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Thoughts on riding the LSL's BOS to ALB segment

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NEPATrainTraveler

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So, back in 2018, I rode the LSL from NYP to CHI on 49, so I never got to see the BOS to ALB part of the route, which is exclusive to 449/448. I haven't been traveling since this pandemic began and I am waiting until after I get vaccinated and pandemic restrictions are lifted until I ride again. Still, I like to think up trips I would love to take on Amtrak. I enjoy coming up with trip plans even if I can't take those trips now. Anyway, I have always wondered what the BOS to ALB part of the LSL's route is like, so I decided to think up ways to experience it. I live in the Wilkes-Barre, PA area, so I am not close to either ALB or BOS. I also have to factor in a thruway bus ride, which I need in order to get to an Amtrak station. I made these itineraries with pre-COVID schedules in mind with the hope that by the time I feel comfortable to travel again, Amtrak and Martz Trailways' schedules will be back to how they were pre-COVID. I also usually leave for my Amtrak journeys during the week, so these trip ideas were made with weekday schedules in mind. I did look at current chedules too though, which added an extra degree of difficulty and have put them into consideration in case Martz and Amtrak continue to operate on their reduced schedules even after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Option #1: Ride the BOS to ALB stretch as part of a trip to Chicago

I would ride Martz from W-B to NYC and then go to NYP where I would take the NER to BOS, stay overnight, and then get on 449 the next day. Under current schedules, I would most likely not get to Boston until the late evening (around 10 PM) since Martz' 4-6 AM runs are too early for me and after 6:45 AM there isn't another bus until 12:30 PM. If I'm lucky I could catch the 4 PM Acela, which would get me to Boston at about 7:40 PM. Under normal Martz schedules, I would take either the 7:30, 9:35 or 9:55 departures to NYC, which would allow me to get to Boston earlier in the evening.

Option #2: ride 448 CHI to BOS on my way home from Chicago

I would ride 448 from CHI to BOS, stay overnight in Boston, and then NER to NYP the next day and then bus home. Alternatively, I could spend two nights in Boston before going home, so I have some time to see things in Boston.

Option #3: ride 449 BOS to ALB and then go home the next day

I would ride Martz to NYC, then NER to BOS, stay overnight in Boston, then ride 449 the next day to ALB, stay overnight in Albany, and then the next day take Empire Service to NYP and then bus home.

Option #4: ride 448 SYR to BOS and then either go home the next day or spend a second night in Boston and then go home the day after

I would take a bus to Scranton and then ride Greyhound to SYR, stay overnight in Syracuse, and then ride 448 the next day to BOS, stay a night or two and then NER to NYP and then bus home.

I like 1 the most since it would fulfill both my desire to ride the BOS to ALB segment as well as visiting Chicago again. Downside is that it would make a Chicago trip more expensive since I normally wouldn't need to spend a night on the NEC before catching the train to CHI (unless I'm taking the Cardinal). I wouldn't have a lot of time in Boston either. Option 2's downside is that the LSL has a late departure time from CHI. It works out if coming from a western LD train, but if I'm just going to Chicago for the sake of going to Chicago, then the Capitol Limited's departure is the one I am more likely to take. Option 3 might be one of the cheaper options, but it means less time in Boston unless I spend two nights in Boston before boarding 449, which would make option 3 less cheap. I like option 4. Can't think of a downside other than missing out on re-visitng Chicago.

Any thoughts on the BOS to ALB segment? Is it worth riding? What do you think of my trip plans?
 

Palmetto

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Do you drive? If so, you could start at Harrisburg, then to NYC/ Albany, then to Boston, then to NYC/HAR. It doesn't work well now with reduced schedules, but if you got out of Harrisburg early enough in the day, I think it could.

I've ridden 449 a couple of times; never 448. The prettiest part of the route is over the Berkshire Hills, east of Pittsfield. The railroad follows the Westfield River for a bit on the eastern slope, on its way to--Westfield!! [ no stop], then onward to Springfield. It's a slow trip and the railroad is curvy.
 

niemi24s

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I'd take your dream segment going from Boston to Albany simply because it leaves about 2 hours earlier in the day with more Sun for looking at scenery. In addition, I think there's less chance that the Westbound train from BOS would depart late as opposed to the Eastbound train from ALB.

That leaves Option #1 and #3.
 

SubwayNut

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I am a Amtrak buff and one of my goals is to ride every inch of Amtrak. When I was living in New York City I ended up riding the BOS-SPG segment of the Lake Shore in two halfs (I'm linking to my blog, although the photos won't appear because I'm having a number of issues with my website), both of these trips happend in 2013, and the schedules haven't changed much, although I think Hartford Line expansion would mean a shorter layover in Springfield.

I went home from Boston via MBTA Commuter Rail to Worchester, the Lake Shore Limited to Springfield, the Vermonter to New Haven, and Metro-North back to New York City. This trip happened very last minute I needed to deliver an important document to a relative in Boston who glady paid the money for Acela to get their document but only gave me enough money to take the bus back to New York since time wasn't an issue on my return after spending the night. I found that this was by far the cheapest way to take the rails the entire way home from Boston last minute, with Amtrak's (non-COVID) high last minute prices. As my blog states I had to buy seperate tickets WOR-SPG and SPG-NHV

A couple month's later I was on an already planned trip to visit family in Syracuse and went via Springfield, taking a Northeast Regional to a Shuttle (booked ahead of time so the cost was bascially the same as taking Metro-North from New York City to New Haven, and got me more AGR points). I remember the total cost of that trip felt very similar to a normal Empire Service ticket NYP-SYR, I made two seperate reservations (one NYP, actually MET for a points run the day before on a multi-city ticket) to SPG, and another SPG-SYR.

The late afternoon Lake Shore Limited ride through the Berkshires I still remember. If your looking to minimize nights on the road connecting to the Lake Shore in Springfield is definately something I would also consider, it might give you enough time to take the bus from Scanton into New York City first.
 

Seaboard92

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I love the Boston Section's scenery. It is a great train to ride at least once. I've now done it twice once in each way. When I took it I had the beginnings of sunset on the Post Road Branch westbound high up above the Hudson. It was incredible. My first time I did 449 I flew from home to Boston. Took 449 to Albany, and then the Maple Leaf to New York to meet up with a friend there. The round about route.
 

bratkinson

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Living in the Springfield MA area, I've taken a number of one-day 'triangle' trips to get each half of BOS-ALB. Leaving shortly after 6AM each day from the first stop after departing Springfield on #141 to NYP, I'd either get off at NHV, take a regional or Acela to BOS, then #449 back to SPG and a shuttle train back to Windsor Locks where I had parked for free all day. To do the ALB-BOS segment, I'd take #141 to NYP, then an Empire Service train to ALB to catch #448 back to SPG. Summertime works best for the longer hours of sun both ways, especially eastbound. The 'key' to my plans were always 'fall back' plans such as missing a connection, etc...even if it meant retracing my route to get back home.

As someone in Northeast Pennsylvania, I'd try to figure out option #1 or #2 first. As an aside...get off one stop before BOS at Back Bay (BBY) as there's a couple of well priced hotels within a short walk. All BOS-NYP trains both ways and 448/449 stop at BBY as well. Doing the ALB-BOS segment as part of a trip to/from Chicago is the least 'added cost' as you've already covered travel from your house to NYP both ways to get to/from Chicago.

Taking a Martz bus in the wee hours of the morning gives you the best options for trains and best 'backup' in case of missed connections. Being retired, catching #141 just after 6AM is exceedingly early for me as I rarely go to bed before 1AM! I usually catch a few minutes of 'rest' on #141 as my adrenelin is running too high to sleep or even be 'tired' with the excitement of being on a train.

I'd also say that the scenery ALB-SPG is far better than BOS-SPG as it's going up and over the Berkshire Mountains, usually at speeds less than 35mph due to the curves and almost all on a grade. It's best to do ALB-SPG eastbound as the sun is at your back thereby reducing in your face glare. However, doing it late fall to early spring can be somewhat in the dark out of ALB, especially if 48/448 is a couple hours late, as sometimes happens.

Going BOS-ALB, taking #190 or #2190 from NYP is the only sure way to get to BOS on time for #449. If you're feeling lucky, then #170 to BBY would give you about 10 minutes there to catch #449. Taking an evening Empire Service train to NYP would result in a costly hotel room. Staying in ALB would be a better choice.

A morning Empire Service to ALB then #448 to BOS or SPG from there is much easier to do with comfortable connections. Staying in SPG then a regional to NYP is also less costly than in the BOS area, but you miss the great coastal towns of Rhode Island and much of Connecticut in doing so.

Do your homework first. Whenever I have a trip that includes an overnight stay in some city, I always Google: Hotels in xxxx and let it show me on a map what hotels are where. Entering the address of the train station into Google Maps also works well for identifying hotels within walking distance of the station or in some cases, at subway or streetcar/light rail stops (SEA, PDX, WAS, CHI and NOL, for example). Also, look at options in the event of a missed connection along the way. In my retirement goal of riding all the mass transit and commuter rail lines along the east coast, I've had to fall back to Plan B or Plan C a couple of times. Having all plans marked on printed (on my computer) time tables in my pocket makes all the difference!
 
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Sidney

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I'll be doing such a trip in May. I live in NE Pa. I drive to Elizabethtown where the parking is free. Ill be riding to New Haven,spending the night and continuing on to Boston the next morning. I'm riding Coach to Chicago,but I have a free upgrade to BC. Spending the night in Chicago and riding to Bloomington Il the next morning. I get on the Texas Eagle in a roomette,ride to LA and taking a surfliner to Solano Beach. Overnight and next day up to LA,flyaway bus to LAX, a $49 flight to BWI and returning on a NE Regional and Keystone back to Elt.

I only rode Alb to Bos years ago and most of it was in the dark,so this will be new territory. I wanted the longest possible route across country,and this fits the bill.

I was going to go straight from Chi to Lax,but by going to Bloomington and catching the Eagle there I'm saving $140.
 

lordsigma

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I’ve done the same triangle trip described by bratkinson - except for the Windsor locks piece -on a Saturday - SPG-NHV on 143 - the first available NER NHV - BOS. Then 449 back to SPG. Another time I did a foliage ride on 449 SPG - ALB - took a greyhound bus from Albany back to SPG. Was peak foliage and a beautiful ride. I’ve also used 448/449 on a couple overnight trips to Boston.
 

fdaley

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By eastern standards, the stretch from Springfield to Albany is really a great piece of mountain railroading, following the Westfield River up into the Berkshires and then snaking through the Taconic range into New York. If you're only going to cover it in one direction, I strongly recommend going westbound, as it is more likely to be in daylight and on time. (The last time I took 448, it didn't show up into Albany till 8 p.m., so the entire trip was in darkness.) So, of the itineraries you've sketched out, Options 1 & 3 are the better choices.

Train 449 is due in Albany at 6 p.m., so in theory you would be in time to catch the last departure of the day (7:15 p.m.) from Albany to New York. But the line from Worcester to just outside Albany is a busy freight line, so you would want to have a Plan B in case you missed that connection. In my experience -- many trips in both directions -- I'd say the odds of 449 arriving in Albany by 7 p.m. are close to 90 percent.

Pre-Covid, the Boston section carried only two coaches, and they tended to be crowded, especially west of Springfield. At busy times I have seen the crew assign seats. So if your purpose is to see the scenery, and if you're going at some future time when ridership has rebounded to something close to normal and the current guarantee of two seats to yourself is over, you might consider springing for a roomette to guarantee having a window seat. At many seasons you can get a room for about $100 extra. This includes meals, though as we have discussed at length elsewhere, the current offerings aren't terribly good.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

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Lot of great responses here. It would seem that this is indeed a stretch worth seeing. Seems like westbound would be the best option in order to see it in daylight. Speaking in general, not this particular year, the earliest month of the year I would do this would be March and the latest would be October or very early November. It was late October 2018 when I rode 49 and it was dark by the time we reached Albany. I think I will scrap options 2 and 4 and keep options 1 and 3 on the table.

Do you drive? If so, you could start at Harrisburg, then to NYC/ Albany, then to Boston, then to NYC/HAR. It doesn't work well now with reduced schedules, but if you got out of Harrisburg early enough in the day, I think it could.
No, I don't drive. I either ride transit or get a ride from family. I prefer riding transit when I can.

Do your homework first. Whenever I have a trip that includes an overnight stay in some city, I always Google: Hotels in xxxx and let it show me on a map what hotels are where. Entering the address of the train station into Google Maps also works well for identifying hotels within walking distance of the station or in some cases, at subway or streetcar/light rail stops (SEA, PDX, WAS, CHI and NOL, for example). Also, look at options in the event of a missed connection along the way. In my retirement goal of riding all the mass transit and commuter rail lines along the east coast, I've had to fall back to Plan B or Plan C a couple of times. Having all plans marked on printed (on my computer) time tables in my pocket makes all the difference!
I will definitely keep an eye on Amtrak and hotel rates. I also use Google Maps to check for hotels in the area. I notice that a lot of places don't have hotels within walking distance of the station, so for those places I know I have to factor in a local bus or taxi ride to get to/from area hotels. I also think of backup options in case the main one falls through.

I'll be doing such a trip in May. I live in NE Pa. I drive to Elizabethtown where the parking is free. Ill be riding to New Haven,spending the night and continuing on to Boston the next morning. I'm riding Coach to Chicago,but I have a free upgrade to BC. Spending the night in Chicago and riding to Bloomington Il the next morning. I get on the Texas Eagle in a roomette,ride to LA and taking a surfliner to Solano Beach. Overnight and next day up to LA,flyaway bus to LAX, a $49 flight to BWI and returning on a NE Regional and Keystone back to Elt.

I only rode Alb to Bos years ago and most of it was in the dark,so this will be new territory. I wanted the longest possible route across country,and this fits the bill.

I was going to go straight from Chi to Lax,but by going to Bloomington and catching the Eagle there I'm saving $140.
Nice to see a fellow resident of Northeast PA. I hope you have fun on your trip! : )
Looks like a good itinerary to me. New Haven is a good halfway point between New York City and Boston. I have often considered going for business class myself for my next LSL trip to Chicago. I did coach last time. Not that I don't want a sleeper, they're just rather expensive, especially if you want to take the train both ways. Good idea to save on roomette fare by getting onboard the TE further down the line. Nice deal on the flight from LAX to BWI.

Pre-Covid, the Boston section carried only two coaches, and they tended to be crowded, especially west of Springfield. At busy times I have seen the crew assign seats. So if your purpose is to see the scenery, and if you're going at some future time when ridership has rebounded to something close to normal and the current guarantee of two seats to yourself is over, you might consider springing for a roomette to guarantee having a window seat. At many seasons you can get a room for about $100 extra. This includes meals, though as we have discussed at length elsewhere, the current offerings aren't terribly good.
Even if I only end up doing option 3, I may get a roomette since the price is lower than riding in a roomette all the way to Chicago. If I am doing option 1, I would do a roomette if my budget allows, but otherwise I would try to get business class and only do coach if I can't get business class.
 

bms

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Trains 448 and 449, between Albany and Springfield, provide the most beautiful runs our country has to offer east of the Mississippi. How gorgeous the land is in that area.
 

Bob Dylan

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Trains 448 and 449, between Albany and Springfield, provide the most beautiful runs our country has to offer east of the Mississippi. How gorgeous the land is in that area.
Agreed, its Pretty Nice, but the Scenery on the Adirondack along the Lake and the Cardinal in West Virginia are outstanding too!
 

bms

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Agreed, its Pretty Nice, but the Scenery on the Adirondack along the Lake and the Cardinal in West Virginia are outstanding too!
True! I just happen to love that run through the Berkshires. If we get 7-day schedules again, I can do it in a quick run from Cleveland, 526 miles each way without needing a day off from work :)
 
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Palmetto

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Let me toss in the New River Gorge as having great scenery. In fact, IMO any railroad that follows a river has great scenery. Just a personal liking.
 

SubwayNut

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Let's not forget the Hudson Line used by Empire Service Trains, the Lake Shore, Ethan Allen, Maple Leaf and Adirondack, 2.5 hours of seeing the river the entire way from New York City to Albany. On uncrowded trains it sometimes feels like the train might overly tilt to the left (going northbound) because everyone is sitting on the left-hand side to enjoy the river views.
 

jiml

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One of my favorite "triangle" trips involves this route. Drive to Buffalo and catch the eastbound to Boston (Back Bay). Stay overnight. Noon departure down the NEC the next day to NYP. Stay overnight. 10:30 Empire Service back to BUF. All legs can be done in Business Class very reasonably (unless the BC car is cancelled on the LSL) and the viewing is great throughout - especially during Fall colors. The reverse route doesn't work nearly as well.
 

MARC Rider

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Let's not forget the Hudson Line used by Empire Service Trains, the Lake Shore, Ethan Allen, Maple Leaf and Adirondack, 2.5 hours of seeing the river the entire way from New York City to Albany. On uncrowded trains it sometimes feels like the train might overly tilt to the left (going northbound) because everyone is sitting on the left-hand side to enjoy the river views.
It's not just seeing the river, there's nice mountain scenery behind the river nearly the whole way. The tidal Hudson (all the way up to Troy) is, by the way, considered to be a fjord. So you don't have to go to Norway to see one, just hop a ride on the Empire Service.
 

MARC Rider

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This is a triangle route I'm thinking of taking once Covid dies down and train service goes back to normal. I'd take the Acela or Northeast Regional to Boston from Baltimore, spend the night in Boston, then take 449 to Albany, spend the night in Albany, and then the Empire Service/Northeast Regional back to Baltimore. If they do Business class on 449, do they put it on the end of the train?
 

jiml

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This is a triangle route I'm thinking of taking once Covid dies down and train service goes back to normal. I'd take the Acela or Northeast Regional to Boston from Baltimore, spend the night in Boston, then take 449 to Albany, spend the night in Albany, and then the Empire Service/Northeast Regional back to Baltimore. If they do Business class on 449, do they put it on the end of the train?
The only downside of your route is that unless you do it around the longest daylight hours in summer, you'll miss the best scenery on the LSL route. That's why I advocated for the reverse.
 

fdaley

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This is a triangle route I'm thinking of taking once Covid dies down and train service goes back to normal. I'd take the Acela or Northeast Regional to Boston from Baltimore, spend the night in Boston, then take 449 to Albany, spend the night in Albany, and then the Empire Service/Northeast Regional back to Baltimore. If they do Business class on 449, do they put it on the end of the train?
On my recent trips (i.e., before Covid), the cafe/BC car has been between the sleeper and the coaches. Business class was only added in the past 3-4 years. Previously, for many years, the lounge car ran on the back of 448/449. The sleeper remains at the front, although there used to be a baggage car ahead of that before the Anderson team discontinued checked baggage on the Boston LSL.
 

MARC Rider

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The only downside of your route is that unless you do it around the longest daylight hours in summer, you'll miss the best scenery on the LSL route. That's why I advocated for the reverse.
Huh? My plan would be to ride the LSL westbound from Boston. That way, I'd be more confident the train would be running on time.
 

fdaley

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If it's on time, 449 should cover the best mountain scenery between about 3:30 and 5 p.m., so it should be all in daylight except for a few weeks near the winter solstice, when you might miss the last 20 minutes or so. It leaves Springfield at 3:23, Pittsfield at 4:39. For nearly all of the year, it's light till at least 5 p.m. I do think the descent into the Hudson Valley is rather impressive too, so it would be better to go at a time of year when it's light till 6 p.m., but that covers nearly all of the Daylight Savings Time period except the end of October.

With 448, the best scenery would be from about 4 till 5:30 p.m. if it's on time, but I've had many trips where it's left Albany 1-2 hours late -- and sometimes much later.
 

MARC Rider

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Right, but it will likely be dark after Springfield 90% of the year. I like the mountain scenery.
The westbound leaves Boston at 12:50 PM and gets into Springfield at 3:23 PM and Albany at 6:10 PM.
The eastbound is scheduled to leave Albany at 3:05PM and gets into Springfield at 5:28 PM and Boston at 8 PM.

So they seem to cross the Berkshires at roughly the same time in both directions. However, I would think that there is more of a chance for the eastbound to leave Albany late than for the westbound to leave Springfield late.
 
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