The Lake Shore or the Empire?
An Amtrak Competetion between Syracuse and New York-Penn.
by Jeremiah Cox, February 15, 2005

For PhotosSyracuse|Albany

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 display listing trains at Syracuse
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 display listing trains at Syracuse
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
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.

We are now on Metro-North trackage, I keep track of every local station we bypass:

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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