My husband and I just took a trip on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad on Saturday, 7/13 from Utica to Thendara and then took the shuttle from Thendara to Old Forge. We spent a few relaxing hours walking around in Old Forge & then returned via shuttle & railroad to Utica. This was a Groupon deal my husband had purchased for us.
The railroad trip itself was comfortable and it was fun to see the beautiful scenery along the ride. There was plenty of space and my husband and I had a set of four chairs (they all face in towards each other in sets of four) to ourselves which was nice to spread out and enjoy some snacks we packed for the trip up. (We stopped at Northstar Orchard/Bakery before we got on the train -- YUM!). On the ride back, I purchased a $4 glass of wine which was generously poured AND was a local Finger Lakes (Heron Hill) wine which I really appreciated. They only take cash so sadly I only had enough money for one glass (if I had more, I would have bought another!). They had a lot of options for local wine and the ladies let me taste before I bought.
The people working/volunteering on the train were great -- you can tell they really love what they do and would talk your ear off about the train if you asked them to. We inquired about the wine & beer train trip they take and the woman who told us about it talked about it for at least 20 minutes -- which we loved.
The problems we encountered, however, were:
1) Train left a little late and then had to stop several times to clear branches off the tracks, so we were late in arriving at our destination which cut our time in Old Forge by at least a half hour if not more
2) The shuttle experience was poor which soured our overall experience. Once we arrived in Thendara, everyone couldn't fit on the shuttle for the first round in. Those who didn't make it onto the first round had to wait another 20 minutes for the second trip of the SAME shuttle -- further cutting short their time in Old Forge. We were lucky that we made it onto the first trip in. On the way back, we didn't make it for the first trip of the shuttle and had to wait in the 90 degree heat without shade for the shuttle to return. There isn't anything near where you have to wait for the shuttle so you just hang out for 20 minutes. Not fun. Then once we got back, we waited at least 45 minutes to board the train. I'm not sure what the issue was but it took quite awhile for the train to be ready for boarding. If we had known how long we had to wait, we would have grabbed a drink at the restaurant. Because we had to wait so long, our arrival back in Utica was over a half hour later than the schedule stated and what we had planned. Good thing we didn't make dinner reservations as we had hoped we could!
We won't be buying full priced tickets because of the waiting around & the one shuttle having to take the entire train into town. Next time we'll just drive to Old Forge if we want to visit.
The only reason we may use the Scenic Railroad again is for some of their special events where you don't have to worry about taking a shuttle -- the wine & beer train, for example. Although, being from Rochester, it's a bit of a hike to Utica for just that.
I think it's a great idea in theory but the operation needs a bit of work in practice. They definitely need to invest in another shuttle at least and work on timing/scheduling.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.