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Question about Coach for California Zephyr (Chicago to Emeryville)


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#1 Guest_Ellen7_*

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:16 PM

Hi guys,

 

I'm prepping to take the California Zephyr tomorrow afternoon from Chicago to Emeryville. It's my first time taking a long-distance train, and is have some question that would love to get answered. I will be travelling in Coach.

 

1. The seats are not assigned, how do you decide which car you will seat in?

2. I'm travelling alone, how safe is it to leave your stuff while you walk around?

3. What alternative to dinner on the diner car have you guys tried. Since there's no hot water (I assume), you can't really make things like instant noodle/oatmeal, so I was just wondering.

4. How crowded does it get at this time of the year?

 

Thanks!

- Ellen



#2 Amtrak Cajun

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:51 PM

Good morning Ellen,

 

Firstly, seats CAN BE assigned as you board the train. It really just depends on the crew working the train. Each crew has a different way of handling things. Some crews may tell you just to find a seat and they will put the stub above you when they collect your ticket, others may assign you a seat number as you board. I have had both ways done on trips. It all depends on the crew.

 

As far as for how full the train will be, thats a loaded question, because it just depends on how many people are traveling that particular day on that particular route. The trains have been quite full as of late. 

 

As far as for alternate food options. In the lounge car, I have tried the hamburger, which is good, I hear the sub sandwiches are ok too. There are a whole bunch of options for you to choose from. You may just have to try something out to see if you like it. Everyone has different tastes. The cheapest dining options in the dining car are breakfast and lunch, dinner can get a bit pricey, so if you are trying to save money, I would have breakfast and lunch in the diner, then have an alternate supper in the lounge car, thats just one way. Feel free to bring snacks/drinks aboard in your bags, that is A-O-K. 

 

Another thought, try to sit in the middle of the car if you can, because if you sit towards the end of the cars, then you have to hear the door sliding open and close all night long as people go to and from other cars. They usually turn the lighting down at about 10pm or so. That is sorta the offical "quiet time". Since you are traveling the whole route, you have 2 nights on the train. 

 

If you are traveling alone. I would definitely take things like phones, cameras, and stuff with you when you go to the lounge or diner. Dont leave money or your wallet on your seat, thats just an open invitation. As far as for your bags, depending on what you are bringing with you, you can leave one on your seat just to let others know that the seat is taken. A stub will be placed above your seat to let others know that the seat is taken, but not all passengers understand the stub concept. I once came back from the lounge car to find a girl sleeping in my seat. :D

 

Also, about coach, it can get pretty chilly at night, especially traveling at this time of year. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. If you can, bring a small pillow with you, Amtrak has pillows, but they arent very big, or all that comfy. Maybe bring a small blanket with you as well. 

 

If you need further clarification, feel free to respond and we can help you as best as we can.

 

Otherwise, have a safe and wonderful trip aboard the CZ.

 

Anthony


Edited by Amtrak Cajun, 01 March 2013 - 12:57 PM.

Im Anthony.

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#3 HiGracie

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:29 PM

Hi there, I hope you have a great trip! I just got off the Zephyr yesterday and the ride was amazing. 

 

There is not enough room in the dining car for you to bring your electronics with you to your meals. The dining car attendant states this in the announcement and you will see when you board and look at the car. I have left behind my electronics when I have rode both coach and in a sleeper. If you are very concerned, you might want to put a suitcase lock on your bag and then use a security cable to attach it to your seat while you are gone. 

 

You can get hot water from the Cafe car. I brought Starbucks VIA packets with me along with a travel mug. The Cafe attendant used a separate cup to pour the hot water into my cup.

 

The volume of riders on the train really varied throughout my trip. A lot of people got on in Reno and some coach people were asked to move up so that those arriving were all located in the same area of the train.

 

I had thought the train was going to be warm and stuffy and I noticed that it got chilly many times. Dressing in layers helped.

 

Also, I traveled alone from DC to Chicago and then Chicago to Sacramento. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable, hopefully you will experience the same. Have a wonderful time! 


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Numerous on the Capitol Corridor

Numerous on the Coast Starlight LAX <->SAC w/roomette
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WAS -> SAC, Capitol Limited Coach, California Zepher w/roomette


 


#4 Amtrak Cajun

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:48 PM

I probably should have been a bit more clear about bringing the electronics with you, I meant that more for the lounge car because people tend to spend houuurrs in the lounge car. 


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#5 oregon pioneer

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:12 PM

I used to travel coach all the time, and brought food along many times. They don't even mind if you bring a cooler! But I usually brought things that did not need to be kept cold, like bagels, crackers and cheese, teeny cans of tuna, dried fruit and nuts, granola bars, organges and apples, etc. I'd treat myself to a cup of tea or coffee if I felt the need for something hot. One time, someone in the next seat complained about the odor of our tuna (or maybe it was the smoked oysters, they were yummy!). And you can definitely start with a take-out meal that you bring on with you -- once we got sushi in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles) and brought it on with us. Thwe most useful thing ever was the gallon jug of water, it costs a LOT to buy bottled water on the train, and the free water tasted a little like disinfectant. BTW, bringing along a Swiss Army knife to open the cans is not forbidden like it would be on an airplane.


Jennifer

 

I'm a "little Old Lady in Tennis Shoes" (LOLITS) from Eastern Oregon. I love to travel by train, though I live way out in the toolies, far from the nearest Amtrak station (Chemult). My station would have been Baker City, but they cancelled the Oregon Pioneer just before I took my first long-distance train trip as an adult. I've taken most trains in the West, but I'm still exploring new routes in the east.


#6 Guest_Ellen7_*

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:29 PM

Hey guys, this is all so helpful. Thank you so much. This must be one of the most friendly forum I have even posted in. :)

 

-Ellen



#7 Guest_Ellen7_*

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:32 PM

Oh I do have one more question: I've read that power outlets are scarce in Coach, is that true? Or have they upgraded to have more of the outlets in place? Thanks!



#8 BCL

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:02 PM

Hi guys,

 

I'm prepping to take the California Zephyr tomorrow afternoon from Chicago to Emeryville. It's my first time taking a long-distance train, and is have some question that would love to get answered. I will be travelling in Coach.

 

1. The seats are not assigned, how do you decide which car you will seat in?

2. I'm travelling alone, how safe is it to leave your stuff while you walk around?

3. What alternative to dinner on the diner car have you guys tried. Since there's no hot water (I assume), you can't really make things like instant noodle/oatmeal, so I was just wondering.

4. How crowded does it get at this time of the year?

 

Thanks!

- Ellen

 

OK - one at a time.

 

1) I've never taken the CZ, but have taken a long-distance train before.  Coach passengers get in line at most of the major stations.  An attendant will inform you of your assigned car and seat as well as "pull" your ticket.  There should be a seat check already placed over the seat.  How everthing gets "assigned" is fluid.  You don't know what your assigned seat will be like if you were on a plane, but you should have one by the time you board.  Your assignment could change at the discretion of the attendant.

 

2) I haven't been on a train long enough, but I saw people leaving their stuff and not worrying about it.  I left my kid's stroller with the attendant and it was there when I was ready to exit.

 

3) It's been noted that the cafe car will have hot water.  I have to pay for it taking Capitol Corridor, but it's only 25 cents.  It's a small cup for 25 cents though - maybe 6 oz.  Not sure what they'll do on a long-distance train.  And you might be able to ask for hot water when leaving the dining car, since beverages are included.  When I had breakfast, I asked for one last cup of coffee before we headed to the sightseeing car, and the attendant asked if I'd prefer coffee to go.

 

4) I can't say.  I have seen the #6 CZ waiting in Emeryville heading east, and there did seem to be a good number of people boarding.  I think that really depends on the day.



#9 Amtrak Cajun

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:11 PM

As far as for the power outlets in coach, most of the coaches have been upgraded now, so its rare that you would get one without the outlets.

 

If you do get one without outlets, you have my permission to come back here to AU and smack me with a frying pan and say bad Anthony, bad. :D

 

I am glad you like AU though, it is definitely a helpful forum. Also, we will get you addicted onto traveling by Amtrak. 

 

Anthony


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#10 shelzp

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 05:21 PM

I'd feel comfortable leaving my stuff except for electronics and that is most likely just because it would make me nervous. Might as well have a bag or large purse to corral stuff into so you can easily carry it with when you leave your seat.

#11 chakk

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 06:50 PM

As has been pointed out, MOST of the coaches have been upgraded to include power outlets on the wall next to each seat.   But if you are assigned to a coach that has not been upgraded, there will be one outlet near seat 18 and near seat 52.   So bring along an extension cord with one of those "flat head" connectors, as the distance between the seat armrest and the wall outlet can be quite small, so you might need a "thin head" cord to get plugged into it.   And since there may be only this one outlet, bringing a few extension cords (and a busbar with multiple plug connections on it) would allow you to share the electricity with folks sitting immediately in front of or behind your seat.   Or if another passenger beat you to that only seat(s) with an outlet, your having extra busbar and extension cords would allow them to share THEIR electricity with you.

 

I have done this many times when traveling in coach on the CZ, and other passengers were quite appreciative of my sharing, even so far as to leave their cell phone in my seat back pocket for a few hours so that it could recharge using their charger plugged into my busbar.



#12 Ben_G

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:20 PM

Out and back last May....each seat had electric plugs....Hot water can be had in the lounge car cafe just ask... We never had a thing touched, dvd player, Nook e-reader, camera, ect....just placed them in a bag in the overhead storage when not in use. Seating can be hit and miss, best seat in the car is the one ahead of the stairs on that side....nobody behind you to bother with and the best window for views in the entire car. You can even pull the window curtian back behind you for a unobstructed view out the window. A light fleece throw can come in handy at night, Pillow is small but you can get a few and make a nest as people get off like one gal in our car did, I bet she had a dozen near the end.. Wife liked the hotdog and hamburger and those darn donut holes ( ask for the attendant to warm them up for you) from the lounge car....just make sure you check for the chopped onion packets they go well with the dog's and burgers. Unlike some others we found the lounge car viewing seats less comfortable than the regular coach seats...wife says they feel like they are pitching you foward and I have to agree.


Edited by Ben_G, 01 March 2013 - 07:22 PM.


#13 SarahZ

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:23 PM

Everyone has answered most of your questions, so I'll chime in with my favorites from the snack bar.

 

Below the Sightseer Lounge, you'll find the snack bar attendant. On the long-distance trains, there is a HUGE variety to choose from, with all sorts of stuff ranging from breakfast to dinner to snacks. They have a wide variety of both healthy items and junk food. For example, they have fruit, oatmeal, cereal, milk, juice, and granola bars for breakfast, but you can also get donut holes, candy bars, and Pepsi if you prefer to jitter yourself awake.

 

My boyfriend really likes the meatball sub and DiGiorno pizzas. I like the ham and cheese sandwich, which is pretty big and served on ciabatta bread. The attendant will heat up any sandwich if you prefer it warm with melty cheese. :wub:  They also have things like noodle cups, soup, cheeseburgers, and so on. 

 

We don't buy any snacks, really, since we always bring some with us. We only buy items that need to be heated up. So far, I haven't been disappointed with anything. The prices are a little steep, but you're paying for convenience. Think of it like going to the ball park and spending $3 on a hot dog and $6 on a beer. You don't care because you're at the ball park having a great time. It's the same thing with the train. :)

 

FWIW, those donut holes are like crack/manna from heaven when it's 4 AM and you can't sleep. I always keep a stash of them near our seat or in the roomette just in case.


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#14 OlympianHiawatha

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:59 PM

Whenever I travel Coach it seems you end up forming a little community with the folks seated right around you and the community watches out for everyone, including their stuff.  And hopefully the train won't be too crowded and you can get a 2 pack of seats to yourself where you can build a little nest and settle in for the duration; just be ready to break up your nest if the seat next to you is needed.  As for Lounge Food, I've always enjoyed the Pizza and Cheeseburger.  Be sure to pack a supply of drinks and snack items as that will save you a lot of money over the 2 days and keep things you enjoy right at hand.



#15 jb64

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:45 PM

My must have list when traveling coach includes a blanket and pillow. It can get cold at night. The other two essentials for me are ear plugs and eye mask.

I hope you have a great trip. I will be on the zephyr headed west in one week!





#16 Carolyn Jane

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 10:41 PM

We will be traveling in a bedroom, but I already have a travel pillow (WalMart, $3) and a 50x60 very lightweight throw, CVS $3.33.  CJ



#17 crescent2

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 07:18 AM

Have a great trip!

We never brought a full size laptop, but I DO take my electronics (camera, Kindle, netbook, etc.) with me to the dining car, and never had a problem having enough space there.  They will usually seat two people on each side of the booth, so there is enough room for a large purse or small tote with your electronics and other valuables inside it. I would not leave small valuables in coach or even a sleeping compartment, although they would "probably" be OK.

 

I think you will feel very safe on, and enjoy, the train! 


Edited by crescent2, 02 March 2013 - 07:23 AM.


#18 MiRider

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:09 AM

Have a great trip!

We never brought a full size laptop, but I DO take my electronics (camera, Kindle, netbook, etc.) with me to the dining car, and never had a problem having enough space there.  They will usually seat two people on each side of the booth, so there is enough room for a large purse or small tote with your electronics and other valuables inside it. I would not leave small valuables in coach or even a sleeping compartment, although they would "probably" be OK.

 

I think you will feel very safe on, and enjoy, the train! 

 

Nothing to add except that I do the same thing.

There's room on the floor next to your feet in the diner.

I leave NOTHING of value at my seat or in the room - NEVER.

Why chance it?


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#19 Guest_Dorothy Walker_*

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:52 PM

Hi there - I have only just found this forum, although have been on trip advisor before. I am arriving in NY in May and travelling through to Seattle - visting friends and family enroute via Amtrak. So 1st time in NY through to LA and also first time travelling by train for such long distances and also first time one a sleeper.

 

The last postings really helped me with a few questions, the main one being the security of baggage as I understand from Trip Advisor that baggage cannot always be checked in and this is clear on my booking vouchers as well and when one does have a sleeper that the room cannot be locked from the outside, so your responses to the last few people has been helpful.

 

So I am understanding from the comments made that there is room in the dinning car for my camera bag i.e. kids school backpack size, I keep all my immediate travelling things in this as well so will not let it out of my sight. Also the bags are kept in an area away from your seat? and the conductor keeps an eye on them or do we have overhead lockers or what - a little uncertain about this.

 

Great forum keep up the good work and I will keep checking updates.



#20 HiGracie

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 11:27 PM

I guess it's up to one's perspective if there is room for additional bags or electronics in the dining car. I never brought anything bigger than my phone and that fits in my pocket. The one person who tried to bring a purse to the dining car and sit in my booth ended up having to bring it back to her seat as there not enough room on the seat for both her plus her purse. Again, I'd suggest if it's something you don't feel safe leaving unattended, lock it with a luggage lock and lock it with a security cable to your seat. The dining cars are very small, the booths are incredibly small and the attendants have mentioned with every single meal call not to bring bags or purses into the dining car. I will say that when I traveled the CL I brought all of my own food so I didn't have to leave my items for long and when I did leave them, I locked them up and then covered it all with a shawl so it would be a big ordeal for someone to go through my things. 

 

 

So I am understanding from the comments made that there is room in the dinning car for my camera bag i.e. kids school backpack size, I keep all my immediate travelling things in this as well so will not let it out of my sight. Also the bags are kept in an area away from your seat? and the conductor keeps an eye on them or do we have overhead lockers or what - a little uncertain about this.

Edited by HiGracie, 08 March 2013 - 11:34 PM.

Planning:
Brainstorming a 30 day USA Rail Pass

 

Past Travels:

Numerous on the Capitol Corridor

Numerous on the Coast Starlight LAX <->SAC w/roomette
SAC-:LBQ, boarded cruise to Mexico

WAS -> SAC, Capitol Limited Coach, California Zepher w/roomette


 





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