Cuyahoga and Saratoga Tourist Line

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Scoring Guy
Posts: 140
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2005 11:08 am
Location: Onalaska, Wisconsin

Cuyahoga and Saratoga Tourist Line

Post by Scoring Guy » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:57 am

Recently a friend and I rode the Cuyahoga Scenic Valley and Saratoga & North Creek tourist railroads and here are my thoughts:

The Cuyahoga had a stunning fleet of Budd corrugated cars including a (24 seat) dome car (and another out of service). We had tickets for the dome car, but can't give them a gold star in that regard. Unfortunately in order to accommodate the push-pull nature of the operation, they had "turned around" every other row of the standard dome car seats. But by remounting the seats "backwards" on the same pedistiles, it left nearly a foot gap between the tops of the seat backs, and extremely little leg space between the facing seats. Married couples, sitting facing each other were uncomfortable, and four normal sized strangers trying to entangle their legs was too much to ask. By sheer luck, my friend and I ended up with four seats to ourselves, but it was only comfortable for one to occupy the window seat. The railroad knew it had a problem, and did its best to work things out in the dome, but a total sell-out of the dome would have been a disaster for all. On the other hand, I also felt the Cuyahoga line was doing itself a disfavor, by charging only seven dollars more for a dome seat than a coach seat, making the price in the dome half of what is the industry standard of around 50 bucks for the dome view. Other than the dome seat issue, the line lived up to its "scenic" name and was operated very well with good on board service and a well maintained selection of depots at the route stops. For those traveling by road to the train, as was our case, there are a few motels just a mile west of the north end depot at the I-71 exit (it's just south of Cleveland). Arrive a little early, to avoid using the far away auxillary parking lot. Note that there is also a bike trail that parallels the line.

As for the Saratoga line, we guessed that the dome car would be a sell out (and it was, even on a Wednesday) and purchased four tickets for the two of us, thus having a table to ourselves (I would suggest that families with kids, request the inward facing couch tables, rather than the two-by-two table seating). All seats in the dome are assigned - I'm not sure about the coach seats in that regard. The dome was an ex-Santa Fe, ex-Alaska cruise line, full length dome, with the AC units mounted on either end of the roof, and like new on the inside and included a light brunch and dinner plus drinks and snacks on route. The short train had just one coach car, but I would guess that increases on weekends. We boarded at Saratoga Springs (NY)- note that there really isn't Amtrak service to the depot, (they share the same depot) prior to the 10:00am boarding - The Amtrak "EA" from the north, would miss the connection if it were at all late, as was the case the day we were there), but we did notice that the city bus line frequented the train station, if you arrived the day before and needed cheap transport to a motel. The rail line was certainly scenic, although the massive amount of trees along the route made photography a crap shoot. The railyard at the North Creek was an interesting 3 hour layover because of the large amount of equpement the line had on hand, including a pair of E8's and another full dome, both in IC paint, a BL-2, and plus a dukes mixture of passenger cars including some double level Long Island style commuter cars. Also there was a nice depot and a turntable. The return to Saratoga Springs arrived a little after 6pm.

By the way, we drove out from Wisconsin in a one way rental car, and based outselves near Albany for three nights - I'd recommend the Holiday Inn Express,at Exit 9, just east of the A-R Amtrak station - the station has plenty of parking and rental car drop off for both Hertz and Enterprise. During one day of our stay there we also did a round trip on the Empire Service to New York City. After dropping the car, he took the LSL back toward Wisconsin, and I the Adarondack to Montreal to ride Via Rail across Canada.

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