Amtrak excursions spotlight autumn's splendor

WASHINGTON -- All too soon, much of America will turn into an autumn rainbow, as the flora begins to resemble an impressionist painter's palette of deep reds, striking oranges and bright yellows.

Vermont's autumn landscapeMother Nature's annual pageantry of color can be seen on many different itineraries on an Amtrak train. Here's a sampling of the most scenic routes and best viewing times.

Northeastern foliage (Peak Dates: First to second week in October)

Amtrak's Northeast Direct trains (Richmond-Washington-New York-Springfield-Boston) treat customers to spectacular vistas of gold, crimson and bronze, with incredible views between New Haven, Conn., and Boston.

Amtrak's Empire Service (New York-Albany-Niagara Falls-Montreal) offers panoramic scenery of the Hudson River and the majestic Adirondack Mountains. Several trains operate daily along this route, including the Adirondack, which continues along the shore of Lake Champlain, and the Maple Leaf, which heads west to Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Toronto.

The Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) offers superior views of the autumn scenery and the red maple treesblaze with color as the Vermonter (Washington- St. Albans, Vt.) travels deep into the heart of New England.

Mid-Atlantic foliage (Peak Dates: Mid-September to Mid-October)

The Pennsylvanian (New York-Pittsburgh) and the eastbound Three Rivers (New York-Chicago) offer views of the scenic Allegheny Mountains and the fall color of picturesque Pennsylvania Dutch country.

The Capitol Limited (Washington-Chicago) passes through the West Virginia panhandle and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Amtrak's tri-weekly Cardinal (Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington) approaches the Skyline Drive area of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Southeastern foliage (Peak Dates: Mid- September to Late November)

Amtrak's Crescent, (New York-New Orleans) passes through Virginia's foothills and the Piedmont region of Georgia and Northern Alabama.

Amtrak's New York to Florida trains, the Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Silver Palm, whisk travelers through the colorful hardwood forests of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia.

The Carolinian (New York-Charlotte, N.C.) and the Piedmont (which features a refurbished dome car to enjoy the passing scenery between Raleigh and Charlotte) showcases brilliant stands of oak, maple, birch and sycamore, punctuated by crimson sumac.

Western foliage (Peak Dates: Early to Mid- September)

Amtrak's Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland) voyages past Wisconsin and Minnesota, and along the banks of the Mississippi River.

The California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville, Calif.) treats passengers to the yellows of Aspen trees, as it rises into the Rocky Mountains.

Pacific Northwest Corridor trains between Eugene, Ore. and Seattle offer views of autumn wildflowers against towering evergreen trees.

To obtain a copy of an illustrated Amtrak Travel Planner and schedules for fall-foliage watching possibilities on Amtrak, call (800) USA-RAIL. Information also is available at its web site at www.amtrak.com.

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