A while back, I interviewed train travel guru Don Nadeau about the great scenic train trips of North America. At the top of his list was the Adirondack, a special Amtrak train that runs from New York City to Montreal, through some of the prettiest country in the Northeast. On my recent visit to New York, I seized the opportunity to take a ride on the Adirondack — and as Don promised, it was a trip to remember.
The Adirondack runs year round, but late October seemed like the ideal time to take the trip. The train runs through some beautiful country, following the Hudson River past forest and farmland before skirting Lake Champlain. With fall colours in bloom, the scenery promised to be spectacular.
The train pulled out of Penn Station just after 8:15 a.m. And after an hour or so spent rolling through the city’s suburbs, the fields and woods of New York farm country came into view. It was lovely, but I was a bit disappointed that many of the trees were still green, due to this year’s freakishly warm fall. Just as disappointingly, the coffee machine wasn’t working yet. A murmur of discontent could be heard.
But the disappointment was soon forgotten, as we enjoyed the show rolling past our windows. And for those with curious minds, a pair of volunteers from the National Park Service’s Trail and Rails program set up shop in the café car to give a running commentary on the historic sites we passed.
There was the fortress-like façade of West Point, jutting out from across the river just past Peekskill. Then Bannerman’s Castle, the ruins of a grand structure once used to store military supplies — including gunpowder, which touched off an explosion back in 1920. Still, Bannerman used the warehouse up until 1950, before it was taken over by the state of New York. The “castle” still looks a bit grand, sitting on an island called Pollepel (Dutch for “wooden spoon”).
In Albany, there was a short break as the dome car was added near the front of the train; until that point, low overheads made it impossible to use. Then, we spent an afternoon enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a while. The views were amazing, and happily, as we travelled away from the city’s urban heat, the forest began to take on the fall colours we had all been hoping for.
We passed Schenectady and Saratoga Springs, and running along the edge of Lake Champlain, I spotted a couple of bald eagles patrolling the shore. The forests of Vermont peeked out from the opposite shore like a coloured quilt. And at the top of the lake, we caught a glimpse of the French-built Fort Ticonderoga, the scene of fighting in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars.
The Adirondack reached the Canadian border at a place called Cantic, around 5 p.m. And after an hour or so getting a pretty thorough inspection by the Canadian customs guards, we were in the Great White North. The day was done, and the Adirondack chugged across the Victoria Jubilee Bridge before pulling into Montreal’s Gare Centrale around 7:15, right on time. Now, the only decision was where to have dinner.
A few notes about the Adirondack The train runs seven days a week, making several stops along the way; it’s used by many people from surrounding towns to reach New York. There is a snack bar on board selling sandwiches and light meals, as well as beverages including beer and wine — it’s not cheap, so bring your own food if you’re on a budget. The price for the trip, however, is very reasonable: I paid $75 US for my reserved seat.
All in all, it was a great ride through some of the most beautiful country in the East. Sitting in the dome car with a drink, watching the countryside roll by — who would want to fly?