Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

Trip Itinerary

We leave on Monday for our trip across the pond, so I thought I’d share our rough draft of plans with you –

Monday – Depart PHL
Tuesday (AM) Arrive DUB (with a layover in CDG). Check into hotel (Fleet Street Hotel), relax, Guinness Store House
Wednesday – Writer’s Museum, Trinity College
Thursday – Dublin Castle, Cathedral
Friday – Stena Ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, meet up with Tim. Welsh Highland Railway
Saturday – Lancaster in AM, Beamish in afternoon
Sunday – North Yorkshire Moores Railway & Howard Castle
Monday – York
Tuesday – Coastal drive (lighthouses), to Tim’s house
Wednesday – Lincoln
Thursday – London
Friday – open
Saturday – open
Sunday – open (but Tim’s day off, so possible stratford?)
Monday – Rail and Sail from Lincoln to Dublin via Hollyhead
Tuesday – depart DUB 🙁

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Have some Train with your Wine (and Cheese)

p5309533-640x480 This morning, my mom and I went to the Bird in Hand Farmer’s Market to pick up some vegetables. Since we were on that side of town, we decided we’d go over to the Strasburg Railroad and take a ride….only, we got to the parking lot and discovered that neither of us had managed to bring along a camera, so back home we went. We weren’t really planning on going back out today, but I was checking the Strasburg Railroad website to see what times the train was running on a Sunday, and discovered tonight was a Wine and Cheese train. I also discovered the Wine and Cheese train would be running on both our birthdays, but since Mom’s birthday is near Independence Day and my birthday is near Labour Day, we figured it’d be busy on those days, so we called up and got tickets for the 6PM train.

We boarded at gate “0” and were at the back of the train for the ride over to Paradise. They brought around trays with cubes of cheese, grapes, and strawberries for us to get what we wanted. I think we had four choices of cheese, but by the time the tray got to us, there was only Gouda, Cheddar, and an herb cheese to pick from. Our crackers were from a small basket sitting on our table. 4 Carr’s Wafers and 2 wheat crackers for the two of us to share. We had a choice of 4 wines – Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, or Strasburg Red. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a blush/pink option. A Zinfandel would have rounded out the choices nicely! We picked the Riesling for starters.

The train got going and it’s a fairly straight 20 minute ride through the Amish countryside between Strasburg and Paradise. We passed the Red Caboose Inn and the site of the Amazing Maize Maze (currently being grown), as well as several Amish and non-Amish farms. in Paradise, we briefly meet up with the Amtrak line and the engine loops around to hook onto the back to pull us back in the other direction, so for the ride back, we were now the first car.

While the engine was being moved, we were offered our second glass of wine (this time we picked the Strasburg Red) and the platter of grapes and cheese went around again. We happened to be in the middle of the car, so by the time the trays came by this time, it was really slim pickings! We each managed to find a few pieces of cheese and some grapes. We were not offered seconds on the crackers. The group sitting across from us decided to order non-alcoholic drinks. 2 colas and a bottle of water. I was surprised when the gentleman on the end got out his wallet and needed to pay for the drinks. I think it would have been nice if they offered the non-alcoholic beverages for free (or at least, offer free water) since you pre-paid for your wine and if you weren’t going to drink the second glass, why not?

The train soon re-attached and we were headed on our way back to Strasburg. They came around for a third time offering wine, and I decided to try a bit of the Chardonnay. Mom opted to skip on her third glass. This time, the grapes and cheese were not offered.

We made it back to Strasburg a little before 7PM, which leads me to believe we must not have left right at 6, since it’s supposed to be a 45 minute ride total.

After a visit to the restroom (I had to, I had too much wine in me!) and some more photos, we headed to the car and decided to round out our little trip with dinner at Willow Valley.

Amish Farmland

Shadow of the Engine on the way back.

More photos are available at my Facebook page, which can be found here.

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All Aboard Amtrak…All Aboard

(Amtrak commercial from 1985!)

I remember this jingle and I always want to sing it when I’m waiting to board an Amtrak train. Ironically, they started using the old Metroliner cars on the Keystone and Pennsylvanian service…or at least, they were yesterday and today. I amused Tim by calling it “the boxy loco” because the engine part looks like a box. Apparently they no longer need to change the engine in Philly and haven’t needed to since 2006….shows how often I’ve ridden the train since 2006. Shame, really, since I used to take it all the time to visit friends.

I was fortunate enough on both trips to grab express services. The Pennsylvanian only stops at Harrisburg, Lancaster, Paoli, and then 30th Street, and the Keystone “express” skips about half the stops in the middle, too. All-in-all, a pleasant ride in both directions, though this morning I sporadically napped since I was worn out from the Carbon Leaf show at WXPN World Cafe I went to last night with my friend Erin.

30th Street even has free pubic wi-fi at both the McDonald’s and the Cosi, and Cosi even has comfortable booths and tables to sit at. We saw a lot of people lined up around the perimeter of both restaurants “mooching” wifi. I went inside Cosi, ordered a hot tea, and sat at a table for hours using their wifi and reading while I waited for Erin. No one seemed to mind.

Unless something comes up, the next time I get on Amtrak it will be to pick up Tim! 😀 He visits in less than 2 months now!

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New Year’s Day at Stockholes Farm

Tim will probably have to add a comment and talk about this some more  as I don’t know much about it and he’s currently at work, but I really want to get to blogging about London and I need to blog this first!

Tim took me to the open day at Stockholes Farm Miniature Railway.  This railway was very different from what Tim has in his garden, as these trains were large enough to ride on and they run on actual coal! The railway is pretty complicated and loops around the property, including overpasses and underpasses!  They even have a small snack window and a ticket booth outfitted to mimic a real railway ticket booth.

A lot of Tim’s friends from the 16mm group were there, and the man who organized Frostbite was there with his engine, and told Tim and I we could take a look around the shed.  The shed was filled with engines that weren’t being used that day and engines that were being built/repaired.

We even got to ride on one of the trains!

I had a great time, and it was the perfect way to celebrate the new year.



For more photos see: (Yes, I know it’s 2009 now, but it’s easier for me to keep all the photos in the same folder)

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UK By Rail: Liverpool

We took the train from Rainhill to Liverpool, and then through Liverpool on the light rail until we got over towards the waterfront. At our hotel, we saw brochures for a doctor who exhibition called from Script to Screen, and we decided to check that out. The exhibit was part of the Spaceport on the other side of the Mersey River, and we found a combination ticket for the Spaceport and the ferry tour of the river, so we picked up tickets for that and we were right in time to catch the next ferry!

Over at the Spaceport we walked through exhibits about the solar system and watched a planetarium-style movie about space’s affect on astronauts. Then, we headed up to the Doctor Who exhibit. One thing we noticed was that a lot of the items were similar to items we saw at Earl’s Court, but we still saw loads of costumes, props, and monster masks we hadn’t seen before. This exhibit had several items from the classic/old series, too, whereas the exhibit in London focused on the recent series only.

After a quick snack in the ferry terminal, we headed back onto the ferry which took us on a small tour of the waterfront before dropping us off back on the other side where we originally borded. (see my video log previously posted for boat-stuff).

The other “must do” item on our list for Liverpool was going to The Beatles Story. The Beatles Story was located in Albert Docks, a place we had visited on our first trip to meet up with my friends, but we didn’t have time to do any of the attractions. Fortunately, we arrived with plenty of time to go through the exhibit at our own pace, and at any given time there was only one or two other people in each section with Tim and I! We had really started psyching ourselves up for our trip to the Beatles Story. In the car on the way we listened exclusively to the Beatles songs I had on my iPod, and then as I mentioned earlier, his uncle played some original 45s for us when we visited him, so both Tim and I were really excited for the exhibit.

Some of the stuff we already were familiar with from other documentaries and stories about the band, but I still found it fascinating. At the end of the exhibit they have a section where they show what each member did post-Beatles, and we were quite surprised at some of the projects former-Beatles had been involved with that we hadn’t been aware of before!

Of course, you get dumped out into a gift shop, and Tim purchased a few CDs he didn’t have before we needed to think about dinner.

When we went out with my friends, we met up at the Pump House. Since we liked the food and atmosphere (and it was close by!) we headed over there for a meal, where once again we were one of the few tables occupied. The food and cider was good, and after spending some time relaxing and warming up, we headed back out into the cold to get back to the station and took the train back to Rainhill, then walked the half mile or so back to our hotel, where we promptly made some tea, changed into pajamas, and relaxed for the rest of the evening watching the DVDs of Eureka I brought with me on my laptop.

Reflections on the Water

(previously posted Liverpool vlog)

For more photos:

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UK by Train: Exterminate 45

Tim’s dad had been in the Leicestser hospital, and while his mum was driving back and forth visiting him she heard on the radio about an event at the National Space Centre called “Exterminate 45“. Since she knew we are both big Doctor Who fans (okay, I’m probably a bigger fan than Tim), she made sure she told us about it.

Unfortunately, Tim had to work that day from 2-10, so we originally planned to head out in the morning, and then he’d leave for work and I’d make my way back on the train. I posted on a Doctor Who community to see if I could find anyone to hang out with, and I met C of the Leicester Doctor Who Club, who invited me to spend the afternoon with her and the rest of the club. Unfortunately, Tim and I had to alter our plans again, as a neighbourhood kid who looks to Tim as a mentor needed his help Saturday morning, so Tim and I decided I was going to make the trip by myself by rail and bus!

The trip really wasn’t too bad, and the train was a straight journey from Lincoln to Leicester. The trip took two hours because of all the little station stops, but I’m used to that with SEPTA!

My problems began when I got to Leicester. The Space Centre’s website tells you you can take two busses from the rail station and mentions the street names where the stops are….which was fine, but they didn’t give you any directions on how to find the streets. I had foolishly assumed the two streets were streets bordering the train station (I was sort of picturing 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where you can get to 4 different streets from within the station)…they didn’t, but I did see a sign that said “bus station”, so I started walking towards it, pulling out Tim’s copy of the Leicester A-Z map to see if I could figure out where to go.

I got lost in the marketplace area. Many city centers have a pedestrian-only section of town where all the shops are, and there are loads of side streets and alleys with shops. I’ve gotten pretty good at navigating Lincoln, but Leicester confused me. There were streets that weren’t on my map, and streets that had two different names at an intersection. Confusing, right? I finally saw a bus, and I walked up to it and asked the driver if he knew where I could find bus 54, and he directed me to the correct stop. I finally made it to the bus and paid my £1.80 for a return (US: round trip) ticket.

I was expecting to get dropped off right outside the Space Centre, but the bus actually drops you off about a half mile away. I asked the driver how to get there and he told me to “cross the street and you can’t miss it”. Well, I crossed the street and couldn’t see the Space Centre through the fog, but I DID see the top of the Abby Pumping House Tim and I had gone to in October. The Pumping House is next door to the Space Centre, so I headed in that direction.

I got in line to pay my admission, £12. The person behind the counter wasn’t quite prepared for my American debit card, so I wound up with a complimentary ticket. Not bad at all. I walked around a little bit, and then shortly after met up with C and she and I wandered around until we found the rest of the Leicester Doctor Who Club.

We had a great time goofing off and checking out all the Doctor Who stuff AND the Space Centre. About half of us rode on the “Europa Simulator”, which was a small 3-D ride to “prepare” you for being an astronaut sent to Jupiter. The ride had one of those lap bars they pull down and the guy doing it just kept slamming it down. We had to have it done several times because one of the bars wasn’t going down fully, so I kept having this bar jammed into me over and over. At one point I told C if he slammed the bar down again I might have thrown up on him, it was that jarring.

At Exterminate 45 they wanted to try to beat the world record for people dressed as Daleks, one of the monsters of Doctor Who. None of us were in costume, but we headed outside to look at all the costumes and things ranged from the incredibly accurate to small children wearing cardboard boxes carrying a whisk and a plunger (the two “arms” of a Dalek look similar to those items). We even saw a child dressed as “The Empty Child” with another kid dressed as Captain Jack!

We wandered back inside and started making our way through the exhibits – both the Space Centre exhibits and the Exterminate 45 exhibits – and kept “running into” assorted Daleks, and I even shook hands with one of them!

There was loads of other Doctor Who related things there, too. Several people had brought along versions of the TARDIS, there was at least 2 versions of K-9 (aka “the tin dog”), one that was super accurate, and a club member dressed as an Ood!

When things started to wind down, the group I was with decided to head to a pub in town for a few drinks and asked me to tag along. We boarded bus #54 and I went to hand over my return….but what’s this? It seems I rode OUT on one bus line and was riding IN on another, and they don’t take each other’s tickets….but BOTH buses were Bus #54 and went to the Space Centre and even stopped at the same place. *shakes head* So I had to hold up the line while I dug out an additional £1.50.

I forget the name of the pub we had gone to, but we found a table in a corner and chatted. One of the guys in the club, N, and I started discussing words that mean different things in the UK vs. US. I’ll have to write up a blog entry about that at some time, because it was a really fun conversation.

I left the group around 6 to get back to the station. I was told it was really easy to get back – and it was! I boarded the 1830 train, and headed back to Lincoln.

Tim kept texting me telling me where I was (on the route) and I was really confused until I realized that he could monitor my train from his signal box, though I didn’t pass the box he was working at.

We got into Lincoln at 8:30, where Tim’s mum (and dog!) picked me up since the bus to the village stops running at 6.

The Leicester Doctor Who club invited me to come out for their December meeting, and if the train schedule can be coordinated, I just might, I had such a great time with them!

view overlooking most of the displays

(Photo taken by C) Members of the Leicester Doctor Who Club (and me!)

More photos:

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Logic? I don’t have it.

[talking to Tim on the phone]

Me: I can’t figure out how to take the VIA Rail train out of Dauphin when I go home. There’s no platform on the other side.
Tim: [explains how they probably run both sides from the one track that has the platform]
Me: okay. But I’m confused. The timetable says the train only runs on Friday and Sunday, but the website says I can take it on Monday.
[Cue different ways of trying to figure out what’s going on]
Tim: Where is the train coming from?
Me: Thompson.
Tim: look at the train times and go backwards from Dauphin
Me: [reciting times]…0117…..0012….2327….oh.
Tim: Daft woman.
Me: *facepalm*

….The train leaves Thompson on Friday and Sunday, but gets to Dauphin on Saturday and Monday.

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All Aboard VIA

I’m actually quite excited! On Sunday, I get to take VIA Rail from Winnipeg to Dauphin! I’ve never ridden on Via before. Sadly, when Dave and I took the train to Toronto from Wilmington in 1997, the VIA staff boarded onto the Amtrak train to take us into Toronto. I’ve always wanted to experience it…I love trains. Check back for lots of photos on Monday!

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All Aboard Amtrak

All Aboard Amtrak! With gas prices rising, I’ve barely driven anywhere recently. Instead, I’ve been taking the train. Specifically Amtrak’s Keystone Service, which offers service between Harrisburg, PA and New York City. For just $30 round trip I can travel between my homebase of Lancaster, PA and one of my favourite cities to visit, Philadelphia, PA.

Just like with traveling by car or plane, you might want to build some extra time in for delays, as you never know what might happen on a train. Engine trouble or downed lines, or even a problem with a train farther up the line could cause problems and delays in your travel.

Recently, I was taking the train between Lancaster and Paoli, PA to visit a friend who was in town for a few weeks. My plans were to arrive at her hotel around 10AM, giving us plenty of time before we were going to meet her husband for Lunch at 11:30. I was going to take the 8:32AM express train from Lancaster and connect to the SEPTA Rt. 206 bus at 9:35 in Paoli, giving me a 20 minute layover in Paoli. 8:32 arrives, and no train. The train was running 10 minutes behind schedule due to engine trouble. This left me with a 10 minute layover in Paoli, but still enough time to make it across the parking lot to the bus stop. We boarded the train around 8:45, and 20 minutes later we started to slow down to a crawl and pulled into the Thorndale station. A power line was down on the Eastbound tracks farther up the line. We sat and waited for about 20 more minutes before finding out we were waiting on permission to run on the Westbound side of the tracks. We finally got our approval, but with a caveat, we had to run as though we were a SEPTA regional rail R5 line and had to make every single station stop between Lancaster and Paoli. I arrived in Paoli just minutes before the next bus and I was afraid I missed it. Fortunately, the buses adjusted their schedule to run on a delay for the trains, so I only had a short wait at Paoli. I finally arrived at my friend’s hotel at nearly 11AM…with just enough time to put my things down and for us to head out into the lobby to wait for a ride to Lunch.

My trip home was just as eventful, with the train I intended to take being canceled. Fortunately, I was able to take the very last train out of Paoli, and I arrived back in Lancaster a few minutes before midnight.

Despite these problems, I still would recommend taking the train over driving. It’s just a whole lot less stressful even when you’re stuck on the tracks over being stuck in a traffic jam on a highway!

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