Traveling Across New York by Train – It was Quicker in 1890 Than Today
Surprising but true, in an era when boats plying the Erie Canal was still an efficient way to move cargo, taking a train trip across New York, say from Buffalo to New York City, was quicker at the end of the 1800s than today.
This startling fact was shared on reddit's Today I Learned board. Back in 1890 a traveler on the Empire State Express traveling the 430-odd miles between the Western New York and NYC was a trip that averaged just 7 hours. That same trip today on Amtrak is at least 8 hours. The reason?
There appear to be 3. First, the Empire State Express in 1890 made a few less stops than Amtrak does today on that corridor.
Second, the system bogs down a bit at Albany, where the train heading west from Buffalo splits with some travelers heading off to Boston and others turning south for New York and that takes time.
Finally, a little secret that you probably don't know about Amtrak accounts for the third reason train travel is slower today - often they don't own the train tracks. Tracks are owned by freight lines, so if there's a freight train and Amtrak both needing the same set of track, the freight train wins out delaying you on the passenger train.
So is there any hope for speedy train travel again? The state has long studied high speed rail on a route called the Empire Corridor.
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