reading an article in TRAINS Magazine about Amtrak discontinuing the Three
Rivers train between New York and
Chicago, I decided to go down and
ride the train before Amtrak discontinued the route. I booked my trip about a
month in advance and got good deals on two of the three Amtrak trains I would
I had decided to go the day after Valentine’s Day as in late
February my parents and grandma would be celebrating their birthdays and I
didn’t want to be away for those days. After I got the time off of work, I just
had to wait for February 15th to get here. My plan was to ride
Amtrak’s Maple Leaf from Toronto to
New York, overnight in Manhattan,
take the Three Rivers to Chicago,
then ride back to Buffalo on the
Lake Shore Limited where my dad would pick me up.
February 15, 2005:
I got down to Toronto’s
Union Station around , 30 minutes
before the Maple Leaf was scheduled to depart. I had ridden the Canadian
portion of the route which is operated by VIA Rail Canada
to Niagara Falls, Ontario
where an Amtrak crew takes over.
When I boarded the Maple Leaf, I got a little surprise; in
the past, the train usually had an engine, four Amfleet 1 coaches, and an
Amfleet 1 café car. Upon getting to track level, I immediately noticed that the
train had Amfleet 2 coaches! At the time, I thought this was rare, but later
learned that Amtrak had assigned the long distance Amfleet 2 coaches to this
I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25000, a refurbished coach
with a white and blue interior, digital display boards, and AC outlets by each
seat. The train as VIA train 97 departed right on time. As the train passed
VIA’s Toronto Maintenance Centre, I
took video of the equipment that was in the yard including the trainset of
VIA’s Toronto-Montreal overnight train, the Enterprise
which uses the Renaissance coaches and an F40PH still with the Spiderman 2
Amtrak P42DC #103 was in charge of the train today. We
passed through the stops at Oakville
and Aldershot. After Aldershot, I
found out that the train would stop in St. Catherines,
Ontario, bypassing its stop in Grimsby.
Since I was crossing the Canadian-U.S. boarder, the
conductor handed me a card which I had to fill in and before we got there. Once
I had filled out the card, I headed to the Café car, (which was the first car
in the train), and grabbed a hot dog and a can of Coke before the Café car
At Niagara Falls, Ontario,
the Customs crew got on. The train departed and crossed into the United
States and stopped at Niagara
Falls, New York where the
agents began to check the passengers. When they spoke with me, they asked to
see my return ticket. I explained I would be meeting up with my dad in Buffalo
and would not be taking the train across the boarder. They then asked if I knew
a girl who was seated near to me who happen to be going to Rochester.
I told them I didn’t.
Soon, the customs inspection was finished. The passengers
were allowed onto the platform for a cigarette break since smoking is now
prohibited on most of Amtrak’s trains. I proceeded to take some photos of the
train and Amtrak P42 #154 which was sitting all alone on a side track.
After the train departed Niagara Falls,
New York on time, the café car reopened.
The train was now known as Amtrak train #64. The train stopped at Buffalo-Exchange
Street and Buffalo, Depew,
as well as Rochester. Between Rochester
and Syracuse, train 63 passed us. At Syracuse, I stepped
out and took another picture of my coach. Shortly after we departed, I took
video of Amtrak train #281 passing us.
Sometime later, we arrived in Utica, New York,
where I took pictures of various historic railway equipment as well as cars
from the AdirondackScenicValley tourist line. Shortly after we departed, the sun went down.
Amtrak train #283 passed us. We stopped in Amsterdam and Schenectady
where I took video of Amtrak train #49, the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago. Next,
the train arrived at Albany where P42 #103 was taken off and replaced with a P32AC-DM that
would take the train the rest of the way to New York. When
we left Albany, I grabbed a burger and Pepsi from the café car and retreated to
my seat where I stayed for the rest of the trip. At Croton-Hammond, I saw a
line of Metro-North FL9s at Metro North’s shop. We stopped in Yonkers, New York,
before we headed into New York’s Penn Station, arriving about 10 minutes early!
In Penn Station, I got some souvenirs and
headed outside to take a taxi. Upon stepping outside, I was greeted with warmth
despite being in the middle of February. I took a taxi to the ManhattanYouthCastle, a
hostel where I would be spending the night. I got checked into the hostel and
got settled in for the night. After grabbing some stuff from a convenience
store next door, I decided to call it a night after calling home from a
February 16, 2005:
I had gotten up early and grabbed some
food from the convenience store next door to the hostel. At 10:00 am, I tried
to email the photos I had taken the day before home to me to make room on my
digital camera’s memory card, but the computer at the hostel didn’t have
Windows so doing that was impossible. After I checked out of the hostel, the
staff at the hostel told me there was an internet café five blocks south, so I
walked there and was able to email the pictures home to me.
After I left the café, I rode one of New York’s
newest subway cars on the 6 line. After I got off, I took video of the train
pulling out and headed out to catch an “E” line train that would take me to
Penn Station. When I got to the platform, I had just missed an “E” line train.
While I was waiting for the next one, a subway musician began to get on my
nerves and I was hoping the next train would get there soon. Finally, it did.
This train consisted of the oldest stock
in revenue service on the New
York subway system and
reminded me of the Toronto Transit Commission’s class M-1 subway cars which
were retired in 1999. At Penn station, I got off and took video of the train
pulling out of the station and a photo of another subway train. After that, I
headed into the station and grabbed some lunch while I waited for Amtrak train
#41, the westbound Three Rivers to board. When the Three Rivers did board, I
took a picture of the schedule to announce the Three Rivers boarding since the
train was about to be cut.
The Three Rivers consisted of three
Amfleet 2 coaches and an Amfleet 1 café car. The first part of the trip, the
train was led by HHP-8 electric locomotive #657 from New York to Philadelphia. I
was seated in coach #25100, another refurbished coach. One thing to note for
those who have never taken the Three Rivers in the New York to Philadelphia
portion of the route, the coach seats are arranged backwards since when a
diesel locomotive couples on at Philadelphia, the seats would face forwards.
boarding my coach, I met Richard, another railfan who is a conductor with CSX
and I switched seats and engaged conversation with him since I had graduated
from a conductor program, but have had no luck finding a job with the railways.
Richard was on the train for the same reason I was. I also found out he would
be on the LakeShore
the following night, just like me.
Rivers left on time and as we left New York,
I finally saw the EmpireStateBuilding as the train picked up
speed. At Newark and a couple
stations beyond, I noticed some PATH subway trains and wondered if any of the
cars were from the last train to depart the WorldTradeCenter
station on September 11, 2001.
arrived in Philadelphia where the
HHP-8 electric was removed. P42DC #156 coupled onto the rear of the train.
Since there was a fair sized layover, I decided to walk the train and take some
pictures and video of an Acela Express train departing.
a high school dance club got on the train. They were all going to a contest in
the Chicago area. They were all
seated in my coach. I’m guessing they thought taking the train was cheaper than
chartering a highway coach.
We left Philadelphia
and sometime later, we were passed by train 40, the Eastbound Three Rivers. It
had a similar consist to our train, except there were two mechanical reefer
cars coupled to the rear of the train. At HarrisburgPennsylvania, I saw an eastbound Keystone
service train while the passengers were allowed onto the platform for a smoking
break. When we left, I saw a former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric
locomotive. A couple hours later, I went to the café car for dinner. I took it
back to my coach seat. The high school dance club which had gotten on at Philadelphia
decided to practice their routine in the coach, but the conductor intervened.
Some passengers didn’t like that, but I liked the routine. It made for dinner
and a show.
and Johnstown, the train went
around the famous Horseshoe curve. I was hoping to get some footage on video,
but unfortunately, it was dark and the train wasn’t long enough to get the
train’s lights going around the curve.
the train had a layover. I again got out onto the platform to take some
pictures of the train while other passengers enjoyed a cigarette. I also saw a
couple of privately owned cars on a couple of side tracks.
Sorry if this image is
blurry. It was dark and I wanted to get a decent picture with the settings of
my digital camera.
departed Pittsburgh, I headed back
to the café car to mingle. Richard had moved back there to escape the group of
high school students and was trying to decide whether or not to upgrade to
business class. After some conversation among Richard, the train crew, and some
other passengers, I bought an Amtrak blanket for $10.00 and headed back to the
coach, which by now, the crew had killed the lights and were handing out
pillows for passengers to sleep. I stretched across the two now vacant seats as
a passenger who was sitting next to me earlier was moved to another car so he
could sit with his wife.
February 17, 2005:
I was awakened at
while the train was stopped at Akron, Ohio.
Apparently, one of the high school students was missing; possibly he stepped
off the train for a cigarette. I believe he was found shortly after. I was able
to get back to sleep for about another three hours, when the conductor woke me
up since we were nearing Chicago.
The crew turned the inside lights on in the coach and I begun to prepare to get
off the Three Rivers once we got into Chicago.
Soon, I saw the Chicago El’s Red Line and I knew we were almost to the station.
Before we got into Chicago, our
train was wyed and we backed into the station. After I got off the train, I
took one last picture of the Three Rivers before I headed into the station.
Our train had arrived in Chicago
early, but it was all for the better as I had quite a bit planned for my day in
After renting a locker to keep my luggage in, I headed out
and had breakfast at a restaurant. After breakfast, I again called home from a
I then headed over to the Chicago Transit Authority’s
headquarters and bought a day pass. After, I decided to head down to ride the SouthShore line. I rode a two car train
to East Chicago, (which by the way
is located in the state of Indiana).
While waiting for my train back into downtown Chicago,
I saw a SouthShore
freight train pass by powered by three Geeps. Once I got back into Chicago,
I stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch.
After lunch, I headed over to Amtrak’s 14th
Street Yard and snapped a few photos of the equipment
in the yard including what appeared to be the coaches from the Three Rivers
minus the locomotive. I also saw a train with Superliner coaches.
Next, I rode CTA’s red line to Howard station and
transferred to the Skokie Swift. The trains that ran on the line used to get
their power from overhead wires until September when the line was converted to
third rail power. Never the less, it still was an enjoyable ride.
After, I headed down to ride CTA’s oldest El cars in revenue
service, the 2200 series cars. They run on CTA’s blue line and rarely lead
because they aren’t wheelchair accessible. I rode a 2200 series car to O’Hare
station and back to Clark/Lake station.
By now, it was about
in the evening. I had arranged with a transit fan I had met on a PCC streetcar
charter in Toronto a couple years
ago that I would call him at the time. I called him from a payphone and said
that he would meet me at the station in a few minutes. I knew he worked one
station north of the Clark/Lake stop. He said he would meet me at Clark/Lake
station. Each time I saw a Southbound Green line train arrive, I would scan it
to see if my acquaintance Greg was on the train. After about three or four
trains, he showed up.
We then took the next southbound train a couple stops where
we went into a restaurant. I wanted to have dinner on the train, so I only got
a bag of Pretzels and a can of Coke. Greg paid for the purchases as well as
something for himself. We sat down at a table and discussed transit in Chicago
and Toronto. Greg gave me a tape of
video footage he had shot a few years ago in some trips to Cleveland.
left the restaurant, Greg and I took CTA’s blue line and we got on a 2200
series El car, (the third one I’ve gotten on that day). We headed back to Chicago’s
Union station where I retrieved my luggage. I soon found the track where Amtrak
train 48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited would depart from. I said goodbye to
Greg as I headed out to board train 48.
I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25007, which turned out to
be the only unrefurbished coach in the train. The coach attendant spoke in a
manner that made her look like a combination between a drill sergeant and an
airline stewardess! As the train pulled out of the station, I took video of
Amtrak’s Cardinal on another track as well as a Superliner equipped train on
the track next to us. As we passed by Amtrak’s 14th Street yard, I
caught a glimpse of P40DC #832 in the Phase V livery, being one of about a dozen
units to receive that paint scheme as most of them are in storage.
leaving Chicago, I decided to look
around for an AC outlet to charge my digital camera’s batteries. The train crew
eventually pointed to one in the lounge car and I was able to charge the
While I was looking around the
train, I met Richard again. This time, he was joined by Bill, another railfan
about my age who had come up on the Texas Eagle. Soon, the three of us mingled
in the lounge. I grabbed a hot dog and an apple muffin from the lounge car for
my supper as Richard and Bill headed into the dining car. I eventually joined
them and had a slice of apple pie for desert.
The dining car on the train was
#8505, a former CB&Q diner which had been refurbished and looked quite
fancy inside. Richard had a pretty big steak while Bill had a salad. I took a
couple pictures of the inside of the dining car before the three of us headed
back to the lounge car.
In the lounge car, we shared some
train pictures and stories from previous train trips. Richard and Bill told me
of a time that there were on the same train awhile ago when it struck a car at
a railroad crossing, killing the two occupants. While their train sat around
during the investigation, freight trains crept by at speeds no greater than 15
mph on an adjacent track. I told them of a story of back in October, I was on a
VIA train which was delayed about 20 minutes because of a van being abandoned
on a railroad crossing ahead. I also mentioned how a little girl seated near me
kept asking me if I had a word search book, even though I told her I did not,
and how she kept asking me until I finally snapped at her.
At one point, we passed by the New
York Central Railroad Museum in Indiana and saw that its collection had a GG1
painted in Penn Central colours and an E8 painted and lettered for the New York
The time passed quickly, so I said
goodbye to Richard and Bill and headed back to my coach seat where I got
another pillow and I used the blanket I had bought the night before on the
Three Rivers and got some sleep.
I woke up as the train was in Elyria,
Ohio. I fell asleep again, but woke up
outside of Cleveland. Amtrak train
49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited passed by as we waited outside of Cleveland.
I fell asleep again and woke up at Erie, Pennsylvania.
After another nap, I noticed the sun coming up. I packed my things so that when
the train stopped in Buffalo, I was
ready to get off.
arrived at Buffalo-Depew station about 30 minutes late which is not too bad
since the train has in the past arrived HOURS late. Upon disembarking from the
train, I walked to the end of the station to get a picture of the train and
video of the train leaving the station. As I filmed the train leaving the
station, about half way through, I ran out of space on my digital camera’s
memory card, but never the less, I did get some good footage.
Upon walking back to the station, I
found my dad was already waiting for me and that he had gotten to Depew
just after train 48 had arrived, but failed to see me walking to the end of the
We stopped at restaurant for
breakfast before crossing the border and going back to Toronto. I slept most of
the way. I got home at .
This was my
first big trip, but won’t be my last. On March
6, 2005, the Three Rivers made its final run to New
York and Chicago.
all, this trip was enjoyable. I wish I could have been able to record the whole
pulling out of Depew, but oh well. Until next time…