Back in the old days, when the supposedly regressive Pennsylvania Railroad ran rail service between New York and Washington, the trains arrived at Union Station on a platform on the station's upper level close to the station concourse. The gate, the taxicabs and the transit vehicles--streetcars, in earliest memory--were a swift, straight walk away.

Now that the supposedly publicly oriented Amtrak operation has taken over, it has developed the awful habit of terminating trains from the north on the station's lower level, once exclusively reserved (as it should be!) for trains going to and from such places as New Orleans and Miami.

Yesterday, in a not-unique example, the Bankers--due at 12:44 p.m. from Springfield, Mass., and such way points as New York--arrived in Washington on Track 27, a platform so distant from the Union Station lobby that it might have been equally worthwhile to get off at the Capital Beltway.

As a sporadic Amtrak rider who is able-bodied, I find it a real annoyance. But yesterday I was behind an elderly couple, the husband on crutches, telling each other they were not sure they could make it to the escalator and the station. I watched, and they did.

Incidentally, the snack car on the Bankers yesterday had no food except for, inexplicably, shrimp salad sandwiches left over from the night before. The attendant said the food supply he expected to be put aboard at New York didn't materialize. America might be getting into training, but Amtrak-type training sometimes bars eating.