Facebook Page
Buffalo, NY To Sandusky, OH On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
  I came up with the idea of doing a trip like this back in 2012. I knew NASA had ended the Space Shuttle Program and that all four remaining shuttles would be donated to various museums around the country. I have always been a huge fan of the shuttle program and thought this would be an awesome trip idea! So for this trip, I would ride Amtrak to see all four space shuttles! This presented what would end up being an absolute logistical nightmare to plan!
  I started the actual planning of this trip in February 2014. I knew I would only have a certain amount of time to pull this whole thing off and I knew it wouldn't be easy. I analyzed, analyzed, and analyzed some more (I'm starting to feel like Sheldon on TV's "The Big Bang Theory"), different itineraries to try to visit all of the shuttles as well as go back to Cedar Point in Ohio and, if at all possible, find a way to get back to Napa again to ride the Napa Valley Wine Train! I rode this world class railroad last year and knew I had to find a way to get back there again! The end result would be that I would ride a total of 9 Amtrak trains (yes, you read correctly NINE Amtrak trains!) all over the country to accomplish this!
  My trip would start, riding in coach on Amtrak Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited from Buffalo-Depew Station to Sandusky, OH and onto my first destination of the trip, Cedar Point Amusement Park. I would stay at a Fairfield Inn By Marriott hotel for the weekend and rent a car from Enterprise, nothing new here as I start all my big trips this way. After spending two days in the park, I would go railfanning in nearby Fostoria, OH at the new Iron Triangle Railfan Park, before catching Amtrak Train #29 - The Capitol Limited and riding it to Washington, DC in a Sleeping Car. Upon arrival in DC, I would use public transit to get to my hotel in Chantilly, VA which would be a Courtyard By Marriott near Dulles Airport.
  The next day, I would head to New York from DC using Amtrak Train #56 - The Vermonter so as to visit Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum. I would then ride Amtrak Northeast Regional Train #129 back to Washington, then the following morning see Space Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. That evening, I would ride Amtrak Train #97 - The Silver Meteor to Orlando, FL in a Sleeper. Upon arrival in Orlando, I would stay at another Courtyard By Marriott hotel and rent another car from Enterprise. The next day, I would drive to Cape Canaveral, to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to see Space Shuttle Atlantis. The following day, I would begin a total of 5 straight days of train riding (in a Sleeping Car on all three trains) so as to get to Los Angeles, CA from Orlando, starting the trip on Amtrak Train #98 - The Silver Meteor. I would take Train #98 to Washington, DC, then board Train #29 - The Capitol Limited to Chicago. During my layover in Chicago, I planned to go railfanning at Roosevelt Road before riding Train #3 - The Southwest Chief to Los Angeles.
  On the morning I arrive in LA, I would rent another car from Enterprise, drive to the California Science Center to see Space Shuttle Endeavor, then spend the night at a SpringHill Suites By Marriott in nearby Hawthorne, CA. The following morning, I would turn in the rental car, then ride Amtrak California Pacific Surfliner Train #761 from LA to San Luis Obispo in Business Class. Upon arrival in SLO, I'd ride the Amtrak California Bus from there to San Jose, CA, where I'll use CalTrain to Millbrae, then BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), to the San Francisco International Airport where I will rent another car from Enterprise, then drive out to Vacaville where I'll stay at another Courtyard By Marriott and that would be my hotel for the remainder of the trip as I'd then spend the next 3 days riding and railfanning the Napa Valley Wine Train including one trip in the cab of one of their FPA-4 locomotives as well as a ride in their full-length Vista Dome car. After all of that, I'd be flying back to Buffalo using JetBlue Airways from San Francisco.
  I said before that this would be a complete logistical nightmare to plan, and that's exactly what it was, and that's EXACTLY the way I wanted it!!! This trip included riding a total of 9 Amtrak trains, I would stay in a total of 5 hotels, and rent a total of 4 cars. The train tickets were paid for with a combination of cash and Amtrak Guest Rewards points as well as Marriott Rewards points and a couple Marriott Rewards gift cards I had saved. I won't soon forget putting a full Microsoft Excel spreadsheet together for this trip so as to figure out the initial costs as well as an actual budget for the trip itself. I had a limited amount of vacation time from work to complete this and knew that if anything hadn't gone according to plan, it could have potentially messed up the rest of the trip. Thankfully, even the latest train would have no impact on any other connections.
  What you're about to read isn't just a story about an amazing cross-country journey by rail, but it is truly an amazing story about America, and the marvels of American Engineering on a grand scale! I feel so blessed to be able to take these trips, but this one was by far the biggest one I've ever done, and was far more an "endurance test" than a vacation, and once again, I wouldn't have it any other way! A vacation for me tends to be more of a "no rest for the weary" type of event, and I'm always up for the challenge! So without further delay, let's get this trip started!!!
  I arrived at the Buffalo-Depew Station around 11:30pm after having parked the car at the Thrifty Buffalo Airport parking lot. Since I would be flying home on this trip, it made sense to have the car waiting for me once I get back home. I had a quick chat with the station crew and eventually picked up a couple bottles of Diet Pepsi from the vending machine in the station and hung out on the platform, waiting, waiting, and waiting some more! Tonight's Train #49 was running late. It's lateness wasn't the fault of Amtrak, but rather having to protect two grade crossings and then being stuck behind a freight train.
  I would pass the time away checking out some stuff on the internet and playing some Sudoku puzzles on my phone. At 1:58am, running 2 hours and 3 minutes late, Amtrak Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station. Prior to the train's arrival, my ticket was scanned by the assistant conductor who would board the train when it arrives as this station is a crew-change point for the train. Upon arrival, the train receives a new engineer and conductors who take the train as far as Toledo, OH where another crew will then take it to Chicago. I would be seated in Amfleet II Coach #25039 in window seat #7 and would not nave a passenger sitting next to me once we departed. The consist for tonight's train is shown below:
189 P42DC   Power (From Boston)
72 P42DC   Power (From Boston)
1206 Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (From Boston)
62011 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Gulf View Sleeping Car (From Boston) 4920
25105 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From Boston)
25039 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From Boston)
28011 Amfleet II Cafe/Lounge Car   Cafe/Lounge Car (From Boston)
25095 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
25064 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
25113 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
25091 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (From New York)
8550 Heritage Dining Car   Dining Car (From New York)
62030 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Patriot View Sleeping Car (From New York) 4911
62000 Viewliner I Sleeping Car American View Sleeping Car (From New York) 4912
1750 Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car (From New York)
SPECIAL NOTE: 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.
 This is clearly not the peak season for this train and such, there were several open seats in my coach. If at all possible, I prefer to sit on the engineer's side of the train with a window seat and with tonight's light passenger loads, this was very easy to do as the seats were available and the crew wasn't assigning seats. Once I put my luggage away, I turned on my Yaesu FT-270R Ham Radio, tuned to the frequencies in use on the railroad in this area, and relaxed while watching the scenery passing through Buffalo and out towards the Town of Evans area (my old stomping grounds) while enjoying a Diet Pepsi and my unofficial snack food on Amtrak for me...Reese's Pieces!!!
  There was a fair amount of freight traffic in the Buffalo area as we would move to different tracks a few times, getting around other trains. In the Angola area, we actually ran alongside another freight for a bit but it looked like it eventually moved ahead of us. I got out the camera and took a walk through the train to get car numbers and take some interior photos of our Dining Car on this train which was #8550, a former-Northern Pacific Diner that was built by Budd in 1957. I wanted to get interior photos of this car as these cars are slated to be retired as soon as the new Viewliner II Dining Cars which are currently under construction by CAF USA in Elmira Heights, NY, come online and replace these historic cars. After getting some photos, I had a quick chat with the crew, got out the computer and started writing this travelogue as we were now heading for Pennsylvania with the next stop of Erie, PA coming up. I'm seeing right away that it was a great investment buying this Yaesu radio as it has far better range than my old scanner ever did. At 3:47am, we arrived in Erie. We would need to make a double-spot at Erie as one passenger in a wheelchair in the Boston Section had to exit the train, then a second spot would be made for the New York Section. At 3:53am, running 2 hours and 17 minutes late, we departed Erie.
  I headed back to my coach seat and continued to listen to the radio (on an earphone of course). I had to work the day before this trip and now, being awake all those hours was starting to catch up with me as I started dozing off in my coach seat, though the ride itself had minimal freight interruption and I would find out that there would be a smoking break at the next stop in Cleveland, OH. At 5:31am, we arrived in Cleveland. I stepped off the train and took a few quick high-ISO photos as there wasn't any time to set up the tripod. Just 3 minutes later, the "All Aboard" signal was given and at 5:34am, running 1 hour and 49 minutes late, we departed Cleveland, having made up some time since the last stop! In all the years I've been riding this train, this has to be the quickest stop I've ever seen in Cleveland! The schedule normally allows for 18 minutes at Cleveland but due to being so late, the stop was quickly truncated! I pulled out another Diet Pepsi and a box of Reese's Pieces as we continued along, leaving Cleveland and heading for Elyria, OH, or next stop. I paid close attention to the radio as we were now on Norfolk Southern-owned tracks and over the past several months, NS has been running so many trains as freight traffic is way up due to the improving economy and lots of crude oil coming out of South Dakota! I suppose this is a "good problem" to have, that the railroads are getting so much business, but this one caught NS off-guard completely, being short of crews and motive power. NS has since hired hundreds of new engineers and conductors and has bought lots of locomotives to handle the extra demand. NS put a freight behind us once we got onto their territory and for the most part, we had clear signals all the way from Cleveland to about milepost 200, about 19 miles west of Cleveland. We had one speed restriction near Elyria and arrived there at 6:02am. The stop was quick and we were out of Elyria at 6:04am, running 1 hour and 46 minutes late, having made up another few minutes!
  The rest of the way was absolutely uneventful, with no freight interruption and lots of clear signals, way to go NS! At 6:39am, running 1 hour and 41 minutes late, we arrived in Sandusky, my stop for this leg of the trip, having made up yet a few more minutes of time. My thanks goes to Norfolk Southern for giving us a relatively clear path west of Cleveland so we were able to make up some of the lost time! Overall, despite the late train, the ride was uneventful and the crew did an excellent job! I called a local taxi company and about 20 minutes later, my taxi arrived to take me to the Fairfield Inn By Marriott in Sandusky. I've been staying at this hotel for this trip, every year since 2010 as it's definitely one of the nicest hotels in the area with a clean room and an excellent level of service. After checking into the hotel, I eventually would call it a day. Shown below is a link to some photos taken during my ride on the Lake Shore. Now that I'm in Sandusky, it's time to head to my second home, the best amusement park in the known universe, none other than Cedar Point!!! Though this would be my third trip to the park this year (I drove here for the first two trips), and the weather wasn't exactly what I'd hoped for, it was still a good visit, so let's head to CP!!!