This is topic Elevation issues for passengers in forum Open Discussion at RAILforum.

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Posted by George Harris (Member # 2077) on :
Not sure what to call this or where to put it. Have a couple of family members that have to use oxygen concentrators, and discussion of travel with them by train came up. This started me off on looking into elevations along the transcontinental routes. In the east, compared to the western US, none of the railroad crests are really very high, and since we would be starting from Memphis anyway, I did not look into their high points. For those of us either old enough to remember or into the history of it, the Rock Island advertised the Golden State as the low altitude route to the west coast. Looking at the on line available Union Pacific high points map, they were not really that low either, their high point being at an elevation of 6,726 feet near Corona NM, but it was significantly lower than either the Santa Fe or the Union Pacific routing. Now back to what we can do on Amtrak.

First and foremost, if you have any issue with altitude, do not take the CZ. The elevation at the Moffet Tunnel is 9,239 feet, and at Donner Pass 6,687 feet. Denver, being the "mile high city" at 5,280 feet above sea level, is at the base of the Rockies, so you are fairly high before you even get into the mountains. Most of the line between Moffet and Donner is above 5,000 feet, with the lowest point likely being Salt Lake City at 4,226 feet elevation.

The Southwest Chief route has many miles at elevations of 5,000 feet plus. The high points are at Raton Pass (in tunnel) elevation 7,588 feet and Glorieta Pass, elevation 7,500 feet. Both of these passes are in the section between La Junta CO and Albuquerque NM. Also, at least 100 miles of the line west of Albuquerque is above 6,000 feet elevation.

On the Empire Builder’s route, the highest point is Marias Pass, elevation 5,213, located between East Glacier and West Glacier. Although this line has the two longest railroad tunnels in North America, they are west of this point and both at lower elevations.

The Sunset Limited’s route’s highest elevation is 5,078 feet at Paisono in West Texas. The rest of the route, to the best of my knowledge is under 5,000 feet. This route also goes through the lowest point on and railroad in the US, -205 feet at Forrum CA, near the Salton Sea.

The conclusion being, go either Sunset or Builder, and then up/down the west coast as needed to hit your target.
Posted by Gilbert B Norman (Member # 1541) on :
From Fairfield Inn: Marion IL--

A historical note; even though the only passenger trains to operate over the Overland Route between Elburn IL and West NV nowadays are of the Executrain varietal (and Uncle Pete intends to keep it that way) Sherman Hill in Wyoming is over 8000ft up. But to traverse that area on I-80, one without the altitude issues would hardly be aware of such.

Now back in those days when SP wanted passengers and they advertised that they did, there was once a regular passenger who wanted his boiled egg just boiled so long (and carried timer with him; sort of reminds me of Mr. Paulson once around here and his Maple Syrup routine aboard Amtrak. Oh, and I guess I'm to rag to the Breakfast Attendant here that her syrup is hardly Msple). Well one took longer once on the City X-ing Donner, and the waiter explained that the altitude needed more time for same result.

On that note, farewell to Marion and its 439ft elevation.

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