Montreal to New York City by train: Amtrak’s Adirondack route
When I arranged to meet my friend writer Judy Colbert in Atlantic City last week, I thought I’d hit Manhattan first. A two-day trip turned into a much bigger adventure when I realized October was the perfect time to cross something off my bucket list: Amtrak’s Adirondack, one of the most scenic rail trips in the world.
Amtrak train 68, the Adirondack, leaves Montreal each morning, travelling through the Adirondack Mountains and Hudson Valley, arriving at New York’s Penn Station at around 8:30 p.m., a journey of about ten hours. The Adirondacks were once the playground of wealthy New York families like the Vanderbilts, who built their luxurious Great Camp Sagamore there. I looked forward to seeing some serious fall foliage, maybe a bald eagle, and a glimpse of the landscape that inspired painters of the Hudson River School.
There was good and bad news waiting for me at Montreal’s Gare Centrale. A couple of cappuccinos helped me get past the news that a departure delay of several hours meant we would pass the last half of the trip in darkness. On the upside, the weather was glorious. When All Aboard was finally called, I scrambled for a seat (they’re unassigned) and snagged one by a window on the side of the train that faced east and Lake Champlain. Here are some postcards from a remarkable day.
The Amtrak Adirondack was excellent value for the experience; I paid about $72 U.S. one way. I would definitely take this route again, in different seasons, and at least once in the the reverse direction to take advantage of daylight at the NYC/Hudson Valley end. Amtrak’s Maple Leaf route would be another way to travel direct between New York and Toronto. The Maple Leaf train travels the same route through the Hudson Valley before veering west towards Buffalo and Toronto. Both of these Amtrak routes cross an international border and use track owned by multiple companies. Delays are inevitable and late arrivals should be factored into your plans.
It’s said that Hudson Valley writer Washington Irving had no need to imagine spooky settings for tales like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But I found a cold moon reflected in inky forest swamp not half as creepy as New York’s Penn Station after midnight. Carrying snacks, both Canadian and U.S. currency, and above all a hotel reservation guaranteed for late arrival, proved essential for my comfort and security.
Great American Stations is a fascinating website that offers a window on the history and glamour of the Golden Age of rail travel. It’s an Amtrak project aimed at promoting the discovery, restoration and economic development of America’s train stations.
Prefer to travel by surface? A recent article in the New York Times talks about new sites that help you search for a bus or train.
I’d love to explore more of upstate New York. Here are some inspiring links:
New York By Rail magazine
So was that it for my Hudson Valley dreams? Not quite. In New York, I headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s magnificent American Wing and sat for an hour among the romantic landscapes of the Hudson River School. Then I completely circumnavigated Manhattan by boat. Bursting out of the calm Harlem River onto the mighty Hudson was one of the biggest thrills of my life. But that’s another post.