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Customs & Immigration Procedures in Niagara Falls, NY

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Customs & Immigration Procedures in Niagara Falls, NY
Posted by runnerdude48 on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 5:18 PM

About a week ago I traveled round trip from Albany, NY to Toronto, Canada.  This was the last Amtrak route I needed to ride and was unaware of the draconian border procedures.  In both Canada and the US all passengers, including disabled people who needed a wheel chair, were forced to detrain and be questioned by the officials inside the station.  Coming back into the US all luggage was scanned in an airport style scanner.  Increditably, when leaving the US the train was held at the Niagara Falls, NY station for customs procedures and clearance before we were allowed to move over the bridge into Canada.  The last time I traveled by train between the two countries the customs officials worked the train and never in all the times I have crossed a border, by any means of transportation, have I ever been forced to go through customs leaving a country.

Are these now the normal procedures for crossing the border by rail?  Are the same procedures in effect in Montreal and Vancouver?  Or, is this just because in NY things are generally more screwed up than they are in the rest of the country?  Once we all cleared customs in Niagara Falls, NY, we sat at the station for about 1 hour and 10 minutes waiting for departure time.  The passenger load was quite light and took less than 30 minutes of the 1 hour and 45 minutes allowed.  Can anyone enlighten me as to why all of this is done?  My guess is that it is more government inefficiency as I could not find a reason for requiring anything different than for airline and automobile passengers.

Thank you.

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 7:07 PM

Sorry to hear this. Things have got progressively worse each year since 911. There has been problems at the Niagara rail crossing. They must have done a comprehensive search throughout the train if they required everybody to de-train. Usually the border agents come from the main vehicular traffic crossing, driving over to meet the train. Each time I have crossed by rail the agents came through the cars checking ID and asking a few questions but we all remained seated. Occasionally someone would be taken of the train and that was that. 

This may be the new normal going forward though. Pretty soft and easy target really for smuggling and nefarious activity. 

It's been years since I've taken my NTrak modules stateside. Not doing that anymore.

Have no idea whatsoever how to fix these things in this day and age. 

 

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 8:15 PM

The only time I crossed at Niagra Falls, the passengers had to vacate our coach while US agents turned their dog loose to sniff everything in the car. After the dog was finished we were allowed to return from the car we had been moved to. Asked Trainman what caused this and he advised that on a previous days train, Canada's customs agents found contraband and the U.S. Customs attitude was: BY GOD WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN. So they were closing the barn door after the horse was stolen. Other trips I have taken on the Monteal train before it was cut back to Vermont and the Adriondack were straight forward, polite, efficient, and short. "Where are you going, whats the purpose of your trip, etc and Have a nice day" Of course these were before 9-11. 

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Posted by wanswheel on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 8:41 PM

Excerpt from Niagara Gazette, Dec. 6, 2016

http://www.niagara-gazette.com/news/local_news/niagara-falls-train-station-opens-to-passengers/article_6fcc2cef-b836-587f-982c-1f1cfffbbed4.html

As the Lockport man waited to board the first train out of the station — the 10:23 Amtrak Maple Leaf which had just pulled in from Toronto — about 125 passengers had to disembark with their luggage and go through a customs inspection while a team of border patrol agents and a police dog swept the empty train…

Denise Coburn from Toronto was on her way to visit friends and appreciated the new station but as a frequent traveler, said she didn’t care for the new procedures. “It’s lovely. But we used to be able to stay on the train and have customs come on the train. Or we’d get off and leave our luggage on the train.”

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 9:10 PM

Are eastboundf passengers who are leaving the train in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the first to be processed by Customs--are they separated from those who are continuing on??

Johnny

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Posted by ghCBNS on Wednesday, May 03, 2017 4:14 AM

runnerdude48

Are these now the normal procedures for crossing the border by rail?  Are the same procedures in effect in Montreal and Vancouver? 

At Vancouver……Inspections are done in Pacific Central Station by Canada’s CBSA when the trains arrive. United States CBP officers also inspect passengers in Vancouver prior to boarding the train and it then runs non-stop to the border at Blaine WA.

A similar arrangement to Vancouver is planned for Central Station in Montreal within the next couple of years and the Adirondack will no longer stop for Canadian Inspection at Lacolle northbound or for US Inspection southbound at Rouses Point. This may also help in the reestablishment of the ‘Montrealer’ route through Vermont.

https://trainsinthevalley.org/2016/12/21/montreal-rail-preclearance-moves-forward/

A similar arrangement would NOT work for the Maple Leaf in Toronto as it becomes a VIA train at the border and handles local passengers at 6 stations in Canada, It would have to run non-stop between the border and Toronto.   

 

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, May 03, 2017 7:53 PM

There is no comparison between the Maple Leaf, which makes many stops on both sides of the border, and the typical airplane flight over the border.  Passports and all luggage is screened before flight.  Then there is going thru customs at the destination.  In Vancouver, US customs also does the check of items to declare, before the flight.  Some time ago when I flew back from New Zealand, we made an intermediate stop in Honolulu, where all bags were removed from the plane and we went with them thru coustoms, before getting back on the plane to continue to the mainland.

I would also guess that when dogs are used to sniff thru the train, that all passengers would need to be out of the way for their own safety, as well as speeding up the search.

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Posted by CJtrainguy on Thursday, May 04, 2017 12:32 PM

MidlandMike

There is no comparison between the Maple Leaf, which makes many stops on both sides of the border, and the typical airplane flight over the border.  Passports and all luggage is screened before flight.  Then there is going thru customs at the destination.  In Vancouver, US customs also does the check of items to declare, before the flight.  Some time ago when I flew back from New Zealand, we made an intermediate stop in Honolulu, where all bags were removed from the plane and we went with them thru coustoms, before getting back on the plane to continue to the mainland.

I would also guess that when dogs are used to sniff thru the train, that all passengers would need to be out of the way for their own safety, as well as speeding up the search.

The comparisons might be found in Europe (pre-Schengen which did away with most of the border crossing formalities). Riding the rails of Western Europe in the '70s, I never had to disembark at a border. Most long distance trains didn't stop at the border. Inspections were handled in the moving train, with dogs to sniff for interesting things as needed. 

Even crossing from Germany (West) to GDR to get to Berlin(West) in a transit train, all the formalities were handled in the moving train, except for obligatory stops in a secure area at the border so the train could be checked on the outside and under for possible stowaways. Never had to leave the train for customs/immigration inspections. 

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