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Buffalo, NY To Sandusky, OH On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
Trip Planning:
  2012 saw me take an incredible day-trip to ride equipment that Amtrak leased from VIA Rail Canada on the Adirondack route. To pay for that trip, I ended up using 8,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. When I was figuring out what trip I wanted to make for 2013 and 2014, I decided that since I had used those points for that trip which was for the lack of a better word, totally unexpected (i booked it on Monday and made the trip the same week on Friday!), and that a trip I was considering doing in 2013 would require more AGR points than I would have available, I decided to table that trip and save it for 2014 (sorry, you'll just have to wait until 2014 to find out what that trip will entail!). Therefore, my 2013 trip would involve the following: Using, I booked tickets on Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited from Buffalo-Depew Station to Sandusky, OH to go visit Cedar Point Amusement Park for what would be my 22nd straight season visiting this world class park, as well as my third time visiting the park this year (I drove here twice already back in May and June). I would have a rental car from Enterprise and would stay at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott for 4 nights, a hotel I'm very familiar with as I've been staying there now every year since 2010 on this trip. Why? Well, the hotel is clean, the service is excellent and it's decently priced. I'm also a Silver Elite Marriott Rewards member (at least this year anyways) so I earn points for staying there anyways! After 3 days at Cedar Point, I would drive to the west side of Cleveland in Berea, OH to go railfanning near the historic Berea Tower and have lunch at what is now the Berea Union Depot Tavern built inside the old New York Central Passenger Station!
  Next up, I would take Train #49 again to Chicago from Sandusky on Tuesday, October 8th. Upon arrival in Toledo, OH (the next stop after Sandusky), I would upgrade from coach to a Viewliner Roomette sleeping car and would ride in a sleeper the rest of the way to Chicago. Why do this? Well, that's very simple! From Toledo to my endpoint destination of Emeryville, CA, this portion of the trip would be paid for with 20,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points and since Toledo was the zone cut-off between the eastern and central zones in the country (on the route of the Lake Shore Limited as well as the Capitol Limited), I figured I'd upgrade there instead of Chicago and get breakfast out of the deal as well as a more comfortable place to possibly doze off if need b (not an easy thing to do when I'm on one of these trips)! My original plan was to go railfanning at Roosevelt Road during my layover in Chicago but as you'll see later in the travelogue, that would end up not happening.
  Later that afternoon, I would ride Train #5 - The California Zephyr to Emeryville, CA in a Superliner Roomette sleeping car from Chicago to Emeryville. This will be the first time I've rode this train since 2007 so I'm definitely due for another ride on the Zephyr!!! Due to severe flooding in Colorado in September, the normal route the Zephyr takes through the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, CO was closed due to severe washouts. This would result in the train taking a detour route through Wyoming, following the original route of the Transcontinental Railroad also known as the "Overland Route" on the Union Pacific. Though this route is a bit less scenic, it was by no means, less interesting! You will see that though this route has no Moffat Tunnel or Glenwood Canyon, it was still a very interesting route to cover and would make for a great ride! The detour route had us running north out of Denver to just west of Cheyenne, WY where we would turn west and run on the Overland Route to Salt Lake City where we would continue on the regular route the rest of the way to Emeryville, CA. Upon arrival at Emeryville, I would make my way to the San Francisco International Airport to pick up my rental car from Enterprise and drive out to my hotel in Vacaville, CA, a Courtyard By Marriott (Can you tell I really like to stay at Marriott properties yet?). The next day, Friday, October 11th, I would make a 180+ mile drive up to Portola, CA to visit the Western Pacific Railroad Museum. On Saturday, the 12th, I would railfan a railroad that would be the big focal point of this trip once I arrive on the west coast, and would be non other than the world class Napa Valley Wine Train!!! On Sunday, the 13th, I would ride the Wine Train not once but TWICE!!! My first ride would be in the locomotive riding north and would have me riding in the Gourmet Express Dining Car on the trip back south again. Later that same day, I would ride the Wine Train for dinner in the Vista Dome car! I rode this incredible train two years ago and I knew I just had to get back here again. The entire experience with the Wine Train would be something so great, this travelogue would prove to be more difficult to write than some I've written in the past as it wasn't easy finding the words to describe just how great this experience was! This travelogue will cover the Wine Train in ways you may not have seen before, even in ways different than the last time I covered it two years ago!
  On Monday, October 14th, I would be back to riding Amtrak again, making a round trip from Sacramento to San Jose and back riding on Amtrak California's Capital Corridor Service. This would be my first time riding this train which is operated by the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority in conjunction with Amtrak, Union Pacific, and the California Department Of Transportation. Upon arrival in San Jose, I would have lunch with a family member in the area before making the ride back to Sacramento.
  My last full day on the west coast, October 1tth, would be spent back in Napa Valley again doing more great photography of the Napa Valley Wine Train. I've been doing these trips for a lot of years and this one definitely ranks up there as one of the absolute best I've ever taken. So without further delay, in the words of the song "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas, for this travelogue, let's get it started!!!
Thursday Night, October 3rd, 2013:
  After having had the whole day off from work, I spent the day packing and getting ready for the trip. Eventually, I loaded down the car and made the drive to "The Parking Spot" located across the street from the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. I had a coupon from them in a ValPack coupon mailer so I decided to park the car there as they offer a free shuttle to the airport and with that coupon, it would be cheaper to park there verses at the airport parking lot itself. I wanted my car waiting for me when I arrive home since I'm flying home. After catching the shuttle to the airport, I took a taxi over to the Buffalo-Depew Amtrak Station. I had received an e-mail from Amtrak advising me that Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited was running about 35 minutes late. I arrived at the station about 90 minutes before the train was set to arrive. After chatting with the station crew, I had a chat with a railfan who was waiting to pick up the Amtrak crew that would get off the train at Depew as he worked for a transportation company that did this type of work (Buffalo-Depew Station is a crew change point for the Lake Shore Limited). I enjoyed an ice cold Diet Pepsi before heading outside onto the platform where light rain was falling. At 12:33am, running 38 minutes late, Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station. The consist for tonight's train is shown below:
P42DC   Power (From Boston)
P42DC   Power (From Boston)
Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From Boston)
Amfleet II Cafe Car   Cafe/Lounge Car (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York) (My Car)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
Viewliner I Diner Indianapolis Dining Car (From New York)
Viewliner I Sleeping Car Eagle View Sleeping Car (From New York) (4911)
Viewliner I Sleeping Car Skyline View Sleeping Car (From New York) (4912)
Viewliner I Sleeping Car Moonlight View Sleeping Car (From New York) (4913)
Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (From New York)
SPECIAL NOTES: Viewliner I Sleeping Cars no longer display their names on the sides of the cars but still sport their original names on the end doors as you enter the cars from the inside. Also, the third sleeping car in the New York section was numbered as the 4913 car and was a substitute car for the Boston sleeper which was not in the consist. That car is normally the 4920 car.
  I boarded Amfleet II Coach #25082 and was given seat #46 in the car. Seats were being assigned tonight as the train had a decent sized crowd riding. There was a passenger sitting at the window seat heading to Chicago but she was sleeping for the most part. At 12:46am, we made a double spot to load passengers into the train's 3 sleeping cars on the New York section of the train. Tonight's train had no Boston Section sleeping car so Amtrak added a third sleeper to the New York section to accommodate those passengers who were supposed to have a sleeping car from Boston and that car was listed as the 4913 sleeping car, behind the 2 normal sleepers, 4911 and 4912. At 12:50am, running 51 minutes late, Train #49 departed Buffalo-Depew station. I sat in my coach seat and sent a few e-mails/texts and watch the scenery (at least what I could see from the coach seat at this crazy hour of the night) as we eventually headed through Hamburg and the Town of Evans and Village of Angola (my old stomping grounds). It's so nostalgic for me to ride the train through this area knowing I railfanned here so much when I was in high school (I'm 36 now, when should I start feeling old???).
  Eventually, I got out my laptop and headed to the cafe car to chat with the crew and start writing this travelogue. We passed a few freights along the way and had one approach signal that caused us to have to slow things down through the Dunkirk, NY area. I kept my iPhone 4S set up with the GPS/Maps app to chart our course as the train raced through Chautauqua County and eventually crossed into Pennsylvania with the next stop of Erie, PA coming up. At 2:35am, we departed Erie, PA running 59 minutes late. I continued writing my travelogue and chatting with the crew once they completed their station work as this was an uneventful ride thus far, which is always a good thing. I headed back to my coach seat and listened to the scanner as well as did a little internet surfing. As we got closer to Cleveland, we had to get an EC-1 (CSX's version of a track warrant, or special instructions) to pass a stop signal at CP-176. We ended up going rather slow for a few miles after passing that signal, then had a "Restricted Proceed" signal which would be a red signal being displayed from an Automatic Block Signal rather than one from a control point that is controlled by the dispatcher.
  Finally, at 4:26am, still running 59 minutes late, we arrived at our next stop of Cleveland, OH. The lights at First Energy Stadium (Formerly known as Cleveland Browns Stadium as they sold naming rights to the place) were still on as my Buffalo Bills played the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football the night before and unfortunately lost 37-24! It's likely that they were still cleaning up the place after the game ended. A smoking break was permitted on the platform so I got some air and took a few high ISO pictures since there wasn't enough time to set up the tripod. At 4:35am, now running 50 minutes late, we departed Cleveland, only to then be stopped at the Drawbridge that goes over the Cuyahoga River just west of the Cleveland Station where we switch from CSX to Norfolk Southern track. We would be following Norfolk Southern Train 21M for a fair distance due to our late arrival and subsequent departure from Cleveland. We ended up stopping at CP-188 still following the 21M and would eventually pass our eastbound counterpart, Train #48 at CP-194. The next stop was Elyria, OH where we would depart at 5:19am running 1 hour and 1 minute late. I would continue just relaxing in my coach seat until the next stop which would be my stop at Sandusky, OH. Once we got past Vermillion, OH, I dragged my suitcases to the end of the coach and at 5:58am, running 1 hour and 3 minutes late, we arrived at Sandusky, OH. I was one of only a handful of people who got off the train however there was a very large crowd of people boarding the train once I got off. To my surprise, there was a taxi cab waiting at the station for whoever needed it so this year, I didn't have to wait for a cab when I arrived into town like in previous years when I have found myself waiting upwards of 90 minutes for a cab to show up!
  The cab dropped me off at the Fairfield Inn & Suites By Marriott which is the same hotel I've been staying at now since 2010. As I said earlier, this hotel is very consistent with being clean and having a good staff and is a good value for the money. I originally requested a room with a king sized bed but due to my early arrival and the hotel not having any of those type of rooms available, I settled for a room with two double beds, no big deal, especially considering how tired I was. After checking into the room and getting a much deserved shower, off to bed I went and so ends a good first day! Check out the link below for some photos taken on the Lake Shore a swell as my awesome three days at Cedar Point!!!