Winter 2012

To Syracuse via Rochester including peering in on its Abandoned Subway

Greetings from Empire Service Train #280 where I am making a final no stopovers trip back to New York City (making any would have required a call to an Amtrak agent because only 3 can be made online), I am also now in the mood just to get back to New York. The train arrived in Syracuse, 11 minutes early at 6:44, and we got to Utica 11 minutes early as well. I thought of trying to step off but no doors were open in my car and I really need to dedicate a long layover to that impressive station (plus ride the Adirondack Scenic Railway).

Yesterday was my day to explore Rochester:
It began with me getting dropped off at Buffalo-Depew station (after I got off at Exchange Street) where I got some excellent early morning photos of Train #284 entering at 7:59. I snoozed most of the way to Rochester where we arrived at 8:48, 9 minutes early. I got my photo essay of the station. Next was the ticket counter where the agent offered to check my bag to Syracuse on the Lake Shore Limited (stopping during my layover) to save me the $3 left luggage fee. I said yes and with my computer packed deep in my carry-on in bowels of my backpack checked that as well (not something your supposed to do). I walked into Downtown finding some viewpoints into the abandoned Rochester Subway (from the lower level of the bridge used to cross the Geneseo River), used to get streetcars beneath downtown from 1927 to 1956 on the bed of the old Erie Canal that was routed around the city. It was the smallest American City to have a subway. Next was the main Rochester attraction I wanted to visit. The George Eastman House, the founder of photography for the masses. What I didn’t realize was I was visiting on the 80th Anniversary of his death from suicide, as he was terminally ill. He was also the main philanthropist of Rochester. I spent the rest of my layover in Rochester in the museum (and could have even used more time) visiting the rooms of his mansion and galleries and learning how the life long bachelor was an amazing philanthropist giving all of his money away. There is also a somber feeling in Rochester since it is company town and Kodak is currently going through its bankruptcy, everyone worried about pensions and job security.

I wondered back to the station just before my next train the Maple Leaf at 2:40 and stopped to get change at the ticket window so I could buy a snack from a vending machine (the only food service in the 1970s Rochester Station) to tide me over to Syracuse, I had gotten distracted in the museum and had not stopped for lunch. Who should be in the ticket office (not in uniform) but the agent who was at Buffalo-Exchange Street yesterday. He recognized me and said you were downtown yesterday (I guess that’s Amtrak lingo for BFX) and I said yes I’m visiting railroad stations across the station. Maple Leaf train #64 came in 3 minutes early as well at 2:30, (the monitor in the station said it was running ten minutes late). I got on the sold out train, immediately being joined by a seatmate. It was a bit of a frustrating trip to Syracuse because we were running early and sat for about 20 minutes outside the abandoned Carousel Center Station waiting for train #281 (scheduled for 3:53, and running ten minutes late). The fenced off platform at Carousel Center was used from 1994 to 2007 by OnTrack, a small RDC regional rail line that I once rode when I was six and didn’t quite get to photograph in my rail fan years. One of my trips to visit my grandmother I will go on a trip probably by car to visit its 3 real former stations. This is an inexcusable scheduled meet that the conductor tells me happens everyday. The new (opened in 2000) Syracuse station is designed to be an island platform that was just never finished with just one track. We finally arrive at 4:14, to my first high-level platform of the trip, my grandmother waiting on the platform to meet me for my quick passing through overnight visit.