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www.trainweb.com/travelogues/1999/1997j01a_068.html


Subject: ADIRONDACK TRIP 9-1 to 9-5
Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 14:41:47 -0400
From: "Ronald J. Robertson, Jr."
To: Steve Grande

This is an account of my trip to Montreal on September 1st, on the Amtrak Adirondack, from New York City to Montreal.

Since it was Labor Day, the Adirondack was operating on the Sunday schedule. This train only has coach seating and a Cafe Car for food services. The train sets are dedicated to Adirondack service, and all of the cars in the consist display the Adirondack logo. This trip has to be one of the most beautiful day trips on a North American train. The route parallels the Hudson River to Albany. When I went northbound on the train, it was almost full. This was because of the holiday week end and also many college students were returning to college in upstate New York. From New York Penn Station to Albany, I suggest a seat on the left side of the train from Penn Station to Albany. This is because the scenery along the Hudson River is just spectacular. The George Washington Bridge and the Tappan Zee Bridge are both massive structures. There are many beautiful mansions and grounds to be seen across the Hudson River. The train also passes near the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Near Croton on Hudson, passengers will have a good view of the United States Military Academy at West Point and some of the massive buildings which comprise the Military Academy.

Also seen along the trip there will be many sightings of Metro North equipment, because for part of the trip, the Adirondack is operating over Metro North rails. I also spotted some New Haven locomotives on this trip.

In Albany, there is an equipment change. The engines are replaced for diesel engines. To Albany the engines used on the Adirondack are equipped to operate on the third rail system. Albany is quite a major hub for Amtrak in this area. The station stop in Albany usually is just a brief stop.

Departing from Albany on the northbound trip, I recommend moving to the right side of the train. This is because the beautiful scenery is now found on the right side of the train. For quite a long while the train travels along the shores of Lake Champlain. Shortly before arriving at the Ticonderoga station, there is a good view of Fort Ticonderoga. This fort was used extensively during the Revolutionary War to defend the area. Fort Ticonderoga is a massive stone structure on a bluff, with a commanding view of the Lake and surrounding area. There are many interesting little station stops along this part of the trip, like Glen' Falls, Port Henry, and Whitehall.

Shortly after passing through the station at Rouses Point, New York, the train will cross the U.S.-Canada border. If you keep a sharp look out you will see a white triangular shaped boundary marker. According to Amtrak, the inspection point for Canada Customs and Immigration is Cantic, Quebec. However the Immigration Officer's stamp reads Lacolle, Quebec. Also be advised that Canada requires positive proof of citizenship to enter Canada. As Amtrak literature states, a drivers license is not sufficient proof. The Canadian officials denied entry to some passengers on this train because they did not have positive proof of citizenship. These individuals were removed from the train and turned back to U.S. officials at Rouses Point, New York. The Canadian officials were very courteous and polite. I was greeted by the immigration officer in French, and when he saw I did not reply in French, he spoke to me in English.

Also, prior to entering Canada, the Cafe Car was closed. When the Cafe Car reopened after clearing through the Canadian formalities, the Cafe Car could not serve any beer or wine. From this point, the trip into Montreal was a little more than an hour in length.

The crossing of the St. Lawrence River was most impressive. Since the train was operating on the Sunday schedule, it was well after dark when we entered Montreal. The city lit up was a beautiful sight. During the northbound trip on the Adirondack, there was a private car "Georgia" on the end of the train.

The Montreal Station is one of the cleanest train stations I have ever seen. At this point, I must say that all of the train stations I have been to in Canada are spotless. I was very impressed last year when I was at the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.

I remained overnight in Montreal, and the following morning started my trip on VIA Rail. I went to visit with my aunt and uncle, who reside in Perth, Ontario. I had not seen them in many years, and they invited me to visit with them. Prior to this trip, my aunt informed me to take the train to Smiths Falls, yes that is the way it is spelled! I went to VIA Rail's web page, and made my reservations and paid for the ticket. Three days later, my ticket arrived by way of Express Mail. To go from Montreal to Smiths Falls, I had to change trains in Brockville.

I departed Montreal on the morning train on September 2nd, and while in the train station at Montreal, I was in store for a real treat, I was able to see the American Orient Express, which was in the station! This is an absolutely beautiful train. The train I was on from Montreal to Brockville consisted of three of the VIA Rail LRC coaches. The LRC coaches, as they are known, are very nice when compared to Amtrak coaches. The LRC is a VIA Rail name for light, rapid, comfortable. These coaches are all of this. Two of the coaches are for economy service, and one was for VIA 1 or First Class. The service on the VIA Rail was outstanding. Although on the train I was on, there is no checked baggage, there is ample room in the coach for baggage.

After departing Montreal station the train stopped at the Dorval International Airport Rail Station. More people boarded the train here than had gotten on the train in Montreal! The train then began its trip west, and after awhile the train was going along the St. Lawrence River. This was a beautiful sight. The train arrived at my station, Brockville, ten minutes late. Not bad.

I had a layover of about three hours in Brockville. Prior to making this trip, I posted a message on the Railroad mailing list, and two people responded to my request for information. One individual, Rich Stewart very graciously offered to meet me at the train station if he was available. When I arrived in Brockville, Rich was not there, as he was busy with his work. I had my luggage with me, and I spoke with the VIA Rail Station Master, Mr. Babij, who offered to put my luggage in the office until the departure of my train to Smiths Falls. Mr. Babij, with his courteous and police attitude shows what many of the Amtrak personnel lack! I then went across the street from the station, and had a hearty breakfast at John's Restaurant. The food was outstanding, and the service was very fast. The portions of food were also generous. The price was very reasonable.

I had no sooner finished my breakfast and returned to the train station, when Rich arrived. He explained to me that he had just returned from doing some tasks at his job. Rich then proceeded to take me on a driving tour of Brockville. At this point, I would like to express my appreciation to Rich for his kindness. Rich first took me to the downtown area of Brockville. He showed me the City Hall, and the oldest railroad tunnel in Canada. We then drove around the beautiful marina, and looked across the St. Lawrence River to New York State. We then went around the area, and I saw the headquarters for Black & Decker Canada. I was surprised to see that for a small city, Brockville had facilities which are not found in some large cities. We then returned to the train station, and shortly thereafter my train arrived, and I was off to Smiths Falls.

When I arrived at Smiths Falls, I immediately spotted my aunt and uncle, and they also immediately saw me. We then drove to their home in Perth. The following day I was in for a real treat, my uncle took me to visit Ottawa. This was quite an impressive trip. We first visited the Parliament Buildings, and I took some photos of the area. The Parliament Buildings are situated on a high hill, overlooking the Ottawa River. We then visited the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal. Then we visited one of the most delightful places I have ever been to, Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. The grounds and certain areas of the residence are open to the public. When I was there, a condolence book was still there for people to sign for Princess Diana. The line to sign this book was long, and the floral tributes were many. People are allowed and even encouraged to picnic on the grounds. Many picnic tables are located on the grounds. If anyone ever goes to Ottawa, a visit to that city is not complete until visiting Rideau Hall.

The following day, I returned to Montreal and stayed overnight. If anyone ever visits Montreal, I can recommend staying at the Comfort Suites. It is located not far from the train station, and the rates are most reasonable. Also, there are many interesting restaurants in the area. I ate dinner at Dundee's Bar and Grill, and the food was outstanding. On my trip from the hotel to the train station, I had an interesting experience. The taxi cab driver I had was impeccably dressed, even to a jacket and tie! When I entered the taxi, classical music was playing on the stereo. The driver spoke English with a French accent. The taxi driver was the epitome of a perfect French gentleman in Quebec!

The trip southbound was not much different from the northbound trip. However this time the crossing of the St. Lawrence River was made in daylight. I was quite impressed with the river crossing. As far as I am concerned, the St. Lawrence River is a mightier river than the Mississippi River. I had a great view of the entire city of Montreal spread out before me while crossing the river.

The southbound trip was not much different from the northbound trip. When the train went through the U.S. Immigration and Customs formalities in Rouses Point, New York, some passengers were removed from the train. Again, for not having all of their documents in order. As the train pulled away from the station, I watched the Immigration Service van head north toward the border. I only assume that these individuals were turned over to the Canadian officials at Lacolle.

As I stated before, the only food service on the Adirondack is a Cafe Car. Only sandwiches and the like are available. I did eat the pastrami sandwich, and it was very good for Amtrak food. One would think with a trip this long in duration that some sort of better food service would be available. Also the restrooms on both the northbound and southbound trains were the worst I have ever seen! There is no excuse for Amtrak to be sending dirty cars out from the yard.

My experience on VIA Rail was a very pleasant experience, and I do not hesitate to recommend VIA Rail travel to anyone. The one difference is on VIA Rail corridor trains, they do not have food service cars like Amtrak, rather on the LRC cars, an area of the end of the car is arranged like the galley of an airplane, and the car attendant passes through the car with a cart and serves food and drink from the cart.

Jim Robertson

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