Transit Adventures

A Stormy: SYR-UCA-(ALB)-HUD-YNY aboard 2 On Time Empire Service Trains & the Lake Shore Limited to Hudson, NY ending on The 2 hour late Adirondack due to Downed Trees and Signals

For my trip home from Syracuse, I want to make a second photo essay visit to Utica and maximize AGR point.With another weekend trip (by car) over Columbus Day Weekend, I realize a second day-trip down to Philly on Wednesday (I work Tuesday and Thursday) will be way too much for me. With the Lake Shore Limited you can book a single segment with a connection in Albany from the Lake Shore to Empire Service Train #244 to Rhinecliff or Hudson because the Lake Shore skips those stops (it also skips Yonkers but #244 unfortunately skips the stop as well). I also decide I might as well book YNY-NWK as a two segment point run for Tuesday knowing the layover will be fine having snacks in the ClubAcela. Adding Newark does make the fare slightly more expensive (all prices are with my NARP discount) so the trip costs $58.50 instead of the current low-bucket ($60) that I get for $54.90, $3.90 seems good for an extra 100 base, 250 total AGR points.

I get dropped off by my grandmother at 10:10, earlier than I need to be. I’ve noticed that the train left Rochester 20 minutes late but SYR has a bunch of recovery time. I enter the station and notice that the departure monitors say the train is on time. I stop and ask the agent if the train is really on time mentioning that I noticed it left Rochester 20 minutes late. He tells me that if the train is actually on time it arrives at 10:10. I knew Syracuse had some recovery time; I didn’t realize it was this much! I walk up to the platform to wait on a breezy morning. A double-stack soon comes through.

Sure enough Empire Service Train #284 comes in at 10:29, there is that much recovery time. The P32AC-DM leading in 6 cars, 5 coaches and the business class/cafe car in the rear. I head to the rear that I assume is the intermediate car. About a dozen people are getting off in Syracuse (this train originates only in Niagara Falls) passing me before I get on. The locomotive engineer change takes 10 minutes and we finally leave at 10:40, 10 minutes down.

My short journey only to Utica is scheduled for just over an hour; I’m planning to the ride reading. There seems little reason to take the time to unpack and repack my computer. I check the Lake Shore that I’m boarding in Utica after getting some more photos and find out it left Rochester only 11 minutes late. The conductor comes and again no beep. He says “All set” as I get my UCA seat check. We leave Syracuse on a full speed middle track towards the Dewitt yard not the south track restricted to 35mph that I came in on or the even worse 15mph north track that the CSX dispatcher/volunteer on the scenic railway described to me on Saturday.
11:07 – Slow down, passing a CSX track gang. There is a dump truck and excavator with a bunch of ballast and more construction equipment. We then pass Canastota. We finally regain speed.
We arrive in Rome at 11:32, 16 minutes late, only the cafe car door is opening for the quick stop. There a few people on the platform that don’t get on. I have a feeling waiting for the Maple Leaf. Were 15 minutes to Utica.
We switch onto track #1 that is shared with the scenic railway as we arrive in the Utica station and get in at 11:47. As I step off I hear the walkie talkie say to check with passengers since some are waiting for the westbound Maple Leaf. The Maple Leaf is due at 11:59 also on that platform and I wait there for photos of it entering right at noon, 20 minutes late.

I spend a nice layover in Utica, there is just so much to explore at this historic station with random old rail cars lying around from the Scenic Railway and at the Children’s Museum across the street.

At 12:36 I Get the announcement for the on time Lake Shore on track 2, closest to the station. The attendant announces it as the train to New York with through cars to Boston. He has only a cart for checked luggage. One bag to SPG. It starts raining as I wait, happy for the long canopy. Utica is definitely on the revisit list, I don’t feel I got enough photos or explored enough. This was a nice taste! I also know I need to visit a DMV at some point and will probably plan a long stopover to include the DMV inside the station. It only seems appropriate!
The Lake Shore Limited comes in only 2 minutes late at 12:42. They let a few people off to smoke. I get some photos, letting people off of the long train in the station, get my ticket scanned on the platform and board. The car I relatively empty and there isn’t an attendant giving out seat numbers, I’m surprised! I grab two seats to myself and spread out across two seats, calf rests up to enjoy the Amfleet-II legroom on another dreary day. I do notice clearly an assigned seat on the floor of the car so I have a feeling it was more crowded on the overnight.

  • 1:22 – the cafe car makes a local announcement to just my car announcing that this car is part of train 48 continuing to New York and that it’s the last call for the cafe car since it will close after leaving SDY to continue onto Boston. We follow the Mowhawk River making good speed. I’m not worried about my 4:15 connecting train to Hudson to continue today’s points run.
  • 1:36 – Hear the last call for the dining car for lunch.
  • 1:48 – Empire Service Train #281, running right on time passes us.
  • 1:51 – Bypass Amsterdam

At 2:09 we cross the bridge in the rain into Schenectady, there two announcements going for the stop that interrupt each other. We arrive at 2:10 and I see someone pushing the mobile lift. I have 2 hours before my next train leaves from Albany to sit through the engine change. We lose HEP as we wait to leave. I check the Adirondack, number 68 and notice its lost over an hour at the border. I know there is plenty of recovery time but probably not quite enough.

We keep sitting in SDY until 2:21 when we leave with the double-toot passing a Norfolk Southern freight. We’re told 20-25 minutes into Albany plus another 20 minutes for the engine change before entering the Albany platform. I’m sitting in the front car of the New York Section and see them closing the door off to the Boston section. The conductor does a verbal walk through asking and double-checking.
We slowly cross the bridge at 2:39 over the Hudson, the train is early.

We pull into the yard and lose power at 2:42 across from an Empire Service train I try to get wifi from but it fails. An employee in a sweatshirt and cart pulls up that says Mechanical department for hoses. This is followed by another Jim Deer cart.

At 2:48 with a jolt the Boston section pulls away. I could have made the 3:15 Empire Service train! 448 will pull in right on time. I notice the track in the yard were closest to has a stretch of third rail, must have been installed to test third rail shoes.
2:57 – Another jolt as the new locomotive is attached.
3:01-Regain HEP.

We immediately start moving and enter the station at 3:04 on the island platform, we stop short. The Boston section is at its required stop on the side platform, the only place it can stop to access the Post Road Branch to continue to Boston. The 3:15 Empire Service Train #242 hasn’t left yet and is across from us. If Hudson was my final destination I would ask a conductor if he’d accept  my ticket but see no reason to bother having a longer layover there. We arrive at finally finish pulling in, the doors open at 3:08.

I walk into the station as they make the final call for Train #242 at 3:13 mentioning that gates close 2 minutes before departure. At 3:14 they announce the gates are locked (not really, there is the Lake Shore!). My plan is the pizza place but it’s raining huge sheers. Apparently there is a tornado warning! The Boston section leaves on time at 3:25 with the same gates closed announcement. I sit in the overpass waiting area and hear the Boston section’s announced departure at 3:25 and watch it head up the Post Road branch. Originally it took a ridiculous back up move near Selkirk and backing up and over the Castleton Rail Bridge before Amtrak rebuilt this short line just for the it. I finally brave the rain and walk over the pizza place I remember. It’s unfortunately closed and possibly out of Business. I walk back into the station trough the first floor of the parking garage and find the Amtrak baggage counter for the first time. It’s an odd little space but I don’t bother to take my camera out of my bag for a photo. I return to the overpass waiting area, no sign of the trainset for 244. It fills up a bit with people waiting to board. Train #244 pulls in from the yard at 3:57 for us.

At 4:03 they start boarding through both the stairs and escalator with the gate agent opening them as he announces the train via a hand held microphone, not bothering to check tickets of boarding passengers. I tell the conductor I’m only going to Hudson and am directed to the rearmost coach.

Train 244 leaves 1 minute late at 2:16 and I hear the bell of the MU doors closing. I read as the conductor scans tickets, not bothering with seat checks as the NYP-ALB trains work (tickets at intermediate stops are collected on the platform) and it’s the fast trip down the Hudson. I hear him tell some passengers that the train might be late into NYP because of the recent violent storm. We get to Huston, NY my final photo stop of the Quafecta day on time at 4:40.

I get off and realize its time to finally find food. The place I went last time across the street from the station is closed. I walk down Warren Street and am greeted by all the lunch type sandwich places closed (which I’m looking for) since it’s after 5. I finally find a place that says Diner. I head over there it’s called Grazen and is a completely hippy diner. It serves only local meat and food (with pictures of animals on the walls) and claims it’s the first Animal Welfare approved diner. I’m about to order the grilled cheese but find local not feedlot meat delicious. I order the Cheeseburger that is one of the most delicious (and expensive, costing $12) I’ve ever had. I could be rail fanning down at the station but especially with the rain food is more important at the moment. I track the Adirondack and it’s now a half hour late (gaining some, but not all of the time).

I leave the diner at 5:55 after I notice the Adirondack has arrived in Albany and is now down to 6:20! According to the app the engine change only took 7 minutes.

I dash back to the station quickly, getting there at 6:15. I immediately go to the ticket office and ask the friendly agent. His solution is to call up Albany to confirm things. Turns out the automated computer got it wrong. It gave the time of the P42 engine getting taken off the train for its replacement, not the train actually leaving. Train #68 is still sitting in Albany and should now arrive closer to 6:45 I am told. I dashed back for nothing. At least there is a friendly agent and the nice waiting room for me. A taxi driver also stops to ask about trains and the agent says there are 3 in the next 20 minutes. There is clearly some major delays down the Hudson with some huge back ups. I check status maps and find out there is a huge back up north of Poughkeepsie. 235 just left Rhinecliff, 1 hour 54 minutes late and Southbound 244 is just behind it, 291, the Ethan Allen is somewhere in there too.

At 6:35 the scheduled 4:20 trian! Empire Service Train #235 arrives. It’s comes in extremely long, clearly two trainsets with two cafe cars back to back (yes Empire Service trains carry unstaffed cafe cars)! There is one women waiting for someone on the Ethan Allen that also hasn’t arrived. Didn’t realize what a mess that rainstorm did! It sits in the station. It finally leaves at 6:45. The agent comes out and yells at the conductor to call the stationmaster in Albany saying he’s got dinner ready for him. They have a joke about this ‘dinner’ being out of a can. It departures and sure enough Train #235 is pulling another Empire Service trainset, the lights all off, a P32 at the back of the train.

At 6:50 in another sheet of rain the Ethan Allen Express font up to Rutland finally arrives an hour and a half late. No one is getting on. Going from Hudson to Vermont or other points north this evening!

At 6:55 my train 68 is now approaching from Montreal. It comes in, the conductor tells us all to get on and he will scan on board. We leave at 6:57. I’m directed to the Amfleet I I get my ticket scanned and Yonkers confirmed. We leave and make decent speed. The conductor walks through asking if anyone has tickets to Washington on 187. I hear that we’re coming up to a tree.

At 7:05 we slow down for the trees. The second conductor counting Washington connections. She starts by saying “Anyone connecting in Washington to train 187.” I make a point of correcting her and we have a good laugh. We go very slowly around the trees. I try and use the wifi but it’s extremely slow, according to my phone were in a cell phone dead zone!

  • 7:25– We speed up again clearly beyond the single-tracking because of the downed trees and pass northbound Lake Shore Limited #49 as I notice its Viewliners.
  • 7:27 – Another delayed Northbound Train it must be Train #237. Checking this I find out that train 244 that I road the one stop from Albany to Hudson has just arrived in NYP at 7:40, only 50 minutes late. The northbound trains were the ones really shafted.

We crawl into Rhinecliff at 7:44 for some passengers. Leaving at 7:46. These passengers double up.
It’s slow running again as I check Metro-North TrainTime and find trains are running just 6-9 minutes late northbound at Beacon.

  • 8:06 – A northbound train 239 finally passes as we crawl south. I hear milepost 83.6. The conductor comes through saying the signals are out as we crawl towards Poughkeepsie. Were 10 miles away.
  • 8:18 – A truck passes.
  • 8:22 – We speed up. The conductor comes through trying to keep a sense of humor. We’re clearly out of the effected area.

We finally arrive in Poughkeepsie at 8:28 leave at 8:30 and pick up speed. I make a point of stopping in the cafe car and notice everything fresh is as expected sold out (the Adirondack’s round trips are entirely stocked in NYP since ALB no longer has a Commissary)

The train finally arrives in Croton-Harmon at 9:14. I see the conductor leading a blind women and her dog. I also notice that were on the information signs as arrived on track 1 with the Maple Lead (late 60) on track 2. The signs both say New York-Penn, stopping at Yonkers, New York-Penn. We leave at 9:18, 20 minutes to Yonkers. Our veteran conductors are doing the rounds. Only Yonkers has seat checks left.


We regain speed going down the Metro-North Express Track. I arrive in Yonkers at 9:35.

I look out to subway cars in the Kawasaki shops. It’s 25 minutes before the next buses south to 242 Street. Metro-North has just left the station too. The next buses (both 1 and 2) aren’t until 10:00. I walk up to Getty Square and continue walking along the bus routes until I find a stop shared by routes 1 and the 2. The other stops seem to alternate between the routes. The stop is along Broadway in front of a hospital and I have the the entertainment of four fire trucks pulling up for no apparent reason.

At 10:04 the bus, route 2 finally arrives 3 minutes late. I should have asked to stay on the train, It has arrived into Penn Station at 10:00pm. I have a feeling the nice crew would have let me stayed on had I explained my situation and asked. I check train #177, normally scheduled to depart at 10:05, and discover it left 5 minutes late at 10:10. I assume they held the train for connecting passengers. Otherwise these passengers would have been stuck until 3:00am when the Twilight Shoreliner/Night Owl makes its middle of the night pass through Penn Station.  This time with the long bus wait I would have been home much sooner had I stayed on the train.

At 10:14 my bus enter the Bronx. It’s a quick trip down Broadway to 242 street on the 1 train arriving at 10:19. I use my transfer to get on the subway, the countdown clocks say 4 minutes. We here an awful sounding bell. The countdown clock goes to orange for 0min and goes blank. The doors close at 10:24 and we head south.
10:29 – enter Manhattan at 225 Street-Marble Hill. I get off the 1 train at 181 Street at 10:36, almost exactly an hour my arrival. The subway from Penn Station takes this much time.