LSL to Boston

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Josh M

Train Attendant
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Ferndale, MI
I'm starting to plan a vacation for August, and this year I'm planning to go out to New England, specifically to Boston. I'd be using the city as a home base to tour the region.

I took the CZ to California 4 years ago and the EB to Seattle last year, so I thought maybe I'd change it up and take one of the eastern LD trains this year. Because I live in the Detroit area, there's no direct route for me to go east on Amtrak, though. I'm not going to hop over to Canada, take VIA to Toronto, and then take the Maple Leaf back into the States. That leaves me with two options:

1) Take the Wolverine to Chicago and take the full LSL route.

2) Take a bus to Toledo, catch the LSL there, and then on to Boston.

If I do option 1, then I'd most likely get a room on the LSL. If I do option 2, I'm not sure whether it would be worth it to still get a room since I'd be getting on at 3 or 4 A.M. or if I could just get away with a seat (maybe business class for the extra leg room). I'd welcome any suggestions from those who have taken the LSL before and have a better knowledge of things like typical on time performance, etc.

Thanks!
 

cpotisch

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Option 1 definitely sounds better, but even if you go with Option 2, I would still recommend getting a room either way.

If you’re boarding at 3:00 AM, you’ll definitely want as good a (half) night’s sleep as you can get, and will really appreciate the total privacy, lack of ambient noise, and of course bed, that comes with a Roomette. And unlike Coach and Business Class, you get access to the Viewliner Diner-turned-Sleeper-Lounge (though that will split off at Albany). On the LSL if you don’t have a room, you have to either bring your meals or get them in the cafe car, which is not going to be particularly tasty or particularly pleasant. With a sleeper you have a place to stretch out, have your complimentary (boxed) hot meals, and take in the views (since this is a brand new Viewliner Diner with two rows of windows).

As to on time performance, it’s pretty likely you’ll be an hour or two late. They don’t call it the Late Shore for nothing.
 
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I think I'd go with #1, the Wolverine to CHI, spend some time railfanning in Chicago (I generally ride commuter trains to fill out a day in Chicago), then the Lakeshore Ltd to Boston, with a sleeper.

But there's a BIG caveat...the Boston section sleeper is directly adjacent to the locomotive(s), meaning you'll be listening to the horn all night long through Indiana and Ohio.  You wouldn't believe how many grade crossings there are!  I live in Springfield MA, and take the New York section sleepers (train 48,  not 448 / 49, not 449) which is at the rear of the train, directly adjacent the diner/lounge car (beats walking through 4-7 cars to get to the diner from the BOS sleeper).  Then, switch to coach or business class in the Boston section at Albany, where the train splits.   For what it's worth,  I'll be doing exactly that a week from tomorrow!  48 (sleeper) from CHI then 448 (coach) to Springfield. 
 

cpotisch

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I think I'd go with #1, the Wolverine to CHI, spend some time railfanning in Chicago (I generally ride commuter trains to fill out a day in Chicago), then the Lakeshore Ltd to Boston, with a sleeper.

But there's a BIG caveat...the Boston section sleeper is directly adjacent to the locomotive(s), meaning you'll be listening to the horn all night long through Indiana and Ohio.  You wouldn't believe how many grade crossings there are!  I live in Springfield MA, and take the New York section sleepers (train 48,  not 448 / 49, not 449) which is at the rear of the train, directly adjacent the diner/lounge car (beats walking through 4-7 cars to get to the diner from the BOS sleeper).  Then, switch to coach or business class in the Boston section at Albany, where the train splits.   For what it's worth,  I'll be doing exactly that a week from tomorrow!  48 (sleeper) from CHI then 448 (coach) to Springfield. 
As someone who is looking into taking #448 from Chicago to Boston in April, do you think a pretty heavy sleeper, in a high number Roomette (farther from the locos), with earplugs, who likes the sound of the horn, would be able to sleep okay?
 
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I agree with the previous suggestions of boarding the Lake Shore in Chicago and getting a roomette.  The overall quality of your trip will be greatly enhanced. 

I think boarding at Toledo has a lot of risks.  If the train is on time you are still boarding in the middle of the night.  If the Lake Shore's departure from Chicago is delayed awaiting connections with a late arriving western train, or if the Lake Shore is delayed en route, you are apt to have a long night in Toledo. 
 

daybeers

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Is money a consideration? Not sure of the price difference between the two options, but unless there's a large difference, I'd say option #1 is best. If you do choose #2 and rooms are expensive, however, BC on the LSL is actually quite nice with 2x1 leather seats that recline very far. You'd have to either bring your own food or spend money on the overpriced items in the cafe car.

Where else are you thinking of going in the Northeast?
 
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As someone who is looking into taking #448 from Chicago to Boston in April, do you think a pretty heavy sleeper, in a high number Roomette (farther from the locos), with earplugs, who likes the sound of the horn, would be able to sleep okay?
It's been at least 6 months since I last rode the Lakeshore.  But as I recall, the vestibule on the Boston section sleeper was always adjacent to the cafe/BC car.  That way, the sleeping car attendant could board/deboard business class customers without the cafe attendant leaving their station to do so.  The puts the vestibule end of the sleeper at the rear of the car, making the higher number roomettes as close as possible to the locomotive.  The couple of times I rode in the Boston sleeper, the horn noise was sort of loud.   But then, I wear 2 hearing aids, so I managed to quiet things down quite easily.  But that was with a baggage car between the sleeper and the locomotive.  With the baggage car now gone, I can 'sample' the horn noise from riding the 2-car shuttle between NHV & SPG.  On train shuttle 412, everyone is always seated in the front car, next to the locomotive.  It's loud.  Sleeping is out of the question, in my opinion.
 

Josh M

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Ferndale, MI
Is money a consideration? Not sure of the price difference between the two options, but unless there's a large difference, I'd say option #1 is best. If you do choose #2 and rooms are expensive, however, BC on the LSL is actually quite nice with 2x1 leather seats that recline very far. You'd have to either bring your own food or spend money on the overpriced items in the cafe car.

Where else are you thinking of going in the Northeast?
Money isn't a big consideration, as I have a travel voucher and some AGR points to burn. It's mostly time, i.e., do I want to spend extra time going west to then immediately turn around and go east. Still, it looks like Option 1 might be best. From what I've seen of the prices, they don't look too much different either way. I might get off at Toledo on the return trip, though...

I've never been to any of the New England states (except Vermont when I was like 6 months old, so it doesn't count in my mind). I'm thinking of a whirlwind tour and ideally visiting each state. It's all going to depend on how much time I can get off work and a bit on the price of lodging.
 

daybeers

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Money isn't a big consideration, as I have a travel voucher and some AGR points to burn. It's mostly time, i.e., do I want to spend extra time going west to then immediately turn around and go east. Still, it looks like Option 1 might be best. From what I've seen of the prices, they don't look too much different either way. I might get off at Toledo on the return trip, though...

I've never been to any of the New England states (except Vermont when I was like 6 months old, so it doesn't count in my mind). I'm thinking of a whirlwind tour and ideally visiting each state. It's all going to depend on how much time I can get off work and a bit on the price of lodging.
If the prices are pretty much the same, I'd say option #1 for sure then.

If you come through CT let me know, maybe we can meet up!
 

StriderGDM

OBS Chief
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Dec 23, 2014
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Personally I've never found the horn an issue, I actually sort of like it.

I'd go with option 1.

For one thing, Toledo's station is not in a great part of town (I've caught the LSL there 2-3 times in the middle of the night) and so I'd prefer to avoid that.

2nd of all, might as well enjoy the entire route.

And of course remember they have the stupid "boxed dinners" on the LSL despite having a full diner and it will be late.

It's not called the Late For Sure for nothing.
 

John Santos

Lead Service Attendant
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I've taken the LSL 6 times (3 round trips from Boston) and never had a problem sleeping.   But that was before they eliminated the baggage car.  I'm a pretty sound sleeper, though.  I'll be taking it again in August so I'll see how it goes.

If you elect to take the bus to Toledo and board at 3 AM, one advantage is you can sleep in.  The train doesn't get to Albany, when you would be forced to change if you get a New York section sleeper, until late in the afternoon.  Sleep too long though and you'll miss the western NY scenery, but I think the nicest part is along the Erie Canal/Mohawk River in eastern NY and the Berkshires in western Mass.  In August, it should be daylight almost all the way to Boston, if it is remotely on time.

The first trip westbound, it was late into Chicago and I had to sprint to catch the EB, which I think they were holding for us so I don't think I actually needed to run.  My 1st LD trip, so I didn't know that.  The EB segment of the 2nd trip, we were a little late until we got to Framingham, 20 miles west of Boston, and then spent about an hour waiting and crawling, due to commuter train interference, I think.  We ended up about an hour and a half late into Boston.  The other four trips (2 WB and 2 EB) were all pretty much on time.

Have a great trip.
 

jebr

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What's the plan for getting back to Michigan? If you're flying one direction, and you're a bit worried about the additional time, I'd fly out and do the LSL westbound instead, taking the bus up from Toledo that direction. It's a lot better timed for the LSL's arrival, and typically it'll be leaving pretty quickly once everyone transfers from the LSL. (Conversely, if you're ever wanting to do the Capitol Limited, the bus schedule is decent for that eastbound. The bus is playing double duty to connect to both of those, and so one of them gets stuck with a long layover each direction.)

Unless money is of the utmost concern, I wouldn't do the bus to Toledo connecting to the LSL eastbound. A four-and-a-half hour minimum wait (if the train is late, it'll be even longer!) at the Toledo Amtrak station in the middle of the night isn't my idea of a fun time. It doesn't look like there's a whole lot to do around the station at that hour, so it'd be a long wait in the station when you're likely tired and wanting to get to sleep.
 

PerRock

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Since you're from Ferndale, you could just drive down to Toledo & catch the train there. Cuts out the 4.5hr layover & being stuck on the bus. The Toledo station has ample, relatively secure parking. It's what I do when heading east.

Not sure I'd get a room EB, would certainly get a room if heading WB. Although getting a room would include your meals.

Another option to consider would be to take the Capitol Limited (or Cardinal) to Washington (or NY) and then the NEC up to Boston. I did that a few years ago & it was quite nice, found the scenery to be better on CL & you get a some layover time in DC.

peter
 

Josh M

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Ferndale, MI
What's the plan for getting back to Michigan?
Ideally, I'll take the train both ways. I hate flying and won't do it unless I absolutely have to. I'd already figured that on the way back I could hop off at Toledo and either take the bus or have a friend/family pick me up.
 

cpotisch

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As someone who is looking into taking #448 from Chicago to Boston in April, do you think a pretty heavy sleeper, in a high number Roomette (farther from the locos), with earplugs, who likes the sound of the horn, would be able to sleep okay?
It's been at least 6 months since I last rode the Lakeshore.  But as I recall, the vestibule on the Boston section sleeper was always adjacent to the cafe/BC car.  That way, the sleeping car attendant could board/deboard business class customers without the cafe attendant leaving their station to do so.  The puts the vestibule end of the sleeper at the rear of the car, making the higher number roomettes as close as possible to the locomotive.  The couple of times I rode in the Boston sleeper, the horn noise was sort of loud.   But then, I wear 2 hearing aids, so I managed to quiet things down quite easily.  But that was with a baggage car between the sleeper and the locomotive.  With the baggage car now gone, I can 'sample' the horn noise from riding the 2-car shuttle between NHV & SPG.  On train shuttle 412, everyone is always seated in the front car, next to the locomotive.  It's loud.  Sleeping is out of the question, in my opinion.
All the videos I'm seeing show the vestibule as next to the locomotive, so the Roomettes are away from the engine (with the highest number Roomettes farthest). Still, doesn't sound like the noise will be particularly tolerable. :unsure:
 

cpotisch

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And of course remember they have the stupid "boxed dinners" on the LSL despite having a full diner and it will be late.
It really isn't that bad at all (I took it round-trip to Rochester last week). Have you tried the meals since they implemented the new menu last month?
 

StriderGDM

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It really isn't that bad at all (I took it round-trip to Rochester last week). Have you tried the meals since they implemented the new menu last month?
No, but to be honest, it's not just the quality, it's the entire experience. I'm also not thrilled with the "no coach passengers" aspect, in part because right now I'm more likely to be riding it in coach.
 

cpotisch

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It really isn't that bad at all (I took it round-trip to Rochester last week). Have you tried the meals since they implemented the new menu last month?
No, but to be honest, it's not just the quality, it's the entire experience. I'm also not thrilled with the "no coach passengers" aspect, in part because right now I'm more likely to be riding it in coach.
I'm not happy about the lack of coach passengers either, but the attendant explained that the main issue with serving coach would be that they just don't have the space to fit all the boxes needed. I did a trip report if you're at all interested in a pretty thorough account of "contemporary" dining.
 

thully

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I’d either do Toledo bus (or drive to Toledo)+Capitol Limited+Northeast Regional eastbound and LSL+Toledo bus (or drive) westbound, or backtrack  to CHI on the Wolverine to connect to the LSL (and same in reverse). Which I’d prefer would depend on how much time mattered - you can leave in the evening going through Toledo as compared to the late morning going through Chicago.

In any case, I’d avoid the 3am LSL Toledo departure, particularly if taking the bus to Toledo - that’s just a horrible time to get on (or off) the train, and delays would make it worse. The eastbound CL departure and westbound LSL return at TOL are more sane, though still pretty early/late (around midnight and 6am respectively). I did those on my Gathering trip, though the next time I go east I’d probably either go through CHI for a more leisurely trip or just fly.
 

stappend

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Get the room, I've done taken it dozens of times and unfortunately the LSL is almost always late into Boston.  The slow trip from Albany to Boston is infuriating, knowing you can drive it in half the time.  
 

Ranke

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I'm taking the LSL from Chicago to Albany at the end of this month, so I began reading this thread  - and glad that I did! Thanks to Bratkinson, in particular, for drawing my attention to the unlikelihood of getting a good night's sleep in a 448 (Boston section) roomette, now that there's no baggage car. I just contacted Amtrak and was able to get myself moved, at minimal cost, into a 48 (New York section) roomette, which should work better.   

Why only to Albany, and not on to Boston (and then up to my Bangor home)? As attractive as most of the scenery is along the Albany-Boston route, the train gets to Boston too late (even when on time) to catch a bus home that evening. So I drive to/from Albany - an easy 6 hours (in a fine German sports-sedan - the only mode of travel that beats the train, IMHO) - where the long-term parking lot charges only $30./week; which usually means I'm back in Bangor before the LSL reaches Boston.  
 
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AudenHoggart

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Now that's there no baggage car, what are Boston section roomette customers doing with their luggage?  There certainly isn't enough room in the roomette itself.
 

cpotisch

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Now that's there no baggage car, what are Boston section roomette customers doing with their luggage?  There certainly isn't enough room in the roomette itself.
What makes you say that? Between the ledge above the trash can, space under the seats, and the storage cubby over the hallway, a passenger would need to be bringing an unusually large amount of luggage onboard for it not to fit in their Roomette. That said, I think there was some mention a while back that they are taking one Roomette out of service for excess baggage. Not sure if that's actually confirmed, though.
 
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