New Haven Railroad advertisement courtesy New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association.
A travelogue offered by a scribe in Erie, Pennsylvania, suggests the idea still has merit.
The logical choice for a spring break trip in the midst of a mid-March Erie deep-freeze would be to head south to hit the beach. So in February my wife, Deb, and I set our sights on sunny Florida, with visions of basking in sunshine and hearing the crack of the bat.They were able to procure coach tickets on the Lake Shore Limited, a train that is often sold out, and their family experience was positive (no mention of lounge car passengers who had too much to drink, or of immigration authorities behaving like East German inspectors on the Hamburg to Berlin service). The concluding paragraphs, however, make the case for increased frequency and capacity.
Yet our enthusiasm faded considerably when we checked on airfare for a family of four. Then every hotel, condo or rental I called or e-mailed was booked solid. There were some rooms to be had at Disney, but the thought of wading through spring-break crowds didn't feel much like a vacation.
We were nearly resigned to just staying home when Deb threw out a curveball -- what about New York City? We'd been wanting to take Ben and Sara there, and it had been years since Deb and I visited the Big Apple. I liked everything about the idea -- except the prospect of driving to and through New York where daily parking costs more than a tankful of gas. And the idea of flying into a frantic New York airport followed by a long and pricey cab ride downtown didn't hold much appeal either. Then Deb offered up the answer to all of my misgivings. "Let's take the train."
Would we do it again? Absolutely. We're already thinking of a future trip to Boston -- and perhaps the Chicago run if we wrap our minds around catching the train at 1:30 in the morning. Maybe that trip is next spring break, if the long Erie winter doesn't drive us south -- no matter what the cost. Or if Amtrak ever comes up with an Erie-to-Florida route, we're all in.On one of my trips to Milwaukee, a number of Syracuse basketball fans depended on the Lake Shore being punctual enough to get them to Union Station in time to catch a Hiawatha Service train to Milwaukee in time for the tip-off of a Marquette game. Milwaukee and Chicago have proper frequency and some connectivity, apart from some late night departures for people going to the shows or the sporting events.
Erie, on the other hand, was somewhat better served by Penn Central, with a 9.55 departure westbound, arriving Chicago at 7.25, with food service available Buffalo to Chicago, as well as a 6.25 departure westbound, into Chicago at 5.00, on the coach-only remnant of the Empire State Express. The precursor train to the Lake Shore retained the pretensions of the Twentieth Century and New England States, passing Erie without a stop. The eastbound version of the former Century and New England States made a conditional stop at Erie at 11.51, arriving Grand Central Terminal at 10.00, offering ample time to get to Penn Station for the Silver Meteor, Champion, or Florida Special with coaches and sleepers to both coasts of Florida. The passenger off today's Lake Shore has to spend a night in New York before boarding one of today's Florida trains.