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Buffalo To Schenectady, NY - February 7th, 2003

Buffalo To Schenectady, New York
On Amtrak's Empire Service & Lake Shore Limited
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited Arriving At Schenectady,
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003 - 4:11pm.

   With the proposed schedule changes for the Lake Shore Limited less than one week away, I decided to pull ahead a trip I had originally wanted to do in May, to today. Amtrak has since instituted 3 separate Dining Car Menus for its long-distance trains that will allow a better variety of food to be available for passengers taking longer trips. (There’s not much worse than having to stare at the SAME MENU every day of a long trip!) With these thoughts in mind, I decided to make this Amtrak Trip #26. I would go to Schenectady on Empire Service Train #286 and come home on Train #49 – The Lake Shore Limited.
   I had originally planned to take the Eastbound Lake Shore Limited - Train #48 but after receiving my work schedule for the week of the trip, I realized that I would end up getting less than 2 hours of sleep before making an all-day trip and running the serious risk of dozing off on the train, something I really don’t want to do as that would really defeat the purpose of taking the trip. I decided that it was in my better interest to get a little more sleep beforehand and ride Train #286 instead. I booked my tickets online through and used the 25% off special that was available. The total cost for my tickets was $82.50. A significant amount more than the $32.65 I paid back in February for the same trip, but with no Rail Sale seats available, this was the best option available.
   I rode an Empire Transit Lines bus to Buffalo which happens to be the Amtrak Thruway Bus connection to or from Jamestown, NY that also stops in Dunkirk. The bus let me off in front of the Buffalo-Exchange St. Station which is nice as it saves a 3 block walk in the wind if you were to ride a local NFTA/Metro Bus instead. I picked up my tickets from the agent in the station and had about 20 minutes to wait until Train #286 arrived. I was also able to get one of the first copies of the new timetables, and yes, this time around, a regular Northeast Timetable will be available for the Spring/Summer 2003 as well as those index cards which can be a pain to have to carry around, I’d prefer a bound book that has all that info in it.
   At 8:39am, Train #286 arrived with P32AC-DM #703 in the Acela/Phase 5 paint. Amtrak owns only 18 of these units and they are some of the last to get the new paint scheme and they only run in New York State. The train had its normal 4 coach 1 cafe car setup and I was seated in the first coach behind the cafe car, Amfleet I #21193. My coach had a red interior with AC Outlets at each seat. We left Exchange St. on time at 8:40am. The conductor on today’s train was one I rode with back in 2000 and we remembered each other from that trip when he came to take my ticket. We stopped at the Buffalo-Depew Station on Track #1 which is the second track from the platform. The dispatcher protected Track #2 so passengers could board the train from that location. A decent amount of people boarded and my coach filled up rather quickly, though I had a Window Seat for the entire trip. We left Depew at 9:01am, 6 minutes late.
   After leaving Depew, I headed to the cafe car and picked up a Sara Lee Danish and a bottle of Dole Orange Juice and had it at my seat. I started chatting with a family in my coach who was taking their kids to Rochester to visit the Strong Museum which I hear is a very popular attraction in Rochester. One thing I really had hoped I wouldn’t see would come to bombard us on this trip, SNOW! By the time we passed through Batavia and was near Churchville, the snow came down so hard, you could barely see anything outside the coach windows! I said to myself “I Just Can’t WIN!!!” referring to the weather as this is now the 5th trip in a row I’ve taken on Amtrak where it has snowed! It was still snowing as we got closer to Rochester and when we finally arrived, it was still snowing lightly. Thankfully, this late in the year, any snow that falls really can’t stick because of the high sun angle. We left Rochester at 9:55am, on time. We only passed minimal freight traffic along the way and nothing that we had to stop for. We arrived into Syracuse 1 minute early and left there at 11:13am, 3 minutes late. Our next stop was Rome, NY. I headed back to the Cafe Car and had a Turkey Sandwich while chatting with a few passengers who recognized me from where I work, we chatted for about a half hour. In Rome, we picked up maybe 1 passenger and left right away. The station there isn’t staffed and is only served by the Empire Service Trains as well as the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf. Our next stop in Utica was quick and we left there on time at 12:05pm. We picked up a few people in Amsterdam, then arrived into Schenectady at 1:18pm, 2 minutes early, this was where I would get off an spend the next 3 hours before catching my train back to Buffalo.
   In Schenectady, there is a local Burger King Restaurant as well as some other local places to eat at including “Mike’s Diner” which has decent food. I decided to hang out at the station for awhile and while waiting, an Eastbound CP-Rail Train came through with 4 units for power. At 2:47pm, running on time was Amtrak Train #281 with P32AC-DM #702 for power. This is another unit that has been overhauled at Beech Grove and now sports the Phase 5/Acela paint scheme. As soon as #281 left, I headed to Burger King for lunch then took a little walk around town. There was some highway construction going on underneath a bridge that carries the main line through town. The sidewalks were open so I walked down to a Charter One Bank to use the ATM then to a convenience store to play a few lottery tickets. (Schenectady is the home of the New York State Lottery, though this didn’t bring me any unusually good luck in playing the lottery as I lost $4.00 quickly!) As you walk down Erie Blvd (NY Rte. 5) you can see the huge General Electric Facility in town as it has a huge sign over it that is visible for a few miles. I headed back to the station in the hopes that Train #49 would be late enough so I could photograph the New York bound “Adirondack” coming from Montreal but as strange as this sounds, the Lake Shore Limited left Albany ON TIME! (The Lake Shore is known for being a train that has a tough time staying on time!)
   At 4:18pm, Train #49 arrived into Schenectady with P42DC #205 for power, 7 minutes early! I boarded the second coach in the Boston Section of the train, Amfleet II #25054, this was an unrefurbished coach with No AC Outlets and a red interior. Both bathrooms were functioning and the car’s temperature was not too hot, not too cold. The car overall was very clean and our car host, Mr. Love was very accommodating to the needs of passengers. We left Schenectady on time at 4:25pm. I was seated with a passenger getting off in Syracuse so I had to take the Aisle Seat for the time being which really didn’t bother me too much. I left my seat after we passed the Scotia, NY Detector and began to walk the train and take down car numbers. I went into the dining car which wasn’t open yet for service, it was a former New York Central diner that may have run this route with the 20th Century Limited at one point, not sure. The consist for tonight's train is listed at the bottom of this page.
   Some thoughts on the consist: Today's train had the 2 Boston Coaches, the Boston Cafe Car, then the 3 New York Coaches, then the Dining Car set up in that order. This seems to be how the Lake Shore has been laid out for the last couple months. I had reported in a previous travelogue that they were placing the dining car right in the middle of the train which must be a serious headache for the crew as they’re trying to clean the car when its not open, as well as a headache for passengers just trying to navigate through the train. This setup eliminates a lot of those hassles but its still not how things “used to be” when the cafe car came out of New York instead of Boston. The good thing is that now the cafe car is in the middle of the train and is better accessible for all passengers as it now has a “central location”.
   The Dining Car was set to Open at 5:00pm but no announcement was made so I grabbed a bag of Wege Sourdough Pretzels and a can of Sierra Mist and had them at my seat until just after arriving in Utica when I heard our car host say something to the effect that the car was now open. At that time, I headed to the Dining car and was seated right away, though the car was very busy. I was seated with a couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan who was heading home and would be riding this train to Toledo and driving the rest of the way. Our server today was Mr. Wilson and we all had the New York Strip Steak. I had mashed potatoes and corn which all tasted decent though the steak wasn’t as flavorful as the Filet Mignon I had on my last trip. Overall a decent meal that was only complemented by the huge slice of Chocolate Bombe desert that I had afterwards, that was so delicious! Dining Car service isn’t cheap, if you have a sleeper, then your meals are included in the price of your ticket, for me in coach, my Steak dinner, the Diet Pepsi I had to drink and the Chocolate Bombe for desert came to $24.00! The truth is though, Amtrak has done an excellent job with dining car food and though it may be pricey, for the experience you get overall, its worth it. What other restaurant offers constantly changing views outside the window and a chance to meet interesting people from all over the country? We had arrived in Syracuse shortly after I was finished eating and not feeling “full” yet, I went into the lounge car and had a Barbecued Rib Sandwich and a Diet Pepsi. We arrived into Syracuse 5 minutes early at 6:36pm and left at 6:43pm, 2 minutes late. The on-time performance thus far has been fabulous, but this would be about it for anything close to On-Time for the rest of the trip. This also proved to be the latest I’ve ever rode this train in daylight, something that will be missed once the new schedules take over.
   As we headed towards Rochester, things were relatively uneventful, that is until we got to CP-369, just 2 miles from the Rochester Station when CSX just had to stop us to let Q-164 pass us so we could switch to Track #2 and access the station. We sat there, just 2 miles from the station for about 15 minutes before the train finally passed us and we could proceed to enter the station. We arrived into Rochester at 8:25pm and ended up being there for 15 minutes because we had a decent sized crowd board there and we had to make a double spot to load luggage into the New York Section’s baggage car located at the back end of the train. At 8:40pm, 41 minutes late, we left Rochester. The only snag we hit after Rochester was a Form D issued to our train to protect the crossing at West Side Drive near the Coldwater Hot Box Detector. After that, it was a relatively quiet ride with no major problems. We arrived into Buffalo-Depew at 9:37pm, 38 minutes late, overall, not bad.
   This is my 4th trip so far this year and was a decent one with relatively good on-time performance as compared to other trips I’ve taken recently. It seems that the freight delays are still there as illustrated by the scenario we were presented with in Rochester but that’s just a part of life on the freight railroads. The new schedules that take effect on April 28th will have the Lake Shore Limited arriving into Buffalo-Depew some 2 hours and 41 minutes later than it currently does. This will allow a somewhat better, later arrival into Chicago, though some station stops in Ohio and Indiana will be shifted to the Capitol Limited which you can connect to in Cleveland if you need to stop in Elyria, or Sandusky (As I’ll have to do later this year when I head to Cedar Point on a future trip), as well as some stops in Indiana. Until my next trip, Happy Railfanning…

The Old Syracuse Amtrak Station in East Syracuse that closed in 1998.

One of the many locks on the Erie Canal that you pass on this route.

The Amtrak Station in Amsterdam, NY. All Empire Service trains stop at this station along with the Maple Leaf.

Empire Service Train #286 sitting in Schenectady with P32AC-DM #703 for power now in the Phase 5 paint scheme.

Amtrak's new Phase 5 Paint Scheme is spreading fast on the Amfleet's, witness Cafe Car #20222 now sporting this new and respectable paint scheme on Train #286.

And its spreading to the coaches too!!! Here is Coach #44604 bringing up the end of Train #286. This coach was closed the entire trip there but would likely be open once the train leaves Albany.

A Canadian Pacific train passes by the station with 4 SD40-2's for power. The CP line that passes by the station here is also used by Norfolk Southern.

Amtrak Empire Service Train #281 arrives into Schenectady with Phase 5 painted P32AC-DM #702.

Train #281 leaving Schenectady ultimately heading to Niagara Falls. The Canadian Pacific Line is shown in the right of the photo and heads North.

In the middle of the above photo is General Electric's facilities in Schenectady. The road in the foreground is Erie Blvd (NY Rte. 5).

A View of Schenectady from the platform of the Amtrak Station.

Train #49 arriving into Schenectady with P42DC #205 for power, arriving at 4:11pm, 7 minutes early!

F40PH #316 was in the consist as the 3rd unit on tonight's train. When it arrived into Schenectady, it was dead-in-tow and ultimately headed to Chicago then to an onward destination.
Amtrak Empire Service Train #286
April 23rd, 2003 - 24 Axles
Car Type:
P32AC-DM Power
Amfleet I Cafe Car
Amfleet I Coach (My Car)
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amfleet I Coach
Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited - Train #49 - April 23rd, 2003 - 84 Axles
Power (Deadheading To Chicago)
Horizon Fleet Coach
Coach (From Boston - Deadheading To Chicago)
Heritage Baggage
Baggage Car (From Boston)
Viewliner Sleeper
Tranquil View
Sleeping Car (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From Boston) (My Car)
Amfleet II Cafe Car
 Richmond Club
Cafe/Lounge Car (From Boston)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From New York)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From New York)
Amfleet II Coach
Coach (From New York)
Heritage Diner
Dining Car (From New York)
Viewliner Sleeper
Prairie View
Sleeping Car (From New York)
Heritage 10/6 Sleeper
Pine Brook
Crew Dorm/Lounge (From New York)
Heritage Baggage
Baggage Car (From New York)
ExpressTrak Reefer
Reefer Car
ExpressTrak Reefer
Reefer Car
Road Railers (8)
Road Railers