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CL-SWC-PS-TE-CL: A 7,015 Mile Odyssey


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#1 PaTrainFan

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 01:29 PM

Being relatively new here I am not immersed in the protocol and this is my first contribution to the travelogues forum. Rather than filing a formal "trip report" I have several notes in the form of random bullet points which includes some commentary. If my format doesn't fit, I'll trust the admins to treat it appropriately. I also hope you won't find it too disjointed and/or too lengthy.

 

- My trip consisted of nine full days and 7,015 Amtrak miles, including seven nights in sleepers and three nights in Los Angeles during which I took day trips to Santa Barbara and San Diego. The early arrival of the Chief in LA and late departure of the TE/SL afforded me four full days to explore. I was fortunate that the entire long distance portion of the trip was paid for with AGR points.

 

- I note that attendants on the Capitol Limited now leave a card ("Please take a moment to let Amtrak know how I am doing") with their full name with a dedicated toll-free number and website to leave comments. It's been a year since my last long distance rail trip so this practice was a new, but welcome, practice to me. I did not see this on any other train so I wonder if this is a pilot or something common but unique to the CL. It ought to be done on all trains and I hope that it leads to better service, though on my two legs on the Capitol Limited I have no complaints.

 

- This was my second visit to Chicago's now year old Metropolitan Lounge and, as all would attest, a welcome upgrade. Unfortunately since my last visit the practice of providing complimentary sandwiches around lunchtime has been abandoned. An employee said that some people took advantage by squirreling away more than their share. I'm sure the practice was pricey, but this serves as yet another unfortunate example of the few tarnishing a positive experience for the many.

 

- This marked my third trip on the SWC but first in 10 years and again was not bored by the scenery. My favorite trip remains the CZ followed by the EB due to the vistas of the Rockies, but the Southwest also offers great views. No matter the trip I never grow weary of looking at the passing scenery. To my pleasant surprise, wifi was offered on the Chief, at least in my car. I was unaware that wifi has been expanded outside the corridors, though the SWC was the only LD train that offered it on my trip, near as I could tell.

 

- I was able to enjoy 15 full service on-board meals including six breakfasts, four lunches and five dinners. I've always said that Amtrak meals are about on the level of an Applebee's, which is hardly gourmet but not bad. It is a shame that plastic plates and bowls are used and Amtrak dropped the classy practice of a flower, if even fake, on the table but given the micromanagement of Congress I get it. As somewhat environmentalist I cannot fathom the waste across the system. Perhaps we should be thankful Amtrak doesn't use plastic utensils. In any event, I was able to sample most of the fare during the trip and nothing disappointed. The steaks are always good, salads fresh and crispy, desserts excellent. Too bad they gave up ice cream a couple of years ago.

 

- The SL diner offered something new to me: pre-ordered take out specials geared toward coach passengers. For lunch they had a wrap with a large cookie for $10. Frankly, I forget the dinner offering. The LSA told me all trains are supposed to offer the specials, but this was the only train I saw it. I wonder why the inconsistency? Speaking of which, there were no rolls on the SWC. I don't understand how something so basic can be overlooked. Elsewhere on these forums there is a discussion about introverts and community seating in the dining car. I rate myself an ambivert, somewhere between introvert and extrovert. While I spend most of my time in my room I enjoy the break of meeting new people and learning their stories, if they are not introverted. I accept that we're not likely to become lifelong friends but believe I can take something positive from each person I meet.

 

- It's always been a conundrum for me on where to stay in LA with convenient access to rail transit somewhat within a mid range cost. I haven't done a deep dive in researching locations but I stayed at the Hilton Universal City during my last two visits. It's about a  25 minute ride from Union Station and a 10 minute hike up a steep hill from the Red Line stop. It will be good news for the locals and visitors when the rail system is fully built out. The $7.00 day pass is an amazing bargain.

 

- A highlight for this "Easterner" to experience the California culture is a stop an an In-n-Out Burger. While not a regular fast food consumer, it was fun. Although I am not a traditional tourist, a visit to Hollywood is always great entertainment.

 

- The Surfliners remain a highlight and Southern Californians obviously embrace them. I was thankful I bought Business Class as all four of the legs of my sojourns to Santa Barbara and San Diego eventually were quite full, even in BC. The afternoon snack pack is a nice touch; too bad this isn't common practice on other trains with BC. The views along the ocean can't be beat. If you want a reasonably-priced meal in a quaint and established eatery within walking distance of the beautiful Amtrak station in SB, I highly recommend Joe's Cafe on State Street in the main business district.

 

- As most here know the TE is in the midst of a reroute through East Texas. This is an unwelcome fact of summer travel given the necessity of track rehabilitation, but it was disappointing to miss the FTW-DAL Metroplex. Much to everyone's frustration freight interference was pronounced on this trip and although Amtrak had shaved an hour off the published schedule we lost enough time to end up in Chicago two hours off the revised timetable. Yet I considered myself fortunate given that on a few prior days the TE was 6+ hours late and the day following my trip it hit a truck near St. Louis and arrived in Chicago 3 and a half hours behind.

 

- Interestingly, the Eagle made a stop in Palestine, Texas to pick up a large group of Boy Scouts to give them a train ride experience to Longview. Word was the local Rotary Club sponsored the trip. However Amtrak risked alienating the other passengers by closing the lounge to everyone but the group during that stretch of the trip.

 

- A frequent topic of discussion on these boards is the inconsistency of on-board service by attendants. Both the CL (first leg) and SWC had air fresheners in the toilets, but the TE and second CL leg did not. I remain mystified by the inequity. Is it really that difficult to set a consistent standard and hold all people to it? Airlines do it for the most part. Why can't Amtrak? Nonetheless I was pleased that the attendant on my return CL leg offered to wake me up 30 minutes before arrival into Pittsburgh so that I did not have to set my alarm; most welcome given the routine tardiness into Pittsburgh. 

 

- And, I ask, why would any person forget to lock the door when they use the "facilities?" 

 

- All in all, a satisfying journey. I confess that as much as I enjoy riding trains, and have for almost all of my entire 58 years of life, it is still enjoyable to return home to the comfort of my own bed. I've had my fill for the moment and look forward to my next adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

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#2 Rail Freak

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 01:47 PM

Nice report!


A Rookie No More! But Still A Lot Of Track To Travel !!!
Silver Meteor #97(6) & #98 (4), Silver Star #91 (2), Capitol Limited #29 & #30(6), Empire Builder #7,#8,#27(2) &#28(4) Coast Starlight #11 (6) & #14(5), California Zephyr #5 (2) & #6 (5), Cascades #506, City of New Orleans #58, #59 (2), South West Chief #3 (4), Lake Shore Limited #49, Maple Leaf #63, San Joaquin #714, Pacific Surfliner #774, Texas Eagle #422 (2), Cardinal #50, Crescent #19, Sunset Limited #1. Approx. 60,169 miles & 41 states!

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#3 OBS

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 07:53 PM

Great report and nothing wrong with the format...



#4 Bob Dylan

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 07:48 AM

Excellent, thanks for sharing!😎

I'm taking the Eagle Tuesday from Austin to Longview to just experience the Reroute on the old Mopac,SP and Cotton Belt tracks, but since the Eagle is my home train Ive been through the Metroplex many,many times.

I'm surprised about the stop for the Scouts in Palestine, and that they closed the Sightseer Lounge, it brings to mind the Scouts that ride the Chief to/from the Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Edited by Bob Dylan, 11 June 2017 - 07:48 AM.

"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
".. I ride on a Mail Train Baby, can't buy a thrill.."--I said that!
 
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Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#5 PaTrainFan

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 07:54 AM

Excellent, thanks for sharing!

I'm taking the Eagle Tuesday from Austin to Longview to just experience the Reroute on the old Mopac,SP and Cotton Belt tracks, but since the Eagle is my home train Ive been through the Metroplex many,many times.

I'm surprised about the stop for the Scouts in Palestine, and that they closed the Sightseer Lounge, it brings to mind the Scouts that ride the Chief to/from the Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Hopefully your experience will be different, but we did well on time until Palestine and then got bogged down behind freight traffic for the rest of the run to Longview. Lots of slow running and stopping for lengthy periods. 



#6 Railroad Bill

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 07:20 PM

Enjoyed your trip report. Format is fine and interesting. We are also going CL & SWC tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing the new lounge and the trip on the SWC.  Thanks for sharing your trip :)


Amtrak Trains Ridden So Far:
Lake Shore Ltd, Capitol Ltd, Pennsylvanian, NE Corridors, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Hoosier, SW Chief, Surfliners, California Capitol Corridors, Coast Starlight, Cascades. Texas Eagle, San Joaquins, Missouri River Runner,Cardinal, Downeaster, Silver Meteor, Keystones, Auto Train, Adirondack, Lincoln Service, Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg, Texas Eagle Detour Rt, 2013 Autumn Express Tour PHL, Silver Star, Sunset Limited -Acela Express-  2015 Autumn Express ALB  - Empire Service    

  81,815 Amtrak miles & counting     
Via Rail Corridor Trains Cobourg-Ottawa-Montreal,(round trip)  The Ocean (round trip)--   2,250 miles


#7 Tennessee Traveler

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 07:58 PM

I enjoyed reading your report and like the format in which you presented it.






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