6 May 2019 - Amtrak Train 29 - Capitol Limited

1746-1910. 6 May 2019.
The Sightseer Lounge of the Capitol Limited between Martinsburg and Cumberland.

1747. I'm currently onboard the Capitol Limited, having concluded my visit to our nation's capital, Washington. I had a really great time, and I was able to visit a total of two embassies, three museums, and the Library of Congress (got my reader's card!). It was my first time visiting DC since I was in middle school - it was really good to see the city with fresh eyes.

I was also able to try out the DC Metro system - it's definitely a different experience to riding the T. Seats facing the direction of travel, which was nice, and carpet, which was a nice thought but ultimately seems difficult to keep clean. The stations are magnificent, at least to my Brutalism-loving eyes. The station vaulting, with its sectioned coffers and underlighting, renders the stations into concrete cathedrals. The lighting in the stations is sometimes dim, but dramatic - flashing lights along the platform edges indicate the arrival of trains, and as trains arrive they darken the ceiling above by obscuring some of the lighting fixtures below the platform.

1831. The train I'm currently on runs from Washington to Chicago via Pittsburgh and Toledo, and we're currently coursing through West Virginia and Maryland along the southern shore of the Potomac, swollen and brown, bruised from the rain of Saturday and Sunday. In places the water rises above mid-river islands, the bases of trees obscured by rushing water. To either side of the river, the hills rise steeply, lined with trees and brush, lush and green with the vitality of spring.

The Capitol Limited runs Superliner cars, double-deckers, with both coach and sleeper classes. I'm writing this in the Sightseer Lounge, a dome car with ceiling windows and comfy chairs, a rolling observation deck coursing through the Appalachian countryside. The scenery is really beautiful - we passed through Martinsburg, WV, home to the oldest train station in the US in continuous passenger operation, and we continue to move along the sides of the river valley, the sun, while growing lower in the sky, still dappling trees and Potomac with yellowing light. The weather is playing along today - blue skies, with nary a cloud to be seen, are all around.

1845. We've just passed through four tunnels bringing the rail line - the old Chesapeake and Ohio, oldest in the country - in a straight line through a series of bends in the river. Farms and railyards lie to the landward side of the railway, sitting on sloping land running towards the river. We've passed two CSX freight trains going the other way - one carrying a long consist of overheight cars and the second carrying double-stack intermodal traffic. Cows graze in fields alongside the tracks, and small brooks run down to the Potomac from the hills above. Truly beautiful scenery.

1711. We've just passed the Cumberland Hump Terminal, and the CSX railyard there. The train staff is changing, and the sun is setting. Onwards to Pittsburgh. I'll write more about DC soon.