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Southwest Chief


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#1 Guest_Sandra_*

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 04:25 PM

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to LosAngeles on the Southwest Chief. I would like to hear from anyone who has already made this drip. What is the train like? What should I take along? We will be having a "Bedroom" compartment for 2 adults with bathroom/shower.

Any information would be helpful. Thanks so much!

#2 AlanB

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 07:07 PM

Sandra,

I'm going to move this over to the Amtrak Discussion forum, where I'm sure that you'll get many more answers than you will in the announcements forum.
Alan,

Take care and take trains!

#3 WhoozOn1st

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 09:09 PM

Hi Sandra,

First, I hope you have a fine journey. While I've never taken the Southwest Chief, I do have experience with the Superliner cars you'll be riding.

The bedroom compartments are pretty nice, but believe me: forget taking a shower. The toilet and shower compartment are one and the same, and unless one is a contortionist, the shower feature is not worth the effort. Better to go to the lower level of the car and use the shower/changing room available for those in the roommettes - soap and towels provided.

For what it's worth, here's my own strategy (used on Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Sunset Limited, and California Zephyr - all Superliner trains):

Don't check baggage. There are suitcase storage areas on the lower level of Superliner sleepers, and you'll have access in case you need something along the way. If you check baggage you can't get to it during the trip.

For a Superliner bedroom (and this is just me), I have a small sportbag for little toiletries (hairbrush, toothcare stuff - running water, soap, handtowels and tissues provided), snacks, reading material. Also I keep camera and laptop with me. When I wanna take a shower and change clothes I go to the lower level, drag out the suitcase from the storage area, retrieve what I'm gonna wear, and put the suitcase back. Afterward I put the used clothes back in the suitcase (preferably in a plastic bag so they don't stink up the rest of the stuff in the suitcase).

Some folks, in both bedrooms and roomettes, try to keep all their luggage with them. That's just plain nuts. Further, it's rude to fellow passengers. Because their compartments are packed with their junk they end up standing outside, blocking the passageway for others.
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#4 deimos

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 09:41 PM

Hi Sandra -

I enjoyed my journey on the SWC in October 2006, though I only took it as far as Williams JCT (just west of Flagstaff). One of the Amtrak crew (I think it was the bar tender in the lounge car) provided a very interesting commentary about various sights one could see along the way. Of particular interest were the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe Trail, Sandia Range (New Mexico), the Mississippi River crossing, horseshoe curves (great for taking pictures of the locomotives from the sleeper or lounge cars). The sleeper cars were located at the front of the consist for my trek out west, though I suppose they could end up on the rear of the train.

I was able to take some photos of the aforementioned sites and was able to snap a few rough pictures of open range antelope. I spent most of my time relaxing in my roomette, reading a book, checking my GPS receiver and map displays, enjoying a few brews and catching a naps here and there. I had several interesting conversations with folks during meal time and overall found folks to be quite friendly. I did spend some time in the lounge car - just to get away from my roomette every now and then:)

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

- There is an opportunity to purchase Native American jewelry, trinkets, and festive ornaments during the stop in ABQ.
- Meals were pretty good
- I'll second Whoozon1st999 recommendation to take full advantage of the lower level showers and baggage storage space, but certainly also take advantage of the checked baggage service if you have larger bags that you don't need to access during the journey

Hope this helps.

Enjoy your tirp!

Deimos

#5 RailFanLNK

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 09:59 PM

Hi Sandra,
I have never taken the SWC but I have taken the CZ (California Zephyr) and it too has Superliner Equipment such as the SWC. Having a private bathroom is nice, but if you need to sit down, I would use one of the restrooms in the lower level. Use the bathroom in your bedroom for brief bathroom breaks. Windows don't open in trains, if you so choose to sit down, bring a little bottle of freshener with you. I will second "Whooz On First" comments about checking baggage. I went from Lincoln NE to San Francisco and only took carryon luggage. Please educate yourself on what can be carried on. You can find the regulations at Amtrakdotkom. When you first board, take your watch off and stow it away for the rest of the trip. If you constantly are glancing at your watch, fretting about how far behind you might be, how many more miles, when are we gonna get there, please go take an airplane. Taking the train is about slowing down, smelling the roses, getting to know fellow passengers, getting to know your companion even better and just plain "takin' it easy". Most of us Americans just don't take the time to relax anymore so you have booked yourself on the perfect adventure to kick back and take it all in.

I have travelled on the California Zephyr, Lakeshore Limited, Carolinian, Acela, Capital Limited, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Missouri River Runners, Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service and the Cardinal.


#6 gswager

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Posted 24 September 2007 - 10:45 PM

I've rode train from Las Vegas, NM to LA few times and it's one of the best on-time performances on Amtrak. It's a very relaxing ride, as long as you don't look at the time.

The sleeper class ticket entitles you a free meals in dining car only, 3 meals a day. Also, it will provide water, coffee, and juices all day which is located in middle of your sleeper car.

Also, I recommend to have you to bring books, music with earphones to respect of your neighbors, camera, or talk with other passengers anywhere (best when you're in either dining car or observation lounge.) Pack only what you need for the trip and pack others that you don't need during that journey in suitcase and check in or put in the luggage rack. It would be better to have it check because a lot of stations are unstaffed down your journey so they'll have to carry them to the sleeper car and put them in the luggage rack.

You will see the Mississippi River, trees, farmland, desert, mountains, etc. along your journey. So, enjoy!
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#7 GG-1

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 01:35 AM

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief.

Aloha

I have been on this train twice. Service is the best on this train. For scenery though the coast starlight or empire builder are ?better. The other comments are right on, plan to relax, forget time. meet people.

What to bring, whatever you feel like for three days, check the rest.

I agree about the bath/shower, it is too small, use the one downstairs, it is much better.

Lastly as I am a large person I prefer sleeping alongt the wall with my feet forward, untill I fall asleep I can see out the windows.

If you want here are my Southwest Chief Pictures one of our board members is from Albuquerque.

Enjoy your trip.

Eric aka GG-1, Aloha, Mahalo = Thanks

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#8 JayPea

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 03:38 PM

I took the SW Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles last September. While I haven't had much experience with long distance trains, I can't imagine much better service. The car attendant, Henry, was top-notch, even though he never did get my and my uncle's (whom I was traveling with) names straight. We had a roommette so don't know about the bathroom, but the shower downstairs had lukewarm, at best, water. Ah well, it was enough to get me clean, and that was the main thing. The AC didn't work too well in our car the whole length, but they did get it fixed after a fashion.


The train was on time all the way and pulled in Los Angeles' Union Station right on time. The scenery wasn't quite as spectacular as what I saw on the California Zephyr nor from what little I've seen on the Empire Builder, but overall the experience was great.

Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB)
Amtrak Miles: 52,566

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8,482
Bustitution Miles: 362

Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
Illinois Railway Museum, Monticello (IL)Railroad Museum, and the California Railway Museum.


#9 wkaemena

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Posted 25 September 2007 - 04:20 PM

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to LosAngeles on the Southwest Chief. I would like to hear from anyone who has already made this drip. What is the train like? What should I take along? We will be having a "Bedroom" compartment for 2 adults with bathroom/shower.

Any information would be helpful. Thanks so much!


Sandra

to see what is the train alike I would recommend to visit my website with virtual reality impressions mostly from the inside of a superliner. Although the pictures were taken on the California Zephir I have to tell you that the SWC is exactly the same. Only to remind you, Quicktime is required and broadband connection recommended to see these 360ยบ interactive pictures.
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#10 jim55

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 09:45 AM

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to LosAngeles on the Southwest Chief. I would like to hear from anyone who has already made this drip. What is the train like? What should I take along? We will be having a "Bedroom" compartment for 2 adults with bathroom/shower.

Any information would be helpful. Thanks so much!

All the above pretty much cover it. One point , you might get lucky and get a refurbished sleeper car with a new shower. My wife had no problem with the new one and just a little bit with the old one on the way back. I guess one's physical size has something to do with the above complaints. I used the downstairs shower so my wife could sleep in. Do have a sweater or light jacket as it can get cool. The AC/Heat does have a thermostat and an airflow lever at the air duct. I have found the first night can be tough to sleep but the second night is no problem. You might secure a seat in the sightseer lounge ( usually opposite your sleeper car through the diner car.) befor Trinidad, Co as it does fill up for the climb over Raton pass. I was on the SWC #4 yesterday and the sleepers were on the rear of the train and they had no idea if this practice will remain(they used to be in the front). Enjoy. Jim

Edited by jim55, 26 September 2007 - 09:48 AM.


#11 Chatter163

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 03:42 PM

Rather than going back and forth to the suitcase on the lower level, I would advise taking a carry-on bag and keeping it with you in the bedroom. Just keep the change of clothes and the things that you will truly need on board with you, in the carry-on. Other suitcases may be stacked on top of yours on the lower level, and you may find yourself rearringing the luggage of others, just to reach your own.

In fact, for a long trip like that, I would simply check my bags and let Amtrak worry about them, rather than hauling them around with me. I want to relax on the train and lugging bags--let alone sifting through the bags of other passengers--is not my idea of relaxation, even if it means waiting a bit longer at the baggage claim station at my destination.

#12 AKA

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 04:49 PM

Just a note. The step next to your door, the one you use to get in the upper bunk is just right to store a smallish to medium size bag. When you go up to sleep just put in on lower seat- bed. Go up then have your companion put the bag back on the step. Careful if you get down in the middle of the night. It works for my wife and me. :) I also always carry a small flash light with me and keep it close. Have a great trip. :)

#13 wkaemena

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Posted 26 September 2007 - 11:51 PM

Just a note. The step next to your door, the one you use to get in the upper bunk is just right to store a smallish to medium size bag. When you go up to sleep just put in on lower seat- bed. Go up then have your companion put the bag back on the step. Careful if you get down in the middle of the night. It works for my wife and me. :) I also always carry a small flash light with me and keep it close. Have a great trip. :)



I am not sure if you are talking about the step in the roomette or in the bedroom, but I found out that the space below the seats/ bed in a roomette is quite good to stuff a lot of things and little bags.
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#14 AKA

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Posted 27 September 2007 - 06:17 AM

Sorry , the roomette. :huh:

#15 Guest_JimInVirginia_*

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 05:19 PM

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to LosAngeles on the Southwest Chief. I would like to hear from anyone who has already made this drip. What is the train like? What should I take along? We will be having a "Bedroom" compartment for 2 adults with bathroom/shower.

Any information would be helpful. Thanks so much!


Hi Sandra,

My wife and I took the chief from Chicago to Los Angeles last year in the same type of Bedroom and enjoyed every minute of it. I'm a rail veteran, but my wife was a rail "rookie," and I was concerned that she might find it too small, or too much motion, or whatever. But she absolutely reveled in every detail. In fact, about two days before we were due to leave our friends' place in California (where we had been visiting for a week), she said she couldn't wait to get back on the train!

For logistics, I'd recommend the following: bring lots of one-dollar bills for tips,; keep your "big luggage" in the rack downstairs in the Superliner car, and just bring an overnight-type bag to the room itself; bring travel-size toiletries (they fit better on the tiny vanity near the sink than the full-size stuff); bring sundries, like asprin/Motrin, Pepto-Bismol, Zantac, or any other thing that you might anticipate needing over the course of two and a half days; plan on "comfy" clothes for the days; books, magazines or your favorite electronic-type doo-dads, with EXTRA BATTERIES; flip-flops for the shower; if you like a nightcap, you might want to bring those small "airline-size" bottles of your favorites; I wished I had brought slippers, and plan to do so on our next trip in July.

And a note on the lively "bathroom" discussion in this thread. Maybe everyone here is just bigger than me ;) but my wife and I had no problems with the shower. In fact, that was one of the things my wife was happiest about: she could take a shower and get clean without having to traipse around the rest of the car.

You just have to be sure to pull the curtain all the way around in front of the door, so as to keep the water contained. It all dries up very, VERY quickly, so it's really not a big mess. There's a "lip" at the bottom of the door so that water doesn't get out, and when combined with the curtain, it keeps everything pretty well intact. And again, unless you're a larger person, it's really not too bad...it's just a stand-up shower, like any other.

Also, while the dining-car food has been brought down a notch by the budget cuts, the service and atmosphere are wonderful and special, and the staff is super-accomodating. If you have any special dietary needs or requests, CALL AMTRAK THREE DAYS AHEAD OF TIME. That gives them time to get your special food put on the train, and they're REALLY, REALLY good about it.

My last observation: retreat to your room for peace and quiet, but don't spend the whole trip in there. It's easy to do, but you'd miss out on the best part of the long-distance train experience, and that's meeting your fellow rail-riders. Everyone has a story, and everyone has plenty of time to tell it. There's a friendliness and bonhomie that's been long-gone in nearly every other arena of modern life. If you stay open-minded and drink it all in, you'll find you've given yourself plenty of material for reflection and introspection: a train journey can permanently change your point of view, if you are of a mind to experience it.

Hope this helps! Have a GREAT time!

JIM IN VIRGINIA

#16 SANDRA_K

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 10:39 AM

WOW!!! Thanks to everyone who has responded. I am so excited! I can hardly wait to make the trip!

Sandy and Phil :)

Hi
I am planning a trip from Chicago to LosAngeles on the Southwest Chief. I would like to hear from anyone who has already made this drip. What is the train like? What should I take along? We will be having a "Bedroom" compartment for 2 adults with bathroom/shower.

Any information would be helpful. Thanks so much!


Hi Sandra,

My wife and I took the chief from Chicago to Los Angeles last year in the same type of Bedroom and enjoyed every minute of it. I'm a rail veteran, but my wife was a rail "rookie," and I was concerned that she might find it too small, or too much motion, or whatever. But she absolutely reveled in every detail. In fact, about two days before we were due to leave our friends' place in California (where we had been visiting for a week), she said she couldn't wait to get back on the train!

For logistics, I'd recommend the following: bring lots of one-dollar bills for tips,; keep your "big luggage" in the rack downstairs in the Superliner car, and just bring an overnight-type bag to the room itself; bring travel-size toiletries (they fit better on the tiny vanity near the sink than the full-size stuff); bring sundries, like asprin/Motrin, Pepto-Bismol, Zantac, or any other thing that you might anticipate needing over the course of two and a half days; plan on "comfy" clothes for the days; books, magazines or your favorite electronic-type doo-dads, with EXTRA BATTERIES; flip-flops for the shower; if you like a nightcap, you might want to bring those small "airline-size" bottles of your favorites; I wished I had brought slippers, and plan to do so on our next trip in July.

And a note on the lively "bathroom" discussion in this thread. Maybe everyone here is just bigger than me ;) but my wife and I had no problems with the shower. In fact, that was one of the things my wife was happiest about: she could take a shower and get clean without having to traipse around the rest of the car.

You just have to be sure to pull the curtain all the way around in front of the door, so as to keep the water contained. It all dries up very, VERY quickly, so it's really not a big mess. There's a "lip" at the bottom of the door so that water doesn't get out, and when combined with the curtain, it keeps everything pretty well intact. And again, unless you're a larger person, it's really not too bad...it's just a stand-up shower, like any other.

Also, while the dining-car food has been brought down a notch by the budget cuts, the service and atmosphere are wonderful and special, and the staff is super-accomodating. If you have any special dietary needs or requests, CALL AMTRAK THREE DAYS AHEAD OF TIME. That gives them time to get your special food put on the train, and they're REALLY, REALLY good about it.

My last observation: retreat to your room for peace and quiet, but don't spend the whole trip in there. It's easy to do, but you'd miss out on the best part of the long-distance train experience, and that's meeting your fellow rail-riders. Everyone has a story, and everyone has plenty of time to tell it. There's a friendliness and bonhomie that's been long-gone in nearly every other arena of modern life. If you stay open-minded and drink it all in, you'll find you've given yourself plenty of material for reflection and introspection: a train journey can permanently change your point of view, if you are of a mind to experience it.

Hope this helps! Have a GREAT time!

JIM IN VIRGINIA



#17 TransAtlantic

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 01:29 PM

per the previous (long) post, also you can cross your fingers :lol: that you get one of the refurbished cars; their showers have a nice glass door, and are quite a bit roomier...no silly curtain to deal with...



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