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Amtrak Travel
Old 03-27-2015, 05:29 PM   #1
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Amtrak Travel

Have always wanted to travel by train since reading about the Orphan Trains as a child. Have begun investigating the Coastal Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, but would consider other routes. The sleepers are pricey and those with a bathroom even more so. Would appreciate hearing any tips, suggestions, or experiences regarding Amtrak travel. Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-27-2015, 08:04 PM   #2
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Just got back today from my latest train trip. The sleepers are sometimes worth the price especially if there are two of you. The cost of the sleeper includes your meals in the dining car. Also, sleeper people are permitted to bring their own alcohol to consume in private. You can always bring your own food. Especially helpful if you are traveling in coach and don't want to pay, I feel, high prices for food on the train. All of the tickets can be purchased on-line and there is a discount if you are age 62+.


I've never been a fan of flying so the train works for me. Yes there are delays, but hey if you are retired the time should not be a factor.
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Old 03-28-2015, 12:19 AM   #3
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My husband and I have taken the coastal starlight with the smallest sleeper. We loved it.


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Old 03-28-2015, 02:13 PM   #4
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We did the coastal starlight last year from San Jose to Seattle. Took the small sleeper. We had done with California Zephyr from Chicago to Bay Area a few years back, again in a sleeper.
The scenery on Zephyr between Denver and Salt Lake City and also around NV/CA was spectacular. Coastal starlight San Jose to Seattle is all inland and not very scenic at least in the daytime.
Sleepers are tiny but were worth it for us.
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Old 03-28-2015, 03:02 PM   #5
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Google "AmSnag" to find site to get dates for lowest sleeper rates. Lots of good info on "Amtrak Unlimited Discussion" forum.
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Old 03-29-2015, 10:09 AM   #6
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Big fan of train travel here. Have taken the Coastal Starlight over a dozen times. Got a sleeper once - very pleasant if you want to spend the money. All the rest of the trips were spent entirely in the observation car. They usually empty out completely at night.

Pack a cooler of food and drinks. If you stay in the observation car, bring a sweater or two - it gets cold.
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Old 03-29-2015, 10:14 AM   #7
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Avoid the Empire Builder unless you have the time to be hours and hours late due to the oil fields in ND. We missed the best scenery completely due to the dark.
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Old 03-29-2015, 12:57 PM   #8
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Rocketing along on the Acela as I write this. Have never done a sleeper on Amtrak but am a huge fan of it in the northeast corridor otherwise. Did an overnight on a train in China. Dirty but otherwise really fun.

Wish Amtrak would get their act together more generally. Planes should really only be necessary for very long trips -- and even then properly operated sleeper cars and prices should make planes only an option and not the only way to go!
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Old 03-29-2015, 05:06 PM   #9
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we took acela from nyc to boston . it was really a cool trip.
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Old 03-29-2015, 06:00 PM   #10
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I've done Acela lots but never any other routes.

A good friend and his wife started doing a lot of long haul trips out of Chicago in sleepers. They say they love it, but you can't be in a hurry and need to be able to deal with delays.
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Old 03-29-2015, 09:52 PM   #11
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Thanks for the advice and stories. Makes me want to buy a ticket and ride the rails right now!
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Old 03-30-2015, 12:21 AM   #12
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I just got back yesterday from a free trip using Amtrak rewards. Be sure to register if you do much Amtrak travel as you will get a freebie now and then. You can also get a 10% discount on tickets using AAA. The Amtrak rewards
credit card is no longer available unfortunately.
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Old 04-01-2015, 03:59 PM   #13
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For several years, I used to do two round-trips per year on Amtrak's Southwest Chief, from Streator, IL (at the time it was the 2nd stop outside of Chicago)to Pasadena, CA. I always had a great time! I met a lot of interesting and fascinating folks on board. Of all of the trips, I only had a sleeper on one round-trip, just to try it. I decided that I preferred to travel coach. I normally ate breakfast and dinner in the diner, but had my lunch from the snack/lounge car.

I have tons if great memories from my train travels!
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Old 04-03-2015, 01:40 PM   #14
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30 years ago (back when I was young) we took a train from Chi to LVNV. It's the sort of thing I would recommend everyone do ONCE. Emphasis on the ONCE. The experience, overall was fantastic. The scenery (okay, once you get past Denver) was amazing. Meeting folks from all over the world was great fun. (We met a guy from NZ who had come to teach Americans how to shear sheep by hand - he claimed to do it faster and with less trauma to the sheep.) The meals at that time were very good (not great) and not outrageously priced. The price was better than flying (if you don't count two days of meals) because they were offering "zone" fares at the time.

I've never taken another significant train trip for several reasons. Overall, it is much more expensive than flying UNLESS you can hit everything just right. (Remember, once you get to a destination - you still aren't AT your destination in most train situations. Also true with air travel - but typically you can get closer by air.) Adding meals DOES send the cost over the edge, no matter what kind of fantastic fare you might find. A 5 hour flight equals a two day slog on a train. Need I say more on that? Sleeping in a seat is just about the most uncomfortable way to travel that I can imagine. Sleeper cars made our friends so "sea-sick" they came out to curl up in a seat. Sleeper cars can double your cost. Our train broke down so many times, we lost count. We watched prairie dogs building houses while we sat in Utah, waiting for them to get the train going again. On one leg, they had improperly washed the cars and there was a streaky film over all the glass. So one leg of an otherwise wonderful-scenery trip was ruined. Folks complained, but we were informed there was nothing they could do until Chicago. (What do you think this is? An airline?) The irony is, of course, now the airlines are just as bad at meeting your needs, but at least they disappoint you for less time. Train travel (IIRC) is the most hazardous mode of public conveyance (Please correct me if I'm wrong - maybe it's actually busses, but I know trains are WAY more dangerous than planes on a passenger mile basis.)

So, I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't do it again. But as always, YMMV.
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Old 04-04-2015, 09:19 AM   #15
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Koolau, thanks for your report. I have toyed with the idea of a train trip since I have never been on one. I cant go back in time 30 years, so I have no interest in experiencing what you wrote. Plus the addition of feeling like a grease ball for 2 days without my showers holds limited value also.


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Old 04-04-2015, 09:35 AM   #16
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I did a Winnipeg to Banff in the winter a looong time ago. Even in a sleeper, I didn't get very good sleep.

Here's my recollection of the night: 1)Fall asleep while moving, 2) get side tracked (stop), lay awake in the (relative) silence, finally fall asleep, 3) wake up when we get going again, lay awake in the racket for a while, finally fall asleep, 4) if still dark, go back to "2)". The loop happened about 5 times.

Met some cool people on the train, and the Canadian Rockies were great scenery, but when I consider the train these days, I can't see paying all that extra money to get somewhere and be a greasy zombie when I get there.
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Old 04-10-2015, 07:13 PM   #17
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You can do a Denver-Salt Lake City 8am-11pm day journey or Reno-San Francisco (Emeryville) 8am-5pm. No overnight travel involved if you don't want to sleep on the train. Great scenery, panoramic cars, lots of interesting people.
btw, there are showers on the train, at least in the sleeper cars.
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Old 04-15-2015, 10:01 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
Here's my recollection of the night: 1)Fall asleep while moving, 2) get side tracked (stop), lay awake in the (relative) silence, finally fall asleep, 3) wake up when we get going again, lay awake in the racket for a while, finally fall asleep, 4) if still dark, go back to "2)". The loop happened about 5 times.

Met some cool people on the train, and the Canadian Rockies were great scenery, but when I consider the train these days, I can't see paying all that extra money to get somewhere and be a greasy zombie when I get there.
Good summary of my experience too. It's something to try -- once.
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Old 04-15-2015, 11:03 PM   #19
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Avoid the Empire Builder unless you have the time to be hours and hours late due to the oil fields in ND. We missed the best scenery completely due to the dark.
DW and I just took the Empire Builder westbound end-to-end this week: Chicago to Seattle. It was our first trip on Amtrak--thanks to all who contributed to T-Al's earlier thread on Amtrak as I learned a lot there. There were almost no delays and we got to Seattle 10 minutes early. Maybe the oil tanker traffic has let up or we just got lucky.
We had a Roomette (two person sleeper) and it was okay. The seats themselves are plenty big and comfortable, but the cabin is tight and the bunks are not big, the padding on the top one at least was a bit thin for me. With the seats converted to the lower bed, there's very little room to stand and change clothes (maybe 10" x 20" of floor space near the door). Food was good, our cabin attendant was helpful and always ready to answer questions. The shower (a single one for the car, downstairs) was clean, big enough and there was never a wait when I checked on it. The views when traversing MN, ND, Montana across the plains are, as one would expect, fairly dull. Still, I found the travel to be relaxing and we had plenty of time to read, talk, and just enjoy the view. The last part of the trip--western Montana, Idaho, western Washington through the Cascades--was very picturesque. It's unfortunate that when the westbound Empire Builder runs on time that it traverses Glacier National Park at night, so we missed that. But the Cascades were gorgeous. Going east, passengers get to see Glacier in the daytime.
It was fun. Because I didn't sleep really well I was happy to plop into a nice big bed after two nights on the train, and I'm happy that we'll be flying home rather than getting back on the train. But we'd like to take the California Zephyr or the Coastal Starlight some day.
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