Day Away

November 27, 2011

Westward ho


We rolled into a siding to let a northbound train go through. Known as a "shuffle move," the brief stop gave me time to get a microwaved cheeseburger for lunch. The shore steepened as we raced a blue heron into Port Henry. That community's compact stone depot with its squat turret is a personal favorite, even more so in comparison to the sterile brick shelter that serves Ticonderoga. A look back provided a view of the famous fort.

At Whitehall I saw locks of the Champlain Canal. For a brief period, canal, rail tracks and modern road run in parallel, essentially a condensed history of transportation in the region. Fort Edward offered another classic rail depot, this one built of yellow clapboard. Now terrain began to flatten, and signs of development intensified. At Saratoga we were greeted by a modern brick terminal that marked a clear departure from the traditional. When the train got to Schenectady, I disembarked.

Schenectady's station, built in 1973, replaced the 1908 Union Station. Its location allows easy strolling to downtown, but I spent the time browsing displays on the city's connection to railroads. Schenectady Locomotive Works began operations in 1851; by 1901 it had become the American Locomotive Company. Five decades later, ALCO survived as the only steam engine manufacturer successfully making the switch to diesel production.


The Lake Shore Limited, Amtrak's train from New York and Boston to Chicago, roared in almost exactly on schedule. Sleeping car attendant Tom Finnegan helped hoist my luggage aboard, then showed me to my quarters.

My roomette was as compact as possible. A seat folds up to reveal a toilet; the sink folds down from the wall. Two comfortable lounge chairs would be transformed into a double-decker bed while I was at dinner. Add a couple of cup holders, a hinged tray and ample reading lights, and I was set for the night.

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Day Away