Spending a few days in New York during a period of glorious autumn sunshine meant the perfect excuse to escape the Big Apple for a few hours and take a trip on 20 October 2022 up the remarkably scenic 73½-mile long Metro-North Hudson Line.
It features in a book I was given called Amazing Train Journeys (Lonely Planet, October 2018) and after the two-hour trip from NYC to the final Metro-North stop at Poughkeepsie (pronounced Poo-kipsy) it is easy to see the Hudson Line earned its place in a book featuring 60 of the world’s most scenic rail routes.
Beginning my day at the magnificent Grand Central Station my first mistake was to buy an off-peak return to Poughkeepsie ($38.50) when I wanted to break my journey a couple of times on the return trip, only to be told at the information desk that break of journey was not possible.
But being sent by the information desk to a ticket counter, I was then able to change the return ticket I bought from a machine for a single out to Poughkeepsie and a series of short journey single tickets that would allow me to stop off for photos on the return trip to Grand Central for only an extra $6.00
Hudson Line trains are formed of seven coaches, certain of which seem to be locked out of use at off-peak times, and are worked in push-pull mode by loud single-ended General Electric GE-P32AC-DM locomotives. These operate hourly and run fast from Grand Central and then Harlem to either Tarrytown or Corton-Harmon, the northern terminus of Metro-North’s suburban electric services.
Amtrak services along the route operate from Penn Station in New York to Albany and Niagara Falls, and are worked by identical GE-P32AC-DM units to those of Metro-North, with the entire 18-strong Amtrak fleet (700-717) allocated to its depot at Albany.
Having had a first chance to appreciate the riverside scene and some really impressive bridges on my outward trip to Poughkeepsie, I made my first intermediate stop at Beacon, an historic town that was the hat manufacturing capital of New York a century ago and a town dating back 400 years to the time when Henry Hudson anchored his ship, the Half Moon, in the bay here.
Alas the historic and restored town centre is too far to be reached in a stop of just one hour, but that does give ample time to walk down to the small pier, from where peak-hour commuter ferries operate across the Hudson to Newburgh on its western bank, and time to admire the impressive cantilevered Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to the north.
My second intermediate stop on the return to New York was at another delightful riverside settlement called Peekskill, where I was lucky enough to photograph another couple of Amtrak services, as well as a northbound Hudson Line train powered by a loco in the livery of another Metro-North railroad – the New Haven Line – at the station and alongside the river.
Apart from mile after mile views of the majestic, but deserted, Hudson River and its magnificent bridges, another interesting feature is just south of a station called Ossining, where the railway runs through the middle of a prison called Sing Sing which has housed prisoners nearing the end of the sentences for the past two centuries.
From a British perspective, it does seem odd that there are no cheap day return fares on a route with such obvious tourist potential and that nothing else done in terms of publicity – printed timetables having been abolished on Metro-North as they have by most UK train operators.