Amtrak Could Be Better

On The Canadian, some of the train-loving seniors were talking smack about Amtrak and saying there was nothing in their offering that compared to the line we were on. I thought that was a little harsh at the time, having taking Amtrak to Seattle several times and enjoyed it, but soon I came to see the truth of their words. Enter the Maple Leaf.

As mentioned previously, I wanted to do as much of this trip as possible by rail to avoid air travel. This meant, after arriving in Toronto on Friday, April 7th, that I had to depart the next day for New York via the Maple Leaf line which is run by both Via Rail (on the Canadian side) and Amtrak (on the American). The train leaves Toronto at 8:20am and arrives in NYC at 9:55pm or roughly 13.5 hours of rail travel in one day.

Business Class

To make this experience less awful, I shelled out a little extra for a business class seat. This was not the major improvement that I thought it would be. From roaming the economy cars on the trip, it did not appear we got substantially more leg-room. Also when I put down my tray-table, I found it was stained with something brown. It looked like a combination of coffee and syrup. I got a napkin and cleaned it up myself.

Later, when I got to the dining car and ordered food, I found the table there covered in crumbs. I think I was one of the first visitors to the car, so this cannot be blamed on previous visitors. I cleaned that off and ate my BBQ chicken sandwich + coffee + snickers bar and returned to business class. The sandwich was surprisingly good, if not Via Rail fancy good (see featured image).

On a less pleasant note, when I went to the washroom later, I found what can only be described as some ossified faeces left in the toilet. The colour was all wrong. I flushed and tried not to think about it. Somehow this line won an award for the best train line in the United States. Cannot explain it. Perhaps I just got them on a really bad day.

On the plus side, dinner consisted of beer plus mac + cheese:

Mac and cheese meal on Amtrak with some beer

Other Fun Stuff Happens

We also, despite several hours of padding built into the schedule for the border crossing and potential issues, ended up running an hour late. This was due to multiple thunderstorms happening in the state. As a result, we had to reduce speed to 30 km/hour at times due to wind warnings. The wind never showed up, but rules are rules. We made up time by doing 170 km/hour on parts of the Albany to NYC stretch, but it wasn’t quite enough to close the gap.

The only real benefits to business class were a) being right next to the dining car and b) having free coffee. Unfortunately, I only found out about option b after I’d paid for my first and only cup. Lesson learned. I arrived into New York very late, but it was still nice to see the shiny new Moynihan Hall in Penn Station. Amtrak Joe works slow, but he may get there in the end.

The author in moynihan hall New York.
I am very tired

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