Amtrak Empire Service Train: A Complete Ryder Guide

The Empire Service is an intercity train service offered by Amtrak in the state of New York, United States. The brand name was first used by the New York Central Railroad in 1967. The line’s trains offer regular daily service over the 460-mile (740-kilometer) Empire Corridor from New York City to Niagara Falls via Albany, the state capital.

In fiscal year 2018, the Empire Service transported 1,150,498 passengers between New York City and Albany, while services between Albany and locations west, such as the Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited, transported an additional 366,696. Ticket revenue on the New York City-Albany portion in FY2016 was $49,361,545, up 1.4% from FY2015, while revenue on the Albany-Toronto route was $22,143,803.

Schedule Highlights

  • There are many trains every day.
  • Trains leave New York City in the mornings and afternoons.
  • Trains leave Niagara Falls extremely early in the morning (the Maple Leaf train has a later departure time).

Visit Amtrak.com to get the most recent schedules and timetables.

Route and Stops

The Empire Service train travels between New York City and Niagara Falls, following the scenic Hudson River Valley for much of its journey. Here’s a breakdown of the route and stations:

Empire Service Train Route Map:

Popular Stops

  • New York City
  • Poughkeepsie
  • Albany
  • Syracuse
  • Rochester
  • Buffalo
  • Niagara Falls

Stations:

The Empire Service makes stops in three main regions:

  • NYC Metro Area:
    • New York, NY – Moynihan Train Hall (NYP)
    • Yonkers, NY (YNY)
    • Croton-Harmon, NY (CRT)
    • Poughkeepsie, NY (POU)
  • Hudson Valley:
    • Rhinecliff, NY (RHI)
    • Hudson, NY (HUD)
    • Albany-Rensselaer, NY (ALB)
    • Schenectady, NY (SDY)
    • Amsterdam, NY (AMS)
  • Upstate New York:
    • Utica, NY (UCA)
    • Rome, NY (ROM)
    • Syracuse, NY (SYR)
    • Rochester, NY (ROC)
    • Buffalo, NY – Depew Station (BUF)
    • Buffalo, NY – Exchange Street Station (BFX)
    • Niagara Falls, NY (NFL)

Trip Planning

Empire Service Train Trip Planning

Ticketing Options:

There are two convenient ways to book your Empire Service train ticket:

  • Online: The easiest and most recommended option is booking directly through the Amtrak website https://www.amtrak.com/empire-service-train. You can search for schedules, compare fares, and choose your seats all in one place.
  • At Stations: Tickets can also be purchased at station kiosks or ticket windows if you prefer an in-person transaction. However, this might take longer, especially during peak hours.

Fare Structure:

Amtrak offers different fare options depending on your needs and preferences. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Coach Class: The most affordable option, offering comfortable seating with ample legroom.
  • Business Class: Provides an enhanced travel experience with wider leather seats, more legroom, free non-alcoholic beverages on some trains, and access to the Business Class Lounge at certain stations (availability may vary). Business class tickets are usually more expensive than coach but offer more comfort and amenities. 
  • Senior Discounts: Amtrak offers discounted fares for seniors aged 65 and over.
  • Student Discounts: Students aged 17-24 can also receive discounted fares on most routes.
  • AAA Discounts: Members of AAA can enjoy special discounts on Amtrak travel.

Schedules and Frequency of Trains:

The Empire Service operates multiple trains daily between New York City and Niagara Falls. The exact schedule can vary depending on the day of the week and season. You can find the most up-to-date schedules and frequencies for your desired travel dates on the Amtrak website.

Tips for Booking During Peak Seasons:

Travel during holidays, weekends, and peak travel seasons like summer can lead to higher fares and sold-out trains. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Book Early: Purchasing your tickets well in advance (at least a few weeks before your trip) can help you secure better fares and seat availability.
  • Consider Weekday Travel: Traveling on weekdays can often be cheaper than weekends, especially during peak seasons.
  • Be Flexible: If you have some flexibility with your travel dates, consider traveling during off-peak times to get the best deals.
  • Sign Up for Alerts: Amtrak offers email alerts that notify you of fare sales and promotions for specific routes.

Onboard Experience

Empire Service Train Onboard Experience

Types of trains used on the Empire Service route

The Empire Service route utilizes Amtrak locomotives specifically designed for efficiency on different sections of the track:

New York City Metro Area – Albany-Rensselaer, NY:

  • GE Genesis P32AC-DM: This dual-mode locomotive operates on both electric and diesel power. It utilizes third-rail electric power within New York Penn Station and the Empire Connection tunnel for cleaner emissions in urban areas. On the rest of the route, the locomotive seamlessly switches to diesel power for continued travel.

Albany-Rensselaer, NY – Niagara Falls, NY:

  • GE Genesis Locomotives: Traditional diesel-powered GE Genesis locomotives handle the route north of Albany. These locomotives provide the necessary power for long-distance travel throughout Upstate New York.

Seating options (coach, business class, etc.)

Coach Class Seat

Coach class is available on all Amtrak trains and has wide, reclining seats with plenty of legroom, no middle seat option, at-seat trays, reading lamps, and power outlets. There are restrooms in each vehicle. Amtrak Guest Rewards customers who travel in Coach get 2 points per dollar spent.

Business Class Seat

Enjoy the unique benefits of riding in Business Class, a premium, upgraded experience available on most corridor trains across the Amtrak system. Specific characteristics vary per route, but Business Class provides increased legroom, a wide and comfy seat, and a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage (not available in Acela Business Class). Seat selection is available on several routes in the Northeast, making boarding easier and eliminating the guesswork of selecting a seat. Additionally, Business Class travelers earn a 25% bonus on Amtrak Guest Rewards points.

Carry-On Bicycle

Part of the appeal of a rail journey is the opportunity to explore the stations along the way, and what better way to do that than by bike? If you want to travel the rails with your bike, we provide a variety of options to transfer it aboard. Each train has unique equipment and loading methods that determine what services will be provided. The capabilities of your origin and destination stations also influence how bikes are handled, so read all the specifics here before booking your journey.

Amenities offered onboard (Wi-Fi, restrooms, concessions)

Cafe

Most Amtrak lines, including Empire Service, offer cafe service, with a selection of meals, snacks, and drinks for sale. Customers of all service levels are welcome to visit the Cafe, which is open from early morning to late night.

WiFi onboard

To keep our customers connected while traveling, Amtrak provides basic WiFi connectivity in select stations and trains around the nation. Stay working or just relax and enjoy the journey to your destination. During your travels, you may meet two kinds of WiFi services:

Amtrak WiFi

This free WiFi connection allows for typical online surfing activities. Due to restricted bandwidth aboard the trains, our WiFi does not handle high-bandwidth activities such as music streaming, video streaming, or big file downloads.

Other WiFi Networks

Because Amtrak does not run these networks, they request that you refer to the operating carrier’s instructions on how to connect, use limitations, and terms of service while on these trains.

Baggage policy

Here’s the information on the baggage policy for the Empire Service train:

Amtrak offers a generous baggage allowance for the Empire Service:

  • Free Checked Bags: You can check up to 2 bags free of charge, each weighing up to 50 lbs (23 kg) and not exceeding 75 linear inches in total dimensions (length + width + height).
  • Excess Baggage Fees: If you have additional bags exceeding the free allowance, you will be charged a fee of $20 per bag. A maximum of 2 excess checked bags are permitted per passenger.
  • Carry-On Allowance: In addition to checked baggage, you can bring 2 carry-on bags onboard, each not exceeding 50 lbs (23 kg) and with dimensions of 28 x 22 x 14 inches (with some variations on specific routes).
  • Personal Item: You are also allowed to bring one personal item, not exceeding 25 lbs (12 kg) and with dimensions of 14 x 11 x 7 inches.

Important points to remember:

  • Always check the dimensions of your baggage before your trip.
  • Ensure your checked bags are properly labeled with your name and contact information.
  • For a complete overview of Amtrak’s baggage policy, you can visit their website https://www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy.

Exploring the Route

The Empire Service train unlocks a variety of travel options, from relaxing day trips to exciting weekend getaways. Here’s a glimpse into what you can experience:

Day Trips from NYC via the Empire Service:

  • Hudson Valley Delights:
    • Wineries & Breweries: The Hudson Valley boasts a flourishing wine and craft beer scene. Take a day trip to Poughkeepsie or Rhinecliff and explore charming towns, visit local wineries or breweries for tastings, and enjoy scenic vineyards.
    • History & Culture: Explore historic sites like the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park or the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Springwood. Immerse yourself in art and culture at Dia:Beacon, a contemporary art museum with stunning views of the Hudson River.
  • Albany Adventure:
    • Museums & Galleries: New York State’s capital offers a wealth of museums. Visit the New York State Museum for a journey through natural history and cultural heritage. Explore the Albany Institute of History & Art for a dive into American art and regional history.
    • Parks & Recreation: Escape the city bustle and enjoy the outdoors at Albany Pine Bush Preserve, a unique ecosystem with hiking trails and scenic vistas. Take a stroll through Washington Park, a beautiful urban oasis in the heart of Albany.

Things to Do in Major Destinations:

  • Albany, NY:
    • New York State Capitol: Witness the grandeur of the New York State Capitol building, a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. Tours are available to explore its ornate interiors and learn about the state’s political history.
    • Palace Theatre: Catch a Broadway show, a concert, or a comedy performance at the historic Palace Theatre, a landmark venue in downtown Albany.
  • Buffalo, NY:
    • Niagara Falls: While Niagara Falls isn’t directly in Buffalo, it’s a quick side trip via public transportation or taxi. Witness the awe-inspiring power and beauty of this natural wonder.
    • Buffalo History Museum: Delve into the rich history of Buffalo at the Buffalo History Museum, showcasing the city’s industrial past, cultural diversity, and significant events.
  • Niagara Falls, NY:
    • Cave of the Winds: Get up close and feel the spray of the falls on a thrilling Maid of the Mist boat tour or an adventurous Cave of the Winds walk behind the falls (seasonal).
    • Niagara Falls State Park: Explore scenic walking trails, observation decks, and interactive exhibits offering breathtaking views of the falls and surrounding landscape.

Remember: This is just a taste of what the Empire Service route offers. With a little research, you can discover countless hidden gems and tailor your trip to your interests.

Tips and FAQ

A comfortable train journey awaits! Here are some tips to make your Empire Service experience even smoother:

Packing:

  • Pack Light: While Amtrak offers generous baggage allowance, packing light allows for easier movement on the train. Opt for versatile clothing you can layer for temperature changes.
  • Essentials: Pack essentials like comfortable shoes, a reusable water bottle, headphones, a book or e-reader for entertainment, and any medications you might need.
  • Snacks & Drinks: Consider bringing your own snacks and drinks, especially if you have dietary restrictions or prefer specific options. However, the train does offer a cafe car with food and beverage options for purchase.
  • Entertainment: Download movies, shows, or podcasts on your device to enjoy offline during the journey. Pack a small travel game or book for additional entertainment.

Food Options:

  • Cafe Car: Most Empire Service trains have a cafe car offering a selection of hot and cold meals, snacks, and beverages for purchase.
  • BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverages): Amtrak allows passengers to bring non-alcoholic beverages onboard.
  • Pack Your Own: As mentioned earlier, packing healthy snacks and drinks ensures you have your preferred options readily available.

Accessibility Information:

Amtrak is committed to providing accessible travel for passengers with disabilities. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Stations: Most stations along the Empire Service route have accessible features like elevators, ramps, and designated accessible restrooms.
  • Trains: Empire Service trains offer accessible coach class seating, accessible restrooms, and designated service areas for boarding assistance.
  • Reservations: When booking your ticket, notify Amtrak of any accessibility needs you may have. They can provide assistance with boarding, disembarking, and storing mobility devices.
  • For detailed accessibility information and resources, visit the Amtrak website: https://www.amtrak.com/accessible-travel-services

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Do Amtrak Empire Service trains have WiFi?

Yes, Amtrak Empire Service provides WiFi on its trains. Although most Amtrak Empire Service excursions will have WiFi as stated, certain trains may not have it, and onboard WiFi may lose connectivity in rural regions. We urge that you bring a book or download a movie simply to be safe. Amtrak Empire Service WiFi is normally best utilized for browsing the web, reading emails, and talking with friends; don’t rely on it to binge-watch your favorite program.

Are there power outlets or USB plugs on the train?

Yes, there are power outlets aboard Amtrak Empire Service trains. You can usually find one or two outlets each row of seats, so be a considerate traveler and check to see if your seat mate wants to charge their electronics as well. The onboard power outlets allow you to charge both a computer and USB devices using a USB power adapter, which is normally included with most phones and tablets.
Because Amtrak Empire Service may sometimes employ replacement train cars, not all journeys are guaranteed to include power outlets. We suggest bringing a power bank to charge your phone for any journeys longer than 2 hours, just in case.

What is Amtrak Empire Service’s schedule?

On a normal day, Amtrak Empire Service operates 333 train journeys. However, the actual departure and arrival hours vary according on the day and route. To get the precise timetable for your journey, utilize the search function on this page.

Can you pick up will-call tickets at the station?

No, Amtrak Empire Service does not provide will-call tickets. Purchase your tickets online and ensure that you have everything you need to board before arriving at the station.

Do you need an ID to get on the train?

Yes, Amtrak Empire Service asks you to show your ID to a representative before boarding the train. Make sure you have identification from a government agency that matches the carrier’s standards. Alternative forms of identification, such as a college ID, will not work.

Are there bathrooms on Amtrak Empire Service trains?

Yes, there are restrooms aboard Amtrak Empire Service trains. The restrooms are rather basic, with a toilet, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. Most restrooms do not have running water. Please exercise care and hang on to a rail when using a restroom on a moving vehicle.

Are meals or beverages available?

Amtrak Empire Service delivers refreshments to keep you fed throughout your journey. Make sure to have a credit card and some cash in case you get hungry.

Do you have to print your Amtrak Empire Service ticket?

Amtrak Empire Service does not need a paper ticket to board the train. Instead, when you make your reservation, you will get an eTicket via email. You may show the ticketing agent this eTicket on your smartphone as you board.

Does Amtrak Empire Service offer any premium features like extra legroom or movies?

Amtrak Empire Service goes above and above to provide its guests with premium amenities.
Do you find yourself squashed on a standard seat or do you like having more space to stretch out? You’re in fortunate, since Amtrak Empire Service provides extra legroom seats. Because there is no standard for what constitutes additional legroom, the extra space you get may differ across train lines, although having more is usually beneficial.

Resources for further information

Amtrak Website: The official Amtrak website, https://www.amtrak.com/empire-service-train provides comprehensive information on schedules, fares, stations, and trip planning resources.

Official New York State Tourism Website: https://www.iloveny.com/ This website provides information on things to do, places to stay, and events happening throughout New York State.

Hudson Valley Tourism Website: https://travelhudsonvalley.com/travel-tools/contact/ This website focuses specifically on the Hudson Valley region, showcasing wineries, breweries, historical sites, and outdoor activities.

Niagara Falls Tourism Website: https://www.niagarafallsusa.com/ This website provides information on attractions, hotels, restaurants, and special events happening near Niagara Falls.

Amtrak Mobile App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amtrak.rider&hl=en_US

                                      OR

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/amtrak/id405074003

Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_Service

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