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Buffalo To Schenectady, NY On Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited
  Welcome to my annual travelogue covering my Christmas Shopping Amtrak Trip, this time for 2015! I booked the trip in late August, paying cash (or in my case, my Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard) for the tickets so as to get as many points as possible through AGR. The plan would be to ride Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited to Schenectady and rent a car from Enterprise and stay at the Courtyard By Marriott on Washington Ave. in Albany. I would ride Empire Service Train #281 back home on Monday.
  I arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station at around 8:30am and one thing hit me right away was that the weather here was quite warm for this time of the year. Thanks to the weather phenomenon known as "El Nino", we are experiencing above-normal temperatures for December, so this would be the warmest of temperatures that I've ever experienced at the start of this trip, which in years past has met me with some not-so-great weather, but that is the risk taken when you begin a trip in December in Western New York! After a quick chat with one of the ticket agents who is a friend of mine, I headed up to the platform and at 8:43am, running 3 minutes early, Train #48 arrived at Buffalo-Depew Station. The consist for today's train is shown below:
146 P42DC   Power
173 P42DC   Power
61018 Viewliner II Baggage Car   Baggage Car
62016 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Lake View Sleeping Car 4812
62009 Viewliner I Sleeping Car Evening View Sleeping Car 4811
8524 Heritage Dining Car   Dining Car
28001 Amfleet II Cafe/Lounge Car Atlanta Club Cafe/Lounge Car
25066 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (My Car)
25117 Amfleet II Coach   Coach
25083 Amfleet II Coach   Coach
25043 Amfleet II Coach   Coach
25110 Amfleet II Coach   Coach
25103 Amfleet II Coach   Coach (Deadhead Move)
SPECIAL NOTE: Viewliner I Sleeping Cars no longer display their original names on the sides of the cars but some still sport their original names on the end doors as you enter the cars from the inside. Eventually, all Viewliner I Sleeping Cars will be renamed into a "River" series to go along with the names that will eventually apply to Viewliner II Sleepers under construction at CAF USA in Elmira Heights, NY. For example, Sleeper #62005, originally named "Cape View", is slated to be renamed "Calumet River". Also, Amfleet II Lounge Cars no longer display their names. The car in today's train at one time was named "Atlanta Club" but today does not display a name.
  After placing my bags in my coach, I ran back outside again to get a quick photo of the train before departing. At 8:52am, running 1 minute late, we departed Buffalo-Depew Station. Today's train only had two Sleeping Cars in the consist as I was told by a member of the crew that the third sleeper which would otherwise be known as the "Boston Sleeper" which is operating out of New York for now, was removed so as to substitute for a bad-ordered sleeper on Train #50 - The Cardinal.
  As you can also see, the layout of this train is not the normal layout where you would have a Sleeping Car on each end along with a Baggage Car as this train is currently operating without a Boston Section (also known as Train #448). The reason for this is because of very heavy construction of new platforms and an additional track at the Albany-Rensselaer Station. A stub train which operates as Train #448 and #449 will be a cross-platform transfer so passengers can still take the train to Boston, though it will not have a Sleeping Car. Sleeping Car passengers however can use the Business Class end of the Cafe Car on that train. As of this writing, this arrangement is set to be in place until March 2016.
  I had a quick chat with the assistant conductor who is a good friend of mine, then headed to the Dining Car for breakfast. I ended up being the last person served before the car would close until lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to see that pancakes have returned to the menu for breakfast in place of French toast!!! We had Heritage Diner #8524 which is a 1948 Budd-built car from the Southern Railway that was turned over to Amtrak in 1979 when the Southern Railway turned its passenger service over to Amtrak as they didn't initially do so back in 1971 (neither did the Denver & Rio Grande Western). Being that it was closing time for the diner, I had no passengers sitting with me for breakfast but I would have the pancakes, chicken apple sausage patties and a Diet Pepsi which cost $14.25, another good meal in the Amtrak diner! One of the servers in the diner recognized me from past trips, we talked briefly and I gave him my card for this web site! It was getting close to our next stop of Rochester, NY so I headed back to the Cafe Car to find out how the train would be handled there.
  Rochester is in the middle of the construction of a new station and elevated platforms. The old Rochester station that was built in 1978 has been almost completely demolished and a small temporary station building is being used. There is also a very short platform as a result of this, so the train will need to be spotted in three different places. One for baggage, the second for Sleeping Car passengers and the third for Coach passengers. We arrived at Rochester, NY at 9:46am, 4 minutes early. I advised our conductors that I wanted to get photos of the construction of the new station so my plan was to get off the train with the rest of the coach passengers, then wait by the door, take a few photos and be the last to reboard the train after a good size crowd would board. You would think in theory that this would be no big deal, especially since the conductors were totally OK with it right? WRONG!!!
  The conductors, the people in charge of the train were absolutely OK with my wanting to do this (of course, I would always check with them first), but the coach attendant, not so much! As I was in line to get off the train, one of the said attendants flat out told me I cannot get off the train here! She used the excuse that the station was under construction, and my explaining what I wanted to do along with the fact that the conductors were OK with it was still not enough to change her mind. So in the end, I never got off the train. Later on, she explained that she wouldn't let me off the train because the passenger count would have somehow been screwed up if I had gotten off the train (OK maybe if I hadn't reboarded the train it would mess up the count). Ultimately, I got only a few photos while looking out the window of the train, and we departed Rochester at 10:03am, having made three separate spots, running 13 minutes late.
  I spent most of the rest of the ride in the Cafe Car as I got out the computer and briefly wrote some of this travelogue as well as picked up a package of M&M's, some Crystal Geyser Spring Water and a Diet Pepsi. The Dining Car LSA (Lead Service Attendant) came through the train and took lunch reservations. I opted for the 1:00pm seating so as to have enough time to get photos in Utica since we were doing quite well regarding timekeeping! We did have one speed restriction around CP-349 and there were at least one or two others but nothing severe. There was a fair amount of freight traffic today as well. Our next stop at Syracuse, NY would be a smoking/fresh air stop for passengers as we also would pick up a new engineer here for the ride to Albany. We arrived there at 11:20am. I headed up to the head-end to get some quick photos, then chat a bit with the coach attendant who wouldn't let me off the train in Rochester, then would reboard. I did notice before reboarding that CSX put up new signals where Track #7 (the track used at the Syracuse station) merges with the mainline at CP-291, this was likely due to the upcoming implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on this mainline. At 11:30am, we departed Syracuse running 12 minutes late.
  Things would continue to be uneventful as we moved along. We would pass Train #63 - The Maple Leaf which was heading for Toronto, near CP-257. We made our next stop at Utica, NY at 12:27pm and I was able to briefly get off the train for a few pictures there. Last year, there was an incident at this station where a runaway freight car ended up crashing into the New York Central steam locomotive as well as part of the station building. This was caused by a kid who was tampering with the car in the nearby yard. The station building was in the middle of being repaired and I hope the steam engine also gets repaired as well! We departed Utica at 12:32pm running 17 minutes late. As in past trips, so far, I've really not used my coach seat, though if I had, I would have been seated next to a passenger who was getting off the train in Utica. I eventually went back to the seat and found another passenger got on in Utica and was now occupying that seat so I never would have gotten a window seat today unless I would have been in the car at the Utica stop (which I wasn't as I wouldn't have gotten any photos if I was).
  The announcement was made for the 1:00pm lunch reservations in the Dining Car so I headed inside and was seated with one passenger from Philadelphia and we talked about a variety of topics. I had the Angus Burger (they were out of bacon) with kettle chips and a Diet Pepsi, more good eats in the diner! Lunch would cost $17.00. I opted not to have dessert as it was getting very close to my stop in Schenectady which was coming up.
  I briefly headed back to my coach seat and would sit there and chat with the passenger who got on in Utica as we eventually stopped at CP-175, not for freight congestion, but passenger congestion!!! Yep, we had to wait for Empire Service Train #281 to pass by as it was gonna stop at the nearby Amsterdam station! Once Train #281 passed us, we were on our way, and would go through CP-169 at Hoffmanns and were now on the Amtrak Hudson Line! This is now high-speed territory! We eventually arrived at Schenectady at 1:53pm, having mad up some time, now only 5 minutes late! Yep, this is by far, the best on-time performance I've ever encountered on this train! I took a few pix on the platform and said goodbye to my conductor friend, and the train would depart, heading for New York.
  I headed downstairs using the "slower-than-rotten-molasses-in-the-dead-of-winter" elevator to get into the station (as of the time this travelogue was written, this station is slated to be demolished and rebuilt starting in 2016), I probably could have walked downstairs faster but opted to take the elevator due to having two suitcases with me. I called Enterprise Rent-A-Car and would have them pick me up and take me to their place to pick up my rental car. They eventually arrived in a Chevy Tahoe which I hoped would not be my car as I really didn't want to put gas in that big of a car, plus, I'm just one person and don't need a huge car! I rented a "Full-Size" car with them (in the world of rental cars, a Full-Size car is essentially a mid-size sedan!) and once I arrived at their facility, they offered me a 2015 Toyota Camry, YES!!! This car is just about identical to my personal vehicle which is a Honda Accord, so as you can imagine, I was very happy to get it! I then drove over to the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel on Washington Avenue in Albany which would once again be my hotel for this year's trip as in years past. For me, after I complete these three nights, I'll have 50 nights this year thanks to my past stays and credits from my Marriott Rewards credit card so I'll be "Gold Elite" status for 2016! Anyone who reads this who is a Marriott Rewards member knows what that is!
  After arriving at the hotel, I tried to take a nap as I was rather tired. I later drove over to the Albany-Rensselaer Station and did some night photography. A friend of mine who is an engineer for Amtrak was bringing Train #449 in from Boston. Once Train #449 arrived and his duties as engineer were over, he joined me while I was doing some night photos, then we headed up to Clifton Park to go to Buffalo Wild Wings. I then drove back to my hotel and would call it a day. Included below are some photos taken on the trip here today, after you check them out, click the link at the bottom of the page to see some night photography at the Albany-Rensselaer Station, enjoy...
  Taking a break at Buffalo-Depew Station is Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited with GE P42DC #146 leading today's train.  
  Time for breakfast in the Amtrak Diner! Today I would have the Pancakes with chicken apple sausage patties and a Diet Pepsi, these pancakes
were absolutely delicious, and I did see the chef and let him know they were great!!!
  Crossing the mighty Genesee River near the Genesee Brewing Company. The blue bridge is the old Platt Street bridge which is now a pedestrian bridge
and a great spot to go bird watching as well as railfanning!
  Foundations for the new elevated platform that will be part of the new Amtrak Station in Rochester, NY.  
  OK, a train station used to be here! These are the grounds where the old Rochester Station once stood, and was in the process of being demolished
when we arrived here. Until the new station is built, Amtrak is operating out of a temporary station located next to these grounds.
  And here's a quick photo of the temporary Rochester Station. The train had to make a triple-spot at this station as the platform is only about
as long as a single car-length.
  Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, NY.  
  Train #48 taking a break at Syracuse, NY.  
  Now taking a break at Utica, NY.  
  Beautiful Utica Union Station, a former New York Central station!  
  Time for lunch! I would have the Angus Steak Burger with kettle chips and a Diet Pepsi, good burger!  
  Train #48 now departing Schenectady, NY on its way to Albany and eventually New York's Penn Station.