Transit Adventures

A Bus Fares Adventure getting to Saint-Lambert for the Domed Adirondack South to a layover at Fort Edward and Actually Getting Questioned at the Border

This morning started way too early, around 2:00am someone came into the hostel room and switched the light on. This totally woke me up and I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning not getting a full nights sleep. I went downstairs to the hostels underground kitchen around 6:30 (the hostel doesn’t have free breakfast) and made some terrible instant oatmeal I brought with me.

Around 7:30am I check out and walk over to the Center-Ville underground bus terminal used by RTL – Réseau de transport de Longueuil. The station is quite deserted. I stop at an OPUS ticket machine and realize I can’t buy a single RTL bus ride just 6 rides with transfers for $17 minimum. You can’t get a transfer on their buses paying cash. I go downstairs and find the correct underground bus bay for Route 45 Express. This is a frequent non-stop route (running every 15 minutes on a Sunday) across the St. Lawrence. The first bus comes There is an extremely old cash farebox with a separate OPUS reader. I realize that you can’t show up, pay cash and get a transfer embedded on your OPUS card. The driver isn’t helpful and I get off the bus to try and think of a solution. During the week I might have been able to buy a single ride with a transfer had the ticket office been open. Montreal gets my reward for a Smart Card that isn’t at all smart. The point of Smart Cards (in addition to bus passes) is being able to have an ePurse with cash value. I end up deciding to bite the bullet and buy 6 rides for $17 paying $2.80 a ride instead of a ridiculous $6.60 for. I think I might be back in Montreal via the Adirondack in the future and this seems like a good way to avoid Central Station. I only need to ride RTL two more times with a transfer to make this purchase cost effective.

I take the next bus at 8:23 for a quick trip on Freeways over the Saint Lawrence and realize that Google has done its usual over timing transfers routine at least on a traffic free Sunday morning arriving at the Panama Transfer station at 8:40. There I’m stuck waiting in the cold for 20 minutes (meaning I would have had 5 minutes if I had taken the next bus from the warm downtown Montreal terminal) at transfer station, which is basically a parking lot with a few bus shelters that have benches. It looks like slightly better waiting facilities are under construction. Local Bus Route 6-Victoria leaves on time at 9:00am.

I get to Saint-Lambert on Route 6 at 9:15 for my 9:45 train and start by photographing the separate AMT commuter rail platform (also accepting OPUS) on the opposite side of the tracks from the VIA (to Quebec City) station used by Amtrak. I go under the tracks and to the nondescript, modern VIA/CN station. Inside there are 3 people: One is a lady waiting for the train with too much luggage. One is the VIA ticket agent sitting in one of the waiting room seats (not behind his tickets desk) and chatting with a friend in French who is clearly often at the station (and could also work for CN). I wander inside and outside getting my photo essay. At 9:30 the telephone rings, its Montreal telling the agent the Adirondack has left on time. All 3 of the other people in the depot are quite friendly and no one minds me getting a photo essay.

The train comes in 3 minutes early for me and another lady who needs help with her five different little bags, which the ticket agent and conductor do, as they chat a bit and wait for the trains actual on time departure time of 9:45. I am told to sit in the frontmost Amfleet II from the rear but the only window seat is the backwards ADA seat. I also notice no seat checks yet. We leave into the foliage and slowly go through a large freight yard. I get my ticket scanned as we go through the Montreal suburbs and ask and am told I can move to the more empty last car but “Expect to make a friend.” The conductor comes back again and I ask about the dome being open. I’m told yes it is and walk up to a quite crowded dome for the ride through the suburbs. At that point I notice there using the front 3 Amfleet Is for through travelers and the long-haul Amfleet IIs for short haul intermediate travel. Not the way it should be. One traveler tells me it’s so they can have easier access to the dome.

The dome is incredibly quiet and I do my usual routine of taking notes and getting lots of pictures from the rear of the dome:

  • 10:20 – Slow down to switch railroads and hear the conductor come out of the cab.
  • 10:24 – We inch our way through a town and by an old railroad station.
  • 10:27 – Pass the Royal Military college of St Jean and finally regain speed on rickety track.
  • 10:30 – The train speeds through farmland kicking up leaves on a cloudy day
  • 10:48 – We come to a stop in the middle of a field, blocking a grade crossing. It is to slowly switch railroads at Cadiac. I notice no arms on any of the grade crossings. At 10:53 we finally start moving again along the rough clicky-clack jointed track leaves blow over and onto the dome.
  • 10:57 – Comes the conductor announcing the dome is now closed until we clear customs and walking through it
  • 11:06 – Stop again to switch Railroads I presume.
  • 11:09 – Enter economy mode. I haven seen the customs or state line sign. I turn my phone on see that we have crossed the border and are in Rouses point. I must have missed it.

Homeland security soon boards and sitting in the back I hear him banging around the bathrooms and opening all the cabinets, I guess to make sure no one decided to hide anything. He comes to interview me and when I make the mistake of saying I went to Montreal for the weekend to ride the dome car and not the night (in my mind the train ride and Montreal are the same thing), the agent kept screaming at me “I don’t care about the dome car that was in the United States”. He wants to know if I went there alone and if I met anyone there. I slightly lie saying I spent my time there alone thinking it would be easier than explaining that I spent the evening with strangers, Cliff a railfan, I met on a train and the random conversations I had in my hostel room. He then insists on searching me he rifles through my backpack and screams at me: “Get Up, Empty Your Pockets.” In the agents mind I guess the only reason any young person would go up to Montreal for just the night is to do something illegal like buying drugs. I think also that honestly filling out my customs form with nothing purchased made him suspicious. I thought of putty down that I spent $6 on an OPUS card but I assume transportation media didn’t count. These customs officials don’t have a hand held scanner like the agents on the Maple Leaf.

One customs decides to stop bothering me I want to use my phone but keeps giving me Bell, expensive Canadian roaming instead of AT&T although I’m across the US border. There are a bunch of West Point cadets in uniform who keep getting up as were stopped confusing me that the border patrol is back on the train. I chat with one of them briefly in the dome car long afterwards and he said that the agent who came into our car also gave them a hard time wondering where there Military Orders were, they had gone to Montreal (I assume) for a professional conference. It’s at least nice to know it wasn’t just me.

At 12:04 the customs inspection finally ends as the lights go on and off. We pull up to the platform at Rouses Point and board 3 passengers, including a railfan I met yesterday who lacks a passport and spent the night in Rouses Point, through the last door. We leave right on time!
I walk back up to the dome at 12:14 after it has reopened and I snag my favorite rear seat to go through fields of the North Country.
Zoom through West Chassy at 12:25 with a nice old depot.
At 12:35 we get to Plattsburgh and leave at 12:48 to follow Lake Champlain.
I get distracted again chatting with other passengers in the dome car and trying to take pictures and don’t take my usual notes. as the train wends its way on and off from the lake as we keep heading south. On one siding we pass a bunch of NJ Transit Bombardier BiLevel Rail Car Shells on flat cars being delivered to the Plattsburgh plant for final assembly.
I get a neat photo out of the back of the dome stopping at 1:40 on time in Whitehall from the dome
At 1:50 we reach a siding and start running very slowly, I think we’re waiting for #69. At 1:55 we enter economy mode to wait.
Finally at 2:10 it passes and were back to seeing Lake Champlain on a grey day and hugging the cliffs.
We get to Port Henry at 2:39, 39 minutes late and the National Parks Volunteers board the train. At that point I really start becoming social in the dome car. There not really on board to give a formal programe (that was done heading north) and I simply start chatting about the state of Amtrak and other routes. I meet some other railfans including one from Hamilton, Ontario and has ridden every via route except out to Senneterre because it lacks any real hotels. He has done the trip to Churchill twice. He discusses how he is extremely disappointed with the VIA Cuts currently happening and is envious of Amtrak and all of its ridership gains over the past few years. The intermediate stops of Fort Ticonderoga come all too quickly and I wish a bit that I hadn’t planned my stopover.

One of the rangers says he’ll tell me when were getting close to Fort Edward but I get a little nervous about dashing the six cars back to my seat to grab my luggage and head back early. I tell one of the friendly conductor (who has been the crew since Albany yesterday, but they don’t remember me) that I’m his Fort Edward and as I sit in the cafe car waiting for the train to actually stop, he says “Hope you had a good trip and thank you for riding Amtrak.” I tell him the trip isn’t over yet and that I’m just doing a stopover before the Ethan Allen to which he responds “That’s right its Sunday, you can do that.”

The train arrives at 4:00 and I step off. There about 4 people waiting to board that the conductor tells “You must already have a ticket to ride this train.” I run up and get photos of Ocean View stopped over the grade crossing at the end of the platform. The train leaves and I get to business doing my photo essay, the sun fully out, the foliage gorgeous.
Fort Edward has a wonderful historic Station House that is open and closed by a caretaker (who tells me he is paid but would open and close the station anyway since he likes watching trains). I finish my photo essay and go and find a place to eat since I’ve barely had lunch. I end up in the busiest and cheapest diner I’ve ever experienced, it is the only open restaurant in town, full of large older men sitting at the counter with me. The owner says hello to me and tells me that the $5 Hamberger Steak, Potatoes, String Beans, and a salad is the best deal in town. I decide to have it and it is large, slightly grose and okay. I then wander around town and take a walk along the Hudson River so much narrow than down in New York City.

One reply on “A Bus Fares Adventure getting to Saint-Lambert for the Domed Adirondack South to a layover at Fort Edward and Actually Getting Questioned at the Border”

Thanks for telling us your story! I’m from Montreal and every time I visit NYc I travel with greyhound mostly because it’s quicker than taking the train (8.5 hr compare to 11). Your blog convinced me to go with Amtrak for my next trip.