The Lake Shore or the Empire?
An Amtrak Competetion between Syracuse and New York-Penn.
by Jeremiah Cox, February 15, 2005
I took the Lakeshore Limited from Syracuse, New York, to New York Penn Station on February 15, 2005. I was in Syracuse to visit family, and had to fly there due to the fact that the first Amtrak train got there later then an event I had to attend. I took the Lakeshore Limited because it was on sale under weekly specials on Amtrak's website and only $27.30 one way instead of the normal $58.00 a substantial savings.
I bought my ticket thinking that if the Lakeshore was its usual self and late, I would use my ticket on an Unreserved Empire Service Train #284 that leaves at 9:00, before the scheduled time of the Lakeshore Limited at 9:28.
The night before I called Julie Amtrak's automated phone system to check how late the Lakeshore had left Chicago. It had departed 39 minutes late. I thought I'll be back on a boring Empire Service train, not on the comfortable Lakeshore Limited.
The next morning I called Julie again, she said the Lakeshore was going to be on time and was currently running on time. I asked her the status of train #284, she said it had been reported behind the Lakeshore Limited and was running 40 minutes late, I thought this should be interesting, it's going to trail us.
I was dropped off at the Syracuse train station which is located in a new part of town then the old one and was open in 2000, and is part of the Regional Transportation Center in the same place as Intercity bus service, a bit later then I was planning to go. I picked up my ticket at the ticket office,
the saleswoman was amazed at the price on it, she also said that the Lakeshore was going to leave first and on time, unlike 90% of the time when it's late. She also said that train #284 was late due to a signal problem in Buffalo, and that its lateness is rare. (I guess it was before Buffalo-Depew where the Lakeshore joins the line). There was a bit of confusion in the station about the two trains.
|The electronic display in Syracuse Listing departures for each direction. The Lakeshore Limited is on time, train #284 which is named on the screen as MOHAWK, I don't know what this name is about.
I walked up to the platform to get ready to board, a long freight train was bypassing the station on a different track when my Lakeshore Limited entered pulled by Genesis P42 Locomotives #58 with help from #64 and arrived on time at 9:28, I boarded into Amcoach (Amfleet II) #25062, which had the modern blue Amtrak seating
and the electronic displays at either end of the car, that display random messages. The displays were off for my entire journey.
I settled into the car which was much nicer then normal Amtrak Coaches that operate on non-overnight trains
in the Northeast, there was much more legroom, and not just footrests, but also leg rests.
The train reminded me of business class on the Metroliner, except that the Metroliner has no legrests. The train consisted here of:
|The Lakeshore Limited enters.
- P42 Genesis Locomotives #58 with locomotive #64
- A Baggage Car (Never did get its number)
- Heritage Crew Dorm #2517
- Viewliner Sleeping Car #62001 "Atlantic View"
- Viewliner Sleeping Car #62041 "Summit View"
- Heritage Diner Grill #8559
- Amfleet II Lounge Car #28024 "Philadelphia Club"-Included a photo of Philadelphia in the Cafe area. 1/2 of the car was booth seating,
the other had a glass enclosed room, which was the smoking lounge, but now is for use by the crew only since Amtrak abolished smoking on all trains on November 1st, 2004
- Amfleet II Amcoach #25023-Still had old red interior
- Amfleet II Amcoach #25062-had newer modern 'Acela' style blue interior
- Amfleet II Amcoach #25115-Still had old red interior
- Three ExpressTrak cars the one closest to the train was #74066, they are white and look like freight cars
|Interier of Amfleet II car #25062
We for whatever reason sat in the station for 6 minutes and departed at 9:34, 6 minutes late.
We ran through the Erie Canal area, making what seemed like good time. It was a warmish above freezing day; the bodies of water we passed were starting to unfreeze.
I walked through the coach cars; it seemed that a majority of people were bound for Albany, where they would connect to a connecting train to Boston and Springfield. There were a good number with the arrow down there seat check;
this meant they were continuing to New York-Penn Station.
- At 9:55, we stopped for a long CSX freight train going the other way, it took 2 minutes to pass (I thought the entire line here was two tracks). We were moving again at 9:58.
- At 10:39 we arrived in Utica, the platform was quite crowded, not that many people got on, since most were waiting for train #284, the unreserved train
- 11:07-an announcement is made (the first I've heard on the ride) that the dining car is open for lunch, it goes on and on listing the menu
- 11:08-stop at milepost 218 for one minute, don't know the reason
- 11:19-Maple Leaf the other way passes us operating a bit late. My Amcoach car is boiling, I feel like I might overheat.
- 11:40-Milepost 197
- 11:45-Go and eat lunch in dining car which is much cooler. I have the burger which is very good. Much better then the microwave food in the Cafe Car that the Empire Service trains serve, and I would be eating on train #284
- 11:58-We are running near a highway, see sign saying we are one mile from Amsterdam and 30 from Albany
- 12:19-Schennectidy Leave at 12:22, 40 minutes late.
- 12:30-Leave Dining car, go back to seat and get ready to see what happens in Albany
- 12:46-We arrive in Albany, 15 minutes late, the connecting Lakeshore Limited train to Boston is already across the platform. I get off, to take some pictures, get car numbers and observe the scene.
While in Albany: The lights were turned off, and the two P42 Genesis Locomotives were replaced with Genesis P32AC-DM #710, which is dual-mode third rail electric and diesel for the trip into New York.
- 12:51-Empire Service train #284 that had been trailing us arrives in Albany. It is operating 1 hour and 6 minutes late. It stops quickly, leaving at 1:00, 1 hour late. (I did not see it leave, this was according to Amtrak.com which I checked when I got home).
- 1:11-The Connecting train to Boston via Springfield leaves, only 11 minutes late.
On my train all seat checks, No one is allowed to board on the New York Stretch in Albany or Croton-Harmon, the only two stops on this 'limited'.
All Croton-Harmon Passengers are asked to move to the front Coach #25023.
The train is nice and empty, I switch and sit on different sides of the car depending on which has a better view.
- 1:25-Departed Albany, 25 minutes late
- 1:49-Bypass Hudson. We seem to be making good time
- 2:08-Bypass Rhinecliff-I decide to sit in the Lounge car just to be different.
- 2:19-Bypass Poughkeepsie
We are now on Metro-North trackage, I keep track of every local station we bypass:
- 2:25-New Hamburg
- 2:33-Breakneck Ridge-The station is one of the few low level platforms left, and consists of a sign at a level crossing. It is open weekends only.
- 2:35-Cold Spring
- 2:40-Manitou, there is no station sign, just a low-level wooden platform at a level crossing
- 2:45-Peekskill-Conductor sitting in Cafe gets up to get ready for Croton-Harmon
- 2:50-Cortlandt-I move back to my seat
- 2:56-We stop in Croton-Harmon on track 1, the stop is very brief-Only 16 minutes late
- 3:01-Scarborough-A Metro-North train of diesels bound for Poughkeepsie passes in the opposite direction.
- 3:03-Philipse Manor
- 3:04-Tarrytown-Metro-North M7a the other way
- 3:08-Dobbs Ferry
- 3:12-Glenwood (they are doing construction in the station)
- 3:13-Yonkers-As we pass the Kawasaki Plant (a manufacture of subway and rail cars) which is near the station along the tracks, I see new NYC Subway R-142S and some bi-level cars for a commuter rail, I think they might be for Virginia Railway Express, or Marc
- 3:16-Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City!
- 3:20-running slowly, we switched of the main Metro-North Line and to the Spuyten Dyvil bridge, and onto Amtrak's West Side Line.
- 3:29-We are running slowly down the West Side Line, when we are at about 157 Street the Lakeshore Limited the other way,
just starting out bound for Chicago passes us, it's running about a half hour late (When I got home,
I check on Amtrak.com, it had left Penn Station 25 minutes late). I see major traffic on the northbound West Side Highway
- 3:35-Pass Daylight again at 60th Street
- 3:38-Near Javits Center
- 3:40-We stop in the tunnel, I think we might be waiting for a track, we are moving by 3:43
- 3:46-Arrive Penn Station on Track 6, 21 minutes late, not too bad
After detraining I walk upstairs and get on the A train to 181 Street, and home. At home I go onto Amtrak.com and find out that Train #284 arrived at 3:28,
1 hour and 3 minutes late. It had left Syracuse at 10:07, 1 hour and 7 minutes late. I was so happy that I got to take the more comfortable and relaxing Lakeshore Limited,
then a crowded Empire Service Train that's much less comfortable, and has not very good food.
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Last Updated: 19 January, 2005
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