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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Southwest Chief next year

   
Author Topic: Southwest Chief next year
Geoff Mayo
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After a few years' break, I'm hoping to convince the wife to take a trip on Amtrak next year. We'll be visiting an NMRA convention in Fort Wayne, IN in October, followed by visiting her extended family in LA, then a week with my own family who will be in Orlando. Rather than spend the best part of a day sitting around three airports and two planes, I'm hoping to catch a short flight to Chicago, spend a quick day sightseeing, then catch the afternoon train to LA.

Trouble is, if I had the choice and the time, the Southwest Chief isn't the one I'd immediately pick. The California Zephyr or Empire Builder certainly. I've been on the Chief but apart from a couple of scenic spots I don't recall it being all that exciting.

Having what will be our 22-month old son with us at the time, I'd be tempted to go for a family room. But at USD$818 for the room including meals? A little on the pricy side! The rail fare total comes in at USD$1104. Airfare, on the other hand, comes in at 1/5 of that price. Oddly a standard bedroom is more expensive, and is sold out on several days.

What to do, what to do?!

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
amtraxmaniac
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Well the Chief takes you straight into LA while the others won't. The Zephyr will add about a half day to your travel time while the Empire Builder will add a day and a half.

If time allows, I always would recommend taking the Zephyr to the Bay Area-overnighting there and then catching the Starlight to LA.

On a quick sidenote-if Mr Boardman wants to discuss 'connectivity' and 'mobility' maybe he can work on getting The LD's out west to connect again! (CS to EB, CS to CZ, CS to SL...)

Sorry for the digression...

I'm wondering if the bottom bunk on a regular sleeper would accomodate your child and the smaller between you and your wife? Its just you three right? Any takers on this one???

I agree with you on the scenery, but it depends on what you consider scenic. I love the Southwest colors...the many rock formations in Arizona and New Mexico, old pueblos, and I LOVE to buy the stuff they sell on the platform in Albuquerque!

East of Denver, the Zephyr is about the same as the Chief is once you get over Raton...if you've seen one farm, you've seen them all. But even that statement is subject to opinion. I can't speak about the Empire Builder directly, but I know that the Empire Builder is WELL SPOKEN OF.

Two pieces of advise: give yourself PLENTY of time in case of all-to-often delays and STAY OFF THE TEXAS EAGLE if your trying to get to LA!!!!!!!

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Patrick

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Henry Kisor
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I'll bite: Why stay off the Texas Eagle?
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George Harris
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You may know this, but here it is anyway: The Soutwest Chief is on high volume mostly double track main Chicago to Kansas City, secondary main with much less traffic from just west of KC to just west of Albuquerque and then high volume multiple track with quite a bit of 90 mph running from there west. You will maybe if not still dark see the receently triple tracked Cajon Pass in daylight.
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amtraxmaniac
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Henry-its a matter of opinion-but here it goes-lack of reliable connectivity to the #1, frequent bustitution, frequent delays, and dull scenery.

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Patrick

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Henry Kisor
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Thanks, Amtraxmaniac. I was contemplating a trip to San Antonio to visit a relative and see the sights, but it probably would be smarter to use airline miles for that rather than take the Eagle.
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George Harris
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Maybe bettere check recent performance before writing off the TE. It appears that Amtrak trains on the UP are running much more on time than formerly even to the point of having to "wait for time" at many locations.
Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
sojourner
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I like the SW Chief scenery, Geoff. The Mississippi crossing is always nice, and waking up in Dodge City, and then Colorado cattle country a tad depressing but I always listen to my cowboy songs CD. Then the mountains start to loom, ghostly at first . . . and the approach to the Raton Pass is exciting and attractive, and everything from the time you get into NM until it gets dark in AZ is very attractive to me.

But those prices are steep. Maybe get a sleeperette and if it's 2 crowded, one of you go to coach each night? Or maybe make a stopover? Or get your larger sleeper only part way, or for only 1 night or something???

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Gilbert B Norman
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Two points come to mind after reviewing this topic; first, I would hope that Mr. Harris' comment will lay to rest this notion held by some within the passenger train advocacy community that railroads deliberately delay Amtrak trains presumably in the hope they will simply go away.

No question whatever Amtrak trains do get delayed on Class I rails, but quite simply these delays arise from the traffic volume that Class I's have handled prior to this severe economic downturn now confronting us all. Rail traffic volume is down - way down according to some reports; evidently a corollary of such is that Amtrak train performance is favorably affected.

Secondly the accommodation to which Ms. Sojourner refers to as a "Sleeperette' is actually the Amtrak Roomette, it has had other names in the Amtrak lexicon as well - namely Economy Sleeper and Standard Bedroom.

But regardless of nomenclature, this is a one adult accommodation. The second bunk is for an adult traveling with a small child, two adolescents whose family holds a Bedroom elsewhere on the train, or two young adults who have been fully briefed that occupancy of such will constitute "indoor camping'.

I realize, Mr. Mayo, you have reported to the forum at another topic you are age 32, which certainly is "young', However if the intent of knowingly committing more funds to an Amtrak journey than you would "just to get there' as in the case of air transport, the expectation of enjoyment is greatly reduced with a party of three crammed into an accommodation for one. If the "quid" isn't there for either a Family Room or a Bedroom, simply fly - at least it is over and done in half a day.

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Geoff Mayo
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Thanks for the comments so far. The SW Chief is the only option in terms of time and convenience.

I personally wouldn't write off the Eagle either. Okay, it doesn't have the best scenery but there are still odd highlights and it doesn't suffer from a tunnel of foliage blocking any view of anything other than trees like some eastern routes.

Sojourner, I'd forgotten about the part-way sleeper trick. I'll play with dates and see if I can get a significant reduction.

As for the econonmy bedroom, it is advertised as for two adults (not one), and indeed I have shared accommodation with another adult quite comfortably. I like my creature comforts and had no problem sharing - as do most others, young or old. However, if you're obese or tall then I accept you may be a little squashed.

In any case, I wouldn't squeeze two adults AND a baby/toddler in the economy bedroom. Perhaps a deluxe bedroom - but they are either sold out on the particular date, or more expensive than the family room on dates either side.

("Economy" and "deluxe" used as they are more meaningful to me).

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Henry Kisor
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Taking a sleeper part way and then coach the rest of the way may not save much money. I thought about that when I booked my tickets for Glenwood Springs next month. I thought I might book Chicago to Denver in a roomette, then Denver to Glenwood Springs in coach (everybody's in the lounge car for that part of the run, anyway). Two separate tickets would be required to do this kind of split.

On the day in January I chose, the tariffs were:

Chicago-Glenwood Springs train fare $112, sleeper charge $194, or $306 total.

Chicago-Denver train fare $95, sleeper charge $170, or $265 total.

Denver-Glenwood Springs train fare $38. Add that to the Chicago-Denver cost, and that'd add up to $303. THREE bucks saved.

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City of Miami
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The Texas Eagle is indeed doing much better in on-time performance these days, both ways - I pay attention to it because it is my local train. I don't think the scenery is that bad. Some of the TX countryside is quite lovely and surprisingly diverse. And you do get to go through Crawford TX (which will become even more passe soon) and sometimes the conductors have a good time talking it up before the 15 second pass-through. You go immediately past Dealy Plaza in Dallas which has an emotional charge for those of us of a certain age. The evening entry into St. Louis on #21 is impressive. I would say the Cross Country Diner is the main drawback.
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George Harris
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Geoff:

Tried to email you some things as we discussed and got the message that your email inbox was full. Will try later, but best if you email me either when you have space or if there is another address I should use.

George

Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Geoff Mayo
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George - I got three emails from you, many thanks. I didn't have access to my home computer for a few days (only webmail) so the mailbox may have filled up. It's now been emptied.

I can also be emailed on geoff.mayo-&-simsig.co.uk (replace -&- with @). I think that mailbox has a virtually unlimited quota.

Thanks in advance.

Geoff M.

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George Harris
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Tried the home email one more time. No go.
So, the work email it is. They should be there now.

Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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