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Washington, DC Destination City

America by Amtrak, Coast-to-Coast and Border-to-Border

Washington, DC (WAS)


Washington, DC Amtrak Station

Washington, DC the nation's capitol, was the third Destination City on a dream Amtrak train trip covering 25 states on 6 Amtrak Long Distance Trains. Son, Matthew Morrison, and Yours Truly arrived on Amtrak Capitol Limited and left on  the Amtrak Carolinian with 1 1/2 days full of excellent tours by Grayline and my local US Representative in Southern California, Ed Royce.

July 12 - 14, 2016

Photography and text by Carl Morrison (except where noted)

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We arrived on the Amtrak Capitol Limited, but there are many other Amtrak trains on which you can reach Washington, DC:  Acela Express, Cardinal,  Silver Star, Crescent, Silver Meteor, Carolinian, Keystone, Vermonter, Palmetto, plus Northeast Regional.

We arrived about 1 p.m., and took Uber to our hotel:  Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Washington, DC Northeast, 1917 Bladensburg Road NE, Washington, DC 20002  220-266-9000. 


There are three things I liked about our Holiday Inn Express.  1.  As with all Holiday Inn Express' is the hot breakfast.  2.  They have a shuttle to Union Station (above).  3.  Our room had a view of the rail line coming into Washington, DC including the Acela (below).


View from our room of the RR bridge for trains heading for Union Station


Holiday Inn Express typical breakfast bar.  This HIE had two bars like this with such a large number of guests.


Matt heading back for seconds before our shuttle to our Supreme Court Tour.

An excellent Gray Line tour, if you arrive in DC in the morning or early
afternoon, is the "DC After Dark Tour" which leaves Union Station's Bus Terminal Level area at 7 p.m. for the 3-hour tour.  With instructions to be at the departure point 15 to 30 minutes before departure, we took Uber back to the station in time to eat supper at the Station.  Just inside the entrance, we selected The Thunder Grill, Tex-Mex, Street Level - Main Hall,  Phone: (202) 898-0051.  I think you will be surprised at all the vendors in Union Station.  Click here for a Map.


Meeting place at 15 - 30 minutes before 7 pm in Union Station for our Gray Line "DC After Dark" Tour.



Our excellent Gray Line driver.

Only problem was that he was downstairs and when he asked if everyone was back on board after a stop, he could not hear those upstairs who said, "No!"  Someone from upstairs would have to run downstairs and announce that we were not all back on board.  We almost left a lady at the last stop, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and I don't know how she would have gotten back since that is a pretty remote area.


We chose the upper deck open seating, an excellent location for above-the-traffic photos.


Big city train operators around the country provide these small parking areas for those who bring spouses to the commuter trains, so they do not have to get in a traffic line for those dropping off passengers with luggage.  This sign also has a full-width photo of the DC Station.


Washington, DC Union Station as we leave on our DC After Dark Tour by Grayline


We pulled out in front of Union Station before sunset for our tours of Monuments after Dark.  Flags were at half staff for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.


The U.S. Capitol Building dome viewed from Union Station.


The Gray Line driver took us past the capitol building slowly for good photos.


They have been replacing the bolts from the Lincoln Era in the U.S. Capitol Building dome for years, but they guarantee that the scaffolding will be down for the inauguration.  "Her inauguration" the driver said. The Senate meets on the left side and the House of Representatives of the right.  The inauguration of presidents takes place on the front portal in the center.  Stoplights down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue are build so they can be taken down on Inauguration Day.


Directly in front of the Capitol building, to the west is the Washington Monument, with planes landing at one of three major airports in the Washington, DC region: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (airport code: DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (airport code: IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (airport code: BWI).


Further west, we passed the Newseum, remember these faces?


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National Gallery of Art



Bernie Sanders was on the top deck with us as we passed the FBI Building



Wonder what was going on up there



At the White House we walked up to the fence and noticed the side of the bus had a nice photo of the Capitol.  The upper deck could come down through that middle door, or the front door.


Souvenir stands near the White House had this photo on a bag.  Made me think of the "Kiss & Ride" concept.



Matt at the fence outside the White House.

Right after this photo, White House Security pulled up and shouted, "No more photographs, leave the fence immediately."  And turned back tourists heading to the fence to take a photo.  We were satisfied with the number of photos we had taken.  We wondered why the urgency as we returned to our bus.  We did notice some firetrucks pulling onto the property and I saw one "Foam" truck.  Our bus went between the Washington Monument and the White House and we saw additoinal fire trucks.


Something is happening at the White House.


Highway 50 has a special place in my heart.  I was born on a farm along Hwy. 50 near Hayden, Indiana.  This highway is a transcontinental, pre-Interstate highway that ran from San Francisco to Ocean City, Maryland - right down the Washington, DC Mall, past the White House.  Paul Clifford and I drove the full length of this unfragmented highway in 2004 from Sacramento (the current western terminous) to Ocean City, MD.  I drove our 1956 Chevy and he drove his 1957 Chevy convertible.  We called that trip:  "See the USA in your Chevrolet - Border to Border and Coast to Coast."  I even made a website about that trip:


View of the Washington Monument from the top of our Gray Line Tour Bus near the White House.


Near the WWII Monument, with a view of the Jefferson Memorial, we learned why we were moved away from the White House...President Barack Obama and wife Michelle were returning from Texas and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral.


I am sure the President saw us down here waving!

Matt was thoughtful enough to take a video


Our Gray Line bus stopped at the WWII Memorial where we saw President Obama returning to the White House.




Jefferson Memorial



Washington Monument from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

The most prominent building of DC’s skyline has to be the Washington Monument which finished construction in 1884. When originally built, the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet tall. This record was broken in 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was built.  Other facts:


Jefferson Memorial from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


Lincoln Memorial




Vietnam Veterans Memorial


I did not have time to look for Jim Trisch's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

On the opposite side of the reflection pool is the Korean War Memorial, which was too dark to photograph.


Washington Monument from Lincoln Memorial.


Iwo Jima Memorial, our last stop on the "DC After Dark" Gray Line tour.

July 13, 2016 we took the hotel shuttle to the train station and walked to the Supreme Court Building for our tour.


Supreme Court Building









Hallway to the Courtroom. 

Those with reservations line up on one side and are guaranteed a seat, others line up on the other side and fill in remaining places of the 250 seats available.


No photos were allowed in the chambers.  This was a model in the waiting area.  We sat in the 3 sets of benches and the docent stood in that opening in the low wall and gave an excellent 25 minute talk.  There were eight seats for Justices because of the death of Justice Scalia and the refusal of Congress to appoint a replacement Justice.


View of the Capitol dome through the Supreme Court columns.



On our walk from the Supreme Court past the Capitol Building to Rep. Royce's Office, we noticed these security blockades.  These fold down automatically for departing vehicles, but make a bit of noise.


We hurriedly walked past the east side of the Capitol Building.  When Sue and I drove through here in 1969, California Senator Alan Cranston looked at our front California license place and looked up and waved at us.

We then walked to U.S. Representative Ed Royce's CA-39 Office at 2310 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC to meet our guide to the Capitol Building.


Rep. Royce has a placque from all the California cities that are in his district.  The top left one is from our hometown, Placentia, California.


Rep. Royce's desk reminded me of President Reagan's.


Rep. Royce came out of his office where he was meeting with a group of youth, and greeted us.  He had an aide take our photo together, said we could sit at his desk and take photos of each other and had another aide take us on a tour of the Capitol because he had a vote coming up.  His aide said he works late at night doing his work to make up for meeting with constituents during the day.


 We then walked to U.S. Representative Ed Royce's CA-39 Office at 2310 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC to meet our guide to the Capitol Building. We had made arrangements with Representative Royce's office five months earlier for tours of the Bureau of Engraving, Supreme Court, and Mr. Royce's Office and the Capitol Building.


While we waited for Rep. Royce to greet us, Matt spoke with a former CIA Agent who had South America experience.  She was searching for a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, an expert in forged documents, who they feared would rejoin the enemy and end up in the U.S.


Matt outside Mr. Royce's office.


Matt at Mr. Royce's desk.


View of the Capitol Building from Rep. Royce's Office.  Rep. Royce has been in office for 23 years so he can select an office with a view.


While seated at Rep. Royce's desk, I could not help but notice what his aides had clipped from the news:





Since a vote was taking place in the Capitol Building, Representatives took the underground tram and we walked to the U.S. Capitol Building.


We arrived underground and toured many historic rooms in the U.S. Capitol Building.


Our small tour group from Rep. Royce's office - Matt and a family of four.


While waiting to go to the Capitol Building, I spotted a row of these (above).  I asked the boy in the cap who was with us what he thought these were.  He guessed "elevator".  Just shows the generation gap that I tend to forget about.


In the tunnel from the Representatives offices to the Capitol Building there are many amenities like shoe shine, ATM, and many vending machines.


These were the prohibited items when we went through security.


Student award winning art work from around the US in the tunnel to the Capitol Building.


Because we had tickets issued by Rep. Royce, we did not have to wait in this area.







Replica of statue on the top of the Capitol Dome.


Our guide talking about the Lincoln bust.


Our guide pointing out the location of Rep. Royce's office in relation to the Capitol Building.



Original House of Representatives





John Quincy Adams found a spot below the dome where he could hear conversations of his opponents in the chamber.  Other Representatives wanted their desk next to his so they could hear conversations across the room as well.


Under the rotunda with construction canvas around.


Mural of the Signing the Declaration of Independence behind current day scaffolding.


President Reagan behind scaffolding.



The Supreme Court Building from the east entrance of the Capitol Building.


These bronze doors were made for the west entrance, but were not the right size, so they are on the east side.


Near the Mr. Royce's office is the United States Botnic Garden Conservatory.


Walking in front of the Capital Building is a proud moment.


A group of young women were assembled on the Capitol lawn.


A few steps from the assembly of ladies were these discarded signs.  I wondered if there was a connection.


Workers atop the Capital Building.


We returned to Union Station and caught another Uber ride back to our hotel.


American Legion Freedom Bell located in front of Union Station.  The sculpture is a 2.1 scale replica of the Liberty Bell. The bell, which was founded by Petit und Fritsen, weighs 8 tons and has a support structure of post and beam style with two concrete shafts. A plaque rests on the ground in front of the bell that reads:

    The Freedom Bell

    Dedicated to
    The Spirit of the Bicentennial
    on Behalf of
    The Children of Our Nation
    Given By
    The American Legion
    American Legion Auxiliary

The bell, a Bicentennial gift from the American Legion, is a model of the bell on display at the American Legion Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Authorized by Congress on October 12, 1976, it was cast outside of the US because no foundry had the capacity to cast the bell.

When the bell was completed it was shipped to Baltimore and then traveled to all 48 contiguous states aboard the American Freedom Train for the Bicentennial, starting on April 1, 1975 in Wilmington, DE and ending Dec 31, 1976 in Miami, FL. The bell shared train car No. 41 (later renumbered 40) with a map of the American Freedom Train's journey and a lunar rover.[4] From 1977–1978 the bell was placed in National Park Service storage until lengthy discussions led to an agreement and the bell was placed at Union Station in 1981. The American Legion, who hoped for placement at the National Mall, were unhappy with the bell's placement.



With so many gates and trains, Washington, DC Union Station is very busy in the morning.  As we passed through the station earlier, we asked which Gate we would leave on the Carolinian at 10:53 a.m. for our Coach ride to Charlotte at 8:12 p.m.


We arrived early and took turns watching our luggage while the other person strolled through the shops.


One shop had many Washington, DC souvenirs and displays.  The sales person was kind enough to take my photo.


Very informative signs are posted so you know you are boarding the right train.  This sign showing our train, Carolinian No. 79, at Gate J with the current time, boarding soon and leaving at 10:53 a.m  Our destination was Charlotte, North Carolina.


Washington, DC Gray Line Tours

Holiday Inn Express, 1917 Bladensburg Road NE, Washington, DC 20002 202-266-9000

We used Uber in all 5 cities. Here's a free Uber ride (worth up to $20) on the Uber app
 To accept, use code 'carlm3106ue' to sign up. Enjoy!
Details: (The code will already be entered)

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Slide show of all photos in this report plus a few from Washington, DC that did not make it into this report are at

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