Transit Adventures

Home from Saint-Lambert, a nice ride on the Ocean View

For my trip home I decided to book my ticket from Saint-Lambert so I can get pictures of the dome car entering and also because I’m curious about the state of the station since I visited it a year ago just a few days before the ticket office closed and was supposedly replaced by a Boarding Pass Kiosk and Train information display.

I leave the hostel at 8:15 and walk over to Berri-UQAM for the last time of this trip. I tap my three day pass (2 one day passes are the same price as a 3 day pass) and head down the three sets of esclators to the deep Yellow Line that will take me under the St. Lawrence River and onto the Mainland. I have just missed a train and wait a good 7 minutes. (Service is still half-decent, every 10 on a Sunday morning). I get off at Longueuil on the mainland and make my way upstairs to the enclosed corridors (with heat!) of the huge bus terminal that serves this city sprawling suburbs just south of Montreal. There a couple of buses I can take down to the Saint-Lambert. Route 1 is the route I remember and the 8:45 trip is running a few minutes late before the driver comes and opens the door so we can get on. It’s a quick ten minute ride to Saint-Lambert where I get off at the VIA station on one side of the tracks, AMT Commuter Rail Station on the other.

I head up to the VIA station and start getting photos. There is a 9:22 train to Quebec City that I’m looking forward to photographing. It leaves Montreal at 9:00 and has a whopping 22 minutes on its schedule to just cross the Saint Lawrence. Needless to say the train takes just ten minutes to cross the bridge and arrives at 9:10. The Train Manager (VIA has a system where two people ride in the cab as the Conductor/Engineer sharing those duties with just on board crew opening the doors, not in charge of actual train operations) opens one door and says something only in French pointing out the two directions for the cars that passengers have their assigned seats for. There a good half dozen boarding this Sunday Morning train to Quebec City. The train is also extremely overpowered with two locomotives, a P32 and F40 pulling six of the narrow Rennissance Cars that were designed to fit the ultra-narrow British loading gauge for the ill-fated, never started Nightstar Sleeper service through the Eurotunnel and VIA got second hand. The steps down to the low-level platform also look totally ridiculous, 4 automatically pull out from the train.

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Realizing I have ten minutes and can get a better photo I go back to the AMT Commuter Rail Platform and get some very good ones and photograph it leaving from there. I return to the station and there is a French man that I remember from my last visit occupying the waiting room. On my last visit he was chatting with the VIA ticket agent that is no longer there. The ticket office has been boarded up with a new wall added that includes a eTicket Vending Machine and a LCD monitor that lists the upcoming departures. Only VIA’s are on there the Adirondack gets nearly a mention. There is just a tiny sign in the window of the station for it. The man it turns out I think is just a local railfan that has a scanner on and we chat in broken English briefly about trains and I give my website to him.

The Adirondack arrives 5 minutes early at 9:40 led by Ocean View. The consist is the same as on the way up with two Amfleet-Is ahead of the center Northeast Regional Cafe car and two Amfleet-IIs behind it. The train stops, the conductor opens a door in-between the two Amfleet-Is that are clearly the intermediate cars. I’m the only passenger getting on. He asks me if I’m going to Yonkers, I say yes and step aboard, he says I got you (not bothering to see a ticket) and puts a seat check up for me as I board a nearly empty Amfleet-I in use as the intermediate car. The conductor chats with the man at the station briefly they clearly do this every time the Adirondack arrives in Saint-Lambert early. The conductor says Ocean View is open and I’m sitting there before we leave Saint Lambert.

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9:50 – We go through a yard and at CN Southwark we slow down and curve off of the line used by AMT Commuter Rail. The track becomes the slow branch line speeds.
10:24 – Pass the historic depot of Saint-Laurent
We get kicked out of the dome car just before 11:00 and I watch them set the manual switches before we enter Rouses Point. The locomotive stops at the platform, the Customs and Border Patrol are waiting on the gravel outside their modular building. At 11:05, about six on them board and one finally stops to interview me. Unlike last years trip. “Three days, tourism, I’m only brining tea, I stayed in a hostel” is all I need before “You have a safe trip home” with nearly a smile. Less than 30 seconds with border patrol. Excellent!
At about noon the conductor gets back on ear buds in lunch in hand. At 12:06 the group of ten file off the train. Our scheduled departure time from Rouses Point. HEP refreshes.
The crew seems surprised the check as been so quick. The one women boarding walks down the ballast to board and we slowly leave, stopping again we leave for good at 12:12, 7 minutes late.
12:44 – Cross the bridge into Plattsburgh.
We arrive in Plattsburgh at 12:46. I still can’t believe the crew once let me off here. Its a quite nice historic station.

I run into the same railfan/railroad employee who works for the Erie and Morristown Line that I chatted with on the way up. On this trip I pretty much stop taking notes heading south. He has a huge timetable collection and visited the Railway Museum in the suburbs that is accessible by the AMT’s Candiac Line only for a few hours during weekdays. He bought a bunch of timetables in the museum and we have a fun time looking through them in the Ocean Views Dome Car. We keep losing a bit more time (Southbound #68 always seems to) as we head south. We stop in Port Henry at 2:31, 27 minutes late and much to my surprise no Trails and Rails Volunteers board. I know there is way too much Recovery time in Albany so an on time arrival isn’t an issue (from Fort Edward to NYP for example the Ethan Allen Express that doesn’t have an Engine Change and less recovery time in Albany is a full 45 minutes faster).

We stop in Saratoga Springs at 4:16, 32 minutes late. The conductor comes up to the dome (who’s PA system is clearly not working and not connected with the rest of the train) to announce he is going to need to close the dome. This seems a bit early to me but he explains that with recovery time and not needing to wait for the Lake Shore (if its late, its on time today) to clear the station in Schenectady that were running early.

I grudgingly head back to my seat to put my iPhone in and take a nap (it was a short night, the night before being social in the hostel). We stop in Schenectady at 4:50, 7 minutes late. I didn’t realize there is a bunch of recovery time between Saratoga Springs and SDY as well! I’ve know returned to the track I know so well that New York State is finally going to double-track. We pull into Albany at 5:18 only 3 minutes late across from the Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited still sitting on the opposite side platform where it has to go to access the tracks on the Post Road Connection. I head outside to photograph the engine change and Ocean view backing through the station. A Genesis P32 attached to a fifth Amfleet-I coach to accommodate the throngs of passengers headed back to New York City on a Sunday night (the train is sold out from somewhere along the Hudson) and a large number of passengers board. I head back to my seat and much to my surprise no one has doubled up with me yet!

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We leave Albany and I pack up, I head to the awful Amfleet-I lounge and sit my new railfan friends as the sun has almost fully set going down the Hudson. I return to my seat just after Croton-Harmon, I have a seat mate now and pack up. I chat briefly with her explaining that I’ve had a long day starting in Montreal at 9:30, she has no idea the train started in Montreal. I also mention the Dome Car for the foliage and try to explain it. I get off to the darkened Yonkers platform at 7:43, 3 minutes early.

I walk out the few blocks were the Route 1 and 2 Buses leave from and see a Route 2 bus waiting to make a left turn. I jog down to the nearest stop easily making it but not really need to wait. Its a quick ride down to Van Courtland Park. Unfortunately track work means there is no 1 train service north of 137 Street. Buses run in three sections, the northern one from 242 Street to 207 Street on the A train. I have to transfer to another bus, that is a fee Shuttle Bus. The Shuttle bus is slow and takes much longer than I like, particularly because we waste 5 minutes above the 207 Street station (passing its northern entrance) waiting for red lights just to get to the bus stop at its main southern one on the far south side of the street were I can finally get off and go down into the subway, swiping my MetroCard for the free transfer. I still definately beat the Adirondack, getting home at 181 Street at 8:33. The trains scheduled arrival into Penn Station is 8:35, but it did arrive 5 minutes early at 8:30, I still can’t make it home though in 3 minutes from Penn Station! Yonkers worked again!