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Christmas Shopping Trip 2004

Christmas Shopping Trip 2004
Buffalo To Schenectady, NY
December 5th-7th, 2004


Amtrak's Empire Service Train #288 Arriving In Depew
At 3:50pm - Sunday, December 5th, 2004

   For the 4th year in a row, I would involve Amtrak in my annual Christmas Shopping duties. For 2004, I would go back to Albany again to do "all-of-my-shopping-in-one-day", this is by far my best excuse to get in one more trip before the end of the year! My place of shopping again this year would be Albany's Crossgates Mall and since I hadn't ridden Train #288 since July 2000, I felt it would be a good idea to ride this train again to see if it still used the Metroliner Equipment, I also decided that I was gonna ride "in style" and ride in Business Class. This proved to be a very good trip in both directions, please read on...
   I arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station shortly after noon because there was a special excursion run being operated jointly with Amtrak and the Western NY Railway Historical Society. The train would be the “North Pole Limited” and would operate as part of Train #288, the train I would be riding. I wasn’t sure if the long-term parking lot would be used to accommodate the added cars that would be here from the people who would be boarding buses to Niagara Falls to catch Train #288, so I decided that it was in my best interest to get there early to get a parking space. After I arrived, I walked over to a nearby Ponderosa Steakhouse and had a semi-decent lunch there before walking back to the station and photographing Trains #64 and #63 – The Maple Leaf in both directions, I would also photograph a few freights as well. I had talked to a railfan as well as a few Amtrak employees while waiting. Amtrak is now firmly enforcing the baggage limits on all trains, as you now can only have no more than 2 suitcases not including purses or laptops on any train. There were 4 passengers who were turned away from Train #64 due to excessive luggage, they would then end up on Train #288. At 3:50pm, Train #288 arrived with P32AC-DM #712 for power, I was told by an Amtrak Employee that the Business Class Car was a newly refurbished one and was on the rear end of the train. As soon as the train arrived, passengers from the “North Pole Limited” exited the train as I walked down the platform and received a candy cane from “Santa”! I boarded the train and was directed to walk down to the very last car, not a problem for me as I was asked very politely to do so by the crew. The conductor on this train was the same one I rode with back in May on Train #286. We left Buffalo-Depew at 3:55pm, 5 minutes late. I set up shop in my Business Class car and I was the only passenger in it at that point, and what a gorgeous car this is!!! The consist for today’s train is shown at the bottom of this page.
   I headed into the regular Café Car to get a Diet Pepsi, chatted a bit with the train crew and started writing this travelogue. We got stuck behind CSX Train Q-364 and had a whole slew of Approach Signals to at least East of Batavia before things started to finally speed up to normal! We arrived in Rochester, our next stop at 4:55pm and left at 4:57pm, 10 minutes late. One thing I have noticed is that CSX is now requiring all trains on this line to call signals, this is good because you get a better idea of where you are at any given point. After leaving Rochester, I went back to my huge seat in the Business Class Car and read the Arrive Magazine for a bit. At Syracuse, I stood on the platform for a couple minutes to take a breather and we then left there at 6:10pm running surprisingly on time. The rest of the ride was entirely uneventful as we maybe passed 1 or 2 CSX freights and a couple other Amtrak Trains. I spent the rest of the ride relaxing in my seat reading the New York Times and enjoying a Diet Pepsi. We only picked up a handful of people in Rome, then stopped in Utica. One other passenger boarded there in Business Class. That would be pretty much it for this ride. After we left Amsterdam, I called a friend of mine on my cell phone who would come pick me up at the station in Schenectady. At 8:30pm, running about 9 minutes late, we arrived in Schenectady, I left the station and my friend picked me up and we headed back to Amsterdam to visit Russo’s Grille which has it’s ever popular view of the mainline from its front windows. Other than maybe Hooters, they are one of the best places for Chicken Wings outside of Buffalo! I went to my hotel, the Ramada Limited in Albany afterwards and so ends a productive traveling day to get to Schenectady.
   I would spend today doing my actual Christmas Shopping, this would take up the majority of the day. I used local transit buses from the Capital District Transit Authority to get around town as my car was back home. I really missed my car as riding the buses around town with Christmas gifts in tow can get to be a little frustrating. When I finally finished all of my shopping, I dropped off everything in the hotel room and had dinner at Garcia's Mexican Restaurant located next to the hotel. This was the first time I've ever had hard shell tacos served on red shells, the food was pretty good and I ended up having an interesting conversation with the restaurant manager who noticed my Buffalo Bills hat. It turns out he was from Buffalo so we had an interesting chat about stuff back home! For the rest of the night, I relaxed at the hotel, sent a few e-mails and called it a night.
   I woke up around 8:30am and went over to a nearby Dunkin Donuts to get a couple breakfast sandwiches and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel room before packing up and heading back to the Schenectady Station where I had my 2 suitcases stored for the day. I walked over to a nearby Wendy’s Restaurant for lunch then walked back to the station. I stayed at the station to watch Train #281 arrive then a very late Train #48 arrive. Train #281 had to sit in the station because #48 was running East on a section of single track located West of the Schenectady Station. I photographed the two trains in a meet at the station, then left to go find a music store in Schenectady only to find out that it went out of business! (So much for keeping your local yellow pages updated!) I decided to find another music store that was further along the bus route thus I had to take a 45 minute bus ride from hell to get there since I don’t have my car with me! I ended up finding a record of a song I had been looking for so I guess it was worth the ride! I took another bus ride back to the Station and went inside to get my luggage and got set up on the platform waiting to board Train #49 - The Lake Shore Limited and my ride home!
   At 6:26pm, Train #49 arrived into Schenectady but had a stop signal and couldn’t fully enter the station. Train #64 was coming East so we had to sit and wait until #64 passed by before we could pass the signal. I was the only passenger boarding Train #49 in Schenectady tonight so the conductor took my ticket while on the platform to make quick work of things. As soon as Train #64 left, Train #49 could pull up and I could board, I was in Amfleet II Coach #25106, a refurbished coach that was way too warm but otherwise good! The Consist for tonight’s train is shown at the bottom of this page.
   As soon as we left Schenectady, we got hit with a pretty decent slow order that had us going about 16 mph for several miles up to just past Amsterdam! I was seated in the Dining Car across from a couple from Missouri and another passenger from Chicago, we had an interesting conversation about train travel as well as computer software! I had the Special Dish for dinner which was Country Fried Steak with gravy. It came with corn, rice pilaf and a dinner salad and roll, with a Diet Pepsi and a Bodacious Brownie for dessert. My dinner came to $18.00 and was worth every dime, this food was absolutely delicious!!!
   After leaving Utica at 8:25pm , 36 minutes late, we got stuck protecting 2 crossings that slowed us down to a crawl for awhile causing us to lose more time to Syracuse. Just before arriving in Syracuse, I headed to the Cafe Car to start writing this travelogue some more. We didn’t take any smoking break in Syracuse as we were running late so we left Syracuse at 9:31pm running 41 minutes late.
   By now, I was extremely tired and decided to just relax the rest of the way back home. Not much else was happening on the train and there was little other traffic to slow us down. We left Rochester and I found myself sort of "in and out of sleep", I made a few phone calls and just continued to relax. At around 11:45pm, we arrived into Buffalo-Depew Station where I got off, headed to my car, loaded up my luggage and headed for home. Until next time when I hope to take a massive cross-country multi-train adventure, Happy Railfanning!!!

Amtrak's Train #64 - The Maple Leaf arrives into Buffalo-Depew Station with P42DC #158 for power. The 800-Series P40's that once were the main power for these trains are all now in storage as Amtrak decided after it got out of the Mail & Express Business that they had too much power and mothballed several unneeded units.

Powered by SD80MAC #800, this CSX Westbound Van Train flies through Depew. In all my years of photographing trains, I've noticed that the low sun angle that is especially prevalent in December just puts this strange sort of lower lighting effect, such as all day it looks like late afternoon, in photos taken during this time of the year up here in the Northeast.

This Eastbound Auto-Rack Train with CSX C40-8W #7381 (those marker lights are an easy giveaway that this is a former Conrail unit!) heads out of Frontier Yard as it is on Track #4.

P42DC #76 leads Train #63 - The Toronto-bound Maple Leaf into Depew. This train now sports Amfleet II Coaches in the consist, a welcome change since this is over a 400 mile ride from New York and the close together seats in an Amfleet I coach can get a bit cramped if you're planning to be on the train for awhile!

This Westbound CSX Manifest with an AC4400CW on the lead with a couple of lease units heads into Frontier Yard on Track #4.

Yes, I know this slide is dark but you can't do much with 100 speed film and a Wide-Angle Lens in a car like this! The seats in this car are nothing short of amazing, some of the most comfortable seats I've ever rode in on Amtrak, I'm glad I rode in Business Class on this trip!.

In Schenectady, NY on December 7th, 2004, newly painted P32AC-DM #715 leads Train #281 into Schenectady Station. This unit has historical significance as when it was in it's Phase IV as-delivered paint, it's Amtrak logo on its nose had a hard time staying attached to the locomotive!

Here is my meet in the middle of a rain/sleet storm. On the left is Train #48 pulling into Schenectady, running late of course, with P32AC-DM #715 on the right leading Train #281 which is waiting for #48 to clear so it can depart West!
   
Amtrak Empire Service Train #288 - December 5th, 2004 - 32 Axles
Number:
Type:
Name:
Description:
712
P32AC-DM
 
Power
44839
Amfleet I Business Class Coach
 
Coach
21792
Amfleet I Business Class Coach
 
Coach
44726
Amfleet I Business Class Coach
 
Coach
43376
Amfleet I Café Car
 
Café Car
21705
Amfleet I Coach
 
Coach
44729
Amfleet I Coach
 
Coach
48978
Amfleet I Café Car/Business Class
 
Café Car/Business Class

Amtrak Empire Service Train #288 - December 5th, 2004 - 56 Axles
Number:
Type:
Name:
Description:
207
P42DC
 
Power
58
P42DC
 
Power
1704
Heritage Baggage
 
Baggage Car
2503
Heritage 10/6 Sleeper
Pine Hill
Crew Sleeper
62032
Viewliner Sleeper
River View
Sleeping Car
62033
Viewliner Sleeper
Scenic View
Sleeping Car
62045
Viewliner Sleeper
Tower View
Sleeping Car
8550
Heritage Diner
 
Dining Car
28016
Amfleet II Café Car
 
Café Car
25015
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach
25106
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach (My Car)
25084
Amfleet II Coach
 
Coach
?????
ExpressTrak Reefer (2)