The train that leaves Union Station every evening at 6:30 isn't just the Montrealer. It's now a train that includes Le Pub. To the accompaniment of a professional pianist, as many riders as are able to crowd into the train's club car can sing along as the train verges onward toward the ski slopes of Vermont and its French- speaking Canadian terminus of Montreal 670 rail miles from Washington, scheduled to be reached at 11 a.m.
Amtrak, which runs the train, has renovated and restored the club car with its piano bar after a hiatus of several years.
The first run of Le Pub took place last Thursday, after travel agents and a few media folks were invited to a reception from 5 to 6 p.m. on Track 12 at Union Station. Promptly at 6 the piano playing ended, and Amtrak personnel began a gentle shooing out of the guests. Why? Because the cars in which we were sitting were about to be attached to the Montrealer, and if we stayed we might have been surprised to find where we were an hour or two later.
During Prohibition, according to Amtrak's historians, the Montrealer was commonly called The Bootlegger because of the bottles of Canadian rye whiskey that the passengers would attempt to smuggle into the United States.
W. Graham Claytor, president of Amtrak, greeted early arrivals at the reception.
"How do you square this promotion of Amtrak service," he was asked, "with the president's budget and his plans to end Amtrak?"
Claytor's response was brief and to the point: "You know it's not going to happen."
And -- at least on high-volume routes -- it shouldn't. That's a Good Sign
We drove through downtown Bethesda on Saturday, and if anyplace this side of Beirut should be declared a disaster zone for traffic, that's it. Cars are squeezed into two lanes near the Air Rights Building on Wisconsin Avenue, and the ruts caused by temporary pavement make it hazardous to drive more than 10 miles per hour even if one could reach that dizzy a speed.
The jam gave time to look at the whimsical sign outside the building being erected for occupancy by the Guest Quarters Hotel. It shows a sign of bricks being laid, more or less concurrently with those of the building itself, depicting the lower half of the word "Quarters." If one sits for a time -- as the gluey traffic did, in fact, require -- and puzzle it out, it's a neat understated promotion. Say That Again?
The most redundant terminology on a sign that we've seen in a long time was viewed the other day outside the Marshall Drive entrance to Fort Myer. It promoted what it called "Afro-American (Black) History Month."
Gee, we thought everyone would have that one figured out nonparenthetically.