The Kingston Years

A Christmas ornament of Kingston Station, the station filled with my fondest of railroading memories.
A Christmas ornament of Kingston Station, the station filled with my fondest of railroading memories.

I can never forget the four incredible years I had in college.  I made plenty of friends, hung out with the girls every other day, and accidentally had a family of raccoons in my dorm watching 20/20.  College was made up of four great years of fond memories.  I made the Dean’s List for the very first and only time.  It was the first time I became an honors student, after many years of struggling.  The great memories which I still hold dear to my heart were the four years of taking the train to and from Kingston, RI.  From Kingston to Newark, NJ and back, it was a fun ride.  It was the highlight of every college break.  There was truly no trip more exciting.

I attended Salve Regina University in Newport, RI.  I graduated in 1999.  My mom’s former peers from the University of Rhode Island used to drive me to and from Kingston Station.  My most memorable trips included going home for Thanksgiving and Christmas break.  Thanksgiving of 1995, I took the train  home from Providence.  The trip was wonderful.  It was a reserved train and the train was not packed at all.  It was good to get home to be with my family.  A few days later, it was time to head back north.  Back in Kingston, was it cold!  I’ve never seen so much steam coming out of my mouth.  I could spell my name with every breath.  The next few weeks were extremely stressful.  I had final exams to worry about. I had take home exams to complete, exams in the classroom, and a ton of studying in between.  My mom suggested taking the evening train, the Merchants Limited, #179.  My train was due into Newark before midnight.  That evening, I wore my Amtrak cap with the famous headless arrow logo.  That same trip, the conductor gave me a signal pin to attach to my cap.  To this day, that pin is still attached.  The ride from Kingston to Newark was a long four and a half hours.  I made sure that I drank as much coffee on board as possible.   The coffee on Amtrak is absolutely awesome.  Even back then it was good stuff.  Finally at Newark, I came off the train wired but wide awake.  Even better, I didn’t miss my stop.

The one trip I remember to this very day, was Christmas break in 1997.  I was under the weather that week.  After my last exam was over, I finished my packing and it was train time.  I was on the evening train once again.  Just like before, I kept myself wired with plenty of coffee.  That trip home was like no other.  It was my junior year.  By then, all of the crew members knew me personally.  They always asked me personally if I needed anything.  That evening, one of the crew members offered me tea since I wasn’t feeling well.  They were the nicest people I ever traveled with.  They treated me like I was a VIP.  While changing engines in New Haven, the conductor wished me a Merry Christmas.  He even said he was looking forward to seeing me on board in a few weeks.  After changing engines in New Haven, the trip became even more interesting.  The engineer was playing “Jingle Bells” on the horn.  It was a crisp, cold night going home.  How appropriate!

My junior year spring break was a trip I remember extremely well.  It was my very first daytime train trip home.  I took the late morning train home, #173.  That was a ride which I will never forget.  It was the day I beat my brother home for the very first time.  My brother attended Fairfield University in CT.  Stamford station sits right next to I-95.  While the train was slowing for the station stop, I searched for my mom’s car, hoping to wave at them.  When I finally arrived in Newark, my dad told me that my brother and my mom still had not arrived home yet.  I was happy as a kid in a candy store.  The train had beaten the automobile!

My return trips to Kingston were nowhere shy of unique.  I took the same train back up every time.  I took the infamous train #174, formerly known as the Minuteman.  The train was often packed.  Every college student in the northeast was heading back to school.  Every station going north had a crowd of students waiting to board.  New York Penn Station, New Rochelle, Stamford, and New Haven were all jammed with college kids.  I never moved from my seat the entire trip, so that my seat wouldn’t be taken.  Finally arriving in Kingston, I could only exhale in relief.  There were days when that train would be jam-packed.  Twice I had to take the next train afterward.  Sometimes I was lucky, when the train was half full.  All in all, the memories and the miles just kept piling on.

March of 1999 finally came along.  The most emotional ride awaited.  Easter break of 1999 was my very last train ride of my college career.  The Monday after Easter was even more emotional.  I could not hold in my tears.  I stepped off the train in Kingston for the final time.  My mom’s dear friends from college took a photo of me stepping down onto the platform, with my bags in hand.  In the June of 2004, I went up to Salve Regina for my five-year reunion.  It was a fun weekend, but sad to not see any of my closest classmates.  Like old times, the train ride home was comfortable and pleasurable as I can remember.

Being a Salve Regina alumnus has been quite an experience.  Traveling to and from Kingston to visit my college alma mater has taken on a different feel.  There are barely any delays going up and back.  It’s very different going up there, instead of going home.  The changing of engines is long gone, but now a fond memory.  I have a collection of photos of every engine change from my freshman year to the end.  Watching trains at speed has been my long time joy.  Watching the Acela train race through Kingston at 150 mph is now my favorite thrill of all.  Kingston is not just the station I grew up traveling to and from.  It’s a time capsule of memories to cherish.  They are memories to cherish both now and forever.

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