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Buffalo To Schenectady, NY On Amtrak's Empire Service
Friday, December 6th, 2013:
  This would be my annual Christmas Shopping trip for 2013. My original plan was to take Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited from Buffalo-Depew Station to Schenectady, NY where I would rent a car from Enterprise and would be staying at the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel in Albany. My plan for the ride home was to ride Empire Service Train #281 back to Buffalo on Monday, December 9th.
  At around 2:15am Friday morning, I checked the status of Train #48 as it had left Chicago some 28 minutes late. It was now listed as having a Service Disruption. I called Amtrak only to find out there were mechanical problems with the train's two locomotives requiring work that would severely delay the train. As a result of this, I was able to switch my reservation to Empire Service Train #284 which originates out of Niagara Falls, NY and was scheduled to run on time. I would have just toughed it out on a late #48 if it weren't for the fact that I had a rental car waiting for me in Schenectady and they closed at 6:00pm. Considering that late trains tend to just get later, I felt it was a wiser choice to just take Train #284. Even though I wouldn't get to ride in the dining car as this train doesn't have one (it does however have a cafe car), it still would end up being a good ride!
  I arrived at about 7:35am at Buffalo-Depew Station and found that Train #284 was running on time. After a quick chat with a couple Amtrak employees I know personally, I headed outside to the platform. At 7:56am, Train #284 arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station with GE P32AC-DM #717 for power. The consist for today's train is as follows:
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Coach (My Car)
Amfleet I Cafe Car
Cafe/Business Class
  At 8:03am, Train #284 departed Buffalo-Depew Station running 4 minutes late. Train #48 was around 3 hours late by the time we left Buffalo so it looks like this was a good decision to switch to this train. Shortly after departing Buffalo, I headed to the cafe car to have breakfast. I planned on spending like $20.00 on breakfast in the dining car had I rode the Lake Shore so I had 2 Jimmy Dean Sausage, Egg & Cheese sandwiches and a Diet Pepsi for breakfast. Those sandwiches are actually quite tasty considering they were heated in the microwave! I had a nice chat with the crew and showed them this web site while working on the travelogue. The ride was uneventful which is always a good thing, having had only one minor speed restriction that I could see. We arrived at the next stop of Rochester, NY at 8:55am and with a good-size crowd boarding including one passenger who needed assistance as he had a wheelchair. Amtrak has a really neat elevator unit to lift the wheelchair up to the level of the vestibule in the Amfleet I coaches on this train. During the time passengers were boarding, I was able to get in some good photos in Rochester. Amtrak is eventually planning to replace the Rochester Station with an all new station and elevated platforms on a dedicated siding near the site of the current station which opened in 1978. We departed Rochester at 9:04am, running 7 minutes late, no big deal.
  I returned to the cafe car and continued chatting with the crew. We eventually went through an area where there were lots of Blue Heron nests near CP-313 at Center Port, NY. Eventually, we arrived at the next stop of Syracuse, NY at 10:16am. Because once again, we were having a very good run and had little freight interruption, we were early into Syracuse, which for me means only one thing, TIME FOR MORE PICTURES!!! I stepped off the train to get a few photos and at 10:30am, running on time, we departed Syracuse with the next stop for this train coming up at Rome, NY. I headed back to the cafe car to continue this travelogue. We had to stop at CP-270 to let CSX Train Q-236 pass as we were entering a work area. We just kept moving from then on. Our next stop was Rome, NY where we arrived at 11:20am and departed at 11:21am only 5 minutes late. Next up was our next stop of Utica, NY. The train would arrive there at 11:34am and would be on Track #1 which is further away from the station building though it's closer to the equipment parked at Utica Union Station that belongs to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for which Utica is its southern terminus. After taking a few more photos, I reboarded the train and we departed Utica at 11:41am, only 2 minutes late, again, no big deal.
  I decided to have lunch now. The Conductor recommended the Turkey & Gouda Wrap so I took his advice and had that along with a Caesar Salad and a Diet Pepsi. The wrap and the salad were excellent!!! This has been an excellent ride so far with the train running just about on time and everyone in good spirits during this Holiday Season! The Conductors on this train were extremely customer-friendly and having a good crew like that really enhances the quality of the ride. We eventually passed through the small town of Yosts, NY where a very interesting house resides that appears to be made from scrap building materials. It is quite strange, but very cool to see! Other than a couple speed restrictions, there were no serious issues that would slow down the train. We made our next stop at Amsterdam at 12:41pm. The station building is being retrofitted to make it ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant. We departed Amsterdam at 12:42pm, running 3 minutes late. We eventually passed CP-169 which is where the line is now operated by Amtrak all the way to Poughkeepsie where Metro-North Railroad takes over. At 1:00pm, running 4 minutes early, we arrived at Schenectady, NY.
  I chatted briefly with the Conductors and the train departed Schenectady on time at 1:09pm. Because Empire Service Train #281 was set to arrive shortly after Train #284 departed, I decided to hang out at the station to photograph Train #281. A friend of mine picked me up and we headed over to a nearby deli for a "real" lunch. I then checked out a hobby shop in Schenectady but they didn't have what I was looking for, so I then went to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Schenectady to pick up my rental car. This year, I would get a blue Volkswagen Jetta. After leaving Enterprise, I drove to the Courtyard By Marriott hotel on Washington Avenue in Albany across from the University of Albany. After checking into the hotel and putting gas in the rental car, I drove to a nearby Wal-Mart to go get some drinks for the hotel as well as one of the gifts I needed to buy.
  Due to a minor mechanical issue with one of the wiper blades, I had to return the rental car back to Enterprise and they upgraded me to a 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid as a replacement for this car, no questions asked!!! Also to their credit, they set up the car with a full tank of gas but only required me to bring it back with a half tank, which I believe was totally fair, considering how much gas I put in the other car. This would be the first hybrid car I had ever driven and it had Sirius XM Radio in it as well. All I can say was, this would be an excellent car to have for the weekend!!! After picking up the new car, I drove back to Wal-Mart (never even got out of the car the first time I arrived there), got the groceries and the gift, then drove back to the hotel to continue writing this travelogue. I completed the evening having some of the hottest boneless wings on the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings, then would return to the hotel and call it a day. On the next page, you'll find some photos taken today on this leg of the trip, Enjoy...