CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Finger Lakes Railway excursion

Western New York State is filled with an amazing amount of short line railroads, many of which were spun off from Conrail during the 1980s and 1990s as it cut back services on branchlines or parallel routes. Railroads such as the Buffalo Southern; Ontario Central; Ontario Midland; Lavonia, Avon & Lakeville; New York and Erie; Western New York and Pennsylvania; and Bath and Hammondsport jump out at me. Another one is the Finger Lakes Railway. Most of these lines are small operations which pale in comparison to NS or CSX, and rarely do they offer any sort of passenger excursion service.

It's hard to blame them. It costs a lot of money to purchase passenger equipment and maintain it in decent condition, and with the cost of insurance and the hassle of running weekend crews the cost/benefit analysis rarely makes it economically viable. Still, a couple of short lines do it well (such as the Arcade and Attica Railroad, which I have written about extensively elsewhere on this blog). I had also heard rumors that the Finger Lakes Railway had a couple of coaches and ran occasional scenic train trips, but not living in the area anymore I always found out about it too late. But, recently I saw that the Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad Museum was sponsoring a trip on the line as a fund raiser, and figured it would make for a good excuse to come out west. Besides, if I waited for the "next time" it might not ever happen. So, I bought tickets for the "Finger Lakes Limited" and it is a good thing I did as they sold out both trips quickly.

The FLR takes a lot of pride in their image. Running over NYC tracks (at least in part), they have adopted the familiar NYC "lightning stripe" scheme for some of their engines. Their coaches are also decked out in the gray scheme with white stripes. Tragically, the sun has taken its toll on the side of the train facing the sun and my pictures show the coaches as faded, which they are. The other side of the train, which I only took shots of in the shade, is still bright and shiny.  

The train had three coaches including one that was being used for local brewery taste testing. Not being a fan of beer, I stayed in my car and enjoyed cheap soda. My wife and father-in-law were along for the ride and we all had a great time. The train was top and tailed (in British slang) with an engine on each end as to avoid requiring a runaround move at the ends of the trip. Oddly, one engine looked like it had R/C connections set up but I don't know if it was being used by the crew. I saw them switch sides at the end of the trip. The engines were both GE products and sounded good, though not as good as an Alco!

The train went from Canandaigua to Clifton Springs, but based on the routing it was essentially from almost somewhere to practically nowhere and return. As a rail buff, there wasn't too much to see besides farms and roads. An occasional former industry with the track pulled, maybe a branch line switch, and some stacks of ties dotted the right of way. The end was a grain facility, and we couldn't get out to take pictures. As a result, all my exterior shots were done from the open vestibule door. It was as close to an "open car" and I could get. That being said, the wind was still blowing through the doorway and the horn was loud.

All in all, I had a good time. I am glad I can check FLR off my railroad bucket list. 

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