The Lake Shore Limited is an overnight Amtrak passenger train service between Chicago and the Northeastern United States. The train uses the former mainline of the New York Central Railroad, part of which is now the Empire Corridor. In Albany, New York, it divides into separate sections serving New York City and Boston. Amtrak began service in 1975; its Lake Shore service 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, with the last route being the New England States and its unnamed Penn Central successor.
Amtrak did not include service west of Buffalo 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 mainline via Pittsburgh. For the Albany – Boston section of the route, there would be no train service from 1971 to the 1975 inauguration of the Lake Shore Limited. Between May 1971 and January 1972 Amtrak operated the Lake Shore over the route with support from the state of Ohio. The modern Lake Shore Limited began running on October 31, 1975, with both New York and Boston sections.
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. 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 was the wheels coming off a section of flattened rail.
Service to Poughkeepsie began on November 8, 2010. In 2010–2011, Amtrak studied restoring the Hammond/Whiting stop (dropped in 2003) but rejected it because of the difficulty of routing trains to the station’s single platform.
Due to planned repair work on the Freedom Tunnel, Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, and Track 19 in New York’s Penn Station, the New York section was discontinued from May 26 to September 3, 2018, and the train only ran from Chicago to Boston.
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 (the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, and Cardinal) had been examined in FY 2010.
Amtrak published its Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) for the Lake Shore Limited in September 2011. One idea was to change the train’s eastbound departure time from Chicago to be earlier. It currently departs at 9:30 PM, to facilitate connections from often-late West Coast trains. The improved departure time would add $2 million in yearly revenue.
The Lake Shore Limited consists of a New York section (train number 48 eastbound, 49 westbound) and a Boston section (448 eastbound, 449 westbound), which run combined between Chicago and Albany. As of February 2019, the train typically has two P42DC locomotives (or one P32AC-DM locomotive between New York and Albany), one Viewliner baggage car, three Amfleet II coaches, one Amfleet I split Business/Cafe car, one Viewliner II diner (exclusively accessible to sleeper passengers), and three Viewliner Sleepers.
In normal service, at Albany, the train splits into its Boston and New York sections. 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 P32AC-DM 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.
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. In 2010–2011, Amtrak studied restoring the Hammond/Whiting stop (dropped in 2003) but rejected it because of the difficulty of routing trains to the station’s single platform.
During the 2000s and 2010s, the Lake Shore Limited carried either a Horizon Fleet or Amfleet lounge car. 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 liability for the route, as the Heritage cars could prepare fresh food onboard. In July 2016, Amtrak once again replaced the Lake Shore’s full-service dining car with an Amfleet II diner-lite. This was due to Heritage shortages, as well as a multi-year delay in delivery of the new CAF Viewliner II cars, including 25 diners.
Service to Poughkeepsie began on November 8, 2010.
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.
In June 2018, Amtrak replaced the Amfleet II diner-lites with Viewliner II diners and adjusted the onboard service by serving a selection of primarily-cold, exclusively pre-packaged boxed meals. The dining car is also now available as lounge space by sleeping car passengers even outside of mealtimes but closed to coach passengers. In January 2019, Amtrak significantly updated the boxed meal service to offer a full continental buffet at breakfast, and multiple hot entrées for lunch and dinner. Also in January 2019, Amtrak removed the baggage car from the Boston section of the train, thereby eliminating all checked baggage and bike service between Boston and Albany. The New York section retains its baggage car. In October 2019, Amtrak again modified the onboard dining service for sleeping car passengers by serving the pre-prepared meals on new reusable trays instead of in single-use boxes to improve the meal presentation along with a refresh of the entree choices.
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), while the distance between Chicago and Boston is 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 Hoffmans, 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.
The New York section operates on Metro-North Railroad‘s Hudson Line from Poughkeepsie to Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx. Amtrak tracks are used twice: between Hoffmans and Poughkeepsie; and from the Bronx to Penn Station. The New York section only stops to discharge passengers southbound. Northbound trains only stop at Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie to receive passengers.
The Boston section 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). This section only stops eastbound to discharge passengers from Worcester eastward, while westbound trains only stop to receive passengers at Back Bay and Framingham.
There is a short distance of trackage between Hudson and Schenectady that allows for 110-mile-per-hour (177 km/h) operations. Delays to trains 448 and 449 have been common due to the high amount of freight traffic on the single-track railroad between Albany and Worcester.
Current as of 2/7/2021
|Train #||Days Of Operations||Routes|
|448||Tue, Fri, Sun||(Chicago to Boston)|
|449||Wed, Fri, Sun||(Boston to Chicago)|