Empire Service (train)

Empire Service
Service type Inter-city rail, higher speed rail
Locale New York
First service 3 December 1967 (1967-12-03)
Current operator(s) Amtrak
Former operator(s)
Ridership 1,152,536 (New York-Albany FY15)
403,985 (Albany-Toronto FY15)[1]
Start New York Penn Station
End Niagara Falls, NY
Distance travelled 460 miles (740 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Operating speed 110 mph (177 km/h) (top)
Track owner(s) MNRR, Amtrak, CSXT
Route map
Maple Leaf
to Toronto

United States
over Niagara River
460 mi
740 km
Niagara Falls
437 mi
703 km
Buffalo-Exchange Street
Lake Shore Limited
to Chicago
431 mi
694 km
370 mi
595 km
State Fair
291 mi
468 km
250 mi
402 km
237 mi
381 km
177 mi
285 km
Adirondack to Montreal
Ethan Allen Express to Rutland
159 mi
256 km
Hudson River
141 mi
227 km
Lake Shore Limited
to Boston
114 mi
183 km
88 mi
142 km
73 mi
117 km
32 mi
51 km
Croton – Harmon
14 mi
23 km
Hudson Line
to Grand Central Terminal
0 mi
0 km
New York New Jersey Transit

The Empire Service is a higher-speed train service operated by Amtrak within the state of New York in the United States. The brand name originated with the New York Central Railroad in 1967. Trains on the line provide frequent daily service along the 460-mile (740 km) Empire Corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls, New York via Albany, the state capital.

During fiscal year 2014, the Empire Service carried 1,119,959 passengers on the line between New York and Albany, while services between Albany and points west, including the Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited, carried an additional 410,344.[1] Ridership on the first section of the Empire Service's line increased from FY2013 by 5.2%.[1] Ticket revenue on the New York-Albany section was US$47,472,663, while revenue on the Albany-Toronto route was $24,712,104.[1]


Hourly weekday service is available on the Hudson portion of the line between New York Penn Station and Albany-Rensselaer. The Upstate portion west of Albany is served by a total of four trains in each direction daily:

The Adirondack to Montreal and Ethan Allen Express to Rutland, Vermont also supplement service on the southern portion of the line between New York and Albany.

The portion of the route south of Poughkeepsie is the Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line, and sees frequent commuter service.


Amtrak once operated Turboliners on the Empire Corridor. Here the Mohawk crosses the Seneca River in 1984.

The route was formerly the Water Level Route of the New York Central Railroad to Buffalo and then the former Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad. In December 1967, just months before its merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad to become the Penn Central Transportation Company, the Central reorganized all its passenger trains. Gone were individual train names. In their place the Central introduced the Empire Service brand for New York–Buffalo trains. Marketing emphasized convenient service within New York, with a reduced emphasis on long-distance trains which continued west of Buffalo. This program continued after the Penn Central merger.[2]

Amtrak began on May 1, 1971, with seven daily trains on the New York—Albany—Buffalo corridor: four operated New York—Albany and three ran through to Buffalo. All service west of Buffalo was discontinued. All the trains retained their ex-Penn Central numbers and were otherwise nameless.[3] Westward service resumed briefly after May with the introduction of the Chicago—New York Lake Shore, but this train was canceled on January 6, 1972.

Despite doubts about Amtrak's potential success, the company was key in reestablishing some discontinued services along the Empire Corridor. Service beyond Buffalo to Niagara Falls, which had been abandoned by the New York Central in 1961, was reestablished with such trains as the Niagara Rainbow and the Maple Leaf. In addition Amtrak restored service to downtown Schenectady in 1978, a service which Penn Central had discontinued in 1968, for all Empire Service trains that continued beyond Albany. Service was restored permanently on the New York Central Water Level Route to Chicago with the reintroduction of the old New York Central train, the Lake Shore Limited in 1975.

On April 7, 1991, all Amtrak Empire Service trains started using the new Empire Connection into Penn Station, New York. Prior to that change, all passenger trains from Albany and beyond went into Grand Central Terminal which forced passengers going beyond New York to transfer via shuttle bus, taxicab or via the New York City Subway to reach Penn Station. The move also saved Amtrak the expense of operating two stations in New York.

In October 2011, CSX and Amtrak reached an agreement for Amtrak to lease the Hudson Subdivision between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady, with Amtrak assuming maintenance and capital responsibilities. CSX will retain freight rights over the line, which hosts only five freights a day. Amtrak will use federal funds to double track the line between Rensselaer and Schenectady, and add an additional station track at the Albany-Rensselaer station. Amtrak sees the lease as key to improving Empire Service speeds and frequencies.[4] Amtrak officially assumed control on December 1, 2012, with trains in the section now dispatched by the Amtrak Control and Command Center in New York City.[5]

GE Genesis P32AC-DM #701 pulls an Empire Service through the Hudson Highlands along the Hudson River.

Route details

The Empire Service operates over CSX Transportation, Metro-North Railroad, and Amtrak trackage:

The Empire Service utilizes dual-mode locomotives due to a ban on diesel locomotive operations in the Penn Station tunnel. An "on the fly" power change from diesel to third rail (or vice versa) takes place once the train enters the tunnel near Penn Station. There is a short amount of track between Albany and Schenectady that allows for 110 MPH (177/KMH) operations.

Station stops

State/Province Town/City Station Connections
New YorkNiagara FallsNiagara FallsAmtrak: Maple Leaf
BuffaloBuffalo-Exchange Street StationAmtrak: Maple Leaf, Thruway Motorcoach to Jamestown, New York
NFTA: Buffalo Metro Rail
DepewBuffalo-DepewAmtrak: Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
SyracuseNew York State FairTrain only stops during fair
SyracuseAmtrak: Maple Leaf Lake Shore Limited
CENTRO: 16, 48, 50, 60, 62, 70, 82, 236, 246, 250
RomeRomeAmtrak: Maple Leaf
UticaUtica Union StationAdirondack Scenic Railroad: to Thendara, New York
Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
CENTRO: 15, 31
AmsterdamAmsterdamAmtrak: Maple Leaf
SchenectadySchenectadyAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
CDTA: 351, 353, 354, 355, 370, 763, 905 (BusPlus)
RensselaerAlbany-RensselaerAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
CDTA: NX Northway Express, 114, 214
HudsonHudsonAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf
RhinecliffRhinecliff-KingstonAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf
PoughkeepsiePoughkeepsieAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf
Dutchess LOOP: A, B, C, D, E, Poughkeepsie RailLink
City of Poughkeepsie Transit: Main Street, Shoppers' Special
UCAT Ulster-Poughkeepsie LINK
Metro-North Railroad: Hudson Line
Croton-on-HudsonCroton–HarmonAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
Bee-Line: 10, 11, 14
Metro-North Railroad: Hudson Line
YonkersYonkersAmtrak: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf (Amtrak/VIA)
Bee-Line: 6, 9, 25, 32, 91 (seasonal service)
Metro-North Railroad: Hudson Line
New York CityPenn StationAmtrak: Acela Express, Adirondack, Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone Service, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Vermonter
LIRR: Main Line, Port Washington Branch
NJ Transit: North Jersey Coast Line, Northeast Corridor Line, Gladstone Branch, Montclair-Boonton Line, Morristown Line
NYC Subway: 1 2 3 A C E trains
NYC Transit buses: M4, M7, M20, M34 / M34A Select Bus Service, Q32

High-speed rail

The Empire Service has been a long-standing candidate for high-speed rail and electrification. The need for high-speed rail service has been addressed by former Governor George Pataki, former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and members of the New York State Assembly who represent the upstate regions. Other politicians have asked that high-speed rail be introduced along the Empire Corridor, diminishing the time for New York City – Buffalo trains from seven hours to just three hours; train travel from New York City to Albany would take less than two hours to complete. This may introduce Acela trains to the Empire Corridor if high-speed rail is successful. Another reason, which politicians have noted, is that high-speed trains might help improve upstate New York's economy, which had become stagnant.

Currently, trains attain a maximum speed of about 110 mph (177 km/h) on at least one stretch of track south of Albany. Other areas also see speeds above 79 mph (127 km/h).


  1. 1 2 3 4 "AMTRAK RIDERSHIP AND REVENUES CONTINUE STRONG GROWTH IN FY 2014" (PDF). Amtrak. October 27, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  2. "They're brightening up the Empire Trains" (PDF). Penn Central Post. April 15, 1968.
  3. Amtrak (May 1, 1971). "Nationwide Schedules of Intercity Passenger Service". Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  4. Eric Anderson (October 18, 2011). "Amtrak leasing track corridor". Times-Union. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  5. "Governor Cuomo Announces Hudson Rail Lease – Amtrak/CSX Deal Will Improve Passenger Service, Move Projects Forward" (PDF) (Press release). Albany, New York: Amtrak. December 4, 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-05.

External links

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