Need advice on NJ to Rhinecliff/Rhinebeck

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Mystic River Dragon, Nov 26, 2018.

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  1. Nov 26, 2018 #1

    Mystic River Dragon

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    A friend is traveling, probably on Christmas Day, to visit family in Pine Plains, NY, and she asked me to help her figure out the trains. So of course I came to all of you :) .

    She would take NJ Transit from Hamilton, and she has done that before.

    Then it looks like either she would stay in Penn Station and get Amtrak to the closest station for them to pick her up (she insists it's Rhinebeck, I insist it's Rhinecliff), or she would trek over somehow to Grand Central and get Metro North? Amtrak would be more convenient but more expensive, and I'm not even sure there will be any tickets left. Does Metro North go that far up? If so, which line, and would there be a taxi to take her between Penn and Grand Central? (Like me, she doesn't do the Uber/Lyft stuff. And she has two bad knees, which makes walking a lot of city blocks difficult.)

    (I suggested Poughkeepsie, but apparently Rhine/whatever is easier for them.)

    Thank you in advance, as always, for your wonderful advice. :)
     
  2. Nov 26, 2018 #2

    cpotisch

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    The station is called Rhinecliff or Rhinecliff-Kingston. And unfortunately, Metro-North trains don’t run past Poughkeepsie, so she’ll either have to go through Poughkeepsie or take Amtrak (or drive).
     
  3. Nov 26, 2018 #3

    blueman271

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    Metro North only goes as far as Poughkeepsie on the Hudson Line. Amtrak is the only option to Rhinecliff so your friend will have to transfer at NYP to an Empire Service train. 
     
  4. Nov 26, 2018 #4

    SubwayNut

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    Looking at the map of where Pine Plains is, Wassaic the last stop on the Metro-North Harlem Line May also be a similar distance.

    Ease though of not needing to do the Penn Station to Grand Central make me choose Amtrak for this trip to Rhinecliff.
     
  5. Nov 26, 2018 #5

    Mystic River Dragon

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    Thanks to all of you. I knew the Hudson Line only went as far as Poughkeepsie (because we did that on the Gathering) but didn't know if there was another.

    We'll see what Amtrak has, and if it is too expensive (or nothing left), her son can come down and get her before Christmas, as they have usually done. (My friend loves to drive, but not that distance anymore.)
     
  6. Nov 26, 2018 #6

    Mystic River Dragon

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    And of course I got it mixed up--I checked with my friend, and she is coming home to NJ from NYS on Christmas Day, not going up there! I looked up Amtrak and they seem to have a train every couple of hours, so I will suggest that and help her book it online.

    She will be fine transferring to NJT--she likes NYC and doesn't mind crowds.

    Thanks again--your advice was still great--I just needed to reverse it! :p
     
  7. Nov 26, 2018 #7

    the_traveler

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    I don’t know exactly where Hamilton is (without looking it up), nor do I know if this is the case with Rhinecliff, but when I was checking fares to the Gathering I found it cost less to go from FED to NWK than to go FED to NYP. This was strange since you had to connect in NYP!

    And I’m not talking about the NJT/Amtrak fare - just the Amtrak fare! It was like $39 to NWK and $40 to NYP!
     
  8. Nov 26, 2018 #8

    Mystic River Dragon

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    Right now, the value fare is $26 and the business class $41 on the morning Empire Service trains (and she will need to get a morning one to leave enough time on the other end for NJT in case it does its usual cancellations/delays). The convenience is more important than the fares for this trip, between it being a holiday and her having two aching knees and a bad foot at the moment, so it will be best if she can just change trains in one place.

    You've passed the Hamilton station every time you've been on the NEC and come through NJ, but the train goes by it so fast you don't see it! :)  It is the commuter station between Trenton and Princeton Junction, and many people taking NJT north drive over there and park for the day instead of having to deal with going through Trenton. So she will have another friend pick her up at Hamilton when she gets there on NJT.

    And some trivia--Hamilton is right next to Grounds for Sculpture, which was the State Fair Grounds when I was growing up before they made it into an artsy museum--and if you are on a slower train (as in NJT), you can see some outdoor sculptures over there :) .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2018
  9. Nov 26, 2018 #9

    cpotisch

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    Well not necessarily just the Empire Service. The LSL, Ethan Allen, Maple Leaf, and Adirondack all also serve Rhinecliff. :)
     
  10. Nov 26, 2018 #10

    cpotisch

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    This is actually relatively common. It’s usually priced that way if they determine that there is lower demand between the two end points than there is between the departing station and connecting station. Airlines do this A LOT, and there’s even a website with the sole purpose of finding those so called “hidden city flights”.
     
  11. Nov 27, 2018 #11

    Mystic River Dragon

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    Almost done figuring this out--just a few more questions, if you all will bear with me :) :

    The two trains at the best times are both Empire Service--one gets to NYP at 10:40 and the other at 12:45. There's an NJT train leaving NYP about every hour, at quarter after the hour.

    So:

    How reliable is the Empire Service? If it's sporadic, I will encourage her to get the earlier train.

    At NYP, how long would it take someone walking slowly and not sure where they are going to get from where the Empire Service comes in to where NJT leaves from?

    As for business class or regular coach, does business class always have the leather seats and 2x1 seating? Because it's Christmas Day, the train could be either empty (if everyone is staying where they've gone) or full (because they have to go to work the next day), but I personally would lean toward business class just to make sure she has a seat.

    However, my only experience on the Empire Service was in business class, and it was very annoying--the car had been put on backward, so you couldn't go through to the other cars; they hadn't set up the café part with free coffee; and worst of all were the two snarky, rude, and unhelpful conductors who pulled the curtain and went and sat at a table and chatted the whole time and acted like it was a real imposition if someone dared to pull the curtain and go ask them anything. And at NYP, they didn't help anyone off the train (and some people needed help)--they just stood by the train and went on with their conversation like no one else was there. :angry:

    If that was unusual, then I think business class would be best. But if they are like that all the time, I don't want my friend to have to put up with that (she does not take trains often, so it would be nice if the conductor was actually there to be helpful, and she will need help with that gap between the train and the platform that we are all fine with but that catches people who don't take trains often by surprise).

    Finally, can I book the ticket online for her? I have put other people on my ticket, but never gotten one for someone else. If I use my credit card information and my address, etc., and put her on as the main name, with contact info. for both of us, would that work? Also, could I use my rewards number and get points?

    The only other part is at this end--she is thinking of parking at Hamilton, because she does not want to bother anyone to pick her up on Christmas, but she will work that part out. And I will get her NYP to Hamilton NJT ticket down here, so she doesn't have to take the time to do that in NYP. But of course any advice on this from those of you in NJ is appreciated, too.

    By the way, cpotisch, I would love for her to be able to take the Ethan Allan or a couple of the others you mentioned, but they all leave way too late--she does not drive in the dark so needs to be back in NJ early enough to give NJT time to mess up and cancel/delay trains and still get to her car while it is daylight.

    Thank you all again for any and all advice! :)
     
  12. Nov 27, 2018 #12

    cpotisch

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    I would say that the Empire Service is pretty reliable, so I don’t think you need to leave much time for delays. I also think that your experience in BC was for the most part an anomaly, and that the extra space and complimentary beverages make Business Class worth the premium on the Empire Service.

    Now you can book a ticket for someone else with your own credit card, however the AGR number you put down must match the name of the person on the ticket, so you won’t be able to get those points. :(
     
  13. Nov 27, 2018 #13

    PVD

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    The BC car being set up that way cuts down on people walking through it. The other thing that is often not realized is that there is no cafe service on Empire trains that only go to/from Albany.
     
  14. Nov 27, 2018 #14

    Mystic River Dragon

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    Thank you, cpotisch and PVD.

    I did not like not being able to walk through the train and not having free coffee. However, my friend doesn''t drink coffee and will probably stay put from when she sits down til the train gets to NYP, so business class probably will be just right.

    I am stopping by her house after work and will run everything by her, then check here tomorrow to see if anyone has come up with more advice, then book the ticket for her. (She is way more tech-savvy than I am, but she has never booked a train online, so it will easier for me to do it.)
     
  15. Nov 27, 2018 #15

    PVD

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    Since Empire service is NY State financed, it's actually their call on the cafe car on the Albany runs not being staffed. And the LSL, which does have a working cafe, it goes to Boston, so South of Albany it isn't there. I take the train to Syracuse a couple of times a year, those Empire runs the cafe is staffed.
     
  16. Nov 27, 2018 #16

    the_traveler

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    If the train only operates between NYP and ALB, it does not offer cafe service. However, if the train continues beyond ALB (Montreal, Rutland, NFL or Toronto) then it does.

    I can only relate my experience of buying another’s ticket.

    Once, I was waiting to board at FED. A passenger came and tried to go into the station to buy a ticket, but being unstaffed they couldn’t. They said “What am I going to do?” (They had no smart phone or credit card.) Being nice  :giggle:  I said I’ll reserve it for you, and you just pay me the cost. I did not even charge a “handling fee”, because I received AGR points because it was in my name. (My own ticket was an AGR award, so didn’t receive points!)

    So I would say if she uses “your ticket”, you will get the AGR points for the travel. (Back during the Gathering, Chris D used my ticket to PVD, but I got the points.) You will get the AGR points for the card use (if you used the AGR credit card) anyway.
     
  17. Nov 27, 2018 #17

    Ronbo

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    Why don’t you do the booking together, that way she will learn how if she ever wants to do it herself in the future?
     
  18. Nov 27, 2018 #18

    Mystic River Dragon

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    There was more than one person at FED? :giggle:  (I thought maybe it was your own personal station that went with the TPS :p .)

    I don't use the AGR card, and the points aren't enough to make a difference (I am not going to be anywhere near even the lowest Select category this year), so I will book it in my friend's name just in case they check her ticket and look carefully at it and ask for ID. But I will show her how to do it for another time (see my reply to Ronbo below).

    And what football team does the NFL station have? :giggle:

    That's a good idea, but I only know how to use a desktop computer with a keyboard, and she has an Ipad and a smartphone but no desktop computer. We could do it together at our town's library, but I'm working this week so will be doing it from the office and want to make sure I get it before the tickets go up in price or get sold out.

    If she decides she likes the train enough to take it again, though, I will show her how to book it online. :)
     
  19. Nov 28, 2018 #19

    PVD

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    She could put the app on her phone, although my personal preference is desktop over phone ant day.
     
  20. Nov 28, 2018 #20

    JRR

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    What is the advantage of using the desktop over the app on iPhone or iPad?
     
  21. Nov 28, 2018 #21

    Mystic River Dragon

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    For me, I need to be able to sit at a desk and see everything on a large screen and have a large keyboard, and I wouldn't know how to show her how to book on her phone or ipad because I don't have either one and don't know how they work.

    I ran everything by her yesterday, and I'm booking her in business class on train 254, the Empire Service train leaving Rhinecliff at 10:54, which gets to NYP early enough that she has two chances for a NJT train to get her back to NJ and her car while it is still daylight.
     
  22. Nov 28, 2018 #22

    the_traveler

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    Personally, I don’t like to use the iPhone but I use the iPad because of the bigger keyboard. Either way, I chose to use the full (desktop) version, not the mobile version.
     
  23. Nov 28, 2018 #23

    cpotisch

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    I honestly think that the process is simple enough that she’ll be able to do it herself. Having it done on her own device can save some hassle, and she’ll have that much more experience with it next time. YMMV, but I think that most people can book themselves an Amtrak ticket, and considering she’s “way more tech-savvy” than you are, I don’t think she’ll have any issues. :)
     
  24. Nov 28, 2018 #24

    Mystic River Dragon

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    It worked! :) It worked! :) :)

    I just booked my friend's ticket, and it came through just right--with her name on it! :)

    Thanks so much to all of you for all the help and advice--it would have taken me much longer to figure it out without you! :)

    My only other task is to get the NJT ticket, which will not be a problem, and I can do that any day I commute.

    She will figure out the parking at Hamilton, and of course she has already booked her dog (Winston the Basset Hound) into the kennel (or, rather, the luxury spa, considering they pamper him more than a passenger on a PV trip! :p ).

    Will you grant me a couple more questions? (That's it, I promise!)--How does boarding the Empire Service southbound at Rhinecliff work? All I could see out the window from the train when I went through there was the bottom of a set of steps, so I couldn't tell the layout. She will be in business class, so I'm assuming a conductor will be at the business class door? Is it one track or two, and if two, how do you know which side to be on?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2018
  25. Nov 28, 2018 #25

    AG1

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    Don't worry about that. It is one center platform between the two tracks. 
     

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