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The Adirondack Rare Mileage Trips

Getting to Utica

by Chris Guenzler

I decided to do these trips in mid-April and used my Amtrak Guest Reward Points for coach both ways on the Southwest Chief and Lake Shore Limited to Utica, New York. Once there, I would get a rental car for one day, railfan a bit then pick up my good friend Randy Jackson when he arrived on the westbound Lake Shore Limited. We would stay two nights at the Days Inn in Utica, then ride two days of rare mileage trips. After the second day, I would pass my 1,300,000.0 Rail Mile 45.0 miles west of Utica on the Lake Shore Limited and come back home via the Southwest Chief.

After I went to the National Train Day event on May 13th, I received an e-mail from my excellent proofreader Winston Walker that his wife Sue had died peacefully late that night. My prayers went out to his family as did an e-mail to them.

Pacific Surfliner 583 5/14/2011

I arose and packed before hosting Let's Talk Trains then relaxed until my mother drove me to the Santa Ana station where we parked and I went inside for some luggage tags and bottles of Coca-Cola. She then drove me to the northeast corner of the parking lot where I said my goodbye to her and walked over to Track 1 to wait for my train to LAUPT. The Pacific Surfliner arrived on time and I took a seat in the Superliner coach for the quick trip to Los Angeles, stopping at Anaheim and Fullerton before we arrived on Track 10 early. I walked over to a waiting Southwest Chief on Track 12.

Southwest Chief 5/14/2011

The train had Engines 45 and 130, baggage 1715, transition 39005, sleepers 32016 and 32069, diner 58065, lounge 33033 with coaches 34050, 34058 and 35004. I was assigned Seat 3 in the 35004 which is a coach/cafe. The train departed LAUPT on time but was held at CP Soto for ten minutes. I complained to my Car Attendant about seating a passenger going all the way to Chicago in the worst seat on the train and he moved me back to Seat 51, which made me happy as it had a fold-down table that Seat 3 lacked.

We stopped at Fullerton and upon departing, I spotted Chris Parker who must have come down to see me off but did not realize I was seated in the last coach. I caught up this story then watched "Johnny English" as the train headed to Riverside and San Bernardino. The film finished just before the we reached Summit, after which I relaxed before calling it a night after Victorville.

5/15/2011 I woke up briefly at Williams Jct and Flagstaff, then was up for good after Canyon Diablo. After stopping at Winslow, I noticed that the "Pony Express", one of my favorite private railroad cars, had been graffitied. I had to call Chris Parker to get owner's Stan Garner phone number whom I called to let him know what happened to his unique car. I then started to read my new Railpace Magazine before I put on "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" which took me to Dalies. At Gallup, I checked in with Randy Jackson whom I would be meeting Tuesday night in Utica.

We arrived into Albuquerque early, almost as usual, at 11:10 AM. I went online via Herzog Data and cleared out my e-mail before surfing the World Wide Web then the train departed on time and headed to Lamy as I watched "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest". After Lamy, we climbed through Apache Canyon and over Glorieta Pass then at Fox, we waited for the westbound Southwest Chief with Steve Grande aboard heading home from La Plata. That movie took me all the way beyond Starvation Peak. The final movie of the trilogy thus far was "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" which I started as the train made its way to Las Vegas and onto Raton, where I took a fresh air break on a nice cool late spring afternoon.

The film ended halfway down Raton Pass on the Colorado side, after which I had a 6:00 PM dinner reservation and was seated with an older couple from northwest Ohio. I enjoyed a steak and baked potato which I paid for, which was rare for me as I was in coach and not a sleeper. At the start of dinner, the train stopped in Trinidad then sped off for La Junta. Afterwards, I put on my Young Dubliners "Rocky Road to Dublin" CD which I enjoyed as we sped across the southeastern Colorado scenery. The next CD was Keith Richards' "Main Offender" which took me the rest of the way to La Junta, where we arrived early this very late afternoon. I managed to get online and answered Steve Grande's question about what was on the rear of his train. I took a brief fresh air break before we left on time then listened to some more music and once it became dark, called it a night.

5/16/2011 I awoke west of Topeka and enjoyed the early morning views until 6:00 AM when I went to the lounge car for some orange juice to go along with the chocolate donuts I brought from home.

West of BNSF's Argentine Yard in Kansas City, Kansas, I took a picture of the switcher that had been there for years. Our train was refueled in the yard before we arrived at Kansas City, Missouri on a nice cool morning. After I enjoyed the fresh air, I went online and answered another of Steve's questions about the double deck diner he saw. After I surfed the World Wide Web, I then was ready to watch Led Zeppelin "Live" for the next few hours. We departed Kansas City on time and headed to La Plata, our next stop of the morning and I watched most of the first DVD but had to pause it to deliver a banner to Bob Cox in La Plata. He passed off a Coca-Cola to me and soon we were on our way to Fort Madison as I checked all my photograph locations for the first Railfan Event in La Plata in the summer. At Fort Madison, I enjoyed the last fresh air break of this trip, after which the train left on time but was stopped by a red signal at the approach to the Mississippi River Bridge.

Our conductor and a BNSF maintainer protecting the crossing.

The Fort Madison station that has been elevated to track height and Santa Fe 4-8-4 2913 on display. We finally moved 23 minutes later due to a bridge malfunction and soon were off to Galesburg. Before Stronghurst, a dragging equipment detector stopped our train and our wonderful crew had to make a trackside inspection. We took the Cameron Connection but came to a stop as we were now going to be right behind the California Zephyr for the rest of the trip into Chicago. The second Led Zeppelin DVD took me almost to Princeton, after which I listened to the Keith Emerson Band CD for my next musical experience as the train stopped at Mendota and proceeded toward Naperville.

After that CD, I put on Selana Gomez & The Scene "A Year Without Rain" which took me to Naperville then we experienced some slow running before arriving at Chicago Union Station at 3:32 PM. Even with my sore lower rib, it was still a great trip aboard the Southwest Chief.

Chicago 5/16/2011

I walked into the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge and after getting my pass using my Guest Reward Select Card, found my usual plug and set up my computer. I bought a pair of Gold Coast Char Dogs, my favorite meal when I come to Chicago, then checked the Internet while I waited the four hours until my next train boarded. I uploaded the story so far then relaxed as I awaited Winston's proofing, which he did. Later the Red Cap gave me a ride out to my next train.

Lake Shore Limited 48 5/16/2011

I was back in a long-distance Amfleet coach for the first time in years and settled in for the night ahead. I had Pat from Rochester join me and the train left Chicago three minutes late. I enjoyed the scenes along the way to beyond Hammond-Whiting before calling it a night.

5/17/2011 I woke up officially just east of Cleveland on a dark and cool, cloudy morning. A three car walk forward to the cafe car was made for some orange juice to go along with my chocolate donuts from home. Once the train reached the end of the yard limit, we were sailing down the Lake Shore route. I then put on my next film, "The Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" for my enjoyment this early morning. That DVD took me through the rest of Ohio, Pennsylvania and the stop in Erie where I saw the General Electric Locomotive Plant, engines and their test track, followed by the Lake Shore Railroad Museum in North East, Pennsylvania before we reached the outskirts of Buffalo where it ended.

Next I watched "Jeff Beck Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's" which took me to Buffalo, where I paused the DVD for a fresh air break. The train stopped in Rochester during the DVD and I said goodbye to Pat on a now cold and dark rainy morning. After watching both of the DVD's bonus material, I switched to my Metallica "Death Magnetic" which took me onto Syracuse and beyond. At Syracuse, I took another fresh air break then we proceeded to Utica, where I detrained.

I had called Enterprise Car Rental when we passed through Rome so they would be close to the station when I arrived. I chatted with our excellent Conductor Bob Schmit who told me we would have to get by trackwork on one track and a broken rail on the other, so we would probably be delayed into reaching Utica, which we were. I was able to listen to the whole Young Dubliners "Breathe" CD through the delay then at 1:42 PM, we resumed our journey eastbound where I detrained at Utica, ending a great trip on the Lake Shore Limited.

Utica 5/17/2011

While waiting for Enterprise, I walked over to the Children's Museum for a quick set of pictures.

Adirondack Railway RSC-2 25, ex. New York, Susquehanna and Western 25, exx. Adirondack, Florida Power & Light 25, nee Seaboard Air Liine 1531 built by American Locomotive Company in 1949.

Santa Fe Fred Harvey dining car 1479 built by Budd in 1937 which used to be owned by the Utica and Mohawk Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Enterprise arrived to pick up David from Little Rock, Arkansas and I and we drove to their office in Yorkville where we rented a Volkswagen Bug. From there our first stop was the Watchman's Tower that we spotted as we drove to the Enterprise office.

This tower on Schuyler Street is where the train runs about three-quarters of a mile right down the middle. Until the 1980's, watchmen controlled several traffic lights from the "elevated cabin" to protect traffic from the trains. Signals are automatic today and tower is maintained by New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway and periodically painted by the Utica and Mohawk Valley Chapter. From here we drove over to the Susquehanna Railroad shop area.

New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad F45 3636, nee Burlington Northern 6640 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1971.

Susquehanna Railroad SD40 3020, ex. Big Dog Lines 1603, exx. Norfolk Southern 1603, nee Norfolk and Western 1603 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1966.

We then we drove back to near Utica station.

Conrail caboose 20076, ex. Penn Central 22983, exx. Penn Central 19573, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 477594 built by the railroad in 1929.

New York Central 0-6-0 6721 1936, ex. display at Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio by Music and Arts Foundation in 1981, exx. Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society 7 1963 (North Freedom, Wisconsin) exxx. Central Illinois Public Service Company 7 1953 (Hutsonville, Illinois), nee New York Central 621 built by American Locomotive Company in 1913. In 1997, it was sold to a group in Utica and is now on display at the Utica Station.

Boston & Maine caboose C-127 built by International Car in 1959.

Adirondack Scenic cafe lounge 800, ex. VIA, exx. Canadian National 3034, nee Canadian National coach 5572 built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1954.

Adirondack Scenic F7A 1500, ex. Grafton and Upton 1501, exx. ex. Toledo, Peoria and Western 1500, nee Bessemer and Lake Erie 720A built by Electro-Motive Division in 1952.

Union Pacific {CSX} 9469 East passed through as we were taking photographs.

Adirondack Scenic GP9 6076, ex. Adirondack Railway Preservation Society 7249, exx. Conrail 7249, exxx. Penn Central 7249, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 7249 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1959.

The markings on Adirondack Scenic 6076.

Adirondack Scenic trainset.

Adirondack Scenic coach-generator 1681, nee Chesapeake and Ohio coach 1621 built by Pullman-Standard in 1950. It was rebuilt as a cab car in the 1980's for PATrain and then to Shore Line East/Connecticut Department of Transportation 1681.

We returned inside Utica station, built between 1912 and May 1914, replacing an older structure dating from 1869.

Interior views. It was built in the Italianate style and includes a rusticated granite first story with buff brick above. Symmetrically rectangular in plan, there are thirteen bays across the fa├žade and fifteen on the side elevations. A brick parapet crowns the building; over the main entrance is a large clock flanked by eagle sculptures. The Utica station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Inside is a restaurant and a barber shop, one of the few barber shops in a train station today. The 15,000 square foot waiting room's 47-foot-high vaulted ceiling is supported by 34 marble columns. The station's blueprints called for the importing of columns that originally adorned Grand Central Station in New York City. Twelve large benches are heated by steam pipes and vents incorporated into the benches themselves.

A total of eight Amtrak trains use the station daily: two trains (one eastbound, one westbound) on the Lake Shore Limited, four trains (two in each direction) on the Empire Service, and two trains (one in each direction) on the Maple Leaf. In addition, the Adirondack Railroad operates a heritage railway from Utica to Holland Patent, Remsen and stations near Old Forge on a seasonal basis.

To the Trains.

Empire Service Train 281.

Amtrak P32AC-DM 715 built by General Electric in 1997.

The Mohawk, Adirondack and Northern engine facility. After that David and I drove to the Days Inn and checked in and I had problems getting the pictures into the story but solved the dilemma. I took a well-deserved shower and felt like a new man then worked on the story until 5:10 PM when I met David in the lobby and we walked across the street to Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse where we both had the sliced sirloin which was excellent. At 8:30 PM I left for the Amtrak station to pick up Randy Jackson but that was before I called him. As of 8:10 PM, he was stuck in Albany due to the CSX Livingston Avenue swing bridge having issues. The only good news was that I was able to watch all of "NCIS". Then at 9:00 PM, I went and visited with Dave and Cathy Smetko then took Randy's luggage which the Smetko's had brought with them when they dropped him off in Albany. After a nice visit, I went back to my room and called Randy with the plan that I would get some sleep and he would call me thirty minutes out of Utica.

5/18/2011 I awoke at 2:00 AM and called Randy as he was still sitting in Albany waiting on a pilot engineer. I awoke again at 5:00 AM and learned that they had left Albany at 4:20 AM, reversing to the Post Road Connection and was about to enter Selkirk Yard at 5:08 AM. The plan was to drop off the pilot at Amsterdam then head west and Randy would call me when he arrived at Amsterdam which was an hour out. Since I really could not go back to sleep, I arose, posted what was going on via and updated the story to this point. At 6:00 AM, I walked over to McDonald's for some hot cakes and sausage then walked to the lobby for a USA Today and stopped by Dave's room to give him the latest update on Randy as a 7:15 AM arrival at Utica. I went to the lobby at 7:00 AM, found David and we then drove back to the Amtrak station to wait for Randy's arrival, but stopped along the way.

Erie-Lackawanna freight house.

CSX 5302 West. We then headed to Utica Union Station which was used by the New York Central, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and the New York Ontario and Western Railway.

View of Utica Union Station.

Adirondack Scenic Railroad FL9 2007, ex. Metro-North Commuter Railway 5031, exx. Metro-North Commuter Railway 2007, nee Penn Central 5031 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1960.

It now was time for the Lake Shore Limited 49 to finally arrive in Utica this morning in daylight.

The Lake Shore Limited arriving with Randy Jackson aboard. We met and drove one person to the Utica Inn before I drove Randy back to the Days Inn so he could have a shower. David and I returned the rental car after putting two gallons of petrol in it, then werer driven back to the Amtrak station for today's trip.

Empire Service 280 arrived at Utica where I met Bart Jennings and it was time to go over the bridge and board the train.

Click here for Part 2 of this story