With Amtrak, It’s Always Something!

Just when you think you’re all set . . . when you’ve printed up copies of your itinerary for family members . . . when all of the details are firmly fixed in your head . . . that’s when glitches occur and little-but-important details start to get muddled.

My latest glitch showed up a couple of mornings back in the form of a factory building just west of Albany, New York. It’s an old building and, according to someone who claims to know, is showing signs that it may be ready to collapse. And guess what passes literally within a few feet of this building?  Yes . . . trains! And, more to the point, my train!  I had booked Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited to take me from Chicago to Boston’s Back Bay station. Engineers (the structural kind) will have to find a way to stabilize the old building or secure the necessary permits to tear the damn thing down!

Of course, while the building’s condition was being studied with all the latest technology, Amtrak cancelled all trains using those tracks until further notice. Depending on how long this lasts, it could be a real inconvenience for me. I’ll be in Minneapolis to see the Red Sox play the Twins for a couple of games and my itinerary includes taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder from there to Chicago where I was to connect with the eastbound Lake Shore Limited for the overnight ride to to Boston for additional games at Fenway Park.        

With yesterday morning’s announcement of the building’s possible collapse, my ride from Chicago to Boston came into question. Specifically, by the time I’m ready to board the train, will the old building (1) be stabilized to everyone’s satisfaction or (2) be torn down or (3) still be standing, but threatening to collapse?

My best and safest guess was (d) None of the Above. Tearing down a building like that is tricky and because they have to be careful of adjacent structures, it can take weeks.

So my options were to fly from Minneapolis direct to Boston or to stay on schedule, take Amtrak from Minneapolis to Chicago and fly to Boston from there.  

I decided on for Door Number Two. It was the more sensible option and, as much as possible, I wanted to avoid having any loose ends hanging out there when I leave my house for the airport.

Then yesterday comes another email from Amtrak: they will provide a bus for passengers, transporting us from Schenectady to Albany (about a 30-minute ride that will by-pass the unstable building) where trains would await—one for those of us heading to Boston; another for folks going to New York City.

Today? Another message from Amtrak about my ride on the Lake Shore Limited: there will be no buses. We’ll stay on the train which will tippy-toe past the dilapidated old warehouse and continue right on into Albany.

When I first became involved with train travel, I got a wonderful quote from a veteran Amtrak car attendant. “With Amtrak,” he said, “you gotta be flexible!”