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Buffalo, NY To Sandusky, OH On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
Trip Planning:
 
  For my big trip for 2012, I wanted to visit Silver Rails Country in La Plata, MO which I had originally planned to visit back in 2011. Due to a significant change of plans on that trip (Amtrak cancelled one of the trains I was set to ride due to severe freight delays attributed to flooding that summer, only to decide to run it again after I had already rebooked on other trains), a visit to La Plata that year never materialized. I decided once and for all that after missing out on visiting La Plata last year, I was definitely going there this year. I also wanted to get out to the west coast again to go railfanning on the route Amtrak uses north of Los Angeles. All of this of course would happen after visiting my second home in Ohio, Cedar Point!
  I booked this trip back in February 2012 utilizing Amtrak.com as well as Amtrak Guest Rewards. The plan was to ride from Buffalo-Depew Station to Sandusky, OH on Thursday Night, October 11th on Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited. I would spend the weekend in Sandusky and stay at a Fairfield Inn By Marriott hotel (same hotel as in the past two years), and rent a car from Enterprise. On Monday, October 15th, I would ride Train #49 again to Chicago. I planned to go railfanning at Roosevelt Road as well as West 18th street near Amtrak's Chicago Facilities. Both locations allow you to stand on public streets and frame the famous Willis Tower in your photos along with the trains, which is why I love railfanning in that part of Chicago! I planned to ride out of Chicago in a Superliner Roomette on Train #3 - The Southwest Chief and ride to La Plata, MO to visit Silver Rails Country! Now I know the ride from Chicago to La Plata was only about 5 hours but I wanted to leave Chicago in a sleeping car and I love the Metropolitan Lounge so I didn't care about the extra cost. All of the tickets so far were purchased via Amtrak.com for a total cost of $266.00. Once I arrive in La Plata, I would spend 3 nights at the Depot Inn & Suites and explore places in La Plata including the Exhibition of Amtrak History and the Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout Point! I would also have another rental car waiting for me from Enterprise. My next train on this journey would be the Southwest Chief again and I would ride in a Superliner Roomette to Los Angeles, where I would pick up Train #14 - The Coast Starlight and ride up to San Luis Obispo, also in a roomette. The total cost for those two tickets was 20,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points! After spending the night in San Luis Obispo at a Holiday Inn Express while riding along the railroad I planned to railfan later, I would ride Pacific Surfliner Train #1790 back to Los Angeles in Pacific Business Class (Ticket cost $58.00), pick up yet another rental car from Enterprise at the Los Angeles International Airport, then drive up to my hotel in Oxnard which would be my "home base" on this part of the trip. I would stay at the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel there for 4 nights and would railfan at a few scenic locations between Ventura and just south of Lompoc. I would fly home from Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines. This proved to be one absolutely incredible cross-country journey where I would visit a world class amusement park, as well as a world class railfanning area in Northeastern Missouri, as well as experience some of the most beautiful mountain scenery I've ever encountered along the west coast. One thing that would hold true about this trip is that it would be my final Amtrak trip using paper tickets. In July 2012, Amtrak switched over to Electronic Ticketing for most routes after successful test runs earlier in the year. In the past, I have rode as many as 6 Amtrak trains in one trip, however this trip would be the first where I would ride that many trains as well as rent 3 cars and stay in 4 hotels! So please join me on this journey (in a virtual form), there's so much to see and experience both in Silver Rails Country, and across our beautiful nation, ALL ABOARD!!!
 
Thursday Night, October 11th, 2012:
 
  I arrived shortly after 11:00pm at Buffalo-Depew Station having parked my car at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport so as to facilitate having it waiting for me when I get back home since I'm flying home on this trip. Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited was running about an hour late account freight delays (nothing new there). I chatted a bit with the ticket agents inside the station. As I said before, this would be my final Amtrak trip using paper tickets. I had one of the ticket agents take my picture next to the Buffalo-Depew station sign outside the building holding my paper ticket for tonight's train just for "historical purposes"! Shortly before the train arrived, the conductor came by to lift tickets in the station. Buffalo-Depew is a crew change point for this train so it is generally the normal procedure for the conductor to collect tickets before the train arrives. It would turn out that the Conductor on the train tonight would be operating solo, not an easy task, especially considering Train #49 is essentially 2 trains since one section comes from New York and the other from Boston. This would be the first time in my over 50,000 miles riding on Amtrak that I would be riding a train that had only one conductor. This of course is not normal and was likely due to a staffing issue. I ventured outside only to find someone waiting for the train that was a former co-worker from a job I had back in college. It started raining just before I made it out to the platform to board the train. At 12:47am, running 52 minutes late, Train #49 arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station. The consist for the train tonight is as follows:
 
140
P42DC
 
Power (From Boston)
90
P42DC
 
Power (From Boston)
1203
Heritage Baggage
 
Baggage Car (From Boston)
25096
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From Boston)
25009
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From Boston)
28021
Amfleet II Diner-Lite Car
 
Cafe/Lounge Car (From Boston)
25111
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From New York)
25077
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From New York - My Car)
25068
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From New York)
25052
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (From New York)
8532
Heritage Diner
Silver Halter
Dining Car (From New York)
62002
Viewliner I Sleeping Car
Autumn View
Sleeping Car (From New York) - 4911
62036
Viewliner I Sleeping Car
Skyline View
Sleeping Car (From New York) - 4912
62048
Viewliner I Sleeping Car
Wayside View
Sleeping Car (From New York) - 4920
1762
Heritage Baggage
 
Baggage Car (From New York)
SPECIAL NOTE: Most Viewliner I Sleepers and all Heritage Diners no longer display their names. The names listed here were original names given to these cars previously.
 
  The Boston Sleeper on this train, normally located behind the baggage car on the head end, was on the New York Section so the train still operated with 3 sleepers but with all 3 originating from New York. I was assigned seat #48 on the engineer's side of Amfleet II Coach #25077, which was in the New York section. This was an assigned seat on the train. I have found over the years that some crews assign seats and others do not, it might depend on passenger loads. I put one of my bags in the overhead rack and the other in the extra shelf space on the end of the car. The passenger in the window seat next to me was riding to South Bend, IN. We made a double spot at Buffalo-Depew Station to facilitate loading the sleeping car passengers onto the train. At 1:05am, running 1 hour and 6 minutes late, we departed Buffalo-Depew Station.
  I sat at my coach seat and watched the scenery go by as best I could. I pulled out my iPhone 4S and turned on the Maps/GPS app and was able to follow the train on a map of the area. This is really cool but it really drains the battery FAST!!! I continued using the GPS until just after passing through Derby and Angola which are my old stomping grounds. I then took a walk through the train to take down car numbers. I then went back to my coach and got out the computer and headed for the cafe car to start writing this travelogue. The conductor had his stuff set up on the table across the aisle from me and there appeared to be one other Amtrak employee who was likely deadheading to Toledo. I only briefly talked with both. The conductor looked very busy (being the solo guy in charge) and the other guy appeared to be helping him. We would move at a good clip and hopefully make up some time. We arrived at our next stop at Erie, PA at 2:31am, running 55 minutes late. The stop would end up being longer than normal as it turns out there was what appeared to be a medical emergency in Erie as there was a passenger sitting upright on a stretcher on the platform as the train made its second spot. We finally departed Erie at 2:48am, 1 hour and 12 minutes late.
  I went back to my coach seat, put away the computer and listened to the scanner all the way to just outside Cleveland. We only passed one freight near Ashtabula and the ride to Cleveland was relatively uneventful. Just before the Cleveland stop, I headed to the door in my coach as other passengers would be getting off the train there. We arrived in Cleveland at 4:25am now running 58 minutes late thanks to some padding in the schedule. We would have a brief smoking break here which is why I tried to get off the train first so I could run down the platform and get the last 3 car numbers that I didn't get before. I made it back to the train in plenty of time to reboard and at 4:41am, we departed Cleveland running 56 minutes late. I then got out the computer and continued writing this travelogue. I spent some time chatting again with the Conductor and engineer (the aforementioned other Amtrak employee who was helping the conductor earlier) who was deadheading to Toledo. We arrived at our next stop of Elyria, OH at 5:07am and departed at 5:11am running 53 minutes late. I spent a little more time in the cafe car before heading back to my coach seat to get my stuff together. Sandusky, OH was the next stop and would be my stop for this leg of the trip. This year, I wasn't the only person getting off the train in Sandusky as this has happened in years past but not this year. At 5:42am, running now only 47 minutes late, Train #49 arrived in Sandusky. The train had to make a double spot as there was a sleeping car passenger who needed to get off in Sandusky.
  I took a few photos of the train (utilizing the little flash on the camera and an ultra-high ISO, or what used to be known as the "film speed" back in the film photography days) before it departed Sandusky, and then called a cab and waited some 40 minutes for it to arrive (gotta love the "spartan" cab service in Sandusky overnight!). I then headed over to my hotel for this part of the trip, the Fairfield Inn By Marriott in Sandusky. This is the third year in a row that I've stayed at this hotel and thus far, it is one of the nicest hotel in Sandusky if you ask me. I originally booked a King room but none were available at my time of check-in so I settled for a room with 2 double beds. By the time I got to the hotel, I was beyond deliriously tired and they gave me a break on the price of the room anyway so no big deal. I was thankful just to get the early check-in! And with that, I would call it a day‚Ķ