Sunday, December 22, 2013


 “I must give these Amtrak Conductors credit.  Railway conducting could become a “lost art” when you think of the conductors of old with their pocket watches in vest pockets  and the related fashion thereof.

“These modern Amtrak conductors were out on the wintry platform in Utica, sweeping with brooms to place their yellow foot stools at train steps and personally escorting passengers and their baggage. The vestibule of the train car was caked with snow on the inside  (outer door didn't quite seal) and here was this conductor diligently sweeping out his vestibule  as the train was departing. While there is no real steward service on-board, these men look after their train.”

The above e-mail was sent to me by my son on his return home for Christmas
from Newark, New Jersey...a scenic journey along the Hudson River
until near Albany…where engines are exchanged...
for its destination to Niagara Falls, New York.

Amazing How Service Differs From Station to Station!

I drove in a horrific snowstorm to Niagara Falls, NY to meet his evening arrival.  The QEW was slow, yet traffic was cautious...lanes often snow-covered...and windswept blizzard conditions obliterating one's visibility at times.  No line-up at Customs!  At a nearby Burger King, relaxed with hot coffee I  enjoyed their 2 for $5 beef burgers. Nearing 5 pm I proceeded to the Amtrak Train Station along Lockport Street.  Due to darkness and lack of clear visibility (blowing snow), I missed the location for the entry street.  A friendly black man gave me directions that were not quite I clarified these with gas-filler-uppers at a local petrol station. 

Arriving at the Amtrak parking lot (where I had been three previous times), with my cane, I walked to the several wide steps leading to the entry doors of ..WAITING ROOM and OFFICE. Doors Locked!
No lights on except the second floor!  No response when many times I banged on the door windows! So returned to my cold car!  At 6:30 I tried again!   No response!

I saw a couple vehicles drive through the parking lot...going around the end of the building.  I assumed they must be employees arriving on duty to open the WAITING ROOM doors.

By 7 pm I was certain the doors would be open...yet no lights on inside.  At 7:15, at the entry doors again, I noticed through the windows a woman standing in front of  what seemed a counter.  I banged on the doored-windows to get her attention without result.  After several minutes, 2 uniformed employees (stationmasters?) came from behind the building...advising me,  “The Office and Waiting Room closed at 4 pm.”  NO KIDDING!  They told me the “Waiting Train Room” was at the rear of the building. To them I asked a few questions:  Why is there  no sign to indicate the WAITING ROOM & OFFICE was closed?  Why was no notice posted to state that the WAITING ROOM was changed?  How was I to know this?  They reluctantly agreed that , “Yes, a sign should have been posted.” 

Without apology, they told me to park at the back to await the 7:50 arrival.  There I parked and noticed a long snow-covered winding ramp leading to this small hall-like waiting room. These same two men exiting from a small adjunct shed-like building with shovels...looking at me and the ramp about which I inquired, they proceeded to  remove the deep snow from the ramp!  They told me I could wait in my car near the train tracks or wait inside.  I told them I was cold...being in my car since 6 pm.  (There were already two elderly people inside...and the men had not even shovelled the snowy ramp  for them?????)  Unbelievable! 

Inside was a Senior couple awaiting their son's arrival from Syracuse.  They (not even the employees) told me the train was delayed one hour in arriving.  This was the woman I had seen from the front side of the station ~  due to some noisy generator producing heat for this room, the  woman and her husband would not have been able to hear me at the front doors!  There was no washroom access in this area!

The train arrived beside our “waiting room” (One hour and 10 minutes late)
 and happy were the passengers as they disembarked!
(The delay, westward from Syracuse, was due to frozen switches.)

Of Interest:  “Stationmaster” was the person in charge of railways stations  before the modern age.  Now called a “Station Manager” he manages the other employees and would have responsibility for the safety and efficient running of the station.

Pearls of Wisdom

Adversity tests us from time to time...
and it is inevitable that this testing continues through life.
(Walter Annenberg, a publisher, philanthropist and diplomat
who died in 2012.

Our prime purpose in life is to help others.
And if  you can't help them...don't hurt them.
(Dalai Lama)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 22, 2013
Comments are welcome...e-mail to


  1. Sherrie writes: "Wow...quite the story on the Amtrak Train situation. Your son was lucky having his Mom pick him up she is the best conductor of them all."

  2. Isn't that the function of Mothers and Fathers...once a parent, always a parent? We lovingly do what we can...whenever we are able! Although a rough drive, much prefer it to ICE.