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Amtrak Empire State Line Hudson to Niagara Falls New York

Traveling by train is marketed as a leisurely and elegant means of transportation. In the Northeastern region of the US train travel is a widely accepted form of transportation used by millions to get from here to there. In planning our trip to Niagara Falls we ended up utilizing Amtrak’s Empire State Line to travel between Hudson New York and Niagara Falls New York. The route would take us primarily along the Hudson River and through the towns of Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester.

The total round trip cost for the 400 mile trek was $140 for the two of us which was less than our projections if we had driven and paid for fuel for the truck. Arriving at the Hudson station we found a quintessential train station and waiting area. After waiting for about 30 minutes the train arrived on time and we quickly boarded.

The other passengers were mostly business people and political types traveling to the state capital in Albany. The seats on the train were comfortably padded and offered a bit more legroom than a standard Southwest Airline 737. The conductors for both the outbound and return trains all carried themselves in the same manner, that of a holier than thou attitude that was both annoying and funny at the same time. In essence they acted like a combination between a police officer and the person that works behind the counter at the post office. They were not there to make your ride comfortable nor were they there to offer quality customer service basically, in our encounters, they seem to be there to check your tickets and make loud announcements on the speakers.

This Empire State Route follows the same tracks originally marketed in the 1800s to tourists from New York as an escape to the amazing Niagara Falls. All of the cities mentioned above and a number of the smaller towns the tracks traveled through are victims of the post-industrial age in the Northeast. Traveling by rail allowed us a close hand glimpse of the countless abandoned and derelict warehouses throughout the corridor. In the photos below are just a few of the hundred or so that we passed along the tracks.

On both the to and from trips the Amtrak trains arrived at the destination station almost one hour late. During the outbound trip the excuse was that a slow freight train was blocking our path and on the return trip customs inspections had placed them behind schedule, this train travels into and out of Canada. The delays were surprising, not annoying because we were not in a hurry, in that the perception is that train travel is very strictly scheduled. Apparently Amtrak is not.

Arriving into Niagara Falls New York there was a line of waiting taxis allowing for quick access to the Rainbow Bridge pedestrian path into Canada. The taxi fare averaged $15 for the to and from trips making our overall travel costs quite reasonable.

In the end we were not wowed by train travel. It seems that Amtrak is succumbing to the same problems they experienced back in the 80s when underfunding affected service and quality. As far as beauty goes there was a lot of stunning landscapes and interesting buildings to see from the tracks. Would we take the train again knowing now what to expect? Given the cost savings and the expectations for an extra hour delay we would still book the trip with the caveat that we would bring a bit more food and water along and completely ignore the strange conductors.

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