On Sunday, December 12, I took the Amtrak Keystone Service, along with my friend Steve, from Paoli, Pennsylvania (PAO), a western suburb of Philadelphia to New York Penn Station (NYP) to see the holiday displays. The Keystone Service operates from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (HAR) to New York, with stops in Paoli, 30th St, and Trenton, New Jersey. Paoli is also served by SEPTA (SouthEastern Regional Transportation Authority but the track and centenary belong to Amtrak. Eastbound train #664 arrived in Paoli on time. Pulled by engine # 634, one of the new Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotives, also known as the Amtrak Cities Sprinter, it had a consist of 5 passenger cars.
Arriving at 30th St. on time, we changed our seats to the other way as the train departs the same way it came in to take the NEC (NorthEast Corridor) tracks to New York. The locomotive now became a pusher with the engineer operating the train from the cab control car. A quick stop in Trenton offered a photo op through our window of a SEPTA push-pull train. We arrived in New York Penn Station on time at 12:49. Penn Station was the world’s first electrified station, serving the Pennsylvania Railroad. Due to declining passenger traffic and rising real estate prices, the original Beaux-Arts style building was demolished in 1963 and replaced with the current station underground with Madison Square Garden built in its place. Penn Station also serves New Jersey Transit (NJT) and the Long island Railroad (LIRR).
Platform at N Y Penn Station.
After a short walk to Herald Square, we proceeded to the subway platform of the MTA’s M Line below the Manhattan Mall, to catch the Nostalgia / Holiday Train. Each Sunday between Thanksgiving and New Years, the MTA runs a vintage train of R-1’s, R-4’s, R-7’s and R-9’s, built in the 1930’s, complete with ceiling fans and in some cases, rattan seats. Five round trips run from 2nd Ave to Queens Plaza and back all for $2.50. Folks come in 30’s garb, musicians, swing dancers and rail fans all take part. Due to the warm weather, the train was extremely crowded this year.
Metro North M-7a EMU
trains at Grand Central Terminal
Winter Village at
A tip on Penn Station, the west entrance on 8th Ave, is located on the far side of the station. To avoid an extra block of crowds, enter at the north-eastern LIRR entrance, go down the escalator, walk through the LIRR area, go up the escalator and you’ll be close to the Amtrak waiting room. It sounds longer but much easier to navigate without the crowds. We waited for our train #671, a four car consist pushed by another ACS-64 # 600 departing on time at 7:53 PM. We had a 40 minute layover with a crew change at 30th St. allowing me to go up to the main waiting area for a soda and the walk along the platform for some photography.
30th St. Station, Philadelphia
Engine #600 sitting at 30th St. Station, Philadelphia
Switching seats once again as we change direction heading west to Paoli and Harrisburg, we were now being pulled by #600. We arrived in Paoli 30 minutes later on time.
For anyone on a tight budget, an alternative is to take SEPTA (SouthEastern Regional Transportation Authority) to Trenton and connect with NJT to New York. It’s cheaper but takes longer and the connecting time in Newark can bet really tight.
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