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Amtrak - any experiences?

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Amtrak - any experiences?

Old 30th Aug 2018, 08:28
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Amtrak - any experiences?

I realize there may some antipathy to this given it's an aviation forum, but am curious about any experiences some may have had with long-distance travel with Amtrak. I will support my post to say I will be flying a few thousand miles to catch the train...

I've booked a roomette on the Amtrak Coast Starlight leaving Portland, OR, Xmas eve and arriving in Santa Barbara, CA, 28 hours later. I've been on a few Amtrak trains between LA and the Santa Barbara area but that's a short trip, but at least know what the stations are like. What's new to me is being on a sleeper. It's something I've wanted to do for years and ended up taking an opportunity that suits my partner and myself to start off small with just one night on the train. I'll be traveling on my own.

I've watched several videos and think I have a decent idea of what's involved, but if anyone is willing to share their own experiences or opinions, I'd be very interested to read them. For instance, I'm still a little unclear how to tip the attendant or the lounge car attendants as I've read conflicting information. Any "tips" would be appreciated!
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 10:10
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Dont worry Hokulea - there is a large number of rail enthusiasts on this forum - expect a lot of replies and little or no antipathy. Sorry I cant help as I have never been on a train in the US myself. I wonder if they still have those sleeping cars you see on old films where you climb into bunks which are just enclosed with curtains?
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 12:20
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A couple of years ago I took the Southwest Chief from Victorville, CA to Chicago. I had a Superliner Bedroom with toilet/shower. Not knowing how it worked I dragged my suitcase up the tiny circular stairway to the upper level. On the return tirip I just left it in the rack downstairs. I planned not to need anything out of the suitcase.

The steward had coffee ready at 06:00 each morning. Also had bottled water available 24/7. He was observant and setup and took down the bed while I was at meals. At the end of the 2 day trip I gave him $20.

Amtrak says there is wi-fi available at some stations. I think I got signal on the train at just one station. I used my cell as a hotspot for my iPad.

Yes, you can get to Chicago in just hours but Amtrak does not feel up your junk. And the train is just less hectic.
At Chicago I had tight timing with the nearby Hertz office before they closed. Did some checking and the train had a 50% on-time history. Made other plans. We did arrive about 20 minutes late.

The return trip arrived over an hour late. Seems freight has priority so we got side tracked a lot.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 12:23
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This site may prove helpful....

https://www.seat61.com/UnitedStates.htm
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 12:51
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If going by Amtrak, you should ensure that you do not expect to be on time.
I love going by Amtrak, it's one of the few things I miss about the USA.
However, the trip from Portland Oregon, to Salem Oregon (south, in the direction you're going) should be about 30 minutes, and in my experience it has never been less than 2 hours, and has been as long as 8 hours.
The best for on-time, was Chicago to Seattle.
I have heard stories from fellow passengers of being 2 or 3 days late going through the south east.
The reason is the the tracks are owned by the freight companies, and freight trains have priority of passenger trains. So whenever there are a lot of freight trains, you will be late.
But it is a fabulous way to travel and see the USA.
As for tipping. On Amtrak, I've never tipped more than a dollar, but that's for whatever the attendant does. So in the morning, coffee and newspaper delivered, $1. At lunch "sir you're booked for the 12:15 seating, and you can go in now", $1, etc.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 13:19
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https://asm.transitdocs.com/map
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 13:33
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Had a delightful trip 2 years ago on the Adirondack Train both ways between Montreal and the big Apple. Phenomenal scenery and only a few minutes late either way. Bit of a hassle at the border when border agency came aboard to vet every passenger and cart away shed loads of illicit bush meat??, Cheese, and Liquor in quantities that occupied several suitcases.

IG
 
Old 30th Aug 2018, 15:48
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Originally Posted by Tankertrashnav View Post
I wonder if they still have those sleeping cars you see on old films where you climb into bunks which are just enclosed with curtains?
They were Pullman Company open sleeper cars. None remain in service with Amtrak. The roomettes in Amtrak's Superliners have a similar arrangement of lower and upper berths, but have a sliding door as well as curtains for privacy.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 17:22
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I don't think there are any open section sleepers in service anymore. Most Amtrak sleepers give a choice of a roomette - 2 facing seats in a compartment with a sliding door that converts to an upper and lower bunk at night, or a room - a larger compartment with its own toilet and shower. The loading gauge is large enough in most of the US (but not on the northeast corridor) that Amtrak uses double-level Superliner cars. Even the coach seating is much roomier than passenger trains in Europe.

TWB
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 18:00
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Boston to NYC last summer. Generally followed the coast, great sightseeing.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 19:49
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Chicago to Seattle in a roomette. We really enjoyed the chance to relax and watch the big open country go by. Highly recommended.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 20:47
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Originally Posted by West Coast View Post
Boston to NYC last summer. Generally followed the coast, great sightseeing.
Followed the coast ?? OK for about 40 miles Stonington to Niantic,CT, after that you see lots and lots of decrepit factories from New Haven to NYC. Take the Acela high speed, the blur helps
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 20:49
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The West Coast service is great, you should enjoy it,.
The drag down from the Bay Area to San Luis Obispo through the Central Valley is a bit boring, but from there down the coast is really nice.
If you are continuing south from LA to the end of the line in San Diego be aware that the coach direction changes.
Enjoy!
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 20:51
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Originally Posted by IBMJunkman View Post
Yes, you can get to Chicago in just hours but Amtrak does not feel up your junk. And the train is just less hectic.
IBM,

Trains seem to be a bit more civilized than airlines. But, the Amtrak CEO is the former CEO of a major airline which means trains will soon be as demeaning, abusive and uncivilized as airlines:

https://www.amtrak.com/richard-anderson

Took a sleeper car over night years ago with the kids. Booked two cabins...absolutely loved it. Even the food was passable...service very good.

A friend works for someone who has a contract with a major US airline for all work travel. This airline has so thoroughly and completely abused him every time he travels for work that he negotiates train travel in place of the airline...even if it takes longer.

Last edited by bafanguy; 31st Aug 2018 at 09:17. Reason: spelling
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 22:24
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My wife's sister's husband took Amtrak from Minneapolis to visit us in Everett a few months back when he bought my old car. He didn't spring for a sleeper but still enjoyed it - his biggest complain is that they passed through the best scenery at night.
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Old 30th Aug 2018, 23:14
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his biggest complain is that they passed through the best scenery at night.
Bit of thread drift but years ago on the Trans Siberian express the only relief from thousands of miles of unbroken steppe, the Urals, were timetabled to be crossed at night! Typical Soviet efficiency! I'm sure it's better now.

Now back to the USA - thanks for the info on open sleeper cars Crownstay and twb3.
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Old 31st Aug 2018, 00:05
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When I was regularly in Syracuse I would fly into Chicago and take the Lakeshore Limited . Great night's sleep, wine reception before departure, good breakfast and no hassles from short commuter airline legs. On the way out the train follows the Hudson to New York - another great trip: this time in daylight.

MJG
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Old 31st Aug 2018, 08:40
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Thanks, everyone. I have a keyboard crisis right now but when it's fixed will respond in more detail.
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Old 31st Aug 2018, 11:45
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Did the Cowboys & Cajuns tour from Dallas to New Orleans earlier this year. Not sleepers, but hotels in Dallas, San Antonio & New Orleans, plus various admissions & tours in each place.
I was in coach class, which was quite comfortable, with dining car, cafeteria and observation car. All was very good, except for one tour that was cancelled because the provider had gone out of business. AMTRAK have promised to refund that component, but I haven't seen the money yet.
The whole thing was very comfortable, but the hotel in Dallas was well out of town, and as mentioned, we were always late because of sidetracking to allow freight to pass.
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Old 31st Aug 2018, 17:40
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In the UK about a year ago there was a TV series called 'Great American Railway Journeys' which was fronted by ex politician Michael Portillo.
He travelled several AMTRAK routes and the coaches appeared to be sleeping compartments on the lower floor and observation areas on the upper floor.
All very plush and it made me and the wife sick because we're too old for long haul air travel nowadays!
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