Transit Adventures

A Short Lake Shore Limited Ride One Stop from Worchester to Springfield mainly along the Quaboag River — back from Boston via the Inland Route, stopping at Union Stations (Part 2)

At 12:54, 2 minutes early, I photograph the short, overpowered Lake Shore Limited: two P42 Locomotives, a Baggage Car, a Viewliner Sleeper, 2 Amfleet-II coaches and an Amfleet-II Lounge car arriving. One conductor has opened the baggage car door for the one piece of checked baggage I noticed on the cart in the station, a bicycle. I’m amazed Wooster still offers this since the sign at the Amtrak ticket office claims its open only from Monday to Friday, how does checked baggage work on weekends. According to the website there are no checked baggage hours on weekends. I wonder if every outlying Amtrak station knows this and knows to tell passengers checking baggage to Worcester on a weekend that it won’t arrive, or does the conductor quickly handle any bags to be claimed during the station stop? There are no notes in the timetable.

About fifteen of us are boarding. No announcements are made over any PA in the station for the train. I did hear a few bus announcements. We form a line by the one set of open doors between the two coaches. No one is getting on the sleeper. There are two people on the platform that have Greyhound tickets and have somehow showed up at the Amtrak platform expecting to board a train, instead of downstairs to the covered intercity bus loop. The conductor even double checks their names on her iPhone before sending them downstairs. The second conductor not handling baggage efficiently scans our tickets on the platform simply asking names, not bothering to scan mine. This ticket from WOR-SPG cost $15, no through fare to Hartford or New Haven. I am the last to board (I’ve heard the Boston section of the Lake Shore is usually nice and empty) and am handed a seat check by the coach attendant. There is one set of seats at the end of the car in front of the cafe that I’m directed too. It has paper signs saying Reserved for Parties of 4 or more. I sit down and tell the attendant I’m only going to SPG, the next stop and she lets me sit there, even removing the paper signs. I get stuck at the pair of seats with a window partition between them, not great for sightseeing unless I recline all the way back.

We leave on time at 12:58. I decide to sit and type notes and sightsee in the cafe which is being prepped for the sleeping car lunch, just an hour to Springfield. It’s less comfortable. We slowly leave the city of Worcester in a trench. They announce the cafe car is temporary closed or sleeping car passengers lunch. They’ve set out real table cloths and napkins for them. I sit at a table at the end of the car far away from the provisions. The attendant says its fine if I sit in there. We pass through the suburbs of Worcester along a two track railroad. We follow a stream and run along the side of a mountain.

  • 1:06 – leave Worcester behind pass a small town and enter woods. The scenery stays woods and small towns. One man comes in from the sleepers with his computer and sits far away from other diners not at a set place. The cafe car attendant who I believe is helped by their SCA lets him. There are two options for sleeping car passengers, a salad or sandwich. The two entree options look like real food, not soggy and awful – the terrible sandwich I had yesterday on Acela.
  • 1:08 – the woods are broken up by a big trash transfer station, and we continue through them, gaining elevation.
  • 1:10 – MP52 as we go through the woods.
  • 1:11 – cross a creek and pass through tiny Rochdale.
  • 1:12 – the line finally becomes single tracked through the woods.
  • 1:14 – MP55 we go through rock cuts in the snow, I’m happy there isn’t any foliage.
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  • 1:16 – Pass a giant wooden cross in the woods. There a few trees. See lots of large icicles on rocks.
  • 1:18 – MP57 there is a track at Charlton Junction still covered in snow. We’ve gained elevation and continue through the trees. There a bunch of snow covering wooden ties waiting for installation or to be picked up after replacement.
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  • 1:23 – pass a freight train on a siding. There are houses again off in the distance.
  • 1:25 – a large parking lot and tons of auto carrier cars, there is also a large parking lot full of cars. Were on the edge of East Brookfield, and the track briefly gets rougher. Quite a large lumber yard and houses off in the distance. MP-65
  • 1:28 – more frozen water between the trees, now the houses of just Bookfield. Were following the Quaboag River more or less to avoid the surrounding hills. Its wide. The train is making good speed, the track seems relatively good (not the terrible). We now follow a nice wide river through swampland.
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  • 1:32 – pass an old historic depot in West Brookkfield, the river comes back, we cross it. We’re making good speed. The train continues through the woods.
  • 1:33 – MP71 the Quaboag River and houses off in the distance continue. I hear the attendant offering cheesecake for dessert and everyone I hear declines.
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  • 1:35 – pass through Warren, old houses the line stays grade separated. I see an old stone depot. Next town is Palmer as we keep following the Quaboag River r, and another freight crosses us.
  • 1:37 – Pass an old factory along the river in West Warren. We continue through the woods, clearly gaining elevation. The Quaboag River getting narrower, continuing along the opposite side of the train.
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  • 1:41 – a stone bridge at MP78 and under the Mass Pike again. Keep following the Quaboag River into Palmer. We follow US-20 and under a bridge under construction.
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  • 1:45 – pass a baseball diamond and slowly enter the outskirts of Palmer. The trees and river continue. We pick up speed passing a concrete plant and another freight train. Pass containers and mini storage coming into Palmer. Then a junk yard as the line becomes grade separated.
  • 1:47 – scream by Steaming Tenders, I’m back on trackage I’ve ridden before! No reversing like the Vermonter in Palmer, the Lake Shore Limited doesn’t even stop, high-balling it right on through. The line used by the Vermonter is across the river. I go back to my obstructed view seat, and recline. This seat is a lot more comfortable than my Acela Seat. The footrest is actually helpful, the cloth cushioning is better.
  • 1:56 – Slowly enter Springfield passing its houses. Then a lumber yard.
  • 1:58 – announcement for Springfield. I pack up, see water, and they announce it is a smoke stop and to make all seats available. There maybe 15 of us getting off. Another railfan notices me and we start chatting until we arrive.

The Lake Shore Limited arrives into Springfield-Union Station 5 minutes early at 2:05 (the station schedule has a five minute service stop) on the far track 1 and platform. This is where the Lake Shore always arrives so it can cross the Connecticut River beyond the station to continue west instead of south like the Amtrak owned tracks to Hartford and New Haven, it can’t stop anywhere closer to the current Amshack that has been built at the same level as the platforms. There is the remains of a platform canopy and a former underpass that once connected all the platforms like a real railroad station. I get a bunch of photos from the platform of all the Springfield Station abandonment. I’ll be back here in a little two weeks to ride the Lake Shore over the Berkshires on my upcoming Syracuse via Springfield trip. On that trip I have a longer layover. Eventually and before the train even departs I walk in front of the locomotives and across the unguarded pedestrian crossing to the station house that is built directly on the railroad viaduct. To leave the station passengers use a tiny staircaes or elevator to a tiny portion of the underpass that is still open. I also notice crew quarters in the station plus in some trailers. I don’t bother to take a walk in Springfield with less than 45 minutes and know the Vermonter is usually early, since I’ll have over two hours here. I also notice two shuttle trainsets inside the station.