News & Reviews News Wire Adirondack round trips to be extended to Saratoga Springs

Adirondack round trips to be extended to Saratoga Springs

By Bob Johnston | July 17, 2023

| Last updated on February 4, 2024

Additional service begins July 24; operation further north or into Canada remains in limbo

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Passenger train at station
The southbound Adirondack prepares to stop at Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Aug. 26, 2018. Harrison Smith

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — With the Saratoga horse racing season having begun last Thursday, Amtrak has announced it will extend Adirondack operations 37 miles beyond Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., to Saratoga Springs starting Monday, July 24.

The New York City-Montreal train was the last state-supported corridor to be restored following nationwide discontinuances in March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Daily round trips did not resume until this April [see “Adirondack tickets now on sale …,” Trains News Wire, March 17, 2023], although travel restrictions at the Canadian border were eased in 2021 and eliminated Oct. 1, 2022.

Despite bipartisan political pressure from New York federal, state, and local lawmakers, Amtrak and the New York State Department of Transportation declined to operate the Adirondack beyond Albany-Rensselaer when trains were not running to Montreal.

Amtrak and the state agency resumed this stance in late June, when Canadian National reduced authorized speeds on track north of the border [see “Amtrak abruptly suspends Adirondack …,” News Wire, June 26, 2023]. When the host railroad claimed the route lacked sufficient maintenance — to be paid for by Amtrak — to withstand rail expansion during periods of high daytime temperatures, the round trip was again cut back to Albany-Rensselaer, where many Empire Corridor trains originate and terminate.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams says the company “has explored different solutions with Canadian National and New York State Department of Transportation on resuming Adirondack service to and from Montreal. The current heat restrictions CN has in place [on this section of track] limit Amtrak trains within Canada to 10 mph for up to 40 miles. Unfortunately, (the parties) did not find a feasible solution for this summer which would not result in our customers experiencing significant delays of up to four hours or even potentially being stranded mid-trip.”

Operationally, longer trip times would result in engineers and conductors regularly exceeding hours-of-service safety requirements under the current level of staffing.

Abrams says service to Montreal won’t return “until mid-September when CN is anticipated to lift its heat restrictions. It is possible that the heat restrictions are lifted before then if the local temperature drops, and Amtrak, with the support of our partners, could then restore service sooner than planned. We will also work with CN and NYSDOT to develop a long-term solution so that Amtrak trains can operate to and from Montreal in future summers. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience.”

Sources tell News Wire that track repairs are awaiting resolution of a contractual dispute between CN and Amtrak, though the issues involved cannot be independently confirmed.

Under the schedule effective on Monday, the Adirondack is scheduled to arrive in Saratoga Springs at 12:28 p.m. (Post time for the first race at Saratoga Race Course, with racing Wednesday through Sunday, is 1:10 p.m. most days.) The train will depart for New York City at 5:54 p.m. The New York-Burlington, Vt., Ethan Allen continues to stop at 1:57 p.m. southbound and 6:02 p.m. northbound, as it has during much of the Adirondack’s hiatus. Tickets can be booked for both trains at the Amtrak website.

Other service options possible

Amtrak’s Abrams says the Adirondack will operate north of Albany-Rensselaer with one locomotive “until upgrades are made.” This likely means it will utilize a Canadian Pacific wye at Saratoga Springs. The possibility of connecting bus service to serve stations beyond the train’s temporary northern terminus is not addressed.

Given the fact that there is apparently no available infrastructure to wye the train between Saratoga Springs and the Canadian border, News Wire asked about impediments to operating a daily Adirondack with two locomotives — one at each end in push-pull operation, or back-to-back to facilitate reversing direction.

With a bidirectional configuration, a one-day round-trip could theoretically be made on the existing schedule as far as Westport, N.Y. (2:31 p.m. northbound scheduled arrival; 3:46 p.m. southbound departure), or the train could overnight at Rouses Point or Plattsburgh, N.Y. instead of Montreal. Amtrak has yet to respond to this inquiry, but without a bus connection to Canada or other northern New York communities, ridership and revenue would be limited.

10 thoughts on “Adirondack round trips to be extended to Saratoga Springs

  1. Thank you Dr.Ustun for sharing your research and knowledge with the readers of our news article’s comments section. You keep us updated on real time events and provide a historical description on places being discussed in the news articles. I look forward to the helpful information when you keep us posted. You provide me with much appreciated information on railroads and places that I otherwise would not know much about until the next days news release.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Ricky Sypert

  2. The railroads are getting weary of underwriting track standards that bring them no benefit. Brightline has paid (and continues to pay) FECR for higher track standards. NRPC participating railroads are right to expect the same.

    1. You just made a false statement, and I’ll quote: “The railroads are getting weary of underwriting track standards that bring them no benefit.” Actually it does bring the freight railroads great benefit. Not only does it afford higher speeds for passenger trains, but correspondingly it allows for higher speeds on freight trains…if that isn’t a benefit to the freight railroads then I don’t know what would be!

    2. That’s only if the railroad wants a) higher speeds and b) the higher property tax assessed for a higher FRA class track. Not too many 60 mph trains these days on FRA class 4 track.

  3. Why not use a single engine and a cab car or a cabbage. (engine converted to a cab/baggage unit). AMTRAK already has both choices.

  4. There should be permanent provisions to terminate the train at Plattsburgh or Rouses Point and abandon the border crossing. The border crossing by train take ridiculous amounts of time and are more security theater.

    Chat GPT hard at work in the comments from some… hoping Trains editors don’t adopt AI writing.

  5. Saratoga Springs station is a train station owned by the Capital District Transportation Authority and operated by Amtrak in Saratoga Springs, New York. It is situated along the Canadian Pacific Railway.
    Saratoga Springs is served by Amtrak’s Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express, in addition to the Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s two heritage lines. The station has one low-level side platform to the east of its two tracks.
    The current station was built in 1956-1959 by the Delaware & Hudson Railway, as a replacement for an 1880-built structure at another location, which currently serves as a private residence. The 1950s-era structure was mostly torn down in 2002, and a temporary trailer was used as the station until the current station was completed in 2004. The brick exterior from the former structure was retained and covered with wooden facing high across the front and green trim on the doors and windows the rest of the building was rebuilt into a modern, high-ceilinged facility with a skylight in the center of the station

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  6. In this transition period, News Wire’s proposal of the possibility of operating a daily Adirondack with two locomotives seems like a smart solution. Let’s see what Amtrak’s response will be?

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  7. The CN owns the Rouses Point Subdivision, a 47-mile (76 km) section of track that runs from Rouses Point, New York, to the vicinity of Montreal. During the COVID-19 suspension track conditions “deteriorated”, forcing Amtrak to lengthen an already long running time between Rouses Point and Montreal. Citing a concern over heat kinks, CN imposed a 10 miles per hour (16 km/h) speed restriction when temperatures exceeded 30 °C (86 °F), leading to one trip over in mid-June taking four hours. On June 26, Amtrak suspended service “until further notice” north of Albany over the track conditions. Amtrak criticized “inconsistent application of CN’s historical heat order policy”; CN claimed that Amtrak had failed to pay for maintenance to the track, which Amtrak disputed.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

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