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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Adirondack’s uncertain return attracts bipartisan lawmaker attention

Adirondack’s uncertain return attracts bipartisan lawmaker attention

By Bob Johnston | July 21, 2022

New York congressional delegation questions delays in restoring New York-Montreal service

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Passenger train at station next to body of water
Passenger train at station next to body of water
The northbound Adirondack arrives at Port Kent, N.Y. on Sept. 22, 2016, having passed its southbound counterpart 45 minutes earlier. New York and Amtrak have not projected when the train will resume service to upstate New York or Canada. (Bob Johnston)

WESTPORT, N.Y. — The New York-Montreal Adirondack is now the only Amtrak service that has not resumed operation following the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and Amtrak and the state of New York will not predict when it might return.

The delay — which contrasts with Vermont’s preparations to extend the Ethan Allen from Rutland to Burlington, Vt., on July 29 to augment rural-area service also supported by the Vermonter — is prompting questions from the New York congressional delegation.

Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik and Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have sent letters to Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner, armed with information both the New York Department of Transportation and Amtrak have declined to corroborate to Trains News Wire.

Woman waits on snow-covered platform as passenger train arrives
The Montreal-bound Adirondack rolls into Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in February 2014. Saratoga has been a popular year-round destination. (Bob Johnston)

Stefanik represents upstate New York north of Albany, with offices in Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, and Watertown. She notes in her July 14 letter that Amtrak officials in May and June said “staffing was no longer the primary issue for returning service to the rail line, but operational issues needed to be addressed with our Canadian partners.”

However, the letter states, “More concerning is that Canadian National recently indicated that it is ready to resume operations as soon as Amtrak is.”

Schumer and Gillibrand, in their July 8 correspondence (posted online by WCAX-TV), say they have been informed “train and engine crews for the Adirondack will begin requalification in August. Any delays in the resumption of service would be detrimental to the local economy, especially with some residents lacking alternative methods of transportation.”

Their letter asks four specific questions: about a timeline for a service return; steps Amtrak is taking to make sure that happens in the summer months; whether there are challenges with Canada; and steps Congress can take “in order to assist the prompt return of the Adirondack line.” Amtrak’s responses were to be provided “no later than July 15,” but the company did not share its answers with News Wire

Each letter cites the recent resumption of the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf as evidence that the Adirondack can be restarted [see “New York-Toronto Maple Leaf resumes operation,” Trains News Wire, June 27, 2022]. But that train is a VIA Rail Canada operation east of the border at Niagara Falls, while Amtrak crews would operate the Adirondack directly into Montreal’s Central Station.

Neither of the Vermont-supported trains cross the Canadian border; the Vermonter used to have a Thruway connecting bus between St. Albans, Vt., and Montreal, but that hasn’t operated since 2005.

Passenger train at ornate
The New York-Montreal Adirondack pauses at Westport, New York’s stylish former Delaware & Hudson station, dating to 1875, on July 29, 1995. Operating the train to Westport would restore service to six stations. (Bob Johnston)

Operationally, the northbound and southbound Adirondacks have been scheduled to pass each other between Plattsburgh and Westport, near the Port Kent, N.Y. station, so if the train resumed temporarily as a daily round trip without serving Canada, timings would need to be adjusted and a viable turnaround location established. Running as far as Westport, N.Y., would restore service to six stops ,including Saratoga Springs and Fort Edward-Glens Falls, which already are served by one Ethan Allen daily round trip.

News Wire first asked about this possibility in 2021 when the Canadian border was closed to international travel, but the New York DOT never offered a response, other than deferring to Amtrak.

On July 18, the state agency responded to that and other specific questions with the following statement:

“The New York State Department of Transportation has requested that Amtrak resume Adirondack service as soon as practicable and, where possible, has assisted in efforts to bring that about. While [the New York DOT] has been kept apprised of developments on this issue, the remaining impediments to the resumption of Adirondack service are largely outside of our solitary jurisdiction, and further inquiries on this topic should be directed to Amtrak.”

On Tuesday, Amtrak would only say it is “actively engaged with our congressional delegations regarding the return of Adirondack service and continue to work with the appropriate host railroads’ operation agreements.”

12 thoughts on “Adirondack’s uncertain return attracts bipartisan lawmaker attention

  1. Pass the ball. Pass the ball. Pass the ball back to the original passer, who fumbles it and blames the coach.

  2. I cannot vouch for the veracity of this story, which came to me from a CP person, but years ago when the Adirondack first resumed service to Montreal as an Amtrak train, the D&H, under president Bruce Sterzing, just called up Canadian Pacific and said “We’re coming.” And they came.

    1. George —

      Bruce is missed. He and Reistrup were two of a kind …. Their kind being: Just get it done!

  3. Issues are in Canada, but running to Plattsburgh on intern basis is not practical, the ridership being very low without Montreal. Running to Saratoga Springs at least seems worthwhile.

    1. Mr. Turon: That’s the same line I got from the utterly useless Bruce Becker of 3rd main track Hoffmans-BUF notoriety. And I’ll reply to you with the same I replied to him: Taking that explanation to its logical conclusion, Amtrak should either discontinue the Empire Builder entirely or at least skip all those rural stops across N.Dak and MT, and perhaps some in WA as well, because ridership from those stations individually is very small. You, the ESPA, and the RPA, stop shilling for Amtrak and what purports to be a rail division of NYStateDOT. Amtrak clearly has no appetite to resume service and NYStateDOT has no appetite to install a wye so the train can be turned near Plattsburgh. The is no excuse make rail service to all those NYState communities hostage just because the train cannot go into Canada. It’s happening because the DOT doesn’t give a d**n. Btw, is the DOT paying Amtrak a reduced amount of PRIIA209 $$$ since the Adirondack not operating even between ALB and NYC. Also #230 is gone as is the 315pm NY-ALB except Fridays when it operates to PIT.

      1. MARK SHAPP —- How’s that Pittsfield train doing? Has anyone bought a ticket yet? We’ve not heard anything!

        I’d make an over/ under wager —- fifteen revenue round trips per weekend. Do I collect the bet or lose it?

        1. Hello Charles: So yesterday’ train, #1235-22 actually had 56 pax NY-PIT compared to the 30 on #1235-15. I have no counts for the Sunday #1244-17. I have it from an impeccable source that Amtrak is not holding inventory for PIT riders. It’s first come, first served so potential PIT pax are in stiff competition with Hudson Valley folks going to the likes of Rhinecliff, Hudson, and Albany/Rensselaer. And this is only a 5-car train; 4 coaches and a cafe/Business Class car (the cafe is not open either day as is the case with all the ALB originators/terminators of which these trains are an extension of). Whether anyone has figures on how many may PIT potentials are being turned away, well not likely. Whether Amtrak can provide, or is willing to provide, another coach or two just for the weekend is anyone’s guess. If you can access the Berkshire Eagle, have a read of the letter-to-the-editor “Three cheers for the Berkshire Flyer”. It is written by the person who lives in Housatonic and who hatched this initiative and who, IMHO, bought himself a State Senator to get it done. I could feel hugely good about this service if it had launched as a daily service with morning and afternoon/evening trains in BOTH directions. Note the writer’s comment about MassDOT and “pilots”. MassDOT only does itty-bitty “pilots” with new-start passenger services because they don’t want something that will actually induce demand. They want it to fail so they can say, “See we tried. And it didn’t work out. Now let us build another highway to induce REAL patriotic American demand”. See what you started, Charles. Now I gotta get going for a full day, and tomorrow as well, at Berkshire Scenic Ry Museum.

  4. One of my favorites. Spectacular all the way up the Hudson and Champlain Valley’s. Perhaps one issue is the horrid condition of the track in Canada. You just crawl the last couple of hours.

    1. MICHAEL— George Pins seems to state (above) that this is CPR track. My understanding is that it’s a CNR route. Please help me out, which railway is it

  5. Would it be cheaper to put an engine on each end of the train, so they wouldn’t have to build a wye to turn it at Plattsburg?

    1. Looking at Google Earth, there’s a wye with a very long tail about 3 miles south of the station, near the airport. So that’s probably not an issue.

      That said, if it’s a south morning/north afternoon trip, then an overnight layover track or facility would still be needed in Plattsburgh, and that’s not cheap or quick to build. As in, they’d probably resume service to Montreal before construction began. Even if it’s a north morning/south afternoon with one set, they may still need a layover track to keep the train out of freight’s way between trips.

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