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Trip Advice (yet again)


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#1 Anderson

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:15 PM

So, per some hilarity ensuing, I will not be going to Arizona later this month. Instead, I'm going to Boise in early June.

Idaho, as we all know, is an annoying state to get to by train. So I've got two options:
-Go to Salt Lake City via the Zephyr or
-Go to Spokane, Pasco, or Wishram via the Builder.

The costs are not terribly different either way, so the bill isn't an issue. The big issue is arrival time (none of the arrival times are great, but Spokane's is potentially one of those toxic arrivals, as is Pasco). Wishram is actually a nice time... Driving times per Google Maps:
Spokane-Boise: 7h17m
Pasco-Boise: 5h7m
Wishram-Boise: 5h54m
Salt Lake-Boise: 5h22m

What I'd need to know is:
1) What is the car rental situation likely to be in Wishram? The situation doesn't look good there, while in Pasco the rentals are all pretty near the station (if for no other reason than the railroad station is right by the airport).
2) Does anyone know how often the Portland section runs late? i.e. How likely am I to be able to muster breakfast going into Pasco?
3) Remind me...it's the Portland section that gets the non-diner service, right?
4) The zone split on the Builder is at Wolf Point, Montana, right?
5) Having done the Zephyr EB before, is there any reason that I should prefer one over the other?
Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)
Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)
Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#2 the_traveler

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:12 PM

  • I don't know.
  • I don't know, but I'd say it's unlikely.
  • Yes, no Dining Car but a Sightseer Lounge, from where they serve the cold boxed breakfast.
  • Yes.
  • Westbound, you have the climb UP the Front Range from Denver - which is impressive!Posted Image Especially if your eastbound arrival into Denver was in darkness!

Take it easy .......

Take the train instead!

#3 JayPea

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:40 PM

Wishram is a nice, little town, with the emphasis on LITTLE. Its population is about 200. The nearest car rental agencies would be in The Dalles, OR, which is about 15-20 miles away.

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)
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Excursion trains ridden: Chehalis and Centralia Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, and trains at the
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#4 CHamilton

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 12:52 AM

I gotta tell you, there is no commercial activity in Wishram to speak of. Last I checked, there were maybe two businesses -- a bar/restaurant and a general store of some sort. But I heard that one or both had closed. I was on a steam train excursion from PDX to WIH (had to look that one up!) and they had to import the BBQ lunch from Portland, because there was no-one locally to cater it. As JayPea says, if you got off there you'd need to make arrangements to get to The Dalles to get a car.

Frankly, I'd recommend getting off in Spokane, which despite the lousy train times, is easy to get around in and has accommodations convenient to the station, and which has some interesting sights to see. I would take the Builder to Spokane, stay there the rest of the night, and get a rental car in the morning.


Despite the inconvenient times for connections to Idaho, June is a particularly nice time of year to take the Builder, since you should be able to see Glacier Park in daylight in either direction if it's on time.

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#5 Anderson

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 03:19 AM

Alright, it's going to be a toss-up between Spokane and Pasco in that case (I suspect). I'll check what Hertz's policy is in both cases...because in both towns, the rental is at the airport and not at the train station, and Pasco's airport is closer to the train station than Spokane's...though I suspect that Spokane may win out on being able to get some sleep in a hotel (there's a Holiday Inn near enough to the train station that if I must, I can walk to; I say "if I must" because I won't choose the walk if I can help it).

Traveler: Fortunately, my EB arrival into Denver was in daylight...it was mid-July and the train was more or less on time into Denver (something that changed very quickly once we got into Nebraska, I've gathered, given how late we were going through IA). Still, I have no doubt that the ride up the mountain in the morning will be impressive...whenever I do it.

Edited by Anderson, 04 May 2012 - 03:19 AM.

Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)
Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)
Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#6 JayPea

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 08:24 AM

Alright, it's going to be a toss-up between Spokane and Pasco in that case (I suspect). I'll check what Hertz's policy is in both cases...because in both towns, the rental is at the airport and not at the train station, and Pasco's airport is closer to the train station than Spokane's...though I suspect that Spokane may win out on being able to get some sleep in a hotel (there's a Holiday Inn near enough to the train station that if I must, I can walk to; I say "if I must" because I won't choose the walk if I can help it).

Traveler: Fortunately, my EB arrival into Denver was in daylight...it was mid-July and the train was more or less on time into Denver (something that changed very quickly once we got into Nebraska, I've gathered, given how late we were going through IA). Still, I have no doubt that the ride up the mountain in the morning will be impressive...whenever I do it.



The Holiday Inn near the Spokane train station is nice enough: I've stayed there before, though it was years go. Others who have stayed there more recently have had good things to say about it. If you don't want to walk to it, no need to worry about cabs; even at the godawful arrival hour the EB has, there are always cabs waiting at the station.

As Charlie says, there are some interesting sights in Spokane should you choose this option. If you have time at all and are at all interested in railroad history, check out the Clock Tower in Spokane's Riverfront Park. Riverfront Park was once a large tangle of railroad tracks, and the Clock Tower was once part of the Great Northern train station.

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.


#7 Guest_Guest_*

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 08:43 AM

Two years ago, Avis in Alexandria, VA picked me up at the ALX station because it was within 5 miles of the Avis office. I assume this was a corporate policy, not just for the local ALX office. I don't know if this would be true of other rental companies, but it might be worth a call.

#8 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:20 PM

Can't you take the NWT or GLI bus to Boise?

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#9 Texan Eagle

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 07:11 PM

Two years ago, Avis in Alexandria, VA picked me up at the ALX station because it was within 5 miles of the Avis office. I assume this was a corporate policy, not just for the local ALX office. I don't know if this would be true of other rental companies, but it might be worth a call.


Enterprise does it everywhere- I have availed of this facility ('free pick up') in Virginia, New Jersey and California. I believe Hertz does it too, my friends have done it.

#10 Anderson

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 07:31 PM

Can't you take the NWT or GLI bus to Boise?


Notwithstanding hearing rave reviews about such an option, I am sorely disinclined towards intercity bus options. I have yet to hear anything too good about such a ride.

Also, I'm going to need a car when I get there, so I'd just assume pick one up when I get off the train and be done with it (and save myself the trouble of a bus ride). Also, 1 AM-5 AM in a station isn't my idea of fun.
Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)
Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)
Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#11 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 11:28 PM


Can't you take the NWT or GLI bus to Boise?


Notwithstanding hearing rave reviews about such an option, I am sorely disinclined towards intercity bus options. I have yet to hear anything too good about such a ride.

Also, I'm going to need a car when I get there, so I'd just assume pick one up when I get off the train and be done with it (and save myself the trouble of a bus ride). Also, 1 AM-5 AM in a station isn't my idea of fun.


I understand that you need a car, but I'm just going to say that NWT is actually not too bad.

MCI 102DL3WC Professonal Drivers Commited to Safety 1-800-SAFE-BUS
AMERICA'S BUS LINE FOR 100 YEARS
GO GREYHOUND - AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US!
OPERATOR: GREYHOUND LINES INC., DALLAS, TX, USDOT 044110
OPERATED BY: GREYHOUND CANADA TRANSPORTATION CORP., CALGARY, AB, NSC-000026177, FHA-MC-304126


#12 oregon pioneer

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:52 PM

Consider Winnemucca NV on the Zephyr. Closer than any of the options you've mentioned (255 mi, 4hr 52 min), and civilized arrival/departure times. You also can undoubtedly rent a car there. Not exactly Paris, but a better option than Spokane or SLC.

#13 johnny.menhennet

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 06:26 PM

Consider Winnemucca NV on the Zephyr. Closer than any of the options you've mentioned (255 mi, 4hr 52 min), and civilized arrival/departure times. You also can undoubtedly rent a car there. Not exactly Paris, but a better option than Spokane or SLC.


I actually second this. The canyon vistas and the Front Range climb are too good to pass up. I checked for you and there is an active Hertz Rent-a-Car in Winnemucca. There is also an Enterprise that pops up in Winnemucca, but that location apparently does not exist anymore. The hours for the Hertz are Mo-Fr 7-8, Sa 9-4, and Su closed. So if you could wait around Winnemucca and get a breakfast in some little establishment there before taking a cab (if they even have ONE - yikes!) to the airport about 6 miles to the southwest of the center of town. You can take US-95 the entire way up, and it should be the quickest driving time of any locations previously, as ell as with a better call time. I'd suggest you seriously consider this.

Edit: I read more about the Hertz, and apparently if you don't want to have to drop the car off by 4 or 5 (or on a Sunday) you can have an after-hours drop-off - they're allowed.

Edited by johnny.menhennet, 05 May 2012 - 06:28 PM.

Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (100000000000), Southwest Chief (5), California Zephyr (1), Coast Starlight (6), Capitol Corridor (1), Empire Builder (2), Acela Express (1), LSL (1), NE Regional (2)
Non-Amtrak: NCTD Coaster (at least 20), Metrolink (4), SD Trolley (at least 20), LACMTA Red Line (at least 50), Seattle Streetcar (1), Chicago 'L' (probably 13), NYC Subway (probably 15), WMATA Mass Transit (probably 20), LIRR (1), Las Vegas Monorail (at least 12), MBTA Mass Transit (16), NJ Transit commuter rail (3), I'm sure there are more that I can't think of right now

upcoming Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (10000000000 more)
upcoming non-Amtrak: Coaster, Red Line/Expo Line in LA, NJ Transit (5-10)

Pretty good for a 16 year old :)


#14 oregon pioneer

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 06:38 PM

Are you going between June 1 & 7? See service disruptions. You'd get to see Wyoming instead of the Front Range and canyons. Might change the Winnemucca arrival also (which was different the last three days as well, on the westbound Zephyr, due to the track work).

#15 johnny.menhennet

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 06:42 PM

Are you going between June 1 & 7? See service disruptions. You'd get to see Wyoming instead of the Front Range and canyons. Might change the Winnemucca arrival also (which was different the last three days as well, on the westbound Zephyr, due to the track work).


Oh that would be very cool. If he got to see the Wyoming countryside on the way out (between the 1st and 7th) and then Colorado's canyons and mountain scenery ont he way back!

Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (100000000000), Southwest Chief (5), California Zephyr (1), Coast Starlight (6), Capitol Corridor (1), Empire Builder (2), Acela Express (1), LSL (1), NE Regional (2)
Non-Amtrak: NCTD Coaster (at least 20), Metrolink (4), SD Trolley (at least 20), LACMTA Red Line (at least 50), Seattle Streetcar (1), Chicago 'L' (probably 13), NYC Subway (probably 15), WMATA Mass Transit (probably 20), LIRR (1), Las Vegas Monorail (at least 12), MBTA Mass Transit (16), NJ Transit commuter rail (3), I'm sure there are more that I can't think of right now

upcoming Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (10000000000 more)
upcoming non-Amtrak: Coaster, Red Line/Expo Line in LA, NJ Transit (5-10)

Pretty good for a 16 year old :)


#16 oregon pioneer

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 07:02 PM

I've always wanted to see the Wyoming route, but they cancelled our Oregon Pioneer (that used to go that way). There is no regular passenger service on that route any more, so it's a rare opportunity.

#17 Swadian Hardcore

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 11:04 PM

Winnemucca has horrible arrival times as well as the other ones. You should really try out the EB because you have never taken that, but have taken the CZ four times.

Edited by Swadian Hardcore, 05 May 2012 - 11:06 PM.

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#18 johnny.menhennet

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 01:04 AM

Winnemucca has horrible arrival times as well as the other ones. You should really try out the EB because you have never taken that, but have taken the CZ four times.


They may not be perfect, but I'd much prefer a 5:40a arrival and 7:08 departure to Salt Lake's 3:30a eastbound departure and Spokane's 1:40 arrival. Pasco has an essentially equal arrival but 1 1/2 hour later departure, which also isn't a bug deal. I would prefer the Winnemucca times to any other.

Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (100000000000), Southwest Chief (5), California Zephyr (1), Coast Starlight (6), Capitol Corridor (1), Empire Builder (2), Acela Express (1), LSL (1), NE Regional (2)
Non-Amtrak: NCTD Coaster (at least 20), Metrolink (4), SD Trolley (at least 20), LACMTA Red Line (at least 50), Seattle Streetcar (1), Chicago 'L' (probably 13), NYC Subway (probably 15), WMATA Mass Transit (probably 20), LIRR (1), Las Vegas Monorail (at least 12), MBTA Mass Transit (16), NJ Transit commuter rail (3), I'm sure there are more that I can't think of right now

upcoming Amtrak: Pacific Surfliner (10000000000 more)
upcoming non-Amtrak: Coaster, Red Line/Expo Line in LA, NJ Transit (5-10)

Pretty good for a 16 year old :)


#19 Anderson

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 02:49 AM

Alright, it looks like what I'm leaning towards is taking the Builder to Spokane, driving to Boise, and then driving to Salt Lake City and taking the Zephyr home. The SLC time isn't exactly great, but I'll probably do what I did last time: Have dinner in SLC, kill a few hours at a McDonalds' not too far from the airport, return my car around midnight, and then read a book at the station while waiting for the train.

Sadly, this scotches a side-trip to Washington State that I had hoped to work in, as well as my initially-planned route home (a borderline exploit reward trip from Seattle to Atlanta via LAX and NOL, and then a "cash leg" from Atlanta back home. However, it does get me the Overland Route (which I regard as a big plus, since while the scenery there may be debatable as to quality, the odds of getting a planned reroute at the same time as a planned trip in the next five years seem like a roll of the dice), and I can "hold" the SEA-LAX-NOL-ATL run for later (either this summer or next...one will work if the other doesn't).

Outbound, I'm just a day early to get the Overland Reroute...sadly, had my initial travel plans held, I'd have simply taken this both ways, but my trip got scrapped due to things beyond my control. Heading home with this, though, I'll probably leave on the 5th or 6th...and I'm actually tempted to plan on going to Reno to catch the train instead of Salt Lake since the driving time is equal and it will let me "mark off" more of the system.*



*I've decided to make "acing" the LD system a medium-term goal. By the end of the year, I should be reasonably close (assuming a "worst case" scenario, I'll be missing the splits in the Builder, the Zephyr west of SLC, the Coast Starlight, the Sunset Limited, the Eagle south of Dallas, the Boston LSL, and the Silvers south of Orlando or Tampa).
Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)
Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)
Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#20 oregon pioneer

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:08 AM

Well, if you are going to do the Spokane thing, do take the scenic route through Lewiston, Grangeville and McCall to Boise. It's all mountains, rivers, GORGEOUS. White Bird Hill, dropping to the Salmon River crossing, is a famous grade. The view will take your breath away. Don't ride the brakes, you'll smoke 'em. Of course, if you just want to get from Spokane to Boise, and it's dark, you will end up taking the slightly quicker & much more boring route through Pasco (could have slept on the train).



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