Empire Corridor (red) as designated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

(FRA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Empire Corridor is a 461-mile (742 km) passenger rail corridor in New York State running between Penn Station in New York City and Niagara Falls, New York. Major cities on the route include Poughkeepsie, Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. Much of the corridor was once part of the New York Central Railroad's main line.

Amtrak's Empire Service and Maple Leaf serve the entire length of the Empire Corridor, with the Maple Leaf continuing northwest to Toronto. The Lake Shore Limited follows most of the corridor from New York City, diverging west to Chicago at Buffalo–Depew station. The Berkshire Flyer takes the corridor to Albany–Rensselaer before diverging east to Pittsfield, while the Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express travel one stop further to Schenectady before diverging north to Montreal and Burlington, respectively. Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line merges with the Empire Corridor in Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx, just south of Riverdale, providing commuter rail service between Poughkeepsie, New York and Grand Central Terminal.

The line is electrified by both overhead catenary and top-running third rail on the Amtrak-owned segment between Penn Station and 41st Street, and by under-running third rail on the Metro-North segment, from the merge with the Hudson Line to Croton–Harmon. The Amtrak-owned section between 41st Street and the merge with the Hudson Line is unpowered and can only be served by diesel or dual-mode trains.

The corridor is also one of ten federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States. If the proposed high-speed service were built on the corridor, trains traveling between Buffalo and New York City would travel at speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h). In the 1890s, the Empire State Express between New York City and Buffalo was about 1 hour faster than Amtrak's service in 2013. On September 14, 1891, the Empire State Express covered the 436 miles (702 km) between New York City and Buffalo in 7 hours and 6 minutes (including stops), averaging 61.4 mph (98.8 km/h), with a top speed of 82 mph (132 km/h).



The Empire Corridor is largely owned by CSX Transportation (CSX), which owns most of the trackage between Niagara Falls and Poughkeepsie. Amtrak owns trackage rights for most of the Hudson line section north of Poughkeepsie to its rail yard in Albany. South of Poughkeepsie, the Empire Corridor is coextensive with Metro-North's trackage until it forks-off between Metro-North's Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil stations in the Bronx, to cross the Harlem River over the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge and make the Empire Connection to Penn Station. Amtrak owns the trackage after that fork, the West Side Line.

The corridor had been part of the main line of the New York Central Railroad; it was the eastern leg of the NYC's famed "Water Level Route" to Chicago. The corridor passed to Penn Central in 1968 upon the NYC's merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and passed to Conrail in 1976. In a series of purchases in the 1980s and 1990s, Amtrak bought the Bronx–Manhattan segment, Metro-North acquired the Poughkeepsie–Bronx segment, and CSX acquired the remainder when it split Conrail's assets with Norfolk Southern, in 1999.

On October 18, 2011, Amtrak and CSX announced an agreement for Amtrak to lease, operate and maintain the CSX-owned trackage between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady. Amtrak officially assumed control of the line on December 1, 2012. Later, Amtrak bought the segment between Schenectady and Hoffmans from CSX.


Southbound Amtrak train on Hudson line tracks, just south of Riverdale Station. Looking south from 254th street bridge, Riverdale, Bronx, NY. Click to enlarge.

(RoySmith, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Current services

The busiest segment of the Empire Corridor is between New York City and Albany with multiple trains per day.


The following trains operate along the varied segments of the corridor:

Empire Service: local service along the entire corridor from New York City to Niagara Falls, NY. Most trains operate along the southern segment between New York and Albany–Rensselaer, with two trains in each direction continuing west to Niagara Falls daily.
Maple Leaf: daily service from New York City to Toronto, operating on the entire corridor.
Lake Shore Limited: daily service from New York City to Chicago, splitting from the corridor at Buffalo–Depew. A section of this train splits-off at Albany–Rensselaer to serve Boston.
Adirondack: daily service from New York City to Montreal, splitting from the corridor in Schenectady.
Ethan Allen Express: daily service from New York City to Burlington, splitting from the corridor in Schenectady.
Berkshire Flyer: weekly summer service between New York City and Pittsfield, reversing direction and splitting from the corridor at Albany–Rensselaer.

Commuter rail
Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line, from Poughkeepsie, New York to Grand Central Terminal, New York, comprises the corridor between Poughkeepsie to south of Riverdale.

Freight service
Freight service is provided by CSX Transportation.



Owners: CSX (Niagara–Poughkeepsie), Metro-North (Poughkeepsie–Riverdale), Amtrak (Riverdale–New York)
Termini: Niagara Falls / New York Penn Station
Stations: 35 (12 Amtrak, 20 Metro North, 3 shared)
Service Type: Higher-speed rail, commuter rail
System: Amtrak, CSX Transportation
Services: Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Berkshire Flyer, Hudson Line
Operators: CSX (Niagara–Schenectady)
Amtrak (Schenectady–Poughkeepsie)
Metro-North (Poughkeepsie–Yonkers)
Amtrak (Yonkers–New York)
Line length: 461 mi (742 km)
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge