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Amtrak

Autumn Express Part 1 – Vermonter

4th November 2016

When planning my trip to New York for the 2016 Autumn Express, there were three options I explored for getting to NYC for the Saturday departure.

Metro North Hudson – Drive to 7 hours to Croton-Harmon, then a 1 hour scenic ride along Hudson on Metro North, and arrive at Grand Central Terminal.  Arriving at GCT is by far the best arrival station one can make in any city.  The approach to the station through the long tunnel and the entrance into the large foyer make for an arrival which is hard to match.

Amtrak Adirondack – Drive 2.5 hours to Rouses Point, followed by the 8 hour ride on the Adirondack along Lake Champlain and Hudson.  This had the best timing due to the departure hour, but I’d already have done this route before.

Amtrak Vermonter –  Drive 3.5 hours to Vermont, followed by the 9 hour ride on the Vermonter.  This was a route which I’d never taken before.

I’d hoped to be able to take the Vermonter down to New York and the Adirondack back.  But there appears to be no reasonably priced (or reliable) transit between the two of them this time of year.

The Vermonter won.  The departure time from Vermont was 9:25am and scheduled arrival time was 8:40pm.  This plan required an early rise on Friday morning in order to get there in time, and allowing some extra time due to the poor weather and potential border crossing complications.

At 5:00am on Friday, the alarm went off and the journey began.  There was very little traffic, although the drive was a bit slow due to snow.  There was no line to cross the border, which was great.  But the agent questioned me for 5 minutes on my travels.  Some people just don’t understand that the train can be the destination (and purpose of the visit).  I arrived in St. Albans just under an hour before the stated departure time.

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St. Albans looks and feels like a railway town.  One of the nicest buildings in town is the railway office.  The current station is on the small side, but in decent shape.  The train, composed of Amfleet 1 cars, pulled up on time to the station and 5 passengers boarded.

The track was in very good shape (it felt like CWR most of the time).  The speed limits for many areas of the tracks is either 55mph or 79mph which was faster than I was expecting.

When we got up in the mountains of Vermont the snow returned (I thought I left the snow behind in Ottawa).  It was a sticky wet snow that brought down trees.  We had to stop in Montpelier for an hour to wait for crews to clear the downed trees on the tracks.

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There were probably around 40 or so people on the train while we waited.  Most of the people didn’t get worked up about the delay, which is was nice.  Once the line was clear we all boarded again and headed up into the mountains.  The maintenance crew did clear the tracks, but there were many branches that scrapped along the side of the train (and windows) as we went through.

There was a large amount of inter-Vermont traffic on the train, which was nice to see that the locals were patronizing it for trips around their state.  The other major patrons of the train were military cadets of Norwich University who were travelling out of state.

The train backed up into the Springfield station an hour and a half late, but it was only 500m or so (unlike the old Palmer backup move).  There was a crew change in Springfield.

The tracks from Springfield to New Haven were in good shape (but not very scenic) as we flew through on that section quite quickly.  In New Haven, we switched locomotives from diesel to electric.  During that time, people walked around the platform.  From the platform, you could see storage facility filled with many commuter trains.

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We arrived in Penn station about 1h:45m late.  I’ve been to a fair number of stations throughout the world, and New York has the best and the worst.  Penn station is one of the worst.  The bunker / maze like feel is bad, but it is the poor signage that makes it win this award.  It is a very difficult station to navigate for those who don’t travel there often.  The late arrival in combined with the poor signage made me slightly late for dinner with my friend, but I did manage to get my raman and beer.

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…Next up is the 2016 autumn express train…

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