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Amtrak 🚂: Really? Raleigh? Really! Raleigh!

Amtrak 🚂: Really? Raleigh? Really! Raleigh!

Old Dec 27th, 2023, 02:34 PM
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Amtrak 🚂: Really? Raleigh? Really! Raleigh!

Hello Fodor’s,

As is often the case, I was seeking a train adventure for this Christmastime 2023. As is also the case for many this time of year, it’s tricky to get away given obligations to family and also a desire to see friends as well. So, after spending several days at my mother’s in Northern Virginia, I had a friend in Richmond to see for a long overdue visit and I thought let’s do a detour coupled with that.

Originally, I had the idea of going further afield with possibly a sleeper train ride but decided to only go for a few days as I felt I wanted to spend more time with my mother given my Dad’s passing earlier this year. Wishing to be sure the weather was cooperative, I waited until a few days before Christmas before I booked anything and learned a lesson that there is not much available when one books a train ride last minute in this busy time of year, even in coach. So, I decided upon Raleigh as I’d never been before, the city was further south which I thought would be a bonus for possibly warmer weather than DC, plus I usually find things to enjoy in cities and capitals. The Carolinian train was completely sold out but luckily there was space on the Silver Star train in coach from Alexandria VA to Raleigh, which I snapped up.

This will be a short trip report as I gave myself only 2 nights and a full day in the North Carolina capital. Here’s the trip:

*Dec 26 Silver Star Alexandria VA to Raleigh NC
*Dec 26-28 Raleigh NC
*Dec 28 Silver Star Raleigh NC to VA

*Coming Up: What were my thoughts on my first trip to Raleigh NC*

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Old Dec 27th, 2023, 05:56 PM
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*State Capitol*

To my disappointment, I discovered only after booking my train ticket, that the North Carolina State Capitol was closed to visitors as a result of renovations involving an HVAC project that have been taking place since May of 2023. Although I was hoping to make the building my 9th State Capitol visit, I did nevertheless enjoy taking pictures of the attractive columned statehouse which has an interesting-looking wreath or crown on its dome. The grounds of the Capitol are accessible, but I think what made seeing the Capitol Square most worthwhile for me was the attractiveness and history of the surrounding buildings, including a remarkable stone Episcopal Church with some lovely gardens and the handsome Presbyterian Church.

* North Carolina Museum of History*

This Museum was stellar and I would highly recommend to anyone who wishes to better understand the history of the Tarheel
State. The museum would be enjoyable for the whole family, including kids, as there are buttons one can push that show films, cause models to move and dioramas to light up. Although I have an interest in US history, I always learn much visiting cities and towns across the nation, and I discovered at this museum that my knowledge specifically of North Carolina history is frankly quite pathetic.

I had never heard of the Tuscarora people or the battle at Fort Neoheroka. I did not realize that watercolours of Native American Piedmont people had been made in 1585 (by Englishman John White). Had no idea the Carolinas were ruled (or perhaps better stated neglected) by the Lords Proprietor aka the Lords of Misrule pre-nation. Or that Cary NC was NOT named after Quaker-sympathizing Governor Thomas Cary whose “Cary’s Rebellion” was quelled only thanks to troops brought in from Virginia. (The Lords Proprietor apparently for some reason didn’t like the Quakers.)

I was completely ignorant that areas of eastern North Carolina were under federal rule during the US Civil War. I was surprised to learn that a certain Zebulon Vance who was Governor during the Civil War & the Confederacy was re-elected again postwar in the 1870s. I never once in my education heard mention of the coup that the Democrats and the intimidating redshirts carried out against the multiracial fusionist elected government in Wilmington. And the ignorance continued…

All in all, this was among the best state-focused history museums I’ve seen.

After lunch amidst the lit-up snowflakes lining Fayetteville Street, I highly enjoyed admiring the beautiful homes including the decked-out handsome Executive Mansion which echoes of another era as I walked up gorgeous Blount Street toward Mordecai House, where more fascinating history awaited…

*Coming up: Mordecai House & Andrew Johnson Birthplace. And barbecue…*



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Old Dec 27th, 2023, 06:03 PM
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North Carolina State Capitol

Mordecai House (was part of a corn plantation)

Andrew Johnson Birthplace

Executive Mansion
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Old Dec 27th, 2023, 07:14 PM
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Sorry to read about your dad's passing, Daniel.

Thanks for the shots. I loved the roof tiles on the Andrew Johnson Birthplace house. Did you stay in any place special? My Kentucky hub lived in a town that produced its own barbq at its July function...how was it in NC?!

Last edited by TDudette; Dec 27th, 2023 at 07:16 PM.
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 06:58 AM
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The Andrew Johnson birthplace was moved from original location to the site of the Mordecai plantation, so was part of the same tour. For those unfamiliar with US history, the 17th president came into power when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. I had nearly forgotten from US history classes ages ago that he was impeached, but was reminded on the tour that while the house impeached him, the Senate (narrowly) did not convict him. My curiosity is piqued to learn more.

I did not know much else about him, so enjoyed hearing about his life. The guide told us he was born into poverty and was illiterate until adulthood. He moved to Tennessee, where he became congressman and later Senator. An opponent of secession, he remained in Washington during the Civil War (the guide commented that given that Tennessee had seceded, who was he representing in Washington during that time?). When he became president after Lincoln’s assassination, there were those out there who did not care for his appeasing stances toward the southern states. Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, according to the guide, told Johnson “I do not like you” to his face!

The Mordecai (pronounced Mord-uh-key) House was the main house which during its height as a corn plantation was almost 2000 acres large with between 100 and 200 slaves. The house predates Raleigh itself by a few years and was originally owned by the wealthy Lane family of Raleigh. When she married Jewish lawyer Moses Mordecai, it is thought to have been quite the scandal in the early 1800s the interfaith marriage resulted in Moses’ father Jacob disowning his son. Moses’ sister Ellen apparently secretly transmitted messages to Moses even though Jacob forbade contact. The house was kept in family hands up until the 1960s.

*Final thoughts on Raleigh, including how does it compare to two other North Carolina cities I visited in recent years, Charlotte and Asheville?
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 08:19 AM
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Tdudette—Thanks for your message. I stayed at the Casso Hotel, a modern hotel about five blocks away from the State Capitol and two from the train station. Ideal for exploring Raleigh. As for the barbecue, I went to the Pit Authentic Barbecue, a popular spot not far from my hotel. I wanted to try the eastern Carolina variety, which I was told is more vinegary than the western Carolina sort. I’m glad I tried it but think I actually prefer the western version. They had hush puppies at this restaurant though, which I hadn’t had in decades and were utterly divine.
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 08:58 AM
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When she married Jewish lawyer Moses Mordecai, it is thought to have been quite the scandal in the early 1800s the interfaith marriage resulted in Moses’ father Jacob disowning his son.[/QUOTE]

I realized on re-reading that the *she* in this sentence was missing and is Margaret Lane.
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 09:39 AM
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I can honestly say that I enjoyed all three North Carolina cities Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh, despite having each a quite different energy. They share in common though that I found them all to have an upbeat energy and charm with plenty of entertaining activities and dining opportunities.

It probably surprises few that I found that Raleigh has a more historic feel, Charlotte a more business feel and Asheville a more quirky and touristed feel. If I had a choice of only one to return to, it would be Asheville and not so much for the city itself but rather for the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway, which I just learned at the NC History Museum was built during the New Deal era.

As for Raleigh itself, I’d like to return one day as I feel like I just scratched the surface and would like to see some of other communities in the area someday such as Durham and Chapel Hill, to name two. Doing a Capitol tour when the renovations are done is a reason in itself to return one day!

Happy new year with many enjoyable travels in 2024 to all!

—Daniel
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 01:03 PM
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Daniel, while I doubt I will ever use the information about travel by train, I always enjoy reading about your train adventures. The history in this one is very interesting.
Thank you!

And my condolences on the loss of your dad.

Happy New Year to you and I will look forward to more reports in 2024.
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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 01:41 PM
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Thanks gomiki, especially for the words of the condolences about my father. The NC history was so eye-opening to me; I’m glad you found it interesting too. I too hope to have some travel reports for 2024 and wish you the same for the upcoming year; right now I have trip ideas but nothing concrete.

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Old Dec 28th, 2023, 04:17 PM
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Daniel,

as a mother of a son, I must say that it was very thoughtful of you to shorten your adventure to spend time with her. I am sure you both had some sadness at this first Christmas without him.

your TR is interesting as usual since you give a wonderful account of the sights along the way as well as how to travel without a car. Thanks for the report.
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Old Dec 29th, 2023, 07:31 AM
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Thanks oldemalloy— Yes, as much as I love opening my eyes seeing new places, I wanted to spend most of my vacation time with my mother this Christmas season. Going to Raleigh was ideal with this plan in mind. Happy new year to you!
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Old Dec 29th, 2023, 09:13 AM
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the guide commented that given that Tennessee had seceded, who was he representing in Washington during that time?
The guide was ignorant. All the seats in Congress remained for those from succeeded states to stay in if they chose. Why would the US recognize succession and invalidate sitting members of Congress? Johnson chose to remain in the Senate and represent Tennessee when the war started, from whitehouse.org:

"During the crisis, Johnson remained in the United States Senate after his state seceded, the only southern senator to do so. In recognition of his commitment to the Union, President Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee in 1862. In this position, Johnson began to support emancipation—not because he supported racial equality, but for military expediency. His primary concerns were ending the war quickly and crippling the Confederacy. To prove his new stance (and loyalty to President Lincoln), Johnson freed the enslaved individuals he owned in 1863 and ordered total emancipation in Tennessee the following year. His actions appealed to the different factions and leaders within the Republican Party, including President Lincoln who desired a political ticket that represented unity and a commitment to preserve the Union. As a result, the party nominated Johnson, a southerner and a Democrat, for vice president."
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Old Dec 29th, 2023, 11:27 AM
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tom_mn— Thanks for the paragraph from white house.org. I found it interesting and added a dimension that Johnson was the only southern US Senator to stay on after secession.
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Old Dec 29th, 2023, 12:28 PM
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Thanks Daniel for yet another glimpse of an off the beaten path destination!
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Old Dec 29th, 2023, 06:33 PM
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Thanks for your report. It is really odd to have a train full to the point where you had to take the next one. Since you like to visit state capitols, consider taking the California Zephyr. It has stops in Lincoln Nebraska (monocameral) legislature, Denver Colorado, Salt Lake City and Sacramento California.
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Old Dec 30th, 2023, 05:26 AM
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Thanks and happy new year, Fra_Diavolo.

Tomfuller— Yes, I attributed the trains being sold out to the season. And I have taken the California Zephyr Chicago to Emeryville although never stopped to check out somewhere in the middle of the line and last time was 2006; might be fun to use it to check out some intermediate capitals as you suggest. Of note as a fellow train amateur, it was fun seeing the Piedmont Train (Raleigh to Charlotte) too while in Raleigh station, an Amtrak train that uses a wagon design that did not resemble that of others I’ve seen in the country. Raleigh’s station also looked different from any other I’ve seen in the nation so far with a glassy exterior and was thankful that it was quite spacious, with plenty of seating, a good thing as three trains, the Piedmont, Carolinian and Silver Star were all leaving around the same time on the 28th, so it was quite busy! Happy new year to you as well!
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Old Dec 30th, 2023, 05:30 AM
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I always enjoy reading about your trips Daniel, thanks for posting.

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Old Dec 30th, 2023, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for the report. I, too, am sorry to hear that you lost your father this year.

I'm glad that you enjoyed my state capital, but really there is much more to see, both in Raleigh and the Research Triangle area. See: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...n-my-own-town/ for some.

While the season probably had something to do with the trains being full, those trains are popular. I usually use them if I want to go to DC, but I have been reading that they are getting quite a bit of use within NC as well. Thanks to the new government funding for Amtrak, work is starting on a high-speed line from Raleigh to Richmond.

I'm not a NC native, but I am firmly in the eastern NC barbecue camp. Eastern vs. western style is an ongoing battle...

Last edited by thursdaysd; Dec 30th, 2023 at 09:21 AM.
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Old Dec 30th, 2023, 10:18 AM
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melnq8–Thanks for reading! .

Thursdaysd— Thank you for the condolences. I look forward to discovering more of the city and region one day; thanks for sharing the Wordpress blog. I’m happy to hear that train use is up within NC—out of curiosity, I looked on the Amtrak app and saw there were 5 Piedmont trains to Charlotte a day. Nice!
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