This trip began in Worcester, MA. I live about three miles from the station. Amtrak had e-mailed me that the station would no longer have an attendant after Nov. 14. When I arrived on the 17th, the guy was still there! He told me that the city had complained about the Amtrak quarters being vacated on such short notice. So, I was able to check my large bag through to my destination. Skipping ahead, when I returned on Dec. 3, he was indeed gone, transferred, I was told, to the Rt. 128 station between Boston and Providence. So now, the city of Worcester, 2nd largest community in New England, no longer has a manned station. Don't know if that will be permanent or not.
On the day I left, Amtrak was busing passengers to Albany. The so-called Boston sleeper, car 4920, is still on the train but for the time being goes down to NYC with the two New York sleepers. The bus came in early to Albany requiring a wait in the station. Oddly enough, after the train arrived from NYC, it boarded coach passengers first. A back-up move is required to allow boarding the sleepers. I think that track and platform work currently underway will take care of that problem soon.
Sleeper passengers can head immediately to the diner for the evening meal. My car attendant was named Bill. He was very good and I plan to send a note to Amtrak praising him. He kept one of the neatest shower rooms that I've experienced.
We arrived at Chicago fifteen minutes early! I walked around the station some. Was able to inspect the special lounge for Coach passengers, the Legacy Room (if they want to pay $20). Also learned the location of and saw some drawings for the new Metropolitan Lounge, set to open in June 2016 near the Great Hall. As usual, I bought a cup of soup and a sandwich at the Corner Bakery in the Food Court and brought them down to eat in the lounge. Also bought a couple of newspapers.
The Southwest Chief boarded and left on time. I was in the 331 sleeper, 2nd from the dining car. The attendant was Candace - efficient but without much of an outgoing personality. The room was cool at first, but train personnel did some kind of an override that brought the heat up nicely.
The menus are pretty much the same on all the trains I've been on lately. Occasionally there is a special. This train had a breakfast special of scrambled egg and two pancakes. At lunch there was a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato. I always go to breakfast soon after the diner opens at 6:30. Usually there are just two or three others there at that time.
At Albuquerque I got off for a while, as many do. I used to be able to buy a newspaper there from a machine, but no longer. None available in or near the station or out on the street nearby. Someone told me that homeless people were breaking into the machines to get the money. I guess I'm going to have to get an iPhone or such, as most folks have now. I noticed that the sleepers had signs giving a WiFi password.
On the last morning, the diner opens at 5:00 and closes when they reach Riverside. As my body was still on Eastern time, getting up early was no problem. At LA I went up to the fairly new First Class lounge. Not as nice as the one in Chicago. You can get a ride to the train by a redcap, but to walk to the train you must go back down through the station.
On the Surfliner I always go Business Class. Doesn't cost much more and you get a nice roomy car with refreshments. They even had some newspapers! (the USA Today). Arrived at the San Diego station close to on time.
Posts: 120 | From: Worcester, Massachusetts | Registered: Jan 2007
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Good report. Is the burrito stand still at Albuquerque, and the jewelry stands?
The standardized menus, albeit with minor variations between routes, is something that bugs me a little. Especially on a 3 or 4 day journey, and if you don't like one of the entrees, the food can get rather tiresome by the 3rd day.
-------------------- Geoff M. Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000
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Hey --- that is a very good trip report, sir. Glad your connections worked well, and that you did not experience any of all-too-common "STATE OF GOOD REPAIR*" events that would have delayed you a lot. Also it was great to read that your car attendants did a good job -- especially Bill. Nice of you to send a letter to Amtrak praising him. Immaculate bathrooms? Great! I have read that Amtrak bathrooms are sometimes very dirty.
About Amfood --- It is a real shame and very bad and quite unnecessary what has been done to the dining cars on Amtrak and the food. For crying out loud -- G -- eating good food in the diner is half the reason that people ride the train! There is simply no reason that Amtrak has to be the political target that is has always been. I read that Superliner diners were designed to operate with a crew of 12. Yes, 12. Any fewer crew and the passengers' dining experience will not be acceptable. We all deserve really good food that is cooked on board, served on special china with nice silverware and crystal glasses, set on linen tablecloths with linen napkins --and with a small vase with a flower in it on each table. Yes -- all this costs money, but finding plenty of money is never an obstacle to any politician when he or she really supports a program. Sheesh.....
I am glad that you had a pretty good experience on Amtrak going west. It is good to know that that still happens.
I look forward to your next Trip Report. Hope your trip back East was as good as the one going west!
Posts: 117 | From: California | Registered: Dec 2004
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Great report, Bob! Glad you had a good experience. When I was in the new LAUPT 1st Class lounge on my 2014 trip, we could get out to the train right from the lounge without going back downstairs and through the station. When it was time to board, several redcaps drove up the ramp outside the first class lounge, loaded baggage onto their carts, and drove us all out to the E-bound SWC -- door to door service, as they drove everyone right to the door of their sleeping car.
Has that changed now?
Posts: 2383 | From: Grayling, MI | Registered: Mar 2002
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