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Buffalo To Sandusky, OH On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
Fall Amtrak Vacation Trip 2006
Buffalo To Sandusky, OH
On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
Thursday-Friday, September 21st-22nd, 2006

Amtrak's Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited taking an "extended" break in
Cleveland, OH on Friday, September 22nd, 2006.
Trip Planning & The First Train Ride Of The Trip:
   I started planning this trip in June 2006. This would be the 15th straight year I would be visiting Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH and I wanted to do something big! I’ve been a member of Amtrak Guest Rewards now for a few years and had hoped I’d have enough rewards points to put together a decent trip. I found out a little known trick that allowed me to immediately get 5000 points into my account! I have a membership with Continental Airlines Frequent Flier program and had over 5000 points on that account. It turns out that Amtrak and Continental are partners and thus I could transfer the points to my Guest Rewards account! I’ve heard of this being done before so I figured I’d give it a try. One phone call to Continental had me get 5000 points transferred very easily into my account, and with the points I already had, I found I could take a cross-country trip!!! The last time I rode cross-country was in 2002 using the Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief and Pacific Surfliner trains, this was one of the best trips I ever took on Amtrak and thus I wanted to try to top it! I was able to get 12 days off from work so I could make a decent cross-country ride along with go to Cedar Point. I studied several different itineraries and learned a great deal about how Guest Rewards operates in the process.
   First off, I checked out to see where the zones are cut off with the Guest Rewards program since this program operates based on 3 zones covering the entire country along with a 4th zone for just the Northeast. I first found out that when you schedule a trip with this system, it can’t include stopovers unless you want to use more of your points to continue the trip. Second, this system is obviously designed for regular traveling passengers and NOT railfans! The system will route you on the shortest route between Point A and Point B which is perfectly fine for the general public but for a railfan like me, this ain’t gonna work! The reservations system operates the same way for this as for general tickets, it will route you to your destination using the shortest route. This meant that I would ride the Lake Shore to Chicago, the Southwest Chief out of Chicago to Fullerton which was my final destination. I covered this route in 2002 and wanted to try something different. I tried to start my “free trip” from Milwaukee, WI, with still no luck since it put me on a Hiawatha train back to Chicago then onto the Chief to Fullerton. After some more “experimenting” I was able to get the routing I wanted by starting my “free trip” from Columbus, WI. The routing that way was exactly what I wanted, to ride The Empire Builder to Portland, OR, initially from Chicago, then the Coast Starlight to LA and a Surfliner to Fullerton. The plan finally worked, I just had to get a little creative. I ended up paying for tickets to get me from Buffalo to Sandusky, OH, then from Sandusky to Chicago then Chicago to Columbus, WI. The total cost for those tickets was $84.50 with my AAA Discount. The ticket from Columbus, WI on the same train to Portland, the ticket on the Starlight and Surfliner to Fullerton along with a side round trip from Fullerton to San Diego cost me NADA!!! Due to time constraints I planned to fly home. I Thanks to the internet, I was able to get a $99 one-way internet fare on Southwest Airlines to fly back home to Buffalo. My flight would originate at Ontario, CA with one layover at Chicago Midway Airport. I did all of this planning in late June 2006 so as to get the best fares available. I also planned to rent 2 cars on this trip. In the past, I've never rented more than one car. I had a car reserved for me in Sandusky, OH and another in Placentia, CA where I will be staying while visiting family there, both cars rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. My hotel in Sandusky this year would be the Best Western Cedar Point Area which is a new hotel for me but not the first Best Western I’ve stayed at. All I had to do was wait for late September to arrive. In addition to the planning for this trip as mentioned before I did some additional planning. To supplement some meals on the train, I made a drive over to Auburn, NY to pick up some Heater Meals from Bass Pro Shops, one of the only places that sells these things!!! (Also, it was the closest Bass Pro Shop location to Buffalo!) I had much success with them on my last trip and decided to bring them on this trip.
   Fast forward now to September 21st, 2006. I left my car with my parents so they could drive it while I was on vacation and my parents (Thanks again for driving me to the station at such a late hour!) drove me to the Buffalo Depew Station where I arrived around 11:15pm. I brought my 2 suitcases, camera bag, laptop and tripod into the station and had a nice conversation with a couple from Elmira, NY on their way to Salt Lake City, UT! After chatting about Amtrak for a bit, I grabbed my gear and headed for the platform where I chatted some more with 2 railfans while I set up my tripod and camera for a night photo of the train coming through the station. I tried a different photo trick this time doing a "time exposure" where the train would move and the camera would capture a "blur" image. The end result of this "experiment" is shown to the right. The train arrived in Buffalo at 12:10am. After getting my picture, I walked down the platform and boarded Amfleet II Coach #25105, I found 2 empty seats and put away my luggage and started chatting with a passenger sitting across from me who was going to Chicago where he lived, we had a very nice conversation until we left Buffalo. We had to make a double spot at the station to take on water and at 12:43am, we were out of Buffalo over an hour late! Our Assistant Conductor made an announcement in the coach for all of us about train services. Afterwards I took down the rest of the car numbers. We had 5 coaches in the train tonight which was unusual but I would later find out why. The Capitol Limited was being turned around at Connellsville, PA due to a mudslide on the Norfolk Southern line near Pittsburgh with a bus substituting the run to Cleveland where our train would pick up 35 of their passengers. I headed to the Café Car to start writing this travelogue with my laptop. I had rode with the Counductor and AC on this train before as I had recognized them both right away. The consist for tonight's train is shown at the bottom of this page.
   Since we left Buffalo, we were on Track #2 until CP-49 where we moved to Track #1. Not much happened as we arrived and departed Erie, PA. I sat in the Café car and chatted with a couple other passengers after writing some of this travelogue before eventually heading back to my coach. I kept the scanner on and found there wasn’t too much traffic but lots of slow orders on CSX between Erie and Cleveland. When we got into the Eastlake area near Cleveland, we found out we had to wait for #48 to get over the Drawbridge and into the Cleveland station. CSX stopped us at CP-167 and we would be there for at least 40 minutes before #48 passed us along with 2 freights and we would be on our way again, only to get stopped again a few miles down the tracks! Passing through Collinwood yard in Cleveland, there wasn’t much going on at this hour, however I did notice right away that gasoline in Northeast Ohio is as much as 50 cents a gallon cheaper than it is in New York!!! Example, I filled up my Honda Accord last night for $2.68 a gallon in New York and found most stations in Cleveland were charging about $2.18 a gallon!
   At 4:40am, we would FINALLY arrive in Cleveland after sitting up the tracks for so long! I asked our AC (Assistant Conductor) if there was enough time to run in the station to get a Diet Pepsi from the vending machine as I was getting tired and needed a caffeine boost. I picked up a Diet Pepsi and a package of Peanunt M&M’s. It was as I was running to the vending machine that things would really start to get interesting here. We find out that because the Capitol Limited wasn’t running north of Connelsville, PA, that not only would we be picking up a total of 35 passengers in Cleveland part of which were ticketed to ride the Capitol, but an additional 69 passengers were being bussed to Cleveland from there, and that this bus was an hour away from Cleveland when we arrived there!!!!! This would mean we would have to sit at the station and wait some more for this bus to arrive!!! The conductor, in regards to our delay relayed the message to everyone else and told the engineer who in turn called the NS Dispatcher and gave back our signal at Drawbridge since we weren’t going anywhere! The conductor then said “Let ‘em smoke”, referring to the passengers who could congregate on the platform and as Rick Moranis playing “Lord Helmet” in the Mel Brooks film “Spaceballs” once said, “Smoke If Ya Got’em”! After getting permission of the train crew, I took this idle time and used it to my advantage and took several night photos of the train while sitting in Cleveland since I don’t smoke. Passengers were being loaded into the Café Car temporarily until enough seats could be found. Eventually, everyone was seated in a coach and the Café Car even opened at around 5:30am which is early but was necessary because of this situation. This was a very smart move on the part of Amtrak to do this, give people a chance to get some food considering the lateness of the train. The train crew handled this situation with a high level of professionalism and kept everything running as best they could.
   After taking several slides of the train, I put away the camera and continued to hang out on the platform and chat with other passengers and the train crew. At around 6am, the infamous bus finally showed up and the passengers boarded, at 6:13am, now over 3 hours late, we departed Cleveland. After going over the drawbridge and now riding on NS rails, the first thing I noticed is that we picked up speed very quickly as well as the fact that NS must have done a lot of trackwork West of Cleveland as the tracks were incredibly smooth! The train was nearly full in all 5 coaches. I now had a passenger sitting next to me who was a retired teacher from Painesville, OH who was riding to Chicago. I told him and the passenger across from him, there’s no doubt that there is a very high demand for this service, I certainly wish the big shots in Washington agreed with me! We picked up a good sized crowd in Elyria and departed there after making a double spot. The sun was now coming up over the Eastern Horizon and my stop in Sandusky was coming. It was nice being able to see outside by this time as we passed through Amherst and Vermillion, OH before coming into Huron, OH which is the last town before Sandusky. I gathered my 2 suitcases, laptop, camera bag and tripod and headed for the exit. I would have 4 other passengers getting off the train with me. A better-sized crowd than in past years where I was the only person getting off the train in Sandusky!!!!! At 7:18am, running 3 hours and 13 minutes late, we arrived in Sandusky and I would get off the train and thus the first leg of this trip would come to an end.
   While standing on the platform, I pulled out my pre-made list of important phone numbers and called the Sandusky Transit System to see if I could get a bus ride to my hotel since the system was now running. I really wasn’t too upset about the lateness of the train since I was able to in fact get a bus ride to the hotel. The bus ride cost $2.00 and I was brought to my hotel, the Best Western Cedar Point Area. I specifically reserved a room with high speed internet prior to arriving. The hotel gave me an early check-in and even a free upgrade to a room with a refrigerator and microwave. When I brought my stuff into the room I noticed that though the room was an upgrade, it had no high speed internet! I politely gave back the free upgrade since the internet service was more important to me than a fridge in the room! The room I eventually got was very nice, had a King Size Bed and was clean and in good shape. The room had regular cable TV and a Ethernet plug for the high speed internet. The hotel also had a Perkins Restaurant in the lobby. At around 9am, I decided to go to bed since it was over 23 hours since I had last slept!!! And so ends an “exciting” day. Please navigate to the next page by clicking at the bottom of this page.

The end result of my "experiment" with a time exposure and a moving train! This is Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited arriving in Buffalo-Depew Station at 12:10am, Friday, September 22nd, 2006. I set up the camera and tripod on the platform and when the train arrived, opened the shutter with a cable release.

This car was on the rear end of our train, shown in Cleveland, OH shortly after what would be our "extended stay" in Cleveland. It was built by Pullman in 1914 originally for the Union Pacific. It is owned by a private operator and for many years wore the name "Cleveland". It appears to have been involved with some kind of tour with the U.S. Navy.

A wide view of the Lake Shore in Cleveland. The lights on the platform here are excellent for night photography!

The Cafe Car on tonight's train. Amfleet II Cafe Car #28007 "New York Club".

The Dining Car on tonight's train. Heritage Diner #8521, a former Southern Railway diner. One of the few still in Phase III paint.

Heritage 10-6 Sleeper now converted into a Crew Dorm/Lounge Car #2518. This car originally was built by Budd for the Santa Fe Railway and currently carries the name "Pine Shore".

At 7:18am (Yes I know it's badly underexposed but opportunities to photograph this train in Sandusky with any remote amount of daylight are nearly non-existent!) the Lake Shore Limited sits in Sandusky, OH. This photo was taken just after I had gotten off the train shortly before sunrise thanks to running over 3 hours late.
Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited - Thursday, September 21st, 2006 - 60 Axles
Car/Engine Type:
Heritage Baggage
Baggage Car
Heritage 10/6 Sleeper
Pine Shore
Crew Sleeper
Viewliner Sleeper
Sunset View
Sleeping Car
Viewliner Sleeper
Beach View
Sleeping Car
Viewliner Sleeper
Scenic View
Sleeping Car
Heritage Diner
Dining Car
Amfleet II Cafe Car
New York Club
Cafe Car
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (My Car)
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Coach
Amfleet II Coach
Platform Observation Car
Private Car