Training Tourists: A Primer on the Northeast Corridor

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Washington, D.C. and New York City can be confusing for tourists.  In Washington, you have traffic circles with stoplights and SmarTrip® cards for the subway that should be called GeniusTrip cards because it’s so hard to figure out how to purchase them. In New York City you have many buildings without visible addresses and a number of “Broadway” theaters that aren’t actually on Broadway.


But traveling between these cities by train on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor may be the most confusing aspect of the tourist experience.  Here’s why:


  • Penn Station. Where would you expect Penn Station to be located?  Hint:  It’s not in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania stop along the Northeast Corridor is in Philadelphia, and it’s called 30th Street Station. There are three Penn Stations on the corridor, however.  They’re in (don’t laugh) New York City; Baltimore, MD; and Newark, NJ.


  • Which brings us to Newark. If you haven’t noticed, Newark sounds a lot like “New York,” especially if a conductor is not enunciating carefully and/or the PA system is not functioning well (it typically doesn’t function well). And then there is Newark, Delaware, which is sometimes on the route and which is pronounced “New Ark.”  Feeling confused yet?  Imagine how you’d feel if you were a non-English speaker.


The good news for tourists is that train passengers tend to be in slightly better moods than plane passengers because seat pitches on the trains are wider than your pinky finger.  That means your fellow passengers won’t yell at you if you ask them for clarification — unless you’re in the quiet car, where there is supposed to be a library-like atmosphere.  (Note:  It’s very possible that you find yourself in this car by accident because there are no signs for it beyond some very unobtrusive ones in the car itself.  Usually people find a seat and stow their heavy luggage and then realize that they’re in the quiet car.)


So good luck getting off at the right stop, and Bon Voyage.