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Amtrak Lake Shore Limited Trip Report

We rode the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited from Worcester to Albany-Rensselaer on 22 May 2010. We drove to Worcester and had lunch at a small pizza place in a residential neighborhood a bit northwest of the station. After some time checking out Worcester’s beautifully restored station, our train arrived and we boarded. Although the train was only about half full, every pair of seats had one person in the window seat. Luckily there was one row reserved for groups of three or more that remained empty so we were still able to sit together. Unfortunately these seats were positioned so we were between two windows, making it somewhat difficult to look outside, but at least we weren’t all separated into aisle seats.

Of course soon after boarding the children requested a visit to the café car. Luckily the crew was just finishing up the first class lunch service, so by the time we were ready the car was being opened up to all passengers. Visiting the café car worked well for us since for most of the trip it was mostly empty, allowing us to comfortably lounge and watch the scenery roll past. We spent about half of the trip in the café car.

The train filled when we reached Springfield so much so that my oldest son now had an older gentlemen sitting in the seat next to him. My son was a little apprehensive at first, but after awhile the two of them were chatting endlessly.

There were no significant delays during the trip, but due to the circuitous route of the track, taking the train takes about twice as long as the drive on the Mass Pike. Even coming in to Rensselaer it seemed like we were going to be about 45 minutes early, but by the time we had backed up to the platform and they allowed us to disembark, we were pretty much right on time. As I overheard another passenger tell someone on the phone, it’s not the fastest way across the state, but it certainly is a pleasant ride.

We took a second ride on the Lake Shore Limited on 13 November 2011, riding from Erie to Buffalo. We drove out to Erie the day before, spending the night at a very nice Holiday Inn Express in Findley Lake, NY. We awoke early the next morning, grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel, and then made the half hour drive to the station in Erie. Not too surprisingly downtown Erie is pretty quiet at dawn on a Sunday. We easily found the huge old station and the current entrance for Amtrak in what was probably the freight section originally. The station hours are pretty unusual, midnight to 7:30 in the morning, but makes sense when considering the Lake Shore Limited’s schedule, the only train that serves Erie. Inside the waiting room were some of the old benches from the station next door, a friendly Amtrak employee checking in people as they arrived, and a bunch of passengers waiting for the train. The platform isn’t accessible until a bit before the train is due to arrive, so we had to wait inside until they opened the tunnel to the platforms.

The train arrived on time. Prior to boarding the conductor took tickets and assigned seats. While Amtrak often says which car to sit in (based on your destination), this is the first time I’ve ever been assigned actual seat numbers. Of course the seats we were assigned were already occupied, but we found other (better) seats and settled in for the ride. Lake Erie and miles of vineyards were visible for much of the ride. We moved at a pretty good clip almost the whole way, arriving in Buffalo about 10 minutes early. From Buffalo we began the long drive back home, having ridden on all tracks in New York State having regularly scheduled passenger service.

Our next trip on the Lake Shore Limited began in Toledo and took us to Chicago on 23 June 2013. This was the first leg of our trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. We began our trip the previous day with a long drive to our hotel just east of Toledo. Before dinner we took a drive over to the station to make sure we could find it easily in the morning, assess the parking situation, and take some pictures. The drive over on city streets was quick and easy enough, and took us over a cool old suspension bridge. The station was locked up and the area deserted in the late afternoon, except for one gentleman hiding from the summer heat on one of the platforms. Like most old urban stations, most of the former station and platforms were no longer used for rail service, but the ‘No Entry Beyond This Point’ signs were placed haphazardly enough that we got to explore a bit of the area.

When we awoke the next morning the Lake Shore Limited was listed as running about 45 minutes late. We took a leisurely ride over to the station, found parking just across the street, and 30 minutes later heard a train pulling into the station. Once on the platform we realized this was a late Capitol Limited. It was about another 45 minutes before the Lake Shore Limited arrived, allowing us to board and settle into our roomette. As the train left Toledo we made our way to the dining car for a breakfast of French toast. The rest of the journey was spent in our room watching the scenery roll by. We arrived in Chicago a bit late, but still with plenty of time to catch our connection on the Texas Eagle.

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