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Buffalo To Syracuse, NY on Acela Regional Empire Service

Buffalo To Syracuse, NY On Acela Regional (Empire Service)
Trains #286 & #283 - June 19th, 2002

Amtrak's Empire Service Train #286
Syracuse, New York - June 19th, 2002

Train #286 (Formerly The Empire State Express)

P32AC-DM Power
Amfleet I Cafe Car
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach

   For my 19th Amtrak Trip since 1996, I wanted to get back to Syracuse. Amtrak's web site had a 30% Off special for booking tickets online so coupled with the day off from work, I decided to venture out. Today's train had been sitting at the Buffalo-Exchange St. Station since 4:00am as there is a decent amount of trackwork being done on the CSX Niagara Branch, Amtrak decided to Taxi everyone from Niagara Falls to Buffalo-Exchange Station rather than slow down the train under the speed restrictions. Today's train's consist is shown in the table to the right. I was seated in Amfleet I Coach #21006, a red interior coach with electrical outlets at each seat, not too bad if you ask me. Immediately after we left the Downtown Buffalo Station, I pulled out my camera to get a few pictures in of what you see as you leave Downtown and head for points East. There is actually a lot to see for the railfan as you meet up with the Chicago Line at CP-437 (According to what I heard on this trip, CSX is still calling interlockings by the old Conrail Names). I actually remember on one trip hearing Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited was stopped on the Chicago Line at 437 to let 286 pass by first! That was back in 1999 not long after Conrail became only a memory in Buffalo and it was most likely because of that that there was such a delay with the Lake Shore. Once on the Main Line, you pass several sidings a couple runner tracks and S-K Yard used by CP-Rail among other railroads. The photo below shows Central Terminal as you pass it on the train. A member of the train crew was actually taking my ticket for me while I was busy photographing the old terminal! Built in 1929, the terminal is on the National Register Of Historic Places. A local group of railfans has gotten the clocks working again in the terminal's main tower and they light up bright at night. This station was home to Amtrak until the early 1980's when the station in Depew was built. There are a bunch of scenes in the Burt Reynold's movie "Best Friends" that were shot here at this station. Among them, Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn getting off an Amtrak Train here and walking around the main concourse of the building! If you want to know more about Central Terminal and its long rich history, I invite you to check out the Central Termninal Preservation Web Site. After passing the terminal and S-K Yard, you ride a little ways up the tracks past CSX's big Frontier Yard before heading into the station in Depew. On occasion, you'll see some CSX Power sitting in the yard as well as power from other roads, it is normal to see CP Rail, or even NS power in the yard. After stopping in Depew, we would pass by the first of 11 Hot Box Detectors between here and Syracuse.

   We picked up a few passengers at Buffalo-Depew before heading east, we departed on time and the weather today was beautiful, great for railfanning. I have taken this trip several times before so I really wasn't expecting any surprises. This is a very scenic trip and thanks to Amtrak, you can get in a daylong trip in Syracuse and get home in time for a late dinner. Although a little dark thanks to Amtrak's tinted windows in the Amfleet I Coaches, shown in the photo to the left is the start of the West Shore Branch at CP-389, this line runs around the south side of Rochester and is a bypass route when the Chicago Line is congested. There are some local freight businesses on the line as well. I have read stories in the past about Amtrak being diverted there if there was a wreck on the Chicago Line. As you pass by the several small towns, you see the start of some foothills and such, there's mostly farmland and lots of wide open space. You cross over the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) a few times and as I said before, pass through lots of small towns. If you like to listen to a regular FM Radio, (Always Use Headphones), you can start to pick up Rochester Radio Stations after you've passed through Batavia. The train started to slow down as we came into Rochester. The Rochester Amtrak Station is located in Downtown and uses 1 of the former New York Central Platforms. At one point, there were several more platforms in use back in the New York Central Days.

3 Views Of Downtown Rochester

We left Rochester at 10:06am, about 11 minutes late. There is a decent amount of trackwork being done on the Chicago Line in this area and there were several speed restrictions imposed because of it. At CP-359, the West Shore Branch reconnects with the Chicago Line, you pass through several more small towns on the way to Syracuse.
   We arrived in Syracuse at 11:31am, about 21 minutes late mostly due to the trackwork I mentioned earlier. Now, here's my purpose for this trip, again, a bit cheezy if you've read my travelogues before. As always, I wanted to get in some more trainwatching, and this time I wanted to visit this music store about 2 miles from the Amtrak Station! The photo to the left shows Train #286 departing Syracuse with P32AC-DM #700 on the lead. I stood at the far East end of the platform so I could get this view. This station as you can see has elevated platforms which from a railfan's perspective, are good and bad. Here's why: They're good in this case because the closest track is used only for Amtrak and the 2 mainlines are far enough away that one can get a decent "slightly above ground level" view of the train. Here's why they're bad, Amtrak stops of course on the siding closest to the platform, the good thing is, as a passenger, you don't have to step down when getting off your coach. The bad thing, as a railfan is that the elevated platform totally blocks the view of the trucks which can ruin a photo opportunity. The new station in Albany-Rensselaer is also being built like this one with elevated platforms. This tells me that Amtrak is set on never running Superliners into New York City, as if they never plan to upgrade the tunnels so there wouldn't be any height restrictions. Thankfully, there is a pavement section of the platform on each end which is semi-decent and will yield the view in the photo above. In the photo to the left is CSX Train #Q366 with C40-8W #7813 leading a GLCX Lease Unit.
   As you can see, photographing freights on the elevated platform is excellent as it provides a slightly different photo angle. I took this trip also to experiment with a new film. All of the photos in this travelogue were taken with a product by Kodak called Kodak Supra 100 Professional 35mm Print Film. I felt it did a decent job overall and I will consider using it again in the future should I need to take prints again. I normally only use slide film as it yields overall better, more saturated colors. The next photo shown to the right is another CSX freight with C40-8W #7679 on the lead. If there is one thing I've noticed since CSX stormed into town in 1999, there could be literally any combination of power on any train, I've seen coal trains with older SD40-2's and SD50's for power! My plan for today was to stay at the station until Amtrak Train #63, the Toronto-Bound Maple Leaf would arrive. This was the lone holdout in the Northeast being one of the last regular trains to exclusively use F40's for power. Since Via Rail Canada who operates this train from Niagara Falls to Toronto, now uses GE P42's, Amtrak no longer needs to supply an F40 on this train. It was a hot one, with temps in the mid-80's and it was 2 days before the first day of summer so being able to take photos when the sun's angle is the highest serves as a benchmark of how well this type of film works under that kind of light.
   As you can see, Train #63, as shown in the photo to the left, arrived in Syracuse with P40DC #812 for power. I will probably always find it odd not to see an F40 on this train, but that's progress for you! The train departed at 1:17pm, about 37 minutes late. Getting back to what I said about elevated platforms earlier, this view shows the pavement on ground level on the West end of the platform so no matter which direction the train comes in, you'll be able to get a ground level view but it still looks a little funny not being able to see the trucks on the coaches. As soon as this train left, I locked up my camera bag and headed over to the Carousel Center for lunch and then headed to a music store called Hiawatha Video which was about 2 miles from the Amtrak Station. I picked up 4 CD's there for like $20 (all were used) before heading back to the Carousel Center and the Amtrak Station where I would spend the last few hours there before my train arrived to bring me back to Buffalo. When I arrived back at the Amtrak Station, I noticed the bridge you see in the photo to the left. This is the bridge that will eventually go over a nearby street underneath Interstate 81 which is the highway on the bridge in the far right of the photo. This bridge will carry the On-Track train over to the Amtrak Station. This service is operated by the Susquehanna Railway using old Budd RDC's and connects the Carousel Center with Downtown Syracuse and Syracuse University. The sad part is that due to construction delays, this bridge is still sitting here, and If I remember correctly, it was sitting here a year ago also, so its not known when it will be finally installed. The platform for the On-Track trains is in place at the Amtrak Station and is just waiting for the bridge to be installed and the track be placed. The next train to come by had a Union Pacific SD70M #3979 on the lead. This unit is sporting its new paint scheme with the wings on the logo and the American Flag on the sides. Union Pacific has brought back the wings on its logo and is applying such a paint scheme to new locomotives. CSX has been leasing a lot of Union Pacific Power in the last couple years and it is not uncommon to see solid UP consists on CSX Freights. I know that in 1999 they did lease some 600 UP units to help with the Conrail Takeover and it seems they still are leasing them today. CSX has also leased several locomotives from Leasing companies as well. Sometimes, its pretty easy to tell what railroad owned the lease units previously, sometimes its not that simple. You can definitely count on, for the foreseeable future, seeing lots of foreign power in the Northeast on CSX. Next up was Amtrak Train #281 which arrived with P32AC-DM #703 on the lead. This train left at 5:05pm on time but I did hear some people were confused as to whether this was their train or not because Train #64 was running late. In years past, I would ride Train #281, shown in the photo to the left, home to Buffalo but I wanted to have some more time in Syracuse so I decided to ride Train #283 which would arrive in a couple hours. After reading an internet posting, I found out that not long after this photo was taken, this unit was repainted into the "Phase 5" Amtrak Paint Scheme used on all the new P42's with the new Amtrak Logo and the solid gray car body and dark blue nose. One nice thing about this hobby is being able to photograph a locomotive, then come back and photograph it again in a new paint scheme later on. Right now, Amtrak is trying to repaint several of its locomotives to spread the new logo around so get your photos while you can! Next up, after running a modest 1 hour and 31 minutes late, is Amtrak Train #64
   The Maple Leaf with P40DC #809 on the lead. This train, in the photo to the right, as I said before originates in Toronto, which means it is subject to inspection at the US/Canadian Border. It is not uncommon for this train to run late. This is something that is purely beyond Amtrak or Via Rail Canada's control, as Customs can hold the train at the border as long as they want. Thanks to some padding in the schedule though, it can make up some time en-route. The bridge above the train is Interstate 81 and due to the late afternoon sun angle, the only way to photograph this train and still see everything was to capture it under the bridge. Most all of the Empire Service trains feature Amfleet I Coaches. On rare occasion, you may find a Heritage Coach in the consist as it has happened before. And finally, here comes my train, #283 with P32 #716 on the lead. Tonight's train actually arrived 10 minutes EARLY! We sat on the platform for a few minutes before leaving so as to stay on schedule. I headed to the Cafe Car to pick up my traditional meal on the trip home. I had a pepperoni pizza and an ice cold Coors Light. It was once again a very relaxing trip home riding in an Amfleet I Coach. The trackwork and speed restrictions we had to deal with earlier today were not in place for this train so things ran a bit more smoothly. I would assume that the same would hold true for the Lake Shore Limited which would pass through here in a few hours. Every Hot Box Detector was in operation with no defects found at any detector.
   In Rochester, I noticed a sign in the window of the station that read something to the effect of in an attempt to reduce costs, the station is no longer open 24/7 like it used to be. A sign of the times with Amtrak. We left Rochester on time at 8:16pm. We were slowed down a bit just west of Churchville and lost some time there and arrived in Buffalo-Depew station at 9:34pm about 26 minutes late. On this train, as well as Train #281, the Cafe Car usually closes after you leave Buffalo-Depew Station. My stop was next at Buffalo-Exchange Street Station. We arrived at 9:47pm, about 22 minutes late and the train did run up to Niagara Falls as the speed restrictions that were in place in the morning did not apply that late at night.
   Once again, a decent trip aboard a train I'm all too familiar with having rode it several times over the last few years. At the time this travelogue was written, Amtrak received enough funding to carry it through till the end of the Fiscal Year 2002 which ends September 30th, 2002. My biggest hope is that they receive the $1.2 Billion they are asking for for Fiscal Year 2003. This money is necessary and essential to keeping the system running and at least starting to get their backlog of damaged equipment fixed and back in service. I'll close this travelogue with a picture of a beautiful sunset somewhere near Rochester, New York, until next time, Happy Railfanning!