Acela vs. Northeast Regional?

TwinDad May 12, 2010

  1. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    Planning a trip up the Eastern seaboard later this summer. We'll be spending a few days in DC, then going up to Boston for a weekend with family. We won't have time to do the region justice, so we're planning to just hit a few highlight spots.

    We were considering, just for fun, making the DC->BOS->DC leg by train.

    Looking at Amtrak's website, I note that the price for Acela (4x business class seats) is nearly 2-1/2 times the price of the Northeast Regional, not counting further discounts available on the NR for kids, AAA, etc. It's also 1.5 hours faster, assuming both are on schedule.

    This is a vacation. We're not actually in a hurry. So I'm not sure whether 1.5 hours and the thrill of a faster train is worth $350, considering this will be the kids' first big trip like this, and we could use that money elsewhere.

    We might also drive, and just do a train excursion somewhere one day (Western Maryland, maybe?)

    So, to help us decide, I'm wondering of some of you could weigh in. Is the Acela $350 nicer than the Regional? Is the Regional nice, or something to be avoided at any cost?

    What should we expect from either or both??
     
  2. bruce282

    bruce282 TrainBoard Member

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    I used to take the train from DC to NYC quite often in late 90's. The Acela back then was called the Metroliner. Also back then buying a ticket on a train didn't mean you would get a seat.

    Now all seats are reserved so that's not a problem anymore. I would save the $ and take the regional train. I will say that if there is a problem the Acela's will be routed around the regional train to stay more on schedule. Also the Acela starts in DC, so it's almost always an on departure. The Regional are coming from somewhere to the south so there's a chance if it being late.

    Other things may have changed in the last 10 years that I'm not aware off however.

    Bruce
     
  3. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I can't say from personal experience, but I have a friend in New York who takes the train down to DC regularly. He said that the difference in time between those two destinations wasn't a big deal, but the erm...quality...of the patronage was very much different obviously due to cost.

    Now, I don't say that to look down on anyone, but when you're on vacation, you might want the luxury afforded with the better accommodations.

    My friend incidentally took the local when he was paying and the Acela when work was.

    Personally, I'd take the local.
     
  4. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    At the time we last rode(wife & I)the N.E.corridor, there were only two Acela trains online(the ill-fated summer of 2001!),one in the very early morning and one later in the evening.Neither departure was convenient for us and we were on a vacation, a sort of 25th wedding anniversary gift trip to ourselves. I had purchased circle trip tickets for ourselves, CHI/DCA/BOS/CHI. The two long hauls were 1st class(there is NOTHING better than a deluxe bedroom!)and the Washington-Boston was regular coach. I later upgraded our accomodations to parlor car for the better seating. We took what was then still called "Metroliner" accomodations. The timing was better for us,we were not in a hurry and wanted to sightsee from the train, the train we chose was one that carried a parlor car,as I have just mentioned. We basically had the whole car to ourselves for about 1/2 of the trip. The car filled up a bit closer to Boston. It was a pleasant ride,no pressure, we could look out the windows and I could buy beverages and snacks from the lounge car. Acela serves a purpose and does it well! If you want to absorb the local scenery, the local or slower trains are probably your best bet. Remember the trackage you will be taking will involve some of the earliest railroad routings built. The "Shore Line"
    portion is a lot younger,but you will be riding on trackage of a former New England icon, the New Haven RR. You're a family man, the local train could probably be a better bet so that your children could relate to the history of the area that they are learning in school.
    Nothing could be better to understand the significance of the Battle of Trenton,than to actually BE in Trenton,at least on the train!
    Hope you solve your quandary!

    My best wishes and keep us posted!

    Charlie
     
  5. Flashwave

    Flashwave TrainBoard Member

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    Dad and I did the Acela from Phily to Deleware and then hopped back on a regional. Mostly, to say I've gtten to ride the acela. It was fun, for me as a train guy.

    For a family, I'd say wait. Tae the train if you want, but hold off on the Acela until you know the kids will enjoy the Acela for what it is, and not just as a fast train ride.

    (Come to think of it, that logic can apply to a lot of museum trains, too.)
     
  6. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    Hey, thanks for the advice, folks! I really appreciate your feedback.

    After some long discussion and a hard look at the budget, we've decided to change the train plans for this trip.

    We're going to do all the traveling by car, and plan to stop at one of the several places up that way to take a train excursion. Possibly the WM train in Cumberland, or a stop at Strassburg (sp?) or Steamtown. Or maybe somewhere in New England.

    We just couldn't justify spending more than half our trip budget on the train tickets this time. We'll save the long train ride for a later excursion when we can really do it in style.

    If you happen to have suggestions on a nice afternoon excursion train somewhere close to the DC/Philly/NY/Boston corridor, I'm all ears.
     
  7. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

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    In the Philly area, as you've noted, there's Strasburg and Steamtown, but also the New Hope and Ivyland. The NH&I is closer to Philly proper and is in New Hope. New Hope, and the surrounding Lahaska, PA and Lambertville, NJ (just over a people friendly bridge in NJ from NH) are great little towns that offer quite a lot for the whole family (well, Lambertville is a very small town that's mostly an art community). And it's also in Bucks County, which IMO is one of the more beautiful parts of the east side of PA.

    Strasburg, of course, has a lot more to offer trainwise. The excursion train is nice and you've got the great PRR museum. Strasburg and the surrounding Lancaster area is also beautiful country, although if you need to cater to other family interests it's mostly outlet stores in Lancaster and Amish farms. It's a little hike from Philly, a bit less than 90 minutes (NH would be about an hour).

    Steamtown is a great place to visit, although it is the furthest from Philly (about 2-1/4 hours). Scranton is an interesting town, some cool restaurants. A lot of good photo opportunities for modeling that kind of area.
     
  8. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Dunno how far you wanna push it on your driving, but if you are going to be in the Boston
    area, you might consider driving up to the Seashore Trolley museum in Kennebunkport ME.

    It is,by far, one of the finest operating museums as well as the oldest trolley museum in the country. They have some fine examples of streetcar,interurban and heavy electric
    rail in their collection. In addition to riding on the vintage vehicles, there are concessions for food and rail memorabilia,books and models available. Kathryn(wife) & I made it one of our destinations on the trip I discussed above. It is an absolutely wonderful scenic drive thru Massachusetts,New Hampshire and Maine, some of it within sight of the ocean. It will also give you a chance to drive on the legendary and controversial "Big Dig" freeway project. I was stationed at Ft. Devens for 6 months of schooling when I was in the Army and I can tell you that New England is marvelously scenic, not to mention also the region where our nation's foundations are. Remember what I said about history?
    I envy you your trip because it covers areas which hold a great deal of interest to me in addition to the railroading. My education was in the sciences, Geology specifically, and
    Pennsylvania and the Appalachians are interesting to me from the "rock hound's" perspective.

    Charlie
     
  9. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the tip. I'm not sure whether we'd be able to make it all the way to Kennebunkport or not, but we'll look at the schedule.

    I'm both excited and a little let down about this trip... it's our first big scenic trip with the kids (they're 9), and I'm really looking forward to showing them the historical stuff. I'm a big fan of American (and world) history, and the "let down" part is because I know from having been there a number of times we'll have to leave out many, many things due to lack of time.

    But, a little time is better than none, and I know we'll be creating some wonderful memories for the kids. And ourselves!
     
  10. tony22

    tony22 TrainBoard Member

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    As for historical, then my earlier post should be ammended to recommend the NH&I. It's not far from the Washington's Crossing Museum. A nice bit of historical exposure for the kids. And the area has a number of historical sites.
     
  11. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    When I completed my training at Ft.Devens, I was assigned briefly to an Army base near
    Warrenton VA, in Faquier County. It was quite a scenic area and very rich in history especially Civil War history. The battlefields for the 1st & 2nd Manassas(Bull Run) were in the immediate area. You can stop at a historic marker on the highway and sight down the markers in the field which will show you the battle lines of those very bloody battles.
    Dunno if it's still done, but at the time I was there, Faquier County was the last place in this country where they still hunted fox "to the hounds". I'm talking with the horses and people riding them in funny looking clothes and packs of dogs running and howling... the whole 9 yards!

    Charlie
     
  12. CarlH

    CarlH TrainBoard Member

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    I second the suggestion to visit the Strasburg Railroad and PRR Museum. The Strasburg RR has frequent train departures (verify this, but I think it is hourly) and there is also the opportunity to tour their machine shop (which maintains the steam locomotives) if you buy tickets to that part in advance.

    And the PRR museum is directly across the street, and has an amazing collection of steam, diesel, and other rolling stock on display. For example, the times I have been there they had 3 geared locos on display, a Shay, a Climax and a Heisler (these formed just a small subset of the entire display there).

    It is worth a full day trip to visit - my son and I have gone their 3 times, and for us it's about a 3 hour drive one way.
     

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