Train Madness: The Never Ending Voyage to Montreal

I have had many unfortunate transportation situations while traveling. But, by far the worst journey ever was my trip to Montreal in the Summer of 2011. Why you ask? What happened? Well, let’s start at the begining.

My friend was attending a conference in Montreal and invited me to come stay with her for the weekend. After realizing that flights were almost $700, I decided that it would be a great idea to take the train 14 hours from Washington DC. It seemed really easy – a few hours to NYC and then 11 hours strait to Montreal on a beautiful, scenic track.

And it was easy. Our trip there was delightful. We spent the majority of the time in the cafe car, eating our packed picnic lunch and watching the scenery go by.

Our Picnic

Our Picnic

After a wonderful weekend in Montreal, we boarded the train at 8 am to begin our journey home. We planned to be be New York by that evening and in DC before midnight. What follows is a timeline of events as they played out.

8am. Board Train, Tim Hortons in hand and settle into our chairs. Still Naive and Happy.

9am Short nap while we wait for the cafe car to open

10am Nap over, move to Cafe Car to secure a booth for the remainder of trip

11am Arrive at Canadian Border, return to seats and begin customs check

Noon Return to Cafe Car as train begins moving past Canadian border.

1pm We eat our lunch and enjoy the use of our cell phones for the first time in a few days.

2pm Train stops for unexplained reasons.

3pm Train still stopped – find out from Amtrak employees that a “farmer” had attempted to cross the tracks up ahead and gotten hit by a train. I have no idea the fate of the farmer (hopefully he was okay) but apparently the tracks were severely damage and (lucky us) we are on a stretch of land with only one track.

Please move train

Memories of when the train was moving.....

4pm Still stopped. Start drinking.

5pm Train still stopped. Time for round two.

6pm Round two and three are now a memory. Train still stopped. At least we are stuck watching the PDA couple from H E double hockey stick.

Get a Room-ette!

Get a Room-ette!

7pm Cafe car runs out of food. Amtrak staff breaks out ‘emergency rations’ and makes announcement that we were now in some kind of train traffic jam because of all the stopped trains. Couple is still making out.

8pm Amtrak staff discovers that one box of ‘emergency rations’ has expired. We eat our home brought food secretly to avoid some kind of Lord of the Flies situation. Couple’s passion has somewhat diminished.

9pm Cafe car runs out of alcohol. Now concerned we are in actual emergency situation. Also, Amtrak staff announces that they are officially ‘off the clock’ for legal reasons. Emergency rations are gone.

10pm 8 hours later, train finally begins to move. New ‘relief’ Amtrak staff suggests we wil be in NYC by 1 or 2 am. We head back to our seats and ‘bed down’ for the night. Obviously this train is not designed for overnight travel.

11pm I notice that one of the four nearby toilets has filled up and is now unusable.

Midnight Haven’t slept much, notice toilet number 2 is now also out of comission.

1am Fall asleep for a ‘quick nap….’

Unknown Time, Unknown Location Wake up when I feel the engine shut off.  Still dark outside. We must be at Penn Station. It must be 2 am. I check the time. It’s 4:50 am. NO! I check my phone’s GPS. We are in Yonkers. NOT NYC.

5am I have accepted the fact that I will not be making it to work in the morning. Talk to Amtrak employee and determine that our train has now broken down and must wait for a tow to Penn Station.

6am It is now 6 hours after we should have arrived in DC and we are still in Yonkers. Finally the ‘tow’ shows up and we begin our slow trek to Penn Station.

7am All toilets are officially full. 

7:30am Arrive in Penn Station. We have obviously missed our connecting train but are able to board a commuter train to DC. 

10:30am Arrive in Union Station DC a full 12 hours late. We were on trains for over 24 hours.  I haven’t showered in forever. Change into something only borderline work appropriate and take a cab directly to the office. 

As you can see, not the most awesoe first train experience. Luckily I had some wonderful travel companions otherwise I probably would have gone crazy.

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18 Responses to Train Madness: The Never Ending Voyage to Montreal

  1. Holly says:

    But what became of the PDA couple?!?! I feel like that’s the worst part of this tale, the not knowing…

    PS- that pic of you on the train is really good, props to the photog.

  2. Suzy says:

    Wow! That is some delay. It seems like you could have walked faster! Love the shot of the PDA couple. Clearly the delay didn’t bother them.

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Yeah I think they rather enjoyed the delay. If we hadn’t been stranded in the middle of nowhere we probably would have tried to get off and catch a ride home.

  3. Claire says:

    Sounds like the travel day from hell. But what is travel without the occasional one of those? Makes for a good blog post!

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Haha exactly. You know you have a problem when something starts going wrong and you think…well at least I can get a blog post…

  4. Sam says:

    That’s a huge delay – and it wasn’t even at the border crossing. Hope the train staff were good, did you get any kind of compensation?

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      The train staff were at least friendly – they couldn’t do much though. No compensation. I’m sure if I had reached out to them they would have given me something.

  5. Ash says:

    These are the moments you remember the most though right?

    funny how travel always seems to turn to shit whenever transport is involved!

  6. Wowzahs, that’s quite the train journey! And awesome creeper shots of the couple, haha :D

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Haha yeah… totally creeper taking photos of people but clearly they didn’t mind putting on a show!

  7. Wow, a 12 hour delay with food and bathroom running out of service is no joke, but it is a great post! I’m glad you had great company to share the ride and the memories with…. and that the last bathroom made it through almost to the end of the ride.

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      That last bathroom was crucial. And yes, it was great that I had friends with me. I don’t know what I would have done if I was alone!

  8. Amanda says:

    Yikes, that does not sound like fun at all!

    I think the filled-up toilets freaked me out more than anything else while reading this… lol.

  9. Pingback: Public Transportation: Fantastic Adventures, Misadventures and Tips - All Colores | All Colores

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