shortly after we left the gate. I photographed various planes including a plane heading to Cuba which was supposed to have left four hours earlier. I bet passengers on that flight will be getting vouchers!



            I filmed the take off roll and watched a documentary on the New Horizons spacecraft's journey to Pluto which took up the entire short flight. We were soon approaching Toronto. I filmed the landing and photographed various planes as we taxied to the gate.








            The plane had arrived on time. I got off the plane and photographed it one more time.



            I then went to clear customs and head to my connecting flight. I had been given a form to fill out when I checked in at Montreal. I had filled it in on the plane.


            I went to the customs area and lined up. I had to go to an area where I used a kiosk to enter data about my passport and was given a slip. I turned it to an agent before I lined up to actually go through Customs. The line was long. It made me glad I chose the earlier flight.


            I was soon processed through customs. I then had to go through security again, but it took less than 15 minutes from when I lined up to when I left the security area. Again, I was glad to have chosen the earlier flight.


            I phoned home and let my mom know I was in Toronto. She agreed it was smart to have taken the earlier flight.


            Shortly after I ended that call, I looked up at the flight information board. I saw my plane was now leaving 15 minutes late.


            I found my gate and eventually went online while waiting for the plane to board. It eventually got to the gate. I would be flying an Air Canada Express Bombardier CRJ705. I photographed the plane.



            After awhile, it was time to board. I had a window seat again. The plane left 45 minutes late. I filmed the take off roll. I watched the movie Vacation which took up most of the flight. At one point, the plane hit turbulence.


            We were soon approaching Atlanta. I filmed the landing. We had a long taxi to the terminal but were eventually got to the gate. I got off and photographed the plane.



            The terminal looked more like a shopping mall than an airport terminal with many stores.  I became a little confused to where I could go claim my suitcase. However, a couple airport employees pointed me in the right direction and I made it to the baggage claim. I soon got my suitcase and headed out.


            I had to catch a shuttle to the MARTA subway station. I just missed one. When the next one came, I was the last one to get on. However, some people cut in front of me in line!


            The shuttle took a long roundabout route to the MARTA station, but I got there in time to catch a subway to the Arts Center station. I filmed the train pulling out of the station.



            I then transferred to a route #110 bus to my hotel. The bus came a few minutes later. My hotel was a block away from the Amtrak station. I checked in and dropped my stuff off in my room.


            I then headed out looking for a place to have dinner. After dinner, I returned to my hotel. I watched TV and worked on this report some more. I set the alarm on my phone and called it a night.


November 30, 2015:


            I got up at 6:45 am and got dressed. I went to the lobby for breakfast. After breakfast, I went back to my room and finished packing. I phoned Julie and found out my train was 56 minutes late. This is bad as I only had 85 minutes to make my connection with Greyhound.


            I checked out of my hotel and walked to the Amtrak station. When I got there, I learned the train was due at 9:10. I began to worry that I would miss the Greyhound to Montgomery.


            I bought a chocolate bar from a vending machine while I was waiting. I saw a southbound Norfolk Southern freight pass through the station.


            The train arrived at 9:15 am. I saw the train was led by a P42 and a P32-BWH. This is the third time I would get to ride behind one such unit. There was the last time I was in the States as well as my 2010 trip on the Cardinal.


            We weren't allowed to board just yet. We waited for people getting off the train in Atlanta to come up the stairs. I saw some people go to the platform so I went down myself. It turned out the boarding announcement hadn't been made yet. However, I wasn't about to go back up. I photographed the train.



            Eventually, we were allowed to board. I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25072. The train departed 71 minutes late.


            I was hoping that we would make up some time. The cafe car opened and I bought some chips and a Pepsi. I returned to my seat.


            At one point, I photographed the front of the train going around a curve.



            I went back to my seat and worked on this report for a little while. Near Anniston, we passed by the assembly plant for New Flyer. I saw several XD40s in the yard including one destined for Washington DC. The train stopped at Anniston.


            We passed a few freight trains. At one point, we slowed as we had encountered track work.


            I kept watching the time with growing worry. Eventually, we were on the outskirts of Birmingham. I got my stuff ready in preparation to get off. However, we stopped for a little and I saw a freight train with four BNSF locomotives. We were moving again shortly, but they stopped again to line a switch into the station. I was getting anxious. We soon pulled into the station 69 minutes late. I got off and photographed the train.




            I left the station hoping there would be a taxi there. There were no taxis. I rushed to get to the Greyhound station a few blocks away. By the time I got there. I was barely able to make my connecting bus. I felt relieved to the on the bus which soon left.


            Between 1989 and 1995, Amtrak ran a train called the “Gulf Breeze” Originally, it ran combined with the Crescent from New York to Birmingham where it would split from the Crescent and head to Mobile with a stop in Montgomery. Towards the end, it ran as a stub train from Birmingham to Mobile. If it was still running, I wouldn't have been worried with the Crescent being late.


            The bus hit the highway and we drove over the line. The Crescent had departed.


            The bus rode was one hour and 40 minutes long, but we were approaching Montgomery. I could see the old train station from the bus. We soon arrived at the Greyhound station.


            I went inside and paid for my ticket as I was unable to because of my late arrive into Birmingham. I also bought a return ticket for two days later.


            I then got my suitcase and walked to my hotel. I photographed the bus I had arrived on.



            Someone had pulled into the driveway and asked me for money. I told him no. My hotel was within walking distance and I walked there. The person who asked had followed me. This time, there was a woman in the passenger seat. He asked where I was going. I told him the Comfort Inn and I was okay. He drove off and didn't bother me anymore.


            I got to my hotel a little while later. I checked in and went to my room. I went online and worked on this report a little.


            After awhile, I went out. I stopped at a Hardee's restaurant and bought a Coke. I walked to the next major intersection. I saw a bus from the Montgomery Area Transit System (MATS) system; the present Montgomery bus system pass but I was unable to photograph it. I went onto an overpass which passes over a railway line. Presumably, the Gulf Breeze ran on that line.


            I saw a MATS bus coming. I waited around and photographed it.




            It was an SLF; a model York Region Transit had stopped running 4-5 years ago. I hoped to ride one in service the next day.


            I stayed on the bridge for a few minutes hoping a train would pass, but no trains came. I walked back to my hotel and stayed there for a little while. I then went out to an Arby's restaurant for dinner. On the way, a woman walked up to me and asked if I wanted to go to her place. I declined. She didn't push the issue. I wonder if she was a prostitute or something.


            After dinner, I returned to my hotel. I worked on this report for a little while. Eventually, I set the alarm on my cell phone for 8:30 am and called it a night.


The big 6-0 is tomorrow. Click to read what happened:     Part 2