Amtrak Adirondack

Old Oct 17, 14, 2:53 pm
  #1  
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Thumbs up Amtrak Adirondack

I just took the Adirondack train from NYC to Montreal yesterday. It was sort of an experiment - I usually fly, but I've been doing a lot of traveling this year and wanted to save some cash. With a 15% "I heart NY" discount, the r/t price came out to be like $114. So I said, why not.

I was extremely pleasantly surprised with the trip. I had read the Amtrak promo materials touting the beauty of the route, but I frankly didn't expect the scenery to be as gorgeous as it was. Part of it was obviously the seasonal colors, but beyond that, just being along the Hudson and Lake Champlain, and passing through the picturesque towns in the Adirondack region - :-::-::-::-:

One thing that made the trip extra-special was the fact that they put on an observatory car in Albany, so I got to ride much of the way with panoramic views. That was particularly awesome when we reached Lake Champlain - the trees were beautiful, there was a mist rising off the lake and fog in the hills... amazing.

The food in the dining car wasn't as dire as I had feared - although it was rather overpriced. I had a bagel and a hot dog and a couple of Diet Pepsis. Had I had the time and foresight beforehand, I'd have stocked up on snacks from the grocery store or something, but although I had planned to do that, I didn't get around to it. Oh well, not a huge deal.

The fellow passengers were also friendly and pleasant - particularly once we got past Albany and all the NYC-ALB commuters got off the train, so it was just the tourists. There were some enjoyable conversations to be had in the observatory car.

The one thing that worried me a great deal was the 11-hour travel time, and the attendant possibility for delays. But we got in only about 20 minutes after the scheduled arrival time - and part of that may be the Canadians' fault, because the train moved particularly slowly through the southern suburbs of Montreal.

The 1.5-hour wait at the border was really the only negative. For some reason, US customs agents boarded the train and did a passport/luggage check on exit, and even the Amtrak agent said it was unusual. That took a long while. The Canadian immigration/customs check was pretty straightforward and seemed much faster, although they did take one guy off the train, and he apparently never returned.

I'm thinking seriously of taking this train trip again, and possibly making it my standard when I go up to Montreal. I guess the long travel time means it might not really make sense for a 3-day long weekend hop up, but for longer trips it saves $200+ on air fare and is so much more pleasant.

Another bonus - when I got off the train, I wasn't as exhausted as I always seem to be when flying, even on short flights. I think the fact that I could get up and walk around and wasn't cramped into a tiny seat (to say nothing of the airport/TSA BS) was a factor there.
JDiver and trooper like this.
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Old Oct 17, 14, 7:21 pm
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The observation car you mentioned is really a dome and it only runs on certain dates.

Bob H
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Old Oct 17, 14, 9:43 pm
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I've always wondered how the border crossings work. Do agents scan/ stamp passports like at airports, or do they just "visually inspect" documents while walking through the cars? Do the Maple Leaf and Cascades work the same way?

Thanks.
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Old Oct 17, 14, 11:03 pm
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Originally Posted by bosnyc View Post
I've always wondered how the border crossings work. Do agents scan/ stamp passports like at airports, or do they just "visually inspect" documents while walking through the cars? Do the Maple Leaf and Cascades work the same way?

Thanks.
As far as I could tell, the Canadian agents just looked at them - although they seemed to have a list they were comparing to. The guy in front of me apparently had his passport stamped, but I didn't.

I assume the staff at that immigration station has very little to do most of the time (unlike at an international airport), and since Amtrak sends them the information in advance I'd assume they have time to look over the list of who's coming before the train actually arrives.
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Old Oct 18, 14, 7:24 am
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Originally Posted by bosnyc View Post
I've always wondered how the border crossings work. Do agents scan/ stamp passports like at airports, or do they just "visually inspect" documents while walking through the cars? Do the Maple Leaf and Cascades work the same way?
The Adirondack currently is the only train where all customs work is done on the train. And even that could change in a few more years if a planned facility is actually built in Montreal and agreements are modified with Canada. If that happens, then the procedures described below for the Cascades service will be used here too.

On the Maple Leaf all passengers are taken off the train when it arrives into the Canadian Niagara Falls stop and they are cleared in the station before being allowed to reboard the train with their luggage.

Returning to the US, most times it is done on the train, although occasionally everyone is taken off. That said, a new facility & station is planned (may even be under construction now), and when that is finished everyone will always be taken off the train.

Out west for the Cascades, the train runs sealed from the border to Vancouver. At Vancouver the train pulls into a track that is fenced off from the rest of the tracks and the gate is locked behind it. All passengers detrain, pick up any checked bags, and proceed into the station within a special walled off area for customs.

Coming back to the US, US agents take over the facility in the station and do the customs check and a pre-clearance check before you board the train. After crossing the border, agents board the train again for the final clearance check.
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Old Oct 18, 14, 1:25 pm
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Thanks for the report. I'll definitely have to make sure I add this train to my list of ones to ride ^
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Old Oct 20, 14, 1:08 pm
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While I applaud the idea of taking the train on this route, here's the reality.

NYC - ALB takes 2.5 hours
ALB - arrival took you 8.5 hours

For the second leg of your trip, you averaged about 25mph. It's almost impossible for anyone but a train enthusiast leisure traveler (myself, for example) to take this form of transportation on this route.

It should be 4-5 hours to go between these two cities. Unfortunately, we are quite far from that.
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Old Oct 20, 14, 3:40 pm
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Thanks for the Amtrak trip report - sounds like the tree colors were perfect for your trip.
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Old Oct 20, 14, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by cfw View Post
While I applaud the idea of taking the train on this route, here's the reality.

NYC - ALB takes 2.5 hours
ALB - arrival took you 8.5 hours

For the second leg of your trip, you averaged about 25mph. It's almost impossible for anyone but a train enthusiast leisure traveler (myself, for example) to take this form of transportation on this route.

It should be 4-5 hours to go between these two cities. Unfortunately, we are quite far from that.
Well, yes - for anyone who's pressed for time, this isn't the way to go. But it was a nice trip.

But shouldn't the work going on at Albany and Schenectady make things at least somewhat better?
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Old Oct 20, 14, 8:20 pm
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Originally Posted by cfw View Post
While I applaud the idea of taking the train on this route, here's the reality.

NYC - ALB takes 2.5 hours
ALB - arrival took you 8.5 hours

For the second leg of your trip, you averaged about 25mph. It's almost impossible for anyone but a train enthusiast leisure traveler (myself, for example) to take this form of transportation on this route.

It should be 4-5 hours to go between these two cities. Unfortunately, we are quite far from that.
I ride Amtrak pretty frequently, often on long distance trains, and I only do so when the only purpose of the trip is the train. You can't really use Amtrak outside of the NE Corridor and maybe some routes in California any other way. It's mainly for the fun of riding the train.
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Old Oct 21, 14, 7:03 am
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Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
I ride Amtrak pretty frequently, often on long distance trains, and I only do so when the only purpose of the trip is the train. You can't really use Amtrak outside of the NE Corridor and maybe some routes in California any other way. It's mainly for the fun of riding the train.
Say what?

What about short distance trains into Chicago -- particularly if you're just going into the loop and don't need a car or can connect with Metra?

Bob H
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Old Oct 21, 14, 7:51 am
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Originally Posted by BobH View Post
Say what?

What about short distance trains into Chicago -- particularly if you're just going into the loop and don't need a car or can connect with Metra?

Bob H
Six hours scheduled for Chicago-Detroit northern suburbs with service just 3x daily, and 33% on-time perfromance at that, when one can drive in 4:30?

Delta hits about 84% on-time, within 15 minutes, for its mainline services. If Amtrak hits 80% within 30 minutes on its regional services I will again consider it a viable alternative.
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Old Oct 21, 14, 8:26 pm
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Originally Posted by BobH View Post
Say what?

What about short distance trains into Chicago -- particularly if you're just going into the loop and don't need a car or can connect with Metra?

Bob H
There are any number of shorter routes where Amtrak makes sense, such as Capitol Corridor travel between the SF Bay Area and Davis/Sacramento, a number of routes out of Chicago (e.g., Chicago-Quincy, Hiawatha service to Milwaukee, Chicago to some of the university and college campuses and Springfield, etc.), some of the rides around LA (to avoid traffic), and presumably any number of local hops where the only other choice is driving. Of course, for those who are unable to drive, or who can work from the train, those routes may make even more sense.

As an example, I commute often enough between the Bay Area and Sacramento. After one night almost getting run off the road by a funnel cake truck, I decided to do even more of my travel on the train. Not that I'm against funnel cakes, but if I had a choice, that wouldn't be my preferred way to shuffle off the mortal coil.
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Old Oct 22, 14, 1:32 pm
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Originally Posted by M60_to_LGA View Post
Quote:


But shouldn't the work going on at Albany and Schenectady make things at least somewhat better?
It's touted as helping delays, and I'm sure it will, but I don't think it would make a huge difference for a trip this long. Though it's great to see investment, nonetheless.
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Old Oct 22, 14, 4:17 pm
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Well, let me revise my initial trip report based on my return journey yesterday.

Again, the train went ridiculously slowly through Quebec, particularly in St-Jean sur Richelieu, where we crawled.

Border wait wasn't so bad. The Canadians didn't get on the train, and the US immigration check went pretty smoothly. The whole process took about an hour.

There was a bit of a slow zone south of Rouses Point, but after that we went along at a reasonable clip until just north of Schenectady.

That was where things got awful. We ended up standing still for a while before Schenectady, then we sat just outside the Albany station for around an hour because there was no platform for us. Then, when we got into Albany, the train crew said we'd be there for just ten minutes to switch the engine - of course, that was nowhere near true, as we were there for closer to 40.

We finally ended up at Penn almost an hour and a half late.

Had it not been for the Schenectady/Albany problems, we would probably have gotten in on time if not even a bit early. So if the ongoing construction can mitigate the delays, this route could be a winner. But I guess it's not there yet.
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