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Farewell to Amtrak’s Three Rivers trip:

Farewell to Amtrak’s Three Rivers trip:





            After reading an article in TRAINS Magazine about Amtrak discontinuing the Three Rivers train between New York and Chicago, I decided to go down and ride the train before Amtrak discontinued the route. I booked my trip about a month in advance and got good deals on two of the three Amtrak trains I would be riding.


I had decided to go the day after Valentine’s Day as in late February my parents and grandma would be celebrating their birthdays and I didn’t want to be away for those days. After I got the time off of work, I just had to wait for February 15th to get here. My plan was to ride Amtrak’s Maple Leaf from Toronto to New York, overnight in Manhattan, take the Three Rivers to Chicago, then ride back to Buffalo on the Lake Shore Limited where my dad would pick me up.


February 15, 2005:


I got down to Toronto’s Union Station around 9:10, 30 minutes before the Maple Leaf was scheduled to depart. I had ridden the Canadian portion of the route which is operated by VIA Rail Canada to Niagara Falls, Ontario where an Amtrak crew takes over.


When I boarded the Maple Leaf, I got a little surprise; in the past, the train usually had an engine, four Amfleet 1 coaches, and an Amfleet 1 café car. Upon getting to track level, I immediately noticed that the train had Amfleet 2 coaches! At the time, I thought this was rare, but later learned that Amtrak had assigned the long distance Amfleet 2 coaches to this train.


I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25000, a refurbished coach with a white and blue interior, digital display boards, and AC outlets by each seat. The train as VIA train 97 departed right on time. As the train passed VIA’s Toronto Maintenance Centre, I took video of the equipment that was in the yard including the trainset of VIA’s Toronto-Montreal overnight train, the Enterprise which uses the Renaissance coaches and an F40PH still with the Spiderman 2 advertisement.


Amtrak P42DC #103 was in charge of the train today. We passed through the stops at Oakville and Aldershot. After Aldershot, I found out that the train would stop in St. Catherines, Ontario, bypassing its stop in Grimsby.


Since I was crossing the Canadian-U.S. boarder, the conductor handed me a card which I had to fill in and before we got there. Once I had filled out the card, I headed to the Café car, (which was the first car in the train), and grabbed a hot dog and a can of Coke before the Café car closed.


At Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Customs crew got on. The train departed and crossed into the United States and stopped at Niagara Falls, New York where the agents began to check the passengers. When they spoke with me, they asked to see my return ticket. I explained I would be meeting up with my dad in Buffalo and would not be taking the train across the boarder. They then asked if I knew a girl who was seated near to me who happen to be going to Rochester. I told them I didn’t.


Soon, the customs inspection was finished. The passengers were allowed onto the platform for a cigarette break since smoking is now prohibited on most of Amtrak’s trains. I proceeded to take some photos of the train and Amtrak P42 #154 which was sitting all alone on a side track.




After the train departed Niagara Falls, New York on time, the café car reopened. The train was now known as Amtrak train #64. The train stopped at Buffalo-Exchange Street and Buffalo, Depew, as well as Rochester. Between Rochester and Syracuse, train 63 passed us. At Syracuse, I stepped out and took another picture of my coach. Shortly after we departed, I took video of Amtrak train #281 passing us.


Sometime later, we arrived in Utica, New York, where I took pictures of various historic railway equipment as well as cars from the Adirondack Scenic Valley tourist line. Shortly after we departed, the sun went down. Amtrak train #283 passed us. We stopped in Amsterdam and Schenectady where I took video of Amtrak train #49, the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago. Next, the train arrived at Albany where P42 #103 was taken off and replaced with a P32AC-DM that would take the train the rest of the way to New York. When we left Albany, I grabbed a burger and Pepsi from the café car and retreated to my seat where I stayed for the rest of the trip. At Croton-Hammond, I saw a line of Metro-North FL9s at Metro North’s shop. We stopped in Yonkers, New York, before we headed into New York’s Penn Station, arriving about 10 minutes early!


In Penn Station, I got some souvenirs and headed outside to take a taxi. Upon stepping outside, I was greeted with warmth despite being in the middle of February. I took a taxi to the Manhattan Youth Castle, a hostel where I would be spending the night. I got checked into the hostel and got settled in for the night. After grabbing some stuff from a convenience store next door, I decided to call it a night after calling home from a payphone.


February 16, 2005:


I had gotten up early and grabbed some food from the convenience store next door to the hostel. At 10:00 am, I tried to email the photos I had taken the day before home to me to make room on my digital camera’s memory card, but the computer at the hostel didn’t have Windows so doing that was impossible. After I checked out of the hostel, the staff at the hostel told me there was an internet café five blocks south, so I walked there and was able to email the pictures home to me.


After I left the café, I rode one of New York’s newest subway cars on the 6 line. After I got off, I took video of the train pulling out and headed out to catch an “E” line train that would take me to Penn Station. When I got to the platform, I had just missed an “E” line train. While I was waiting for the next one, a subway musician began to get on my nerves and I was hoping the next train would get there soon. Finally, it did.


This train consisted of the oldest stock in revenue service on the New York subway system and reminded me of the Toronto Transit Commission’s class M-1 subway cars which were retired in 1999. At Penn station, I got off and took video of the train pulling out of the station and a photo of another subway train. After that, I headed into the station and grabbed some lunch while I waited for Amtrak train #41, the westbound Three Rivers to board. When the Three Rivers did board, I took a picture of the schedule to announce the Three Rivers boarding since the train was about to be cut.



The Three Rivers consisted of three Amfleet 2 coaches and an Amfleet 1 café car. The first part of the trip, the train was led by HHP-8 electric locomotive #657 from New York to Philadelphia. I was seated in coach #25100, another refurbished coach. One thing to note for those who have never taken the Three Rivers in the New York to Philadelphia portion of the route, the coach seats are arranged backwards since when a diesel locomotive couples on at Philadelphia, the seats would face forwards.


            Upon boarding my coach, I met Richard, another railfan who is a conductor with CSX and I switched seats and engaged conversation with him since I had graduated from a conductor program, but have had no luck finding a job with the railways. Richard was on the train for the same reason I was. I also found out he would be on the Lake Shore the following night, just like me.


            The Three Rivers left on time and as we left New York, I finally saw the Empire State Building as the train picked up speed. At Newark and a couple stations beyond, I noticed some PATH subway trains and wondered if any of the cars were from the last train to depart the World Trade Center station on September 11, 2001.


            The train arrived in Philadelphia where the HHP-8 electric was removed. P42DC #156 coupled onto the rear of the train. Since there was a fair sized layover, I decided to walk the train and take some pictures and video of an Acela Express train departing.





At Philadelphia, a high school dance club got on the train. They were all going to a contest in the Chicago area. They were all seated in my coach. I’m guessing they thought taking the train was cheaper than chartering a highway coach.


We left Philadelphia and sometime later, we were passed by train 40, the Eastbound Three Rivers. It had a similar consist to our train, except there were two mechanical reefer cars coupled to the rear of the train. At Harrisburg Pennsylvania, I saw an eastbound Keystone service train while the passengers were allowed onto the platform for a smoking break. When we left, I saw a former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive. A couple hours later, I went to the café car for dinner. I took it back to my coach seat. The high school dance club which had gotten on at Philadelphia decided to practice their routine in the coach, but the conductor intervened. Some passengers didn’t like that, but I liked the routine. It made for dinner and a show.


Between Altoona and Johnstown, the train went around the famous Horseshoe curve. I was hoping to get some footage on video, but unfortunately, it was dark and the train wasn’t long enough to get the train’s lights going around the curve.


At Pittsburgh, the train had a layover. I again got out onto the platform to take some pictures of the train while other passengers enjoyed a cigarette. I also saw a couple of privately owned cars on a couple of side tracks.




Sorry if this image is blurry. It was dark and I wanted to get a decent picture with the settings of my digital camera.



            After we departed Pittsburgh, I headed back to the café car to mingle. Richard had moved back there to escape the group of high school students and was trying to decide whether or not to upgrade to business class. After some conversation among Richard, the train crew, and some other passengers, I bought an Amtrak blanket for $10.00 and headed back to the coach, which by now, the crew had killed the lights and were handing out pillows for passengers to sleep. I stretched across the two now vacant seats as a passenger who was sitting next to me earlier was moved to another car so he could sit with his wife.


February 17, 2005:


I was awakened at 2:00 am while the train was stopped at Akron, Ohio. Apparently, one of the high school students was missing; possibly he stepped off the train for a cigarette. I believe he was found shortly after. I was able to get back to sleep for about another three hours, when the conductor woke me up since we were nearing Chicago. The crew turned the inside lights on in the coach and I begun to prepare to get off the Three Rivers once we got into Chicago. Soon, I saw the Chicago El’s Red Line and I knew we were almost to the station. Before we got into Chicago, our train was wyed and we backed into the station. After I got off the train, I took one last picture of the Three Rivers before I headed into the station.





Our train had arrived in Chicago early, but it was all for the better as I had quite a bit planned for my day in Chicago.


After renting a locker to keep my luggage in, I headed out and had breakfast at a restaurant. After breakfast, I again called home from a payphone.


I then headed over to the Chicago Transit Authority’s headquarters and bought a day pass. After, I decided to head down to ride the South Shore line. I rode a two car train to East Chicago, (which by the way is located in the state of Indiana). While waiting for my train back into downtown Chicago, I saw a South Shore freight train pass by powered by three Geeps. Once I got back into Chicago, I stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch.




After lunch, I headed over to Amtrak’s 14th Street Yard and snapped a few photos of the equipment in the yard including what appeared to be the coaches from the Three Rivers minus the locomotive. I also saw a train with Superliner coaches.



Next, I rode CTA’s red line to Howard station and transferred to the Skokie Swift. The trains that ran on the line used to get their power from overhead wires until September when the line was converted to third rail power. Never the less, it still was an enjoyable ride.



After, I headed down to ride CTA’s oldest El cars in revenue service, the 2200 series cars. They run on CTA’s blue line and rarely lead because they aren’t wheelchair accessible. I rode a 2200 series car to O’Hare station and back to Clark/Lake station.



By now, it was about 5:00 pm in the evening. I had arranged with a transit fan I had met on a PCC streetcar charter in Toronto a couple years ago that I would call him at the time. I called him from a payphone and said that he would meet me at the station in a few minutes. I knew he worked one station north of the Clark/Lake stop. He said he would meet me at Clark/Lake station. Each time I saw a Southbound Green line train arrive, I would scan it to see if my acquaintance Greg was on the train. After about three or four trains, he showed up.


We then took the next southbound train a couple stops where we went into a restaurant. I wanted to have dinner on the train, so I only got a bag of Pretzels and a can of Coke. Greg paid for the purchases as well as something for himself. We sat down at a table and discussed transit in Chicago and Toronto. Greg gave me a tape of video footage he had shot a few years ago in some trips to Cleveland.


            After we left the restaurant, Greg and I took CTA’s blue line and we got on a 2200 series El car, (the third one I’ve gotten on that day). We headed back to Chicago’s Union station where I retrieved my luggage. I soon found the track where Amtrak train 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited would depart from. I said goodbye to Greg as I headed out to board train 48.


I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25007, which turned out to be the only unrefurbished coach in the train. The coach attendant spoke in a manner that made her look like a combination between a drill sergeant and an airline stewardess! As the train pulled out of the station, I took video of Amtrak’s Cardinal on another track as well as a Superliner equipped train on the track next to us. As we passed by Amtrak’s 14th Street yard, I caught a glimpse of P40DC #832 in the Phase V livery, being one of about a dozen units to receive that paint scheme as most of them are in storage.


            After leaving Chicago, I decided to look around for an AC outlet to charge my digital camera’s batteries. The train crew eventually pointed to one in the lounge car and I was able to charge the batteries.


While I was looking around the train, I met Richard again. This time, he was joined by Bill, another railfan about my age who had come up on the Texas Eagle. Soon, the three of us mingled in the lounge. I grabbed a hot dog and an apple muffin from the lounge car for my supper as Richard and Bill headed into the dining car. I eventually joined them and had a slice of apple pie for desert.


The dining car on the train was #8505, a former CB&Q diner which had been refurbished and looked quite fancy inside. Richard had a pretty big steak while Bill had a salad. I took a couple pictures of the inside of the dining car before the three of us headed back to the lounge car.



In the lounge car, we shared some train pictures and stories from previous train trips. Richard and Bill told me of a time that there were on the same train awhile ago when it struck a car at a railroad crossing, killing the two occupants. While their train sat around during the investigation, freight trains crept by at speeds no greater than 15 mph on an adjacent track. I told them of a story of back in October, I was on a VIA train which was delayed about 20 minutes because of a van being abandoned on a railroad crossing ahead. I also mentioned how a little girl seated near me kept asking me if I had a word search book, even though I told her I did not, and how she kept asking me until I finally snapped at her.


At one point, we passed by the New York Central Railroad Museum in Indiana and saw that its collection had a GG1 painted in Penn Central colours and an E8 painted and lettered for the New York Central.


The time passed quickly, so I said goodbye to Richard and Bill and headed back to my coach seat where I got another pillow and I used the blanket I had bought the night before on the Three Rivers and got some sleep.


February 18, 2005:


I woke up as the train was in Elyria, Ohio. I fell asleep again, but woke up outside of Cleveland. Amtrak train 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited passed by as we waited outside of Cleveland. I fell asleep again and woke up at Erie, Pennsylvania. After another nap, I noticed the sun coming up. I packed my things so that when the train stopped in Buffalo, I was ready to get off.



            Train 48 arrived at Buffalo-Depew station about 30 minutes late which is not too bad since the train has in the past arrived HOURS late. Upon disembarking from the train, I walked to the end of the station to get a picture of the train and video of the train leaving the station. As I filmed the train leaving the station, about half way through, I ran out of space on my digital camera’s memory card, but never the less, I did get some good footage.


Upon walking back to the station, I found my dad was already waiting for me and that he had gotten to Depew just after train 48 had arrived, but failed to see me walking to the end of the platform.


We stopped at restaurant for breakfast before crossing the border and going back to Toronto. I slept most of the way. I got home at 11:30 am.




            This was my first big trip, but won’t be my last. On March 6, 2005, the Three Rivers made its final run to New York and Chicago.


            All and all, this trip was enjoyable. I wish I could have been able to record the whole Lake Shore pulling out of Depew, but oh well. Until next time…