Like its sister train the Silver Meteor, the name of the daily New York to Miami Silver Star was inspired by its predecessor’s gleaming silver stainless-steel passenger cars and reputation for speedy service.
At the time it was built, Washington Union Station covered more ground than any other building in the United States and was the largest train station in the world.
by Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso
In November 2011, I was invited to attend my distant relative's graduation in the University of Connecticut, set for May of 2013. After accepting the invitation to attend, I decided to use Amtrak to go from Florida to Connecticut. The reason was that I never saw America by train in my entire life. I saw Asia and Europe by train but never America and this was a lifetime dream.
It was a dream after seeing Christmas scene films about train rides. I boarded the Silver Star on May 9, 2013 at the Miami Station around lunchtime and found my seat. Upon arrival, I decided to take a short nap. The seat was comfortable with a pillow and I closed my eyes. I kept sleeping while the Silver Star navigated through many stops in Florida.
Upon awakening, I was at Sebring, FL, and was able to view the station. The station at Sebring was beautifully colored, painted and well maintained. Sebring resembled an old Florida style home surrounded by palm trees.
While the train was receiving passengers and saying goodbye to others, the porter asked if I slept well. My reply was in the affirmative and the attendant told me about the different Amtrak services. He suggested the Dining Car and the snack shop with the numerous souvenirs.
The attendant was even willing to take my reservation for supper. After reserving my place in the Dining Car, I slept a little more until the car was open.
After ordering, I slept for one more hour until the porter told me that supper was ready. Upon arrival at the Dining Car, I was greeted by three other attendants who showed me to the one of the spacious tables.
They were courteous and asked what I wanted to order. My response was an Herb Roasted Chicken with Rice Pilaf and Vegetables. The attendants and chef went to great lengths to make my experience in the Dining Car an unforgettable experience.
The food was piping hot and had a fresh aroma which is not frequent in domestic flights run by privately owned airlines. When asked about beverages, I asked for a decaf coffee with sugar and cream.
The coffee was also excellent in aroma and taste. From the Dining Car, the day slowly became night as the red sun descended as if it were going to sleep. The night became apparent as the people started to sleep when the train stopped in Jacksonville, FL.
The Amtrak station at Cary, North Carolina.
I went to sleep expecting a long night in order to look forward to the day of my relative's graduation. When sleeping, nothing could wake me up. I slept about 10 hours from the Florida/Georgia line until my arrival at Cary, NC. I woke up around lunchtime in North Carolina.
Upon arrival at Cary, I was able to appreciate the rural settings with the small streets and classical trains. There was a bank and gasoline station along with a pharmacy with people walking to these places.
Cary resembled Mayberry of The Andy Griffith Show with its quaint and down to earth architecture. Afterwards, everything seemed to progress in fast motion as North Carolina became Virginia and the attendant took our reservations again for lunch.
Before going to the Dining Car, I bought some postcards and a deck of playing cards as souvenirs from my Amtrak trip. Upon arrival at the Dining Car, the attendants again showed me to my table and took my order.
I ordered an Amtrak Signature Steak with Baked Potato and the Wild Morel Mushroom Sauce well done. Amtrak exceeded my expectations with an Angus Steak worthy of a five star hotel. I enjoyed my lunch and asked for more coffee.
During my lunchtime, I was able to see a small church in the Virginia countryside. The countryside later became the suburbs of Washington, DC, as we arrived at the megalopolis which is the area between Washington, DC, and Boston filled with cities and suburbs.
Washington, DC, was appreciated with the Capitol and Washington Monument. After a long stop at Washington, we headed towards Baltimore, MD, and Wilmington, DE. The city of Wilmington, DE, had a big bay with lots of ships present. There was a drawbridge surrounded by financial institutions.
The day became the afternoon as people started leaving the train in their respective stops. The train continued towards Philadelphia, Trenton, and finally Newark, with myself being the last passenger.
Newark and New York were familiar territory since I have visited it many times. The only exception was that this was my first time in Newark and New York since Saturday Night Fever in 1978. Everything changed since the late 1970s.
Upon my arrival at the New York Penn Station, I asked an Amtrak employee where to take the Northeast Regional. The employee showed me a waiting area and said that there is a two hour waiting period.
During that time, I bought and sent postcards to friends and family. I had three chocolate milkshakes until the time came to board the Northeast Regional.
Upon arrival and boarding of the Northeast Regional, the night descended and I was in the Quiet Car. I had another Amtrak coffee while seeing New York City become New Rochelle.
Finally, the Northeast Regional crossed into Connecticut and towards my final stop at Stamford. I took my luggage and left at the train at Stamford. The station was an example of modernism mixed with classical Connecticut.
The experience ended but the memories live on. Thank you Amtrak.