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Niagara Falls To Albany-Rensselaer, NY - January 12th-13th, 2004

Niagara Falls To Albany-Rensselaer, NY
On Amtrak's Maple Leaf & Lake Shore Limited
January 12th-13th, 2004

Amtrak Train #64 - The Maple Leaf At Niagara Falls, NY
1:20pm - January 12th, 2004

   I received a brand new Global Positioning System for Christmas and decided that I wanted to take an Amtrak Trip to test out this new gadget, thus the reason for Amtrak Trip #30 for me and my first trip in 2004. In booking the tickets, I used and decided that based on my work schedule, the best thing to do since I work overnights, was to ride Train #64 – The Maple Leaf to Albany, where I would visit some friends, then come home the following evening on Train #49 – The Lake Shore Limited. There were no internet specials for Train #64 so I had to settle for a standard coach fare of $50.00. I was able to get a Rail Sale Fare on the Lake Shore Limited for $15.80 coming home which saved me a few bucks. The total cost for my tickets came to $65.80. I planned to board Train #64 from Niagara Falls as I hadn’t boarded a train there yet and since this was my 30th Amtrak Trip, I figured it would be neat to ride the 23 miles to Buffalo-Exchange St. Station since I haven’t covered that trackage yet thus far.
   Upon arriving at the Niagara Falls Station, I took a slide of it as viewed from the parking lot. I asked the ticket agent inside where the train actually boards from as I’ve never been here before. He told me and I got outside just in time to photograph the train as it arrived. What I didn’t know is that Niagara Falls Station is also the Customs Stop on the U.S. Border for this train, I had always thought that was taken care of at the bridge. I later found out from the conductor that customs used to inspect the train as soon as it crossed the bridge, but recently, the inspection was moved to the Niagara Falls Station instead. The Assistant conductor quickly recognized me from several previous trips and told me an announcement would be made when we could board the train. I waited inside the station and had a nice conversation with a passenger from Australia who was on a 2 and a half month vacation in the United States to which he had already rode 5 other Amtrak Trains and was on his way to New York, then Washington, DC.
   At 1:50pm, we were allowed to board the train and at 1:55pm, we were out of Niagara Falls, running 40 minutes late. The consist for today's train is shown at the bottom of this page.
   I was seated in Amfleet I Coach #44184, a Push-Pull type coach. This coach had the old red interior although it did have AC Outlets so I had no trouble plugging in my computer while onboard. We ran down the CSX Niagara Subdivision and eventually followed the Niagara River. I tested my GPS at the Wheatfield Detector which read 60mph, and so did the GPS so that makes it relatively accurate! At CP-7, we were stopped for a train crossing over from the International Bridge from Canada. We sat there about 10 minutes and it was all clear to get into Buffalo-Exchange St., Station thereafter. We left Exchange St, at 2:33pm. We switched at CP-437 onto the CSX Chicago Line, aka Buffalo-Terminal Subdivision. We left Buffalo-Depew Station at 2:46pm running 41 minutes late. Upon chatting with the crew, I was told that Train #48 was running some 8 hours late! This would mean somewhere along the way we’d likely end up catching up to it as it has more station work to do than our train. Somewhere near Batavia, I got a Cheeseburger and bag of Doritos from the café car and ate them at the comfort of my seat! We left Rochester Station at 3:40pm, now 38 minutes late. I got a call from my friend Rich somewhere near Fairport where the West Shore Branch reconnects with the Main Line. Freight Traffic was rather light, as we really didn’t have much slowing us down until near Lyons, NY where we had to switch to Track #1, the normal Westbound Track at CP-335 to let a freight clear the area. At CP-313, we went back to Track #2. By Milepost 294, we had an Advance Approach Signal that by rule means to prepare to stop at the Second Signal. At CP-293, we got our regular Approach Signal and at CP-291 where Track #7 starts, that allows trains into the Syracuse Station, we got stopped and waited for about 10 minutes for Train #48 to clear. I can only imagine what must be going on on Train #48 today! It left Chicago some 6 hours late the previous night and just kept losing time as it progressed further in its route. At 4:58pm, we arrived into Syracuse Station. Several people boarded here as my coach really started to fill up. From what I could see, still only two coaches were open on the train, the front two will likely be open at Albany as this becomes an Unreserved train from Albany to New York and since it’s the last scheduled train to New York, it will likely fill up greatly there.
   At 5:02pm, we left Syracuse, Train #48 was still ahead of us. A few speed restrictions would slow us down but not by much. Our conductor made lots of clear announcements of when the train would arrive at the various stops, something that makes things much easier especially for those who aren’t familiar with train travel as it helps them figure out when they will arrive at their stop if the train isn’t running on time. We left Rome, NY, our next stop at 5:39pm, running 38 minutes late. Upon arriving at Utica, our next stop, Empire Service Train #283 arrived into the station with P32AC-DM #701 for power. The P32’s are still making the Empire Service runs to Niagara Falls as they have been pretty much since their purchase by Amtrak. We left Utica at 5:57pm, still 39 minutes late. I paid attention to my GPS to see which towns we passed through as it was now well past sunset and the only thing visible outside the train were streetlights and not much else. We left Amsterdam, our next stop at 6:53pm. At CP-169, just about 8 miles East of Amsterdam, we entered the CSX Hudson Subdivision and our train shot up to over 90mph as this section of track is designed for high speed trains. As we passed the Dragging Equipment Detector in Scotia, NY, my GPS read 97mph, amazing, and you could really feel it going that fast. What’s more amazing, and this takes a good engineer to do, we practically coasted to a stop from Scotia at around 97mph to the Station in Schenectady, not bad! After departing Schenectady at 7:14pm, an announcement was made for all passengers continuing on to points south of Albany that they could get off the train and smoke if they wanted to as Albany is a service stop and crew change point for The Maple Leaf. As we passed by the Rensselaer Yard and shops, I noticed a couple train sets with solid Amfleet cars and P32AC-DM’s for power, likely being put up for the night. There were also a couple P42’s as well as a couple P40’s sitting there, probably as protect power. I overheard on the scanner that our train crew wasn’t sure if we would have to wait outside the station in Albany until Train #48 which eventually did get there, was done with its own station work. Instead, we pulled into the Albany-Rensselaer Station on Track #2, the far track from the station itself at 7:39pm, just 39 minutes late.
   I got off the train, and said goodbye to the crew who told me to please come back and ride again soon! I took a night photo of Train #448 which was sitting on the Main Track nearest the station. Due to a freight derailment near Worcester, MA as well as this train’s extreme lateness, a decision was made to bus people to Boston thus the train had no passengers left on it once it left the platform in Albany. It appeared that Train #48 would end up going to New York. It ended up arriving there some 9 hours late. A new locomotive as well as one more coach were added to Train #64 after I got off. Rich and I went back to Amsterdam to visit Russo’s Grille, a local restaurant that is frequented by railfans in the area thanks to its good view of the main line, afterwards, I checked into my hotel, the Days Inn in the Village of Colonie. I paid about $58.00 for the room as it was an internet special, the room was clean and neat. And so ends a very long day…
   I got up around 8:00am and had the free continental breakfast in the hotel lobby. I then got on the internet to check out some bus schedules as I would be riding around town all day on local transit buses. At 11:00am, I checked out of the hotel, then took 2 buses to the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station where I had my luggage stored, picked up a copy of the latest issue of Trains Magazine and rode 2 more buses back to the Crossgates Mall as I wanted to go there to buy a set of DVD’s as well as some new headphones. After spending a couple hours at the mall, I took another two buses back to the train station. I photographed Train #251 which had a Turboliner Set in the consist. It was starting to get rather cold out so I waited inside for a bit until my friend showed up. We took a drive down NY Rte. 9J which parallels the Hudson Line for a distance, a nice road for railfanning.
   When we got back to the station, a quick check of Train #49’s status showed that it left New York at 4:05pm, 1 hour and 15 minutes late and couple that with the fact that between Hudson and Albany, all of the signals were out, slowing down all trains even further! When signals are out, by rule, every signal is a Stop And Proceed Signal. To add insult to injury, Train #257 which was in front of Train #49, had its crew outlaw at 7:00pm, another headache!

Amtrak's Station in Niagara Falls, NY as viewed on a very snowy January 12th, 2004 from the street side.

Another view of the station, this time looking from the main platform which is set away from the station building.

The Black Rock Toll Barrier on the New York State Thruway's Niagara Section (I-190). The CSX Niagara Subdivision, the line we were on when this photo was taken, parallels the Thruway through here...

The Peace Bridge, connecting Buffalo with Fort Erie, Ontario Canada. An architectural masterpiece! I've bikerode over this bridge several times when going to spend a day in Canada!

A night photo of Train #448 - The Lake Shore Limited - Boston Section. This train never made it past Albany tonight due to arriving over 8 hours late, as well as a freight derailment on the CSX Boston Line. Passengers on this train were bustituted the rest of the way to Boston and Intermediate points. (Photography Note: I had no tripod to take this photo so I set up the camera on top of my luggage, sometimes you have to make do with what you have!)

The Days Inn on Wolf Road in The Town Of Colonie, in suburban Albany. I stayed here on this trip as well as on a school trip back in 1998. This is a nice, clean, and relatively inexpensive hotel in the Albany area.

I always thought a photo like this provides a sense of location. This is looking West on NY Rte. 5 where I-87 crosses over and connects.

Just before sunset, Amtrak Train #251 arrives at Albany-Rensselaer Station with a Turboliner Train Set.
   At 7:25pm, 2 hours late, Train #49 arrived into Albany. At around 7:45pm, our boarding call was made. Right away, I noticed something very different about this train, the entire New York Section’s coaches as well as the Café Car in the Boston Section, were Horizon Fleet! These cars are very rarely ever found on this train. I can only remember three times in 30 trips where I’ve ever seen Horizon Equipment on the Lake Shore! I asked a couple members of the crew as to why we received this equipment, and I was only told that it had something to do with “equipment shortages?” The consist for tonight's train is shown at the bottom of this page.
   I boarded Horizon Fleet Coach #51003, a refurbished 60 Seat Long-Distance coach with green seats, foot rests as well as 2 AC outlets at each seat. Upon inspection of the other two Horizon Coaches, I found one still in it’s 84 seat Commuter configuration and it had no AC Outlets, not the best for overnight travel but it’ll have to do. The café car tonight was also a Horizon Fleet Car that came from the West Coast as it was labeled “San Luis Obispo” under it’s number. San Luis Obispo is the northernmost city on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner Route and has two trains from San Diego serving it each day.
   At 7:55pm, we were out of Albany-Rensselaer, running 1 hour and 50 minutes late. I got settled into my seat, and set up my laptop to start writing my travelogue again. Our Conductor tonight was the same one I had yesterday on The Maple Leaf, so once again we recognized each other right away. He told me where everything was in the train and was very friendly. I started chatting with a passenger sitting across from me who was moving back to Buffalo from somewhere down South. He thought my GPS was interesting. Once I got it set up, it was interesting to see how fast we were going, though it was significantly slower out of Albany than yesterday when I came into town on The Maple Leaf.
   We left Schenectady, our next stop at 8:17pm, running 1 hour and 37 minutes late. After passing the Scotia Detector my GPS read 70mph. In Fonda, NY, our train stopped at a road crossing to provide a new crew for the significantly late Train #64. I went over to the Dining Car for dinner and was seated with a former Teacher from Rochester and a young couple from Syracuse who were all on their way home from various trips. I decided to have the Delmonico Steak this time for dinner. I had the steak, which came with Mashed Potatos, Rice Pilaf, and Corn. I had a Diet Pepsi to drink and an Ice Cream Sundae for dessert. Total cost for dinner was $21.75 and the steak was absolutely delicious. We all had some very interesting conversations at dinner. Our seating was the last one as the car was closing down as we were finishing our meals.
   At Utica, we left there at 9:47pm, now 1 hour and 50 minutes late. I relaxed at my seat and typed a bit on the laptop as not much else was happening and freight traffic was minimal. We left Syracuse at 10:49pm, now 1 hour and 43 minutes late. My coach started to empty out by then. There was a fair amount of people getting off in Buffalo who were seated in my coach. Just West of Syracuse, we slowed down for about 10 minutes as we were following a slow freight until we were able to get ahead of it. At around 11:00pm, the Café Car closed down early. Our conductor said it was due to an “Amtrak Rules Violation”, to which I found out later that it was due to a few drunk passengers who were causing trouble there. I was full after dinner so I really didn’t need anything from the Café Car anyway. We left Rochester at 12:17am, having lost a few minutes due to the slow running back near Syracuse. I had a very interesting conversation with the passenger sitting across from me about music. A few people joined in and it turned out to be a very interesting exchange of thoughts and ideas on the strange impact music has on all of our lives. By the time I heard the Lancaster Detector on my scanner, I started packing things up as it was just about time for me to get off. At 1:19am, running 1 hour and 39 minutes late, we arrived into Buffalo-Depew Station and so ends my 30th Trip on Amtrak in just over 7 years.
   In conclusion: With this trip being my 30th, I decided to board from Niagara Falls as I had yet to cover the trackage between there and Buffalo-Exchange St. It is very interesting to see where that line runs and what is visible from the train. The ride to Albany was decent. I can see that Amtrak uses mostly the “No-Frills” equipment on The Maple Leaf as the only Capstone Car on the train was behind the engine and it was closed off. Having a GPS makes the trip more interesting as you can see exactly where you are on a map, and how fast you’re going, very cool! Albany was neat, though very cold! The hotel I stayed at was decent, though next time I’ll book a Non-Smoking Room as the internet special I had was for a smoking room and I don’t smoke so such a room really isn’t necessary for me. The ride home was excellent despite being almost two hours late. More or less, we didn’t lose much time as we traveled across the state. The Horizon Fleet Coaches on The Lake Shore Limited were different, I still never found out why we had such equipment other than Amtrak’s two-word answer. Until next time, when I’ll take a trip in hopefully warmer spring weather, Happy Railfanning…
Amtrak's Maple Leaf - Train #64 - January 12th, 2004 - 24 Axles
Amfleet I Coach
Coach (Capstone Rebuild)
Amfleet I Coach
Coach (Push-Pull)
Amfleet I Coach
Coach (Push-Pull) (My Car)
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Cafe Car
Metroliner Club Car/Business Class

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited - Train #49 - January 13th, 2004 - 82 Axles:
Heritage Baggage
Baggage (From Boston)
Viewliner Sleeper
Shore View
Sleeping Car (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From Boston)
Horizon Fleet Cafe Car
San Luis Obispo
Cafe Car (From Boston)
Horizon Fleet Coach
Coach (From New York)
Horizon Fleet Coach
Coach (From New York)
Horizon Fleet Coach
Coach (From New York)
Heritage Diner
Dining Car (From New York)
Viewliner Sleeper
Imperial View
Sleeping Car (From New York)
Horizon Fleet Coach
Coach (From New York) (Deadheading To Chicago)
Heritage 10/6 Sleeper
Pacific Forest
Crew Dorm/Lounge Car (From New York)
Heritage Baggage
Baggage Car (From New York)
ExpressTrak Reefer
Reefer Car
ExpressTrak Reefer
Reefer Car
Road Railers (6)