Lake Shore Limited

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Lake Shore Limited
Lake Shore Limited Train 49 on 08 12 08 enters Croton Harmon.jpg
Lake Shore Limited #49 entering Croton–Harmon.
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Active
Locale Midwest and Northeast United States
Predecessor Lake Shore
First service October 1, 1975
Current operator(s) Amtrak
Ridership 373,331 (FY 2014)[1]
Start Chicago, Illinois
End New York City
Boston, Massachusetts
Distance travelled 959 miles (1,543 km) (Chicago–New York)
1,017 miles (1,637 km) (Chicago–Boston)
Average journey time 20 hours (Chicago–New York)
22 hours 40 minutes (Chicago–Boston)
Service frequency Daily
Train number(s) 48/448–49/449
On-board services
Sleeping arrangements Roomettes and bedrooms
Catering facilities Dining car and on-board cafe
Rolling stock
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s) MNRR, CSXT, NS, MBTA, AMTK

The Lake Shore Limited is an overnight Amtrak passenger train service between Chicago and the Northeastern United States. The train uses the former main line of the New York Central Railroad. In Albany, New York it divides, with separate sections serving New York City and Boston. Amtrak began service in 1975; its Lake Shore had operated over the same route in 1971–72. The train is named for the New York Central's Lake Shore Limited, which was discontinued in 1956.


The Lake Shore Limited is named after one of its illustrious predecessors that ran on the famed Water Level Route of the New York Central. Like the present day Lake Shore Limited, the New York Central edition offered service between New York and Boston and Chicago, although the New York Central used LaSalle Street Station. The New York Central annulled the Lake Shore Limited in 1956, as part of a system-wide reorganization. Service over the Water Level Route continued until the formation of Amtrak.[2]

Amtrak did not include service over the New York Central's Water Level Route in its original route plan; Chicago–New York traffic would be handled by the Broadway Limited which operated over the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line via Pittsburgh. Between May 1971 – January 1972 Amtrak operated the Lake Shore over the route with support from the state of Ohio. The modern Lake Shore Limited began running October 31, 1975 with both New York and Boston sections.[3]

The Lake Shore Limited was the last train to use the decaying Buffalo Central Terminal, departing on October 28, 1979. Since then it has used Buffalo–Depew.[4]

On the night of August 3, 1994, around 3:45 am, the westbound Lake Shore Limited, with two locomotives and fifteen cars, and carrying roughly 320 passengers, and nineteen crew members, derailed on Conrail-owned tracks (now owned by CSX) near Batavia, New York.[5] The initial derailment of the wheels of the third car on the train, occurred at milepost 403.7, and the train traveled for another three miles, until the general derailment of the train, at milepost 406.7. In all, fourteen cars derailed, with some sliding down an embankment, and 118 passengers and crew members were injured. However, there were no fatalities. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause were the wheels coming off a section of flattened rail.[6]

Possible future[edit]

In the January 2011 issue of Trains Magazine, this route was listed as one of five routes to undergo improvement evaluation by Amtrak in FY 2011, just as the previous five routes (Sunset, Eagle, Zephyr, Capitol, and Cardinal) had been examined in FY 2010.[7]

Amtrak published its Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) for the Lake Shore Limited in September 2011. Amtrak outlined two initiatives for improving the performance of the train:

  • Operations: Amtrak proposed moving the Lake Shore Limited to an earlier eastbound departure time from Chicago. It currently departs at 9:30 PM, to facilitate connections from oft-late West Coast trains. The improved departure time would add $2 million in yearly revenue.
  • Club-Diner: The dining car on the Lake Shore Limited would be converted to a so-called "Club-Diner". It would stay open during the entire journey, instead of just during set meal times, and would cease accepting cash. The existing lounge/cafe car would upgrade its offerings to include salads and sandwiches previously introduced on the Acela Express. Amtrak's desired goal was to bridge a perceived intermediate gap between the existing cafe offerings and the higher-priced fare in the diner.

Amtrak considered more radical changes to the operations of the Lake Shore Limited, including a re-route over the Chicago–Detroit Line, but rejected them.[8]


Geographic route of the Lake Shore Limited with major stops indicated.
A Lake Shore Limited train backs into Union Station in Chicago, with the Willis Tower visible in the background.
P32AC-DM locomotive is separated from train #49 at Albany–Rensselaer station to prepare to be coupled with train #449 from Boston before heading to Chicago.

A typical Lake Shore Limited features both Boston (numbers 448/449) and New York (numbers 48/49) sections, which run combined between Chicago and Albany.[9] The New York section includes a baggage car, Heritage Fleet dining car, two Viewliner sleeping cars, an Amfleet II Cafe car, and four (sometimes five) Amfleet II coaches.[9] The Boston section has its own baggage car, one Viewliner sleeping car, two (sometimes three) coaches, and an Amfleet cafe car.[9] During the 2000s and 2010s the Lake Shore Limited carried either a Horizon Fleet or Amfleet lounge car.[10] Between November 2007 and December 2009, maintenance problems led Amtrak to withdraw the Heritage diners and substitute Amfleet Cafe-based diner-lites, a move that became a source of passenger displeasure and a liability for the route, as the Heritage cars could prepare fresh food on board.[11][12] Amtrak's only Viewliner-type Dining Car, the Indianapolis #8400, is assigned to Lake Shore Limited service.

At Albany, the train splits into its Boston and New York sections.[9] Low demand and cost-cutting led Amtrak to drop through service to Boston between 2003 and 2008; passengers made a cross-platform transfer to a shuttle train. The New York section uses a single dual-mode P32 for third-rail power in Pennsylvania Station. West of Albany power is provided by two or three GE Genesis P42DC or P40DC diesel locomotives, which continue on to Boston.

As of April 2015, a typical consist has been: two P42 locomotives, Viewliner baggage car, Viewliner sleeper, two Amfleet II coaches, Amfleet II Cafe (Boston & New York sections split here), four Amfleet II coaches, Heritage or Viewliner diner, two Viewliner sleepers, and a Viewliner baggage car.

Route details[edit]

The Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York City operates over the trackage of five railroad companies. The distance between Chicago and New York is 959 miles (1,543 km); between Chicago and Boston 1,017 miles (1,637 km). From Chicago to Cleveland, the train rides the Chicago Line, which belongs to Norfolk Southern Railway, and is also used by Amtrak's Chicago-Washington, DC, train, the Capitol Limited. From Cleveland to Poughkeepsie, the Lake Shore rides on trackage belonging to the following CSX Transportation subdivisions: Cleveland Terminal, Erie West, Lake Shore, Buffalo Terminal, Rochester, Mohawk, Selkirk, and Hudson. From Poughkeepsie to the Bronx, the train operates on Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line. And Amtrak tracks are used twice: between Hoffman and Schenectady; and from the Bronx to Penn Station. The Albany-Boston extension runs on the trackage of several companies as well. The train travels on Amtrak's Post Road Branch from Rensselaer to nearby Schodack, from Schodack to Worcester on CSX's Berkshire and Boston subdivisions, and from Worcester to South Station on track owned and operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

There is a short distance of trackage between Albany and Schenectady that allows for 110-mile-per-hour (177 km/h) operations.[citation needed] Delays to trains 448 and 449 are common due to the high amount of freight traffic between Albany and Worcester.[13][14] Also, trains 448 and 449 operate on mainly single-track railroad.[citation needed]

Station stops[edit]

The Lake Shore Limited runs eastbound as #48 from Chicago Union Station to New York Penn Station, returning westbound as #49. Station stops (in eastbound order) are South Bend, Elkhart, and Waterloo, Indiana; Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, and Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo-Depew, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Poughkeepsie, and Croton–Harmon, New York. The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited runs eastbound as #448 from Albany-Rensselaer through Massachusetts with terminus at Boston South Station, returning westbound as #449. Station stops (in eastbound order) include Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Boston (Back Bay Station), Massachusetts.[15]

Service to Poughkeepsie, New York began on November 8, 2010.[16]

In FY 2010, only fifteen percent of passengers traveled between endpoints (Chicago and Boston or New York), although those travelers contributed 27 percent of ticket revenue. The remainder traveled to and from intermediate stations. According to Amtrak, passengers making connections in Chicago accounted for "a significant portion" of the Lake Shore Limited’s ridership and revenues.[8]

In the late 1990s Amtrak considered adding Dunkirk, New York, as a stop between Buffalo and Erie. Dunkirk was listed as a stop with service "to commence on a date to be announced" on several timetables, but the stop was never added.[17] Amtrak studied restoring the Hammond-Whiting stop in 2010–2011 but rejected it because of operational considerations.[8]


  1. ^ "AMTRAK RIDERSHIP AND REVENUES CONTINUE STRONG GROWTH IN FY 2014" (PDF). Amtrak. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Sanders 2003, p. 79
  3. ^ Sanders 2006, pp. 19–21
  4. ^ "New Buffalo Station". Amtrak NEWS 6 (12): 6–7. November 1979. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ Graczyk, Mark (November 24, 2013). "HIDDEN HISTORY: 118 hurt in Batavia train derailment, 1994". Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Railroad Accident Report: Derailment of Amtrak Train 49 on Conrail Trackage Near Batavia, New York, on August 3, 1994" (PDF). July 11, 1996. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Amtrak's Improvement Wish List", Trains, January 2011, 20-21.
  8. ^ a b c "Crescent – Lake Shore Limited – Silver Service: PRIIA Section 210 Performance Improvement Plan" (PDF). Amtrak. September 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Lake Shore Limited Train Route Guide" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Amtrak - Lake Shore Limited". USA Rail Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  11. ^ Melzer, Matthew (28 January 2008). "Dining with Amtrak’s Diner Lite". NARP. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "Amtrak restores 'Lake Shore' dining car". Trains. 14 December 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010.  (subscription required)
  13. ^ "Lake Shore Limited-Train 448". Route Performance. Amtrak. June 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  14. ^ "Lake Shore Limited 449". Route Performance. Amtrak. June 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  15. ^ "Lake Shore Limited". Amtrak. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  16. ^ "NEW AMTRAK TIMETABLE ARRIVES FOR FALL-WINTER". Amtrak. November 3, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2012. 
  17. ^ "DUNKIRK MAY OPEN AMTRAK STATION". Buffalo News  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). January 5, 1996. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 


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