Yes, I’m a bit behind (again). This Trip was taken on Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12) to start The Cold Ocean Not Quite to Halifax
Lincoln’s Birthday, this year the Thursday before Presidents Day is still observed by New York State and CUNY, meaning without any real Friday obligations I can have a five-day weekend. I dither about where to go possibly going somewhere warm like visiting friends in Phoenix but when I check airfares I realize I’m too late, nothings cheaper than $500 for the long weekend. I debate Chicago, only $200 round-trip. I’m then randomly checking VIA Rail Express Deals and find a deal for $189 CAN on Sleeper Plus Class (all meals included) on the Ocean from Montreal to Halifax, a really good deal. Sadly it ends up costing me $254 CAN because of the dreaded single supplement. With the fact the loony is so low against the dollar right now it ends up being just about $200 US, which still feels like a good deal, an overnight and 3 meals included on the train probably highest on my practical list to ride. I find a half-reasonable priced one-way flight home for $197 on Presidents Day afternoon, this feels like a lot but transborder flights are really expensive because $80 of it is taxes (what you mean I need to pay various U.S. and Canadian immigration and agricultural fees?) Amtrak-transborder tickets don’t charge immigration fees, I guess flyers or the Federal budget subsidizes them. Hostels also seem cheaper than normal when I run the exchange rate, about $22 a night with the high Canadian taxes, I’ll take it!
I head down towards Penn Station at 7:10, I realize that I’ve lost my TD Bank Card (money without foreign transaction fees in Canada) and stop at TD Bank near Penn Station to ask for a new card. I’m out within ten minutes after showing my passport and telling him my social security number. They print cards on the stop! I can’t seem though to get a new chip and pin card so I’ll be back to getting the strange, why does your TD Bank Card require you sign comments? I get to Penn Station at 7:50. I see new signs and two lines, stretching back along the waiting areas. One is for the stops in New York State, one for the two Quebec transborder stops. I don’t get a photo of the transborder sign.
I walk beyond and stop at a QuickTrack machine to get a paper ticket. I then head over to the podium to get my passport looked at and the paper ticket I’ve picked up stamped Canada. I’m also handed a blue seat check that I’m told I need to hand over at the gate. I notice their already boarding within New York State passengers and decide to try the exit concourse trick. I open the closed doors and go downstairs to track 6. I tell the conductor at the bottom of the escalator Montreal and am directed to to the rear two Amfleet II cars. There already a decent number of people on board, mostly assisted by red caps it seems. I board the front one since the rear one is occupied by 40 high school students, there chaperone saying, you don’t want to sit here although there well behaved. The two Montreal cars are full enough and I don’t spread my baggage out enough that I’m soon joined by a seatmate.
At 8:14 I hear the MU bell of the doors closing and at 8:19 were going through the series of open cuts and tunnels out of Penn Station heading north. The conductor comes through saying Showtime, and jokes meaning its now time for you to show me your tickets. I notice he doesn’t bother putting seat checks up, departing Albany are conductors now going to rescan the whole train like on the Northeast Corridor going into and leaving New York Penn?
- 8:24 – West Side Improvement with the gaps in grates.
- 8:25 – outside along the West Side Highway at 98 Street.
- 8:30 – Pass La Marina and see my first chucks of ice in the Hudson River. There really small at this point.
- 8:31 – Inwood interlocking and slow down for the swing bridge.
- 8:33 – make the brief stop to switch from Amtrak’s Spuyten Duyvil Line to Metro-North. I enjoy all the ice in the Hudson River.
We stop in Yonkers at 8:39, leaving at 8:42.
It’s a scenic trip past the Metro-North stops I know so well, the ice isn’t that high in the river. We get to Croton-Harmon at 9:00 and my window is directly under a station information sign that I notice has a strange inconsistency it says St Lambert, PQ (the French abbreviation), and Montreal, QC (the English abbreviation) for the two Canadian stops. We leave at 9:03 and I See the Phoebe Snow in the yard as we leave.
- 9:09 – Pass Cortdlandt
- 9:11 – Through our first grade crossing and whistle of the day Peeksill. We then cross the area where the train runs between
- 9:17 – See the few houses and pass Manitou Station, someone has been there to shovel the snow.
- 9:25 – Breakneck Ridge, a sign just sticking out of the snow!
I put my computer away deciding that it’s cat nap time. I do notice the Hudson is becoming more snowed over. I wake up when we get to Poughkeepsie at 9:39, a whopping 6 minutes early, I guess Metro-North has treated the Adirondack well this morning. We leave on time at 9:45.
- 10:03 – See two foxes out on the ice!
- 10:08 – The river is nicely packed with ice
- 10:18 – See the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse which means one thing, approaching Hudson, New York
At 10:20 we stop in Hudson, right on time. We leave a couple minutes late at the snowy station. We leave at 10:22.
- 10:33 – I’m sitting in the cafe car and get kicked out so they can restock, were told it will reopen after we leave Albany. Out the window is a mess of blowing snow. I think that will be the tone of the next few days. It’s doesn’t seem like its snowing were just blowing enough of it.
- 10:41 – Approach Renneslear, as its clearly snowing as we near Renneselear Station.
We pull into Albany at 10:44.
I detrain in the snow and see that the area north of the station is a mess with platform extensions underway and that the addition of a new forth track is clearly progressing. They take off the front coach that is for the numerous New York-Albany passengers (the southbound also receives an additional coach) along with the P32AC-DM
At 11:00 I get some neat photos of the Ethan Allen Express entering as our new P42 backs up.
We leave on time at 11:10 as the conductor comes through saying “Is there anyone in this car not going to Canada?” since we lack seat checks. No one says no, he leaves. As we pass the yard where I notice the Amtrak Pointless arrow is lit and cross the Hudson.
The snow blows at us through the trees on the Hoffmans Branch that is slightly rougher track.
We stop in Schenectady at 11:31, 3 minutes early. The stop looks as dilapidated as ever. We leave at 11:34, the station rebuilding project clearly hasn’t started.
11:44 – reach some stop and go trackage, don’t know why.
12:04 – Through the small yard south of Saratoga Springs Station.
We arrive in the actual Saratoga Springs Station that is the only stop in New York State on Amtrak, not only served by the Adirondack I haven’t really been too (I ran off the train once) at 12:06, 4 minutes late. We leave at 12:08, 6 minutes late. Two C1s of the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad are sitting in the station.
We stop in the FED (Fort Edward) at 12:29, 5 minutes late. I notice one woman with a suitcase getting off and heading into the station. It looks like someone shoveled the platform recently but there is a new layer of snow from this morning. I’m already regretting deciding I didn’t feel like lugging my snow boots around. I know I will manage. Leaving I feel my first bumps of the rougher track.
The next time I look up from my work (yes I’m a traveling sudent), were coming to another stop across from Carol’s Collectibles and Antiques which only means one thing, were approaching Whitehall, and seem to stop twice, perhaps before the junction where the Ethan Allen Diverges, we then make our brief station stop in Whitehall, 7 minutes late at 12:56.
We start following Lake Champlain that looks completely frozen! I see people out on the lake. I’m engrossed in editing a paper.
We stop in Ticonderoga briefly at 1:28, 4 minutes late. I think for one person, one car is in the parking lot with people outside it. I notice a trash bag and trash can in the small brick station building.
I enjoy the frozen views of Lake Champlain in the Lounge Car that is a bit lound (but I’ve heard worse on Long Distance trains) from the group of High School Band Students.
The lake is spectacular with a number of ice fishing huts on the lake. The windows are extremely dirty though and I don’t get decent photos.
We get to Port Henry, the seniors center station at 1:50, still just 6 minutes down. Lake Champlain is iced over and covered in snow, exactly what I was hoping for on this trip. We go in and out of the trees.
We get to Westport at 2:10, 6 minutes late. No sign of the southbound, I then remember that the southbound is now running about an hour later. As I check it, Amtrak Status Maps says it hasn’t left Rouses Point although the app says its on time into Plattsburg. I check the schedule and realize I could now visit Westport for a 20 minutes stop if the southbound was on time.
- 2:20 – We come to a stop on a siding to wait for the southbound Adirondack. It soon comes by to pass, the same five car consist, two Amfleet I’s leading the Amfleet-I Lounge that says Northeast Regional and two trailing. The snow is blowing and looks deep as we approach Plattsburg.
- 2:40 – We follow the lake passing through the series of tunnels. It’s snowing again and exactly what I hoped to see. I’m sitting in the café car attempting to use the wifi. That has gotten quite bad this far north and some of the traveling high school band members ask for ice, I see one of the girls come back with an entire bag and cups! An Amtrak first!
- 2:58 – Bypass Port Kent, closed for the winter, the platform is not shoveled and completely covered in a couple feet of snow. The lake is nice and icy but hard to see.
- 3:04 – See Fields as we go through the blowing snow.
They kick us out of the cafe car at 3:10.
We get to Plattsburg 7 minutes early at 3:15. I debate trying to get off but don’t feel like pushing the crew. It’s also snowing as 4 vehicles pull out as we wait. We leave on time at 3:22.
The next stop is Rouses Point early at 3:50. It’s an L Stop so we leave 10 minutes early to head across the border.
We stop at 3:54 to set a switch. We get to the border at 4:00 and sit for 5 minutes before 6 or 7 CBSA agents head out of their modular building that has a license plate. My row is nearly the last to be interviewed and I tell my story getting admitted to Canada with virtually no further questioning. There asking a lot of people (including my seatmate, a Korean National with a green card) about their luggage. The car is mostly Americans going up to Montreal for long weekends (most are couples). We have to advise one CBSA agent the holiday on Monday. At 5:00 it seems like there done with interviews but we keep sitting a few people get on and off for secondaries as the sun fully sets. We sit for another hour as they keep taking on and off and talking to same few unusual passport holders. There is a lot of muttering around the car. I spend the customs layover enjoy my seat mates (who’s exactly my age) life story as a violinist who has just broken up with a guy in Montreal and is going up for a previously planned audition. She doesn’t normally take the train, normally tries RideShare (paying someone going up to Montreal anyway using KanagaRide) or the bus that I learn is more expensive.
We get the HEP refresh and leave the border at 6:16. I’d forgotten how rough the track is in Quebec! Luckily my AT&T signal is nice and strong so I can keep up Aderson, a Railfan I met on the Adirondack 2 years ago who lives in Virginia but is randomly also in Montreal, up to date on my progress. We’re told an ETA in Montreal as we reach additional Manual switches.
I keep seeing crew with there various land turns and broom for resetting the switches.
- 7:00 – Slowly go through Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu as I notice it’s snowing from the street lights. I end up the band car finding water and see the students all spread out. If there wasn’t a group of 40 I would have had two seats with myself.
- 7:16 – I look at my phone, tracking seems to be working and realize we’re slowling down to switch railroads as we slowly approach Montreal.
- 7:26 – Were officially in the suburbs with plenty of lights visible through the snow.
- 7:31 – We slowly approach the final junction onto the main line into Montreal from Quebec City that I’ll be leaving Montreal in 23 hours.
- 7:32 – This switching move is relatively quick onto the main CN Line through a rail yard.
We steam straight through Staint-Lambert at 7:36, I guess no one is getting on or off.
- 7:37 – Wete on the bridge as hordes of the high schoolers and others leave the cafe car.
- 7:40 – Get the arrival annocuement and come to a stop on the bridge.
- 7:44 – We enter passing the large rail yard
- 7:45 – We join the main line and stop, a VIA train from Toronto or Ottawa gets priority.
- 7:48 – Were moving again on the viaduct that will soon become a tunnel towards Gare Central.
- 7:52 – Lights off as we slowly enter onto the dark platforms.
We finally arrive in Montreal’s Gare Central at 7:54.
I slowly head upstairs into the nearly deserted main station of Gare Central. There no more VIA departures tonight. I try the ticket counter for my Ocean ticket tomorrow and find it closed.
I find Anderson from the Amtrak Unlimited forum I sometimes read who is also randomly in Montreal whom I meeting for dinner. We walk to an Indian Restaurant and we have an enjoyable night talking Amtrak shop. I then buy a 24-hour Metro Pass for $10 where luckily I have $10 Canadian already in my wallet since the Metro Vending Machines will only accept chip based cards and don’t like my attempts to use my American Debit card.