For Friends of Amtrak
Here is the itinerary for my recent trip from Hollywood, FL to New York via Chicago and Detroit. [Why go directly when you can take a nice indirect route?]
February 21, 1998-
Lv. Toledo 2:10 AM --Amtrak #48, "Lake Shore Limited"
Ar. New York 3:41 PM
After two weeks in South Florida I was ready to move on again. Back in September, when this trip had been planned, my wife and I had agreed that I would return to New York after two weeks and would come back to Florida late in March, after which we would drive home together. This was before Amtrak had redrawn the "Explore the USA" fare map. Thus I could book a "one zone" trip originating Hollywood, FL routed via Orlando, New Orleans, Chicago, Ann Arbor/Detroit area and on to New York on Train #48 from Toledo. Then, late in March, I would travel NYP-HOL on the Silver Star. My stopovers would be at Chicago, Pontiac, MI., and New York City. There also would be a 2 1/2 hour layover between the Silver Star and the Sunset at Orlando.
Overall, the trip went quite well. The only one disappointment was the lunch on board my first train. Another minor complaint was the Sunset's lateness into NOL which prevented me from doing anything there--even seeing the station!
The oddessy started on Saturday, February 21. My wife, Suzanne, drove me to the Hollywood station, a ten minute ride from our condo. Train #92 was reported on time and soon the car boarding locations were announced. The train surprised me by arriving 6 minutes early. When I told the attendant my destination, he gave me a specific seat number in a car; this was an aisle seat and the window seat was occupied by someone also destined to Orlando. There were plenty of empty seats but singles were being put together so there would be double seats for those boarding further up the line. This was not a problem as there were plenty of empty window seats which I could use all the way to Orlando--in fact there was an entirely empty car which would not be loaded until that city.
Our Silver Star had an AMD-103 locomotive, 2 MHC's, a baggage car, one 10-6 sleeper as a crew dorm, two Viewliner sleepers, a heritage diner, one Amfleet II lounge car and 5 Amfleet II coaches. Based on past observations, the normal consist would be only 4 coaches; an extra probably was added for the heavy travel with families returning North from Presidents' Week school vacations. After getting settled in, I started checking for the whereabouts of other trains on the line. Amtrak #89, Silver Palm, passed just north of the Tri-Rail Cypress Creek station on the new double track section. It was about an hour late. Next, we entered the Deerfield Beach siding where we waited 11 minutes for a meet with Tri-Rail #645 which was 7" late.
While in the Deerfield siding, the middle aged, very efficient female Train Chief announced that the cafe lounge was now open. I was tempted, especially after having received a email report about the diner's lunch from a friend who had traveled from Miami to Orlando a week earlier. Nevertheless, I awaited the "First call to lunch" which came at 12:35 PM., and immediately headed to the diner. The car appeared to have a staff of only two--a waiter and a chef. The "Welcome Aboard Family Style Menu" was printed on one side of a 4" by 10" sheet of paper. Three meals were shown and there was no choice--take it or leave it. Upon seeing the lack of selections I was especially glad that I was not a sleeping car passenger paying the all inclusive premium fare! The lunch consisted of soup, tossed salad, chicken cacciatore with pasta, carrot cake and a pitcher of iced tea. However, the waiter merely took beverage orders and never delivered the pitcher of iced tea, which I assume was to be one per table, "family style." Although my friend had described the chicken cacciatore as "inedible", I wouldn't be that harsh. However, it was not very good and I really didn't enjoy biting it into and having to pick out the bones. The check was a surprise as the waiter charged me extra for my Pepsi. I admonished him that this should have been explained as I gladly would have accepted the iced tea which was neither offered nor delivered. He took the Pepsi off the bill.
My companion across the table was a lady from the Gilroy, CA area who commutes on Caltrain from there to Santa Clara. She was traveling first class from Fort Lauderdale to Kissimmee as an experiment for a cross-country trip she would be making in two months. I told her that this lunch is not typical and that most Amtrak dining cars have good to excellent food. She was a world traveler, having been to Japan and India, but was not too familiar with Amtrak. Across the aisle were two couples on long trips--one from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles, the other from Miami to Portland, OR. Like me, they were changing to #1 at Orlando.
As usual a large crowd, including many families with children, boarded at West Palm Beach. A little north of there I noticed a "wye" track which heads toward the East; this probably is the FEC connection which might be used if Amtrak routes one of its trains over that line between JAX and WPB. The colorful southbound "Florida Fun Train" was in the siding at Northfield, nearly 1 hour, 10 minutes late. The reason for at least some of the lateness of the southbound trains soon became apparent: CSX trackwork was in progress for many miles from the WPB area to Okeechobee and beyond. New ties had been placed along the right-of-way for installation and much heavy track equipment was on hand. Large spotlights indicated that at least some of the work was being performed at night; however we had a 25 mph slow order which continued for many miles.
Train #91, the southbound Silver Star, passed us at OKE; it was only about 15" late but had yet to encounter the CSX trackwork slow orders. Our arrivals at Sebring and Winter Haven were was 32 and 31 minutes late, respectively. Shortly after WTH we reached Auburndale where the train moves from the ex. SAL line to the ex. ACL toward Orlando. This entails two hand thrown switches and running via a connecting track at the edge of a small yard. The crew must have made this move many times and we consumed only 7 minutes from the arrival at the first switch headed North to departure on the ACL line headed East. The southbound Silver Meteor passed us between Kissimmee and Orlando, running about 20 minutes late. Our Orlando arrival was at 4:48 PM, only 14 minutes late if one goes by the timetable's departure time; however the train was in the station for at least 10 minutes boarding a very large crowd.
By pre-arrangement a friend was awaiting my arrival. We headed for Church St. Station and Jungle Jim's restaurant with second floor balcony almost over the tracks for some beers and a snack. We discussed numerous developments including the Florida Overland Express [FOX], which will use TGV technology for a completely new railroad line from Orlando to the Miami area and a year or two later to Tampa. The Miami terminal will be at the Intermodal Center being constructed near the Miami International Airport; this also will be served by Tri-Rail. Locations have not been chosen for most of the other stations but there will not be many. At the TGV speeds the trip will be competitive with air travel which my friend says is not good [small aircraft, high fares] in this market. In fact, negotiations are said to be underway with some airlines for use of FOX as a feeder service to their long distance/international flights at MIA. This would free up some slots at Orlando which could be put to better use.
Soon we heard a train approaching--the equipment for #1 was deadheading down from Sanford. Since #1's departure is scheduled for 6:50, we were surprised that the equipment didn't come down until 6:10. The two Genesis locomotives back-to-back were in the lead. The train continued down the line and was gone for a long time as it is "wyed" on some industrial trackage south of Orlando. It finally returned to pick up its passengers at 6:52, or exactly two minutes after it should have departed! The Superliner train had a baggage car, transition sleeper, two sleepers, diner, Sightseer Lounge and 2 coaches, one of which had a smoking lounge downstairs. Behind these were 3 deadhead cars which possibly are used west of NOL. These were 2 coaches and a sightseer lounge.
The train came to a stop and the crowd at the station headed for the doors, none of which were open. After several minutes, the Train Chief came up from the next car and opened the door but stated that nobody should board until the conductor arrives. Soon the conductor came along and stood by the door. He stated that everyone's cooperation is needed to get this train out of town since it's late. "Please have your tickets out of the envelopes [an annoying phrase one constantly hears on Amtrak] so we can collect them at the door." Thus an already late train was made even more late by collecting tickets one at a time from the baggage-laden travelers. What ever happened to the conductors who used to collect tickets while walking through the aisles? In Florida at least, Amtrak doesn't seem to have heard of that time-honored practice.
The next step was to see the car attendant who was stationed in the vestibule. Tell him your destination and he gives you a seat number. I asked for a window seat but he "couldn't guarantee it [obviously he must have known which were window seats]. Passengers for NOL were in the front part of the car; those for west of there were put in the rear portion. Those enroute to all stations before NOL were loaded in the second coach. When I went upstairs I noted that despite my specific request I had been given an aisle seat. So I just took the empty window seat. A few minutes later an elderly gentleman enroute to NOL came by looking a little confused as he must have had the number for the window seat. We started to talk and he just sat down in "my" seat. The car attendant was very courteous and helpful so I assume he simply didn't think when I requested a window seat--the main objective seems to be to put all the "singles" to the same destination together.
The Sunset Limited finally got out of Orlando at 7:12, 22 minutes late. First call to dinner was at 7:30. The diner was nicely set up and gave a nice appearance. Unlike lunch on the Silver Star, this car had an excellent menu with 5 choices which really gave 8 options since the fillet of sole could be prepared 3 different ways. I selected fillet of sole almandine which was outstanding. Seated next to me was a man from Winter Park, FL enroute to visit his ill father in Dallas. He would detrain at Houston [ll:18 PM the next evening] and take the Ambus to Dallas. He had made the trip before and knew this entails an all night bus ride, but observed that "Amtrak's buses are better and cleaner than Greyhound's." After some further conversation, we both were surprised to learn of a mutual friend in New York City. As usual, it's a small world. Across the table was a chap enroute to Lafayette, LA. Even though this train goes there, he was getting off at NOL to catch a Greyhound as "Amtrak won't check my baggage to Lafayette." I surmise he had more than could be brought on board a coach--somehow this reminded me of a trip on this same train under SP's stewardship when there was no checked baggage. The fourth dinner companion was a young man enroute to a town in Illinois near St. Louis. He lamented that he's have to take #58 to Chicago and then another train back in the same general direction to St. Louis. I asked him if the Carbondale-St. Louis Ambus would help but he didn't seem to know about it.
Following dinner, I adjourned to the Sightseer lounge where a movie was in progress. I ignored the movie and watched the night roll by with an after dinner drink. Despite being 21 minutes late at Palatka, we negotiated the back-up and arrived Jacksonville 10 minutes early at 10:12PM. My leg stretching at JAX revealed that some new coverings and canopies have been added since my last visit. Passengers now can stay under cover to get from the train platform to the station building, a welcome improvement on a rainy day. Our JAX departure was 2 minutes late at 10:39; a walk through the train indicated our coach nearly full, the second car with the "locals" about 1/2 full and the sleepers about 2/3 full. I returned to my seat and dropped off to sleep shortly thereafter.
Early the following morning, Sunday, Feb. 22, I awoke to the sensation of hail or heavy rain against the window. Indeed, it had been raining most of the night but cleared up just before Mobile. This trip I finally got to see the Big Bayou Cannot bridge; I had slept through it once and missed it another time. The breakfast menu and service were excellent. I chose the Transcontinental Omelette and enjoyed it. My breakfast companion was a lady enroute from Tampa to Los Angeles to visit her sister and family. I had slept quite well but the train had lost time during the night and we were 1 3/4 hours late at Mobile where the tickets of boarding passengers were collected on the platform. Nevertheless, some veteran riders predicted an early arrival at NOL since the schedule provides 3 hours and 23 minutes to cover the 57 miles between Bay St. Louis and NOL. Thus I was looking forward to spending some time in the city between trains. Approaching Biloxi the conductor urged the passengers to "be sure to watch for the casinos at the beach--there's 12 or 13 of them." It was overcast but I did get to see a few casinos, although that's something for which Suzanne and I never have developed a taste. Slightly west of Biloxi we ran past a church which was jammed with parishioners on this Sunday morning. The vestibule was full and about 30 people were waiting outside. Next stop was Gulfport where the station is at a diamond crossing with another railroad line. One of the passengers in the lounge mentioned that this is Mardi Gras season and that the festival is celebrated in many of the smaller towns in addition to New Orleans. This became apparent just west of Gulfport where we ran slowly for a few miles as large Mardi Gras floats were on both sides of the tracks. Some of the participants pretended to throw beads into the train!
Unfortunately, I was to have but 15 minutes in The Crescent City, my shortest visit to the Big Easy. Just after Bay St. Louis we started to encounter stop and proceed signals with stop signals at the interlockings. There were many signal failures in the area, presumably because of all the stormy weather. The slow going and having to be talked past every controlled point, resulted in a 54 minutes late arrival at NOL; the 57 miles from Bay St. Louis consumed 2 hours, 24 minutes! Outside the station the crew announced that we would make an across-the-platform transfer with the City of New Orleans which would be held for us. "But please don't go into the station or you probably will be left behind." When we backed to a stop my car was not far from the rear sleepers on #58 so I was "on the ground" between the trains for less than 5 minutes.
Train 58 looked good. It was quite long as the consist becomes the Empire Builder in Chicago; thus there were a transition sleeper and additional sleeper up front. My car attendant, Tracy, was full of Mardi Gras spirit and was wearing lots of beads. Indeed, her arrival always was heralded by the clinking of the beads! Following our 14" late departure, she stopped by with a cheerful greeting and furnished the usual basic information about the train. Our consist was two new Genesis units pulling a baggage car, transition sleeper, regular sleeper, diner, 2 coaches, Sightseer lounge, 2 coaches, and 2 sleepers. All except the baggage car were Superliners. The rear sleeper, #32050, had a different interior decor; with the carpeting removed from the wall and ceiling areas. I should think the carpeting would be preferable as it absorbs sound and is softer on the people who inevitably will bump into it.
Quite a few of the passengers were young people returning from Mardi Gras and many were wearing beads they had purchased or caught during the parades. Dark clouds were on the horizon indicating more rain which soon came; however there were no signal failures. A 32 minute delay was encountered at Manahee Siding [MP 875] awaiting southbound #59. I assume the Dispatcher changed the meet to this location so as not delay #59 but it was a substantial delay for us. We also passed and overtook several freights which were tucked away in sidings for us.
The Train Chief made a most unusual announcement about 4:30: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in the State of Mississippi. Since it is a Sunday, we are not allowed to serve liquor in that state. So there will be no more liquor served in the lounge or dining cars until we reach Memphis, TN, about 10:45 tonight." I couldn't help wonder why the otherwise efficient crew didn't give about a 1/2 hours' warning so one could purchase a drink while still in Louisiana? Dinner was excellent; I had the NY Steak with a baked potato. No sign of curtailed dining car service on this train! My dinner companions were three young men from the Memphis area who were returning from the Mardi Gras festivities. Following dinner I watched the dark countryside roll by from the lounge car before taking a shower downstairs and turning in for the night. The shower stall had a decal warning that the water temperature cannot be adjusted; yet there is a handle to do just that! The only problem is that one must push the water button several times before any hot water reaches the shower from the water heater--perhaps that is what the decal is attempting to warn about.
I returned to my room shortly before arrival at Memphis. since I was on the left side of the car, I wanted to view the trolley extension which has been constructed along the IC through this area. Nothing was apparent until we pulled out of the station, now only 15 minutes late. Much of the land just west of the station has been leveled. After departing, the trolley line and stations came into view. Some stations were illuminated, others were under construction. Eventually the trolley swings on to the former Southbound IC main track and appeared to continue for several miles North of downtown. This ride is quite scenic as the Mississippi River often is in sight and the train traverses some sharp curves just North of Central Station. Nearly all IC freights use an inland route with the River Line being used only by Amtrak and presumably a local freight.
The motion of the train lulled me off to sleep about 11:30. I awoke to "Monday morning Illinois Central Rail" about 6:45. Soon we were arriving Champaign 7 minutes early! Tracy, the car attendant, wished me a cheery "good morning" and offered to bring breakfast to "save the long walk to the diner." "No, thank you--I always enjoy walking through trains and meeting people in the diner." Breakfast was another delicious meal--scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon. I commented to my companions that all of this probably is unhealthy and that my daughter would be upset if she saw me eating like this. They agreed but observed that you're entitled to do this once in awhile. They were an elderly couple from Winona, MS and a businessman from Fulton, KY, enroute to Chicago. The four coaches had been loaded as follows: (1) CHI passengers, (2) passengers enroute to points between Memphis and Kankakee, (3) Memphis and (4) Jackson. Some "Chicagos" had boarded during the night but cars (3) and (4) were only about 1/3 full in the morning. After waiting for time at Champaign we were on time at all succeeding stations and arrived Chicago Union Station on time at 9:35 AM, after executing a double back up move to be headed forward into the station. The train must face forward so as to be ready for its 2 PM departure as the Empire Builder. Overall, a fine trip and my first Northbound ride on this route in many years.
On Thursday, Feb. 26th I arrived at Union Station at 1:35 PM in ample time to get a bag lunch at McDonalds [one never knows when the on-board snack bar will open and what it will have in stock] and board my Amtrak train to Ann Arbor at 2 PM.
My ticket for this train read Chicago-Pontiac, MI. Some time after it was purchased, two friends in the area suggested meeting the train in Ann Arbor and having dinner at the Gandy Dancer Restaurant, located in the old NYC station adjacent to the Amtrak station. The next day we would take a morning train from Pontiac to ARB, have lunch and return to Detroit where their car would be parked. Thus I thought I would attempt to obtain a stopover on my Pontiac ticket with the hope of using it the next day.
The fun started at the train gate. About 1:53 the so-called "boarding process" for the 2 PM departure started. First while everyone is surging toward the gate, comes a long announcement about how everyone will get on but in an orderly manner. "So, first class passengers and those with children should now board. All others must wait. The first class people paid $14 more for their tickets." A second such announcement was made before the large crowd of "regular" passengers was allowed to board. And just as the mob was starting to move, a young woman with 3 children, one in a stroller, came running up. If this process is to be used, it seems to me that the gate should be opened more than 7 minutes before departure time and a positive approach ["we are now preboarding families with children"] should be used instead of constantly telling people what they CAN'T do.
Eventually everyone got on and we departed almost on time only to have to wait for a signal at the end of the platform until 2:07 PM. The train consisted of a P32BWH unit, baggage car, 4 Horizon Fleet coaches, an Amfleet 1/2 table snack bar and 1/2 custom coach and a baggage/cab car (ex. F40). The interiors were clean but the exteriors looked as though the equipment had not been washed for some time. One coach was empty, another full of Detroit passengers, another with ARB customers and the other with those destined for all other points. The custom coach was nearly full.
The train crew consisted of a male conductor and female assistant conductor whose build and mannerisms reminded me of an attorney I had once worked with. When I asked her for a stopover she radioed the conductor for help. He soon arrived and said that I can get off anyplace I want but he must keep the ticket. "You in the Midwest now, not the East". OK, no problem, I'll just buy an ARB-DET ticket tomorrow for the other train. However he continued on with some long story as he obviously liked to hear himself talk. He also made some very long announcements, most of which were attempts at humor. Each station announcement concluded with something like, "and thank you for riding Ammmmmtrrrrakkkkkk." He also explained that the line is single track so we sometimes must pull into a siding to let another passenger or freight train safely pass us. "When that happens I will tell you as an inforrmmmmed passenger is a relaxxxed passenger." I could have had my lunch at the snack bar as it was well stocked and staffed by a friendly lady.
The train operation went quite well. The dispatchers were on top of things as we had non-stop meets with #353 at Michigan City, #365 about 10" down west of Kalamazoo and #355 west of Albion. Train 365, the International, had a VIA F40 and 3 Superliners. We were on time into KAL and remained either on time or ahead of schedule the rest of the trip. Despite the many grade crossings, I clocked a few 44 second miles at various locations. The run through Battle Creek is over the Grand Trunk trackage; as we headed back on to the NYC I entered new trackage for me as I never had ridden between Battle Creek and Detroit--Milwaukee Jct.. Our arrival in ARB was 8 minutes early; my friends were amazed at this but attributed it to the extra 20 minutes recently added to the schedule of this train. We then adjourned to the next- door Gandy Dancer for a most enjoyable dinner and conversation, followed by a drive across the border to Windsor, Ontario, where I would be their overnight guest..
The following morning, Friday, Feb. 27, we left at 7AM, had breakfast and headed over to the "States", in particular the New Center area where the new Amtrak station is located on the GTW. There we boarded a SMART bus [Route 450] for the 1 hour, 20 minutes ride to Pontiac. The bus got quite full and the sky opened up as we bumped along Woodward Ave. The outside looked even darker than it was as the bus has one of those wraparound ads; it was much brighter looking out the front window even though the driver's windshield wiper didn't work. So much for safety. Fare was $1.50, same as in NY or CHI. At Pontiac we walked several blocks in the rain to a Transportation Center which opened shortly before SEMTA discontinued the commuter trains! Greyhound, Amtrak and some local buses now use it.
We photographed #353 arriving from the "yards" from under the station canopy. The consist and crew were the same as yesterday's #352 so Julien got to enjoy the conductor's announcements, including how to use the on-board telephone. "You must swwipppe your card, you can't punch it or con it." Only 4 passengers boarded at Pontiac. At Birmingham 9 more were on hand and had to wait in the rain until the crew suddenly realized we were there and opened a door. [Well, at least they didn't collect the tickets on the platform!] Next came Royal Oak where 7 people lined up at a door and the crew opened a different door after the train sat there for about 2 minutes. This crew was not equipped to deal with large numbers of customers. They kept insisting that those traveling together sit together as we have 450 getting on and only 4 coaches. What they missed was that about 50 were detraining at Ann Arbor and others elsewhere so they would not have 450 on the train at any one time. Another interesting aspect was that those who boarded at the GTW stations with reservation numbers were asked how much fare they were quoted over the phone and were charged on that basis. Thus a knowledgeable person could defeat Amtrak's yield management and get the lowest fare.
The crew also made constant announcements about all the" rules" and the oft- repeated "have your tickets out of the envelopes" refrain. Did anyone ever hear that on an airline?
A good number--57--boarded at Detroit. Many were in a senior citizens' group enroute to an art exhibit in Ann Arbor. A very large crowd boarded at Dearborn and, once again, the doors were opened late and not at the locations where the passengers had been told to stand. Ann Arbor arrival was at 11:50 and the train, due out at 11:49, was in the station until 11:56 detraining and boarding large crowds through 2 doors. The sun had come out so we got some nice shots. We ran into a mutual friend at the station; he drove us to a "New York style" deli where we had a good lunch. This was followed by a pleasant walk to the station for #350 back to Detroit. It was on time and we reached the Motor City at 3:20 after some slow running through the junctions.
We then reclaimed the car and drove to the Ren Cen area where we rode the Downtown People Mover and transacted some business. This was followed by another trip over to Canada for dinner and conversation at an excellent Italian restaurant. Then back home for an enjoyable slide show and a fast drive to Dearborn, back in the "States." We arrived just as the Ambus to TOL for the Capitol Ltd was ready to leave. We said "goodbye" when my Ambus arrived with about 15 on board. About 15 boarded at Dearborn and about 15 at Detroit, making a nearly full load. I took the seat behind the driver so as to view the scenery but fell off to sleep on the interstate. Departure was at 11:30 (OT) and Toledo arrival was 1/2 hour early at 1AM. The courteous driver announced "the station is straight ahead and your checked baggage will be transferred to the train for you.
Upon entering the Toledo station I was amazed to see a really beautiful facility. It has a large waiting room with soft bench-type seats, a ticket counter, pleasant indirect lighting and a side area with tables. The agent told me it was reopened after modernization during the summer of 1996; it is a facility of which the city can be proud. Train #30 arrived a few minutes late and about half the people in the waiting room went out to board it. It had a long consist with 6 MHC's on the rear. I explored the outside after #30 left and noted quite a few mail cars on various sidings at the station. Conrail freights were plentiful although you couldn't see them.
Shortly before #48's arrival the agent made a boarding announcement explaining where the passengers should stand. And it worked: the door to my car stopped right where I was standing. What's more, the crew had a most civilized way of boarding the riders during the middle of the night. The attendant handed each person a seat check with a seat number written on to it. He obviously knew how many were boarding and where they were going. First order of business was to wake up the woman who was spread over both seats. Next the conductor collected my ticket, the attendant gave me a pillow and it was off to sleep.
We departed TOL on time at 2:10 AM. I recall slightly awakening at CLE [4:26] where some hearty souls boarded. Many of those seated around me detrained at Buffalo at 8:10 [7:32] after which I got myself up to shave and explore the train. In addition to engines 76 and 41 noted at TOL, we had a baggage car, 10-6 as crew dorm, 2 Viewliners, Diner, Amfleet II lounge, 6 Amfleet II coaches, another Viewliner, baggage and, as noted at ALB, 2 RoadRailers. The coaches were loaded like this from front to rear: 1- NYP [full], 2-some upstate, some NYP [full], 3-[my car] some NYP and many BUF [1/3 full after BUF], 4-empty, 5-B&A other than BOS [full] and 6-BOS [full].
It now was time for breakfast. My table companions were a sales rep returning to Springfield, MA from a town in rural Michigan and a businesswoman enroute from Seattle to attend a conference in New York. The three of us enjoyed our breakfasts while discussing the advantages of rail travel. I told them they need not try to convince me--there's nothing better than a well run train. And this train on this day indeed was very well run. Snow was on the ground between Rochester and Syracuse and it appeared quite cold outside. Several photographers were spotted on hillsides and at bridges wearing ski masks and taking in the beautiful winter scene-- perhaps for next year's Christmas card! Indeed it was a beautiful scene as we glided through the snow covered hills of Upstate New York.
Only about 10 had boarded at Buffalo. About 20 on at ROC and 30 at SYR. No NYS&W trains were in evidence at their Carousel Mall station in SYR but we did pass countless Conrail freights and overtook a train with CN and GT power just west of Utica. A new waiting area is being built there so as to allow access to the station building without exposure to the elements. Ex. Auto-Train equipment and an ex. Metro-North RDC were parked on the NYS&W at Utica. Soon we glided through the snow covered Mohawk Valley; what more could you want- put your feet up, relax and alternate between the view out the magic window and a good magazine! All too soon came the announcement of the train split at Albany--"After Schenectady I will lock the doors between the two sections, be sure you're in the right car." As we crossed the Hudson River bridge, a long D&H [CP power] freight was passing underneath on the Albany side. ALB arrival was 5 minutes late at 12:50 and the station staff immediately set to work. The train now is made up so that the rear cars are the Boston section; after the NY section's engines were replaced with a 700 series Genesis [with 3rd rail shoes] the cut was made and we soon were on our way. At ALB I had noticed the 2 RoadRailers on the rear; I don't know if they went to SPG, BOS or were dropped at ALB.
Train 48 no longer carries local riders between ALB and NYP and makes only one intermediate stop, Croton-Harmon. In fact the trip now is scheduled for 2 1/2 hours which we beat by 15 minutes! The always-scenic ride down the Hudson went fast and soon the conductor was announcing a possible delay awaiting a northbound Amtrak train [#283, Empire State Exp.,] coming over the single track Spuyten Duyvil bridge. The Empire was right on the money and the Metro- North dispatcher was watching the board so we only slowed down a little and then headed on the Amtrak West Side line at CP 12. Arrival in NYP was 15 minutes EARLY at 3:26 PM. Since I had checked my bag at Dearborn there was a 15 minute wait for the luggage. Then a fast subway ride over to Grand Central and I was on board the 4:10PM Metro-North New Haven Line Stamford local back home to Larchmont, NY, arriving on time at 4:46. My daughter was there to meet me, thus ending another enjoyable rail trip.
By Walter Zullig, Jr.
Edited by Craig S. O'Connell
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