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The Empire Service, running between New York City and Niagara Falls, takes its name from the state it serves: New York, nicknamed the Empire State.

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The Trees of New York State As Seen From the Empire Service

Spectacular Views from the Window of the Train

by Elizabeth Morana

Williamsville, New York

I personally think the most fascinating thing I could watch on TV would be an unedited film of a camera looking out the window of a train's clean windows it crosses New York State. Lucky for me, I'm actually on the train right now and don't need the technology of the film industry. I'm able to write without looking at the keyboard pretty much so I'm looking out the train right now, somewhere east of Syracuse.

I feel sorry for everyone who is not with me. The first thing that occurred to me when I boarded the train was that I would see thousands of trees today. And now, after being on the train for over three hours, let me adjust that prediction: I expect to see hundreds of thousands of trees today because I am hardly taking my eyes off the landscape outside.

I've driven across New York State many times. And one of my biggest frustrations of that seven-hour drive is that I cannot safely stare at the trees; and let me tell you, that is a big sacrifice, because the trees are my friends. You can go quite a long distance with nothing in view but trees of all shapes and sizes and makes and models: tall, short, broad, skinny, leafed-out, still-budding, standing in water, clustered in groups, or solitary in a field. There are tall grasses, beige and gold, glowing in the sun. Some trees stand on hills; some line the edges between one farmer's field and the next, some dot the back yards of the little homes scattered around.

Today I'm leaving the driving to someone else, and I'm getting a good look at my friends.

Another nice thing about the train - besides the fact that someone else is driving - is that it rumbles along so you can feel the slight unevenness of the wheels against the rails, jiggling you just enough to bring back long-forgotten memories from infancy, maybe being rolled along in your stroller while your mother talked to her girlfriends on the way to Ebinger's on 86th Street in Bay Ridge. It took me hours today to even notice the train whistle, which I'm sure is much louder for the folks out on the streets. In here with the windows tightly shut, it gives that muffled grumbling sound that can put you to sleep.

But I'm awake and right now I'm enjoying watching nature collapse back down on itself: half-rotted tree trunks just tip over and lie against whatever they fell upon five or six years ago and there is no ambitious homeowner in the woods who feels responsible to clean the place up.

Summer has come early to western and central New York and I don't mind a bit. The cumulus clouds just sit up there in the sky, daring us to believe that they actually weigh tons. I don't believe it for a minute. Right outside the window now is a canal or small river of brownish water, hardly moving - probably the Mohawk. There's a small distant mountain covered solid with more trees; no houses in sight. I love passing woods that grow right up to the track, sun-spackled trees just standing there like nothing's wrong in the world, and there's nothing else to do but walk around among them and smell the dirt.

I've said enough; you're undoubtedly jealous now and I shouldn't inflict any more upon you. I let out a sigh of relief that I am not transporting myself in a car, that I am not gripping the wheel, sitting in one position for hours on end, and catching only snippets of the trees of New York State. Today I'm leaving the driving to someone else, and I'm getting a good look at my friends.