Dewi's Trains,
Trams & Trolleys

Around America by train:
Greensboro, NC to Atlanta

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The Crescent

Our friends drove us to Greensboro, NC to catch the Crescent to Atlanta. Greensboro has lost its passenger station and trains now depart from a wooden shed (an "Amshack") in the industrial area. However, it had an enthusiastic agent who printed us a copy of our itinerary, as stored in Amtrak's computer. It later proved invaluable. The train arrived somewhat late, at 1:38am: it doused its headlight as it fairly screamed into the station, braking hard. It was moving again as soon as we were on board, not even in our seats. We'd decided against having a sleeper for this short overnight journey, but the reclining seats were very comfortable and we slept until just before arriving. Coffee from the cafe car to go with our sandwiches formed our breakfast.


We'd left Greensboro late but we arrived early in Atlanta, and we climbed up to the station building to be met by a swarm of taxi-drivers clamouring for our custom, more like a train station in Malaysia than in America. Clutching our suitcase handles firmly with one hand and fending off taxi drivers with the other, we forced our way out to the street. The station is a little out of the downtown area, but I'd already checked on buses: as expected we took the 23 from just outside the station to the Arts Centre transit station, then (but not as expected) we found a 97, not a 10, to take us to our hotel.

We'd had trouble booking a hotel in Atlanta for the dates we wanted. It turned out that the college basketball championships were being held at that time, and of course, those overlapped the Easter weekend. Eventually, we'd been able to reserve at the Atlanta Capitol Plaza, which is by the baseball field and Olympic venues, slightly out of the downtown area. But it's on a bus route! We were expected, we checked in with no problems, and our room was available immediately, though it was only 10am. We had a long nap.

The hotel has a shuttle van: the driver dropped us at Underground Atlanta. The city prospered because it was a rail centre, and there are still tracks in all directions. To get over the inconvenience of living and working in the centre of a city-wide train yard, viaducts had been built to take roads over many of the tracks. Eventually, stores and shops modified their buildings so that the main entrance was on the viaduct level, and the original entrances were abandoned. Then some tracks were removed. The space underneath is now Underground Atlanta, full of boutiques, food stands, fortune tellers and souvenir stores. On the surface, we identified the half-price ticket booth for future use, wandered around Underground, purchased cookies at a drugstore, and had a pasta meal at a self-styled "gourmet" cafeteria. We waited a long time for 10/97 back to hotel.

One thing we do enjoy is to make our way around by public transport, so now we took the Marta subway to Buckhead then the familiar 23 bus to the corner of West Paces Ferry Road, and walked to the History Centre. It has good exhibits on the history of Atlanta and on the Civil War. There were several video consoles that gave information on specific topics or phases of the War: we found that we got more out of the linear (movie-type) displays than from the computer-type branching displays. Yes, we got more info than we needed, but at least we did get it all, rather than possibly missing some because we didn't go down a specific branch. The Swan house on the same site was a swiz for us - no furniture, bland guide. The house was built in 1931! I am nearly as old as that! Also found that the cafe - the Coca-Cola Cafe - was closed - no coffee again.

There are so many "Peachtree" thoroughfares in Atlanta. You have to be very careful whether you mean Drive, Road, Street, East, West and so on. In our situation, we walked back to the corner of Peachtree Street and took 23 and 97 buses to the Shakespeare Tavern (again on Peachtree Street). The tavern really does serve food and drink as well as present plays. We had Cornish Pastie (Eufron) and Shepherds Pie (Dewi) and a beer - then COFFEE. This was followed by an excellent performance of Crucible. In Kanata Theatre, we presented this play 33 years ago, and we thought we'd put on a good performance. We only skimmed the surface of it! We now saw some of what we'd missed.

After the show, we had a 15-minute wait for the 97 bus. We both felt a little nervous, especially as the tavern was just around the corner from the Mission for Men. Now we'd found people in Atlanta to be very polite indeed. This feeling was reinforced when we got to the bus shelter. It was occupied by four men, sitting down with bottles in brown bags. As we stood there, they emerged, and one said "Pardon me, ma'am, but would you like to take a seat?" We declined as politely as possible (we'd been sitting all evening). The 97 took us back to the hotel, we ate a few cookies, and fell into bed.

The next day was Good Friday. We were tired (being a tourist is hard work), got up late, had a late breakfast and went to the Underground. Went joy-riding on the Marta trains: we explored every line (sightseeing while sitting down). Atlanta is still banded with steel rails. Then back to the Underground, had coffee and a muffin at Le Petit Bistro, and eventually after asking and walking around the Capitol area, we found a grocery store - Krogers. There, we purchased a baguette, ham, cheese, fruit, and cookies for that evening and for the train on the morrow: then took the familiar 97 bus to the hotel, wrote and mailed postcards, snoozed, read, and talked about what we'd seen, and what we didn't see (Gone With the Wind, Dr. Martin Luther King's residence).

About Atlanta: a pleasant city for tourists: everybody but everybody is polite and helpful. There's lots to see, and one can get around by MARTA train and bus. The city is ringed by rails - and there are rails through the middle. There are rail yards all around Atlanta: long yards, and none of the rails seem rusty, so I suppose they are all in use. There are trains of freight cars, trains of containers, single-stack, double-stack. There are trailer on flat cars. There are trailer-trains: highway trailers (18-wheelers) on railway wheels, linked together and hauled by a locomotive.
The weather in Atlanta had been wonderful for being a tourist: clear, sometimes hazy, with warm sunshine. But on the morning we were to leave, there was a thunderstorm at about 6 am which drew closer and closer: the rain tipped down. We did wonder whether we'd make it out of Atlanta! but we were taking the train, not flying. Come to think of it, there was bad weather just before we left each place we stayed (except for the NYC overnight): Ottawa, Southern Pines, Atlanta. Was a pattern developing?

The hotel shuttle was only supposed to make short trips, but as it was early on a Saturday morning he took us right across town to the Amtrak station (on Peachtree Street, of course). The downtown passenger stations are no longer in use: the Amtrak station is an old commuter station, unsuited to the amount of baggage carried on long-distance trains. There's a very narrow island platform between tracks, and to reach the elevator you have to walk across one of the working tracks, as we'd discovered on our arrival. For our departure, we'd allowed time in the expectation that the hotel shuttle would drop us downtown, and that we'd have to take the bus from there. As it was, we were very early - but we had books to read. Indeed, we'd stocked ourselves with paperback books that we didn't want any more, so we could read these and drop them en route.

Click on thumbnail for larger picture.

image DSCF1161
The one-time suburban station, now the Amtrak station, Atlanta, GA
Photo DSCF1161 on 30/03/2002
image DSCF1162
Amtrak station, Atlanta, GA
Photo DSCF1162 on 30/03/2002
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Interior of Amtrak station, Atlanta
Photo DSCF1160 on 30/03/2002
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There is apparently an old locomotive parked at the entrance to Underground Atlanta (under the viaduct) but it is a wooden replica!
Photo DSCF1152 on 27/03/2002
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Five Points station, Underground Atlanta. The escalator is rising through the original ground-level storefront.
Photo 1066_08 on 27/04/2002
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MARTA train, Atlanta
Photo DSCF1155 on 29/03/2002
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View ahead on MARTA train (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority)
Photo DSCF1157 on 29/03/2002

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This page last updated on 20/04/2006 9:11:10.