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BM5 via Woodhaven

Celebrating 40 Years of the Adirondack

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Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Adirondack (New York-Albany-Montreal), which for much of its 381 mile journey follows the broad Hudson River and Lake Champlain’s meandering western shore. Skirting the river’s edge, the train offers pretty views of hilltop homes and boaters out on the water. Further north, particularly along Willsboro Bay south of the Port Kent station, the rails hug rugged cliff sides that drop precipitously down to the lake’s surface.

Amtrak Florida Poster

The Adirondack made its inaugural run on August 5, 1974; revenue service began the next day.

Although Montreal had long been connected to the American rail system, the original Amtrak route map unveiled in spring 1971 included no international destinations. This changed the next year when Congress enacted legislation authorizing $2 million to support three new services to Vancouver, Montreal and Nuevo Laredo.1

In determining a route between New York City and Montreal, Amtrak had two choices: one through the Connecticut River Valley and up the eastern side of Lake Champlain via Vermont, or one up the Hudson River and the western side of the lake through New York. State leaders and advocacy groups in Vermont mounted an effective campaign to revive rail service, and Amtrak launched the overnight Montrealer/Washingtonian (Washington-New York-Montreal) in late September 1972. Amtrak chose the longer Vermont route because it passed through the state’s popular skiing region, thereby opening up possibilities to attract sports enthusiasts to the service.

Adirondack route map, 1974.

In the early 1970s, growing environmental awareness and the first energy crisis encouraged Americans to reconsider their use of natural resources. To tout itself as an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective mode of transportation, Amtrak responded with a new advertising campaign using the slogan “Save energy—take our car.”

Against this background, the state of New York decided to take advantage of Section 403(cool.png of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970—the legislation that established Amtrak. It allowed states to work with Amtrak to institute new services if they agreed to reimburse the company for at least two-thirds of any associated losses. One of the state’s proposed routes was between New York City and Montreal, which prior to the start of Amtrak operations had been served by two Delaware and Hudson Railway (D&H) trains: the daytime Laurentian and the overnight Montreal Limited.

New York State and Amtrak approached the D&H about using its tracks between Albany-Rensselaer and Montreal, to which the company agreed in 1974. The D&H would also provide the initial equipment for the train, as Amtrak did not have enough cars for the service.2 It would be another year before Amtrak received the first single-level Amfleet cars, which then became the standard equipment used on most eastern trains. According to the agreements among the three parties, Amtrak operated the train south of Albany-Rensselaer and the D&H oversaw the northern leg. Amtrak staffed the dining car while the D&H provided the rest of the on-board crew; later, the D&H also arranged for a dining car crew north of Albany-Rensselaer.3

To support the new service, called the Adirondack in honor of the mountains of northeastern New York, the state devoted $3.2 million “for track rehabilitation, station renovation and construction, and locomotive and passenger car rebuilding.”4 The funds came through a voter-approved transportation bond issue.5

 


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