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California Zephyr Questions


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#1 jebr

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:15 PM

I'm thinking about taking the California Zephyr this summer, and I have a few questions:

First, how reliable is it to trust the bus connection between the Salt Lake City stop (coming from Chicago) and the Idaho stops (Twin Falls and Boise)?

Secondly, is there any other way to make the reverse trip other than to be waiting in Salt Lake for eight or so hours? The bus gets in extremely early for that connection...

Third: I may have to start out in MSP, except there seems no way to make the connection between the Empire Builder and the California Zephyr. Should I just take a bus along that route and walk over to the Amtrak station in Chicago?

...those are all that I can think of right now. If more come up, I'll ask.

Thanks in advance!

Edited by jebr, 23 January 2012 - 04:15 PM.


#2 the_traveler

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 05:01 PM

Welcome!Posted Image

There is no connection on Amtrak between the Empire Builder (EB) and the California Zephyr (CZ) in Chicago, because the EB arrives after the CZ has departed!Posted Image However, there are other options available!

You did not specifically state what city in Idaho you wanted. I used a random date from MSP to Boise. I had 2 options:
  • EB to Spokane, then a bus to Boise. (Both Amtrak and Greyhound are on the same building.)
  • EB to Portland, Coast Starlight (CS) to CA (you can connect in Sacramento, Davis, Martinez or Emeryville), CZ to SLC and a bus to Boise. (The bus station is next to the Amtrak station.)

Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

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#3 Montanan

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:00 PM

Bus connections to southern Idaho from Amtrak just aren't very good, period. Even if the connections were closer, the late-night timings at both Salt Lake and Spokane would make things less than fun. And though I don't know about the Salt Lake bus station, I know the Amtrak station there is pretty awful (and not in the greatest neighborhood).

As far as getting to the Zephyr from the Twin Cities, I'd look at the possibility of taking a bus from Minneapolis to Omaha, and boarding the Zephyr there.

#4 jebr

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 09:00 PM

Thanks for the feedback!

I didn't realize the Boise connection...I was looking at Twin Falls. I wasn't able to pull up the Coast Starlight route from MSP under either schedule, though, and I'd like to have my connections be guaranteed. (That's part of the reasoning for Amtrak over Greyhound.)

And a bus to Omaha would be more expensive than a bus to Chicago from Minneapolis (there's Greyhound Express and Megabus to Chicago but not to Omaha) and time in transit seems to be roughly the same...maybe an additional overnight, but for me that's not a huge deal if I leave in the evening (versus the next morning).

Edited by jebr, 23 January 2012 - 09:02 PM.


#5 Guest_guest?riverviewer_*

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:28 AM

When i took the EB and CZ (to get home from my mom's place in Minnesota), I didn't want to deal with CUS, so I got off the EB at Glenview (after doing some eagle watching on the #8 EB between RDW and LSE), rented a car from the local Enterprise office & did a one-way drive to Naperville (via Waukegan Road, Golf Road & Route 59) and overnighted in Naperville...next afternoon, I returned the car to the ERAC office near the depot & caught the #5 CZ.

As far as the car rental goes, you'd have to do that thru the Enterprise office in Glenview, with plenty of lead time (so they can have a one-way car there for you)

#6 RailFanLNK

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 05:11 PM

If you can afford a stay in Chicago overnight to catch the EB, you can always stay at Hostelling International Chicago. It's about $35 a day, free breakfast, free tours, 9 blocks from CUS and they have a industrial sized kitchen that you can cook a few meals in. Yes, it might increase the costs of your trip but IMHO, very minimally.

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.


#7 jebr

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 05:38 PM

Thanks all. An overnight stay is not preferred, due to the limited amount of time I would have. I think I'll just look at either taking the bus the full way or flying if I can't drive to either Omaha or Osceola to catch the train.

#8 jebr

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:38 PM

I'm resurrecting this thread for a few questions.

First, the itinerary will almost certainly be OMA to TFI (though probably ELK to OMA on the way back...will get to that in a minute.)

I have a few questions before I book (as soon as I get enough credit opened up to book them; I pay my credit card off monthly, but I'm usually close to the limit because it's a low-limit card.)

1. If the train is over an hour late getting into SLC (thus missing the guaranteed bus connection with Greyhound), is it more likely that Amtrak will taxi/charter bus me up to TFI right when I get in (assuming it's not so chronically late that it's feasable to take the next Greyhound bus!) or room me for the night and put me on the next Greyhound bus?
1a. Would they pay for a room for the night if I'm late, assuming I'd get in sometime between midnight and 2-3am and they'd put me on the next Greyhound bus (which leaves at around noon the next day)?

2. Looking at the TFI - SLC bus connection, it looks like there's a looooooong layover (9-10 hours, assuming no delays) in SLC before boarding the Zephyr. Is there any way to reduce that time without driving down? If so, it seems like ELK would be a better option...any disadvantages for doing that?

3. What's the baggage policy for the bus? If I have two large bags that Amtrak allows (as carry-on baggage) but Greyhound normally wouldn't, would they still be allowed on since Amtrak said they would? Or is that something I don't want to test? Or am I able to check luggage on the bus (more than the carry-on allowance from Amtrak, that is)?

4. If I have a lot of baggage coming back, am I able to carry it on with me in ELK and have the additional baggage checked in SLC?

5. No one buy tickets on the route that would affect me; I don't want to lose the low bucket pricing on my trip! ;)

Thanks again, everyone, for all your help!

#9 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:50 PM

By the way, the bus south from SPK is operated by Northwest Trailways, not GLI.

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#10 jebr

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:55 PM

Okay, thanks! I should clarify: after solidifying summer plans, I'll be closer to OMA than MSP, so I'll want to leave from OMA if possible. Ignore references to MSP and the Empire Builder.

#11 jebr

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:01 PM

Well, I've booked them! Let's see how it goes...hopefully no changes will be necessary, especially since I just spent $257.12 on them! I'm curious about those other questions still, so answers are still appreciated!

#12 jebr

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 08:12 PM

Sorry for so many questions!

Maybe I'll start a new thread, but after booking the tickets, I'm wondering just a couple things:

1. Does the OMA station ever run out of parking spaces? I'm worried, with just 35 parking spots, that they might run out.
2. With the Thruway bus (booked through Amtrak but through-ticketed Greyhound), is the luggage requirement the same as the carry-on for Amtrak? I know Greyhound itself allows less luggage, but the Amtrak website states that I can carry-on (more than likely put under the bus at Greyhound) two pieces of luggage, plus personal items.

Thanks again!

#13 saxman

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:32 PM

Sorry for so many questions!

Maybe I'll start a new thread, but after booking the tickets, I'm wondering just a couple things:

1. Does the OMA station ever run out of parking spaces? I'm worried, with just 35 parking spots, that they might run out.
2. With the Thruway bus (booked through Amtrak but through-ticketed Greyhound), is the luggage requirement the same as the carry-on for Amtrak? I know Greyhound itself allows less luggage, but the Amtrak website states that I can carry-on (more than likely put under the bus at Greyhound) two pieces of luggage, plus personal items.

Thanks again!


I wouldn't worry about parking at OMA. Not 100% sure about the bag situation though. I believe Greyhound allow one free checked back and a personal item to be carried on. I think a small charge will be charged for an extra checked bag. I'm not really sure actually.
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#14 Guest_Greg Tatchell_*

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 07:09 AM

We are taking the California Zephyr in June, and have been informed that the regular route (and stops) will not be available, and that it is being rerouted (with no stops) to become a direct Denver to Salt Lake City train. The reason given was track maintenance.

Does anyone have any idea where the re-route will be? North through Wyoming?

Thanks

#15 PRR 60

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 08:02 AM

We are taking the California Zephyr in June, and have been informed that the regular route (and stops) will not be available, and that it is being rerouted (with no stops) to become a direct Denver to Salt Lake City train. The reason given was track maintenance.

Does anyone have any idea where the re-route will be? North through Wyoming?

Thanks

Yes. The train will head north out of Denver into Wyoming, then west through southern Wyoming on the Union Pacific's Overland Route to Provo Ogden, UT, then south to Salt Lake City.

The scenery is not like the Rockies in Colorado, but it is not bad either. It's more wild west. It's a little like running through Arizona and New Mexico on the Southwest Chief. Along the way, you'll pass through towns like Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Rock Springs. If the train is on the track that allows station access, you might get a chance to step off for a fresh air break at the old Union Pacific Station at Green River, WY. I did it a couple of years ago specifically to sample the Wyoming route, and I enjoyed it.

Edited by PRR 60, 24 March 2012 - 10:23 AM.


#16 OlympianHiawatha

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:48 AM

Yes. The train will head north out of Denver into Wyoming, then west through southern Wyoming on the Union Pacific's Overland Route to Provo, UT, then south to Salt Lake City.

The scenery is not like the Rockies in Colorado, but it is not bad either. It's more wild west. It's a little like running through Arizona and New Mexico on the Southwest Chief. Along the way, you'll pass through towns like Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Rock Springs. If the train is on the track that allows station access, you might get a chance to step off for a fresh air break at the old Union Pacific Station at Green River, WY. I did it a couple of years ago specifically to sample the Wyoming route, and I enjoyed it.


When you pass through Medicine Bow, perhaps Trampas and the rest of the folks from The Virginian will be on hand to wave at the train.

#17 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 10:05 AM

Provo is south of SLC.

#18 NY Penn

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 10:17 AM

I think PRR 60 meant Ogden, not Provo.
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#19 PRR 60

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

I think PRR 60 meant Ogden, not Provo.

Oops! I did mean Ogden.

#20 Trainmans daughter

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 11:15 AM

We are taking the California Zephyr in June, and have been informed that the regular route (and stops) will not be available, and that it is being rerouted (with no stops) to become a direct Denver to Salt Lake City train. The reason given was track maintenance.

Does anyone have any idea where the re-route will be? North through Wyoming?

Thanks

Here is a map of the Wyoming Detour route. We were on it in 2009 and really enjoyed it.
http://www.railpasse...z_wyorroute.php




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