The Lake Shore, not so much.
I had set out on my excursion to New England with the knowledge that the eastbound trip included a bus Albany to Worcester account CSX doing trackwork on the old Boston and Albany. No such work was scheduled for the westbound, on a weekend going into the Independence Day festivities.
It was too much to expect that a trip on the Lake Shore would not involve a change of conveyance in Albany, which has been my fate on each of the previous trips in this century. Sure enough, CSX had two freight trains attempt to occupy the same segment of track near Amsterdam on June 27.
According to reports, the trains involved were eastbound train Q364-25 with four diesels, 122 loads and 4 empties, operating between Indianapolis, Ind., and Selkirk, NY., and westbound train Q641-27 with two diesels, 65 loads and 18 empties, operating between Selkirk and New Castle, Pa. Early reports indicate train Q364 derailed due to a sinkhole, and Q641 went into emergency to stop short of colliding with derailing Q364 and derailed, tearing up track crossovers.A colleague at the convention got wind of this on a visit to the Worcester station and advised me of it Saturday morning. He was due out on Sunday, and thinking of rebooking by way of Washington, D.C. and the Capitol Limited so as to avoid an overnight bus ride. Lake Shore through service was restored by then, and he may not have had to make that change, if it is even possible on short notice, particularly with sleeping car space involved.
I went ahead with my as-booked journey. The Boston to Albany section got to Worcester about 20 minutes late. Upon departure, however, the sleeper attendant offered to bring lunches to sleeper passengers, very kind of him, and there was a Greek salad and cheesecake on offer. I did not make detailed notes on consist or timekeeping, choosing instead to conserve energy for the bus ordeal to come. Somewhere west of Springfield, the engineer sounds the warning signal, then puts the train into emergency. Apparently the last week of June was a bad time to be a bruin in Massachusetts. Had a trespasser gotten in the way of the train on a Saturday afternoon, who knows how long we would have been there before police and the coroner release the train.
There are stretches of slow running and a few what feel like stop-and-proceed pauses, but eventually we reach Albany.
Those are our conveyances to Buffalo awaiting. Our train pulls in on the platform closest to the bus staging area, but station staff herd everyone off the train and into the station rather than make a cross-platform loading. About the same time our train arrives, the relief train running on 48's schedule pulls in on an adjacent track. So once again the public spaces of Albany are overcrowded with cross-country passengers, and Amtrak staff take their time getting organized, then loading passengers for Buffalo and west onto buses that leave first, but having to check all tickets again. Spare a moment, though, for Springfield, Worcester, and Boston passengers. Some of them may have been delivered to Albany in midafternoon, on school buses, and they're waiting for the Boston section to be turned to haul them east. No time sensitive traffic here, or perhaps the rental car agencies had an influx of business.
Onto the bus, do my best to cat-nap, eavesdrop on conversations of passengers off the New York section (no sleepers, no special effort to get a late lunch or early supper to sleeper passengers on the relief train), arrive Buffalo around 11.30. Train awaits. There's the usual queue of passengers waiting for tickets to be inspected on the platform. Amtrak, you can do better. The train has been wyed, and the single sleeper of the Boston section is to my left, with the door open and the attendant accepting passengers. I'm on the list, on board, and the lower in my room is made down. Set out the change of clothes, toiletries, pull the upper partway down to serve as a shelf, grab a snack in the station, crash.
I did not walk the train or write down numbers. It's two diesels, baggage car, Boston sleeper, two coaches, lounge, four coaches, diner 8559, three sleepers, baggage car. Crash. Train nudges into motion somewhere around 12.30. Sleep well. Awaken to sounds of train pausing, look out of curtain, the Mistake by the Lake has a new sponsor, back to sleep, awaken to another pause, open curtain, it's daylight, car west of platform on north side of tracks. Sandusky? Observe passing scenery for a while, observe "Welcome to Indiana" sign. Must have been Bryan, check watch, 8:22. Decide it's time for a shower, grab a cup of coffee, attendant notes dining car is serving until 9 am account late running. French toast and coffee are good, despite the bus bridge all the seats are occupied in the six coaches, and people still napping. Sleeper attendant observes that passengers generally are sleeping in, the usual stirrings-at-dawn of Pullman passengers wiped out by the long bus ride. Estimated arrival Chicago is 10:30 (plan to catch 12:40 to Elburn rather than risk sanity dashing for the 10:40). Stop near Park Manor Yard, one of the railroad special agents whose primary job is protecting cargo moving through the rough neighborhoods has noticed something amiss on one of the cars. Hear brakes set up and release, train goes, into Union Station around 11 am, the bakery at North Western Station is open and has lots of tables free. More than a few passengers off the Lake Shore are transferring to Metra, probably a good thing the heavy traffic is into Chicago at midday.
I've had better train trips. I've also had worse. Managed, though, to stay out of the clutches of the TSA and the barbarity that the air carriers call "boarding process."