I've found that people respond in one of two ways when you tell them you're taking a multi-day train trip: excitement or horror. I've still not found anything in-between. Most of my friends seem to fall into the former category, but I still encounter those in the latter. Though I haven't told many people about my round-trip Empire Builder trip I'm planning in April... I wonder whether that'll change anyone's tune!
I loved every minute of the California Zephyr. Even the delays (which got up to 4 hrs, but down to 2 by the time we arrived in Galesburg). If I'm being completely honest, I was hoping we'd get MORE delayed, because it would mean more time in the train. But I know that starts messing with crew schedules, and it stresses everyone out.
I think the thing that I'd least expected before taking any multi-day trips was how much the whole sleeper car felt like a sort of quiet safe haven. I rarely closed my door or pulled my curtain when I was in the room, though it was great to know that I could wall myself off if I wanted to. I'm a pretty strong introvert, but I honestly liked the easy socialization of the train. There's no commitment to deep conversation (or any conversation, really), and the conversation starters are gimmes: where are you from/headed, have you taken this train before, etc., and go from there. I could find something in common, or at least something to talk about, with most everyone. I also made a plan ahead of time to get alone time by getting myself up VERY early in the morning (4-5am). No line for the shower, no one waiting to get in, I got first crack at the coffee (once the much-awaited orange light went on!), and I was generally first to the lounge and one of the first to breakfast.
I still consider myself a long-distance train newbie, but I'll share a few tips that seemed to be hits with fellow passengers recently:
1) Bring a travel coffee cup of some kind, if you like tea or coffee. I'm a huge fan of hydro flask -- the coffee stays hot for many hours. Coffee is available from a pot in the sleeper in the am, but you can get hot water in the cafe all day long. Much easier to manage on a sometimes-wobbly train with a spillproof cup!
2) When taking pictures, especially with your cellphone, put it right up against the glass. I was surprised that wasn't obvious to more people. It doesn't work so well when the windows are wet, but it'll eliminate the glare and help you focus on the outside rather than the glass.
3) I was surprised at how many people I encountered who hadn't thought about bringing a book, or an audiobook pre-loaded to their phone, or other hobby to work on in-between everything else. Cell service was pretty spotty on the Zephyr, so I wouldn't have wanted to try to stream or download a book while enroute!!