Trip Report: WAS-BBY on the Acela.
Last Sunday, I traveled from New York City to Washington, DC, on a conventional Amtrak train (Northeast Regional #153) which covered the 225-mile route in 3 hours and 25 minutes, arriving on time. It was a comfortable, uneventful ride.
Today, I reversed direction , taking Amtrak’s sorta-high-speed train, the Acela #2158, from Washington through New York City and on up to Boston. To check out the service, I bought a first class ticket for today’s ride.
We were on time all the way and made the run from Washington to New York in 2:46, which was 39 minutes faster than the the Northeast Regional train I took on the way down. The total time for Train #2158 today, from Washington all the way to Boston, was six hours and 40 minutes.
The first class car has a couple of lavatories at one end and a serving area at the other, where food and drink is prepared and heated as necessary. The configuration of the car is a single wide, comfortable seat on one side of the aisle and two identical seats on the other. There is plenty of leg room and the overhead bins are large enough to easily handle average-sized luggage. But in some areas this car is showing its age. My tray table sloped a bit toward me … not a lot, to be sure, but enough so that my Bloody Mary kept sliding slowly toward the edge where it would have tipped and spilled into my lap.
I was served breakfast out of Washington. From several options, I chose the omelette. (I’m sure it was an omelette because it was oblong and yellow.) For lunch I opted for a fruit and cheese plate, which was quite nice since it hadn’t been cooked hours if not days before and didn’t have to be microwaved for serving.
The car attendants–yes, there were two of them–were pleasant and efficient and generous with the drinks: I had a marginally acceptable Bloody Mary with my breakfast and a glass of white wine with the fruit-and-cheese plate I selected for my lunch after we had left New York City. One of the car attendants noticed my empty wine glass and cheerfully brought a second one . . . both generous pours.
All that said, almost literally from the time we left Union Station in Washington, it was a rough ride. The worst of it didn’t last for more than a half hour of so, but it was decidedly uncomfortable. Things smoothed out eventually, but there were stretches over the entire route when the bumps and sways returned. It wasn’t really bothersome when looking out of the window, but it would have been difficult for me to do any work on my laptop. I must say, however, there were several people working on their computers with no apparent difficulty.
Of course the Acela’s speed varied a lot throughout the trip, with top speed being right about 125 mph for stretches between Washington and New York. According to the Speed Box Ap in my i-phone, we hit or came close to 150 mph on several short stretches after we crossed the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. I did have the sensation of traveling at high speed, though, and that’s quite unlike the Eurostar and the French TGV when, on those trains, I really didn’t have the sensation that I was traveling at such high speeds.
As to conclusions . . . heck, I don’t know. If cost is even a minor issue, I don’t think the Acela makes a lot of sense. It is faster than the Northeast Regionals, but not by a lot, and you do get fed in first class. And the Acela equipment is cleaner, more modern and more comfortable.
Bottom Line: The Acelas are definitely starting to get tired, but they’re needed, they’re popular, and until the new train sets get here, they’re the best we’ve got.