Riding the Rails

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited






















This screen capture from North by Northwest shows

the 20th Century Limited on the water-level Hudson Division route

(MGM, 1959)

Do you remember the scene in the movie North by Northwest where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint escape from New York aboard the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited? They are seen having dinner in the dining car with the Hudson River and a long line of telephone poles visible through the window. That is the scene my husband and I wanted to recreate when we booked passage aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

Did we capture that moment? No. Due to technicalities, the train was two hours late in leaving Penn Station, meaning there was no view out the window, and there was no dining car. If we had not been on such a tight schedule, meaning we had to be back at work on Monday morning, we would have changed our reservations. But we were on a tight schedule, so we boarded the train, looked through the darkness at the occasional lights that flickered across the river, and ate café car hamburgers. That is not to say the trip was a total loss. Far from it.

The Lake Shore Limited uses Budd Company Amfleet coaches and Viewliner sleepers. It sits low to the tracks, meaning there is little of the sway that is present on the more prevalent Superliner bi-level cars. It is easy to walk through the cars. The only distraction when we took our trip was that the sleepers were placed directly behind the engine, so we were kept awake by the blaring of the train's horn. Today, I’ve noticed that the sleepers on some long-distance trains tend to be placed at the end. Would that hold true for those on the Lake Shore Limited? I don’t know, since part of the train comes in from Boston and is placed on the end of the train in Albany. There is a nice layover in Albany, when passengers may disembark and watch the locomotive being changed to a long-distance one and the cars from Boston being added to the end.
















Lake Shore Limited locomotive separation in Albany

(By Z22, Creative Commons license 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The real treat for me was riding in the early morning light through the turf farms and landscape gardening farms. These are the places that grow the plants that will one day grace our lawns. They were beautiful and stretched for many miles. And, then, we began the hop amongst the Great Lakes cities: Erie, Cleveland, Sandusky, and Toledo, among others, before the train made its inland trek across Indiana and into Chicago.

Watch this video (Langoland, Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited train #49 NY to Chicago, 07 20 2020, YouTube, August 3, 2020). You’ll have to be patient as the train makes its way through the Penn Station tunnel and the Manhattan overbuild, but as it passes the George Washington Bridge, you’ll begin to see the scenes we took this trip hoping to see.


For a cab ride from Penn Station to Albany, watch Pentrex’s video, Along the Hudson Division. With a ride on an FL-9 locomotive and lots of detail about what we are seeing, this video is a real gem!


Would I take this trip again? In a heartbeat! Just figure out a way to get me as far as Penn Station, and Amtrak and I will take it from there.


Screen capture from North by Northwest -
Lake Shore Limited locomotive separation