So, Wednesday I completed my first rail run. It was a pretty pleasant trip!
Don’t worry, I did not physically run on the rails. That’s dangerous – please don’t do that. Check out my rail running intro post for a detailed explanation.
Here’s the scoop.
I bought all three tickets with my Amtrak card, for a few extra Amtrak points. All in, my cost was $29.90 and about 5 hours of time. Here’s how the tickets broke down:
- BON-HHL $11.70 AAA “value” level ticket (not saver), 685 Downeaster 1700-1748
- HHL-EXR $7.20 AAA value level ticket, 687 Downeaster 1902-1922
- EXR-BON $11.00 saver level ticket (no discounts), 688 Downeaster 1935-2045
With double points, these 3 trips should be worth 600 TQPs (Tier Qualifying Points), getting me 12% of the way to Select Status on Amtrak.
Boston North Station (BON) to Haverhill Station (HHL)
My train left North Station at 5PM. I left work just a bit early to catch it, and hopped on a local bus over to North Station. Boston’s bus system is just like any other city – a bit complicated, usually running late, but cheap and effective if you aren’t running late.
Luckily I arrived just in time, and I walked over to Track 6, where the Downeaster 685 was waiting. I hopped on the train and waited for the commuter rush to jump on just before the hour. There was plenty of room when I boarded. By the time we left the station, the train couldn’t have been more than half full by the time we boarded, though I was surprised by the number of business class travelers on this short route.
I picked a seat and settled into my book. After we stopped to pick up a few folks at the Anderson RTC stop (Woburn MA), the conductor walked through to scan tickets. I handed him over my phone with the QR code pulled up and that was that! The ride from North Station to Haverhill was a little over 45 minutes, and Woburn was the only stop between the two.
Haverhill Station to Exeter Station (EXR)
The Haverhill stop is a simple raised platform next to the track. Of course, I picked the coldest day in the past week to take this adventure, so I was greeted by 20 degree (F) weather made even colder by the searing wind whipping down the tracks. Although my hands were too cold to take pictures, the town is nice, and I wandered down a few streets, just taking it in.
That is, until I couldn’t feel my toes.
Trying to warm up, I thought I’d slip into the Barking Dog Alehouse, and waste another hour trying a new brew. If you’re ever in the area, the interior is cool, and they have a great selection on tap!
At 7:02PM, my train left Haverhill station for the quick 20 minute ride up to Exeter. I walked down the street to the platform with a few minutes to spare. The conductor that jumped onto the platform to help people off knew my name! I was the only person getting on at that stop, so I assume he must have seen it on his ticket scanner somewhere.
The ride was simple. I wolfed down a sandwich I had bought earlier, and enjoyed the last bits of daylight retreating over the trees. I’ve always lived near the ocean – you can tell you’re close to it when the trees are short. Tall trees like these always remind me of trips to New Hampshire when I was younger, and there was some comfort in the gentle rocking of the car as it rode north along the tracks.
Exeter Station back to Boston North Station
The sun had set by the time I got to Exeter New Hampshire, and it certainly wasn’t getting any warmer. My stop in Exeter was a much shorter 13 minutes – just enough time to lose the feeling in my fingers again. I wandered around the area for a bit, but there really wasn’t anything to do. With only 10 minutes, I checked into a convenience store near the platform, and warmed myself up before the next train.
I was the only person getting on at Exeter, but the train was fairly empty going southbound. A few folks got off 20 minutes later going through Haverhill, and I almost wanted to hop off and get another beer. I scanned my ticket, and drifted in and out of a nap on the way back to Boston.
I haven’t earned the points for the rides yet, but I’ll update you all when they post! Amtrak asks for 7 days to post points, so if they don’t show up by late next week, I’ll request missing points. Once I make sure I get the double TQPs, I’ll book my next rail running trip for this Double Days Promo!