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If only one train . . .


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#1 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 08:37 AM

Hello all!  I am planning a long distance train trip for next year.  I am curious which one people would most recommend as a "must do."  In other words, if you had just one chance to do one train trip which would you choose?  I have done a few already so looking to add a new one to my list.  We've already taken Silver Meteor, Empire Builder and City of New Orleans. 

 

I'm thinking Zephyr or Sunset Limited open to all routes and curious to hear advice of others.  Lots of advice out there on the internet but a lot of it doesn't seem to be coming from people who have actually taken these routes themselves! 

 

Thanks! Looking forward to your thoughts! :)



#2 pennyk

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 08:46 AM

California Zephyr or Coast Starlight would be my recommendations.


Amtrak miles: 227,873; Routes: Silver Meteor, Champion, Silver Star, Auto Train, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Lakeshore Limited, Adirondack, Vermonter, Cardinal, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle, Missouri River Runner, Acela Express, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Hiawatha Service, Maple Leaf, Keystone Service, NE Regional, Downeaster, Piedmont, Carolinian, Lincoln Service, Autumn Express 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, Empire Service, Sunset Limited, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, Pennsylvanian, Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg, Ethan Allen Express, AEM-7 Excursion, Pacific Surfliner, Palmetto.  VIA miles: 4,584; Routes: The Canadian, Ocean; Alaska RR Denali Star: 356 miles


#3 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 09:21 AM

Thanks! Appreciate the advice.  What about taking the Zephyr West to Emeryville, CA and then heading south to LA on the Coast Starlight?  Or is the best scenery north of Emeryville?



#4 pennyk

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 09:25 AM

I personally think the best scenery is around Santa Barbara (on the Coast Starlight), but others may disagree.


Amtrak miles: 227,873; Routes: Silver Meteor, Champion, Silver Star, Auto Train, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Lakeshore Limited, Adirondack, Vermonter, Cardinal, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle, Missouri River Runner, Acela Express, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, City of New Orleans, Hiawatha Service, Maple Leaf, Keystone Service, NE Regional, Downeaster, Piedmont, Carolinian, Lincoln Service, Autumn Express 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, Empire Service, Sunset Limited, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, Pennsylvanian, Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg, Ethan Allen Express, AEM-7 Excursion, Pacific Surfliner, Palmetto.  VIA miles: 4,584; Routes: The Canadian, Ocean; Alaska RR Denali Star: 356 miles


#5 the_traveler

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 09:48 AM

I agree with both. The only thing is if the CS is late, the best coast scenery may be in the dark. (I've had both.) I would recommend the CS northbound from LA (which is in the morning) to Emeryville and then the CZ to Denver. Either direction requires an overnight.
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!

#6 Bob Dylan

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 09:57 AM

I personally think the best scenery is around Santa Barbara (on the Coast Starlight), but others may disagree.

Agree!
You didn't indicate how long you had to spend on the trip, but you will have to spend the night around the Bay Area to connect from the Zephyr to the Starlight.

If you've already been to San Francisco, I suggest spending the night in Sacramento ( the reasonable Vagabond Inn is across the street from the Amtrak Station and the Wonderful California Rail Museum is next door!)

You could also stay in the lovely small College town of Davis, first stop heading West out of Sacramento, and catch the Starlight the next morning.

Also you didn't indicate how you would return home from LAX, but the Starlight is a guaranteed connection in LA to the 3 days a week Sunset Ltd.heading East to New Orleans ( Train #2) or North to Chicago from San Antonio on the Texas Eagle. ( through cars on Train #422 from LA)


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#7 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 10:17 AM

We'll have about 7 days to complete the trip I'm thinking and I'd like to spend maybe 4 nights or so split between Denver and potentially somewhere around LA. Perhaps Santa Monica area? I did consider going all the way around via train but unfortunately I don't think I will have enough vacation days to complete unless we really spend a very short time in each area while transferring trains.  I think we'd prefer to have a few days off train to explore here and there. So we will need to work in flights somewhere. Just not enough time unfortunately.

 

Davis is an interesting idea. I will check that out. Would that or Sacramento be preferable to Emeryville? 

 

I'll also take a look at starting in LA and ending in Denver to see how that might work out. I've heard that it's best to do the Zephyr east to west though. It might be a trade off.



#8 Bob Dylan

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 10:42 AM

Emeryville is actually North Oakland so if you're interested in visiting San Francisco, I'd say stay in Oakland around Jack London Square and ride the Ferry to/from the City.

Prices are much more reasonable in Sacramento and Davis for hotels and from Davis you can catch frequent Corridor Trains to the Bay Area and use BART or the Ferry to cross the Bay if you're staying for a few days.

I have no idea why you want to stay in Denver?, Glennwood Springs would be a much better idea in most people's mind who have done both. ( Google is your friend!)

I like taking the Zephyr East to West from Denver since the Run up the Front Range is in daylight ( If the Train runs late heading East it can be dark)and the trip through the Rockies and the Sierras from Reno to Sacramento is in daylight!
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 "..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#9 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:00 AM

I agree I'd rather stay in Glenwood Springs, but we'll be flying in from Upstate NY to catch the Zephyr so we have to spend at least one night in Denver probably since there are not a lot of good options to fly into Glenwood Springs and the train from Denver leaves at 7am.  At that point, I'm not sure it makes sense to get on train in Denver and then get off in Glenwood Springs. Although it does look really nice. Would we be missing out if we missed the scenery between Denver and Glenwood Springs and found a way to fly into Glenwood versus Denver?



#10 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:09 AM

Maybe we should consider leaving out of Chicago and then staying in Glenwood Springs for a couple of nights. It would take one day away from our time in LA, but something to consider.



#11 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:09 AM

If you have time to spare I'd suggest DEN-EMY on the CZ followed by an overnight layover before taking EMY-LAX on the CS.  You can add another overnight followed by LAX-SAN on the PS if you really want to go all out.  Or you could flip it vertically and try DEN-EMY on the CZ followed by EMY-SEA on the CS.  Either way you'll have tons of great scenery on my two favorite routes.


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#12 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:23 AM

Sigh. I wish we had more time for sure.

 

Is it possible or advisable to reserve coach for a portion of a trip and then move to a roomette, say around dinner time?



#13 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:43 AM

I just did the math and it doesn't seem like a significant savings to do that.  I did note that a trip from Chicago to Emeryville, CA on the Zephyr is running around $750 for a roomette.  However, if booked separately as 2 segments:  one from Chicago to Glenwood Springs and then another from Glenwood Springs to Emeryville, CA is about $350 more.



#14 the_traveler

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 11:54 AM

The Sierras either way is in daylight. Yes, the decent down the Front Range could be in the dark if the CZ is late, but most of the best scenic areas will be in the light. (In all my trips, I've never had it dark, even when it was a little late.) Another benefit of going west to east is seeing some of the western end that is normally in the dark the other way.
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!

#15 jebr

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 12:43 PM

I just did the math and it doesn't seem like a significant savings to do that.  I did note that a trip from Chicago to Emeryville, CA on the Zephyr is running around $750 for a roomette.  However, if booked separately as 2 segments:  one from Chicago to Glenwood Springs and then another from Glenwood Springs to Emeryville, CA is about $350 more.

 

If you don't need to start in Chicago, price it out starting in Denver instead of Chicago. Sometimes the CHI - DEN segment can be expensive, and unless you're really into scenery of cornfields and prairie you're not missing a whole lot by skipping that portion.



#16 KmH

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 12:53 PM

Yep.

There is significant ridership CHI to DEN - particularly in the sleeper cars.

In DEN a lot of people get off, both sleeper and coach. More getting off than getting on I think.

 

I book the CZ from Ottumwa (OTM) to Denver (DEN) in coach and then have a Roomette booked from Denver to Sacramento (SAC), all on the same multi-city ticket.

I book a room in Sacramento and the next morning have a Capitol Corridor and  booked from SAC to Fisherman's Wharf.

That gives me about 5 hours to play tourist until the Amtrak Thruway bus/Capitol Corridor return.

On the return I'll get off in Davis and have dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the Davis Amtrak station before catching the next appropriate Capitol Corridor train back to SAC.

 

On the way back to OTM I again book a Roomette from SAC to DEN and then coach DEN to OTM.

 

Use Amsnag (http://www.biketrain...snag/amSnag.php) to check pricing on the dates you want to travel.


Edited by KmH, 12 July 2017 - 12:58 PM.

1963U. S. Congress - underground trolley system • Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) • Old Tucson steam train (1969)

Amtrak: California Zephyr Coast Starlight •  Southwest ChiefSunset LimitedTexas Eagle • Illinois Zephyr

. . . . . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far.

 

 

 

 

 


#17 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 01:09 PM

Yep.

There is significant ridership CHI to DEN - particularly in the sleeper cars.

In DEN a lot of people get off, both sleeper and coach. More getting off than getting on I think.

 

I book the CZ from Ottumwa (OTM) to Denver (DEN) in coach and then have a Roomette booked from Denver to Sacramento (SAC), all on the same multi-city ticket.

I book a room in Sacramento and the next morning have a Capitol Corridor and  booked from SAC to Fisherman's Wharf.

That gives me about 5 hours to play tourist until the Amtrak Thruway bus/Capitol Corridor return.

On the return I'll get off in Davis and have dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the Davis Amtrak station before catching the next appropriate Capitol Corridor train back to SAC.

 

On the way back to OTM I again book a Roomette from SAC to DEN and then coach DEN to OTM.

 

Use Amsnag (http://www.biketrain...snag/amSnag.php) to check pricing on the dates you want to travel.

 

Interesting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the multi-city pass?  Would that potentially be cheaper for us?  When I did the math it was definitely cheaper to book the trip on one ticket versus multiple even going the exact same route, but I'm not sure how that differs from the pass.  Did you have to book 2 completely separate tickets on the SAC to OTM route - one with the coach seat and one with the sleeper? 



#18 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 02:13 PM

 

Yep.

There is significant ridership CHI to DEN - particularly in the sleeper cars.

In DEN a lot of people get off, both sleeper and coach. More getting off than getting on I think.

 

I book the CZ from Ottumwa (OTM) to Denver (DEN) in coach and then have a Roomette booked from Denver to Sacramento (SAC), all on the same multi-city ticket.

I book a room in Sacramento and the next morning have a Capitol Corridor and  booked from SAC to Fisherman's Wharf.

That gives me about 5 hours to play tourist until the Amtrak Thruway bus/Capitol Corridor return.

On the return I'll get off in Davis and have dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the Davis Amtrak station before catching the next appropriate Capitol Corridor train back to SAC.

 

On the way back to OTM I again book a Roomette from SAC to DEN and then coach DEN to OTM.

 

Use Amsnag (http://www.biketrain...snag/amSnag.php) to check pricing on the dates you want to travel.

 

Interesting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the multi-city pass?  Would that potentially be cheaper for us?  When I did the math it was definitely cheaper to book the trip on one ticket versus multiple even going the exact same route, but I'm not sure how that differs from the pass.  Did you have to book 2 completely separate tickets on the SAC to OTM route - one with the coach seat and one with the sleeper? 

 

 

I think you might be misunderstanding the post you're quoting.  I read it as simply using the multi-city option on the standard booking screen.  Although there is an actual Amtrak long distance rail pass it only applies to coach tickets and the process for discovering which trains can be booked when is entirely opaque and must be done manually over the phone.  Therefore, it's not unusual to spend several phone calls and hours of talk time researching available options and trying to get what you want from the agent trying to figure out how to book it.   :wacko:


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 12 July 2017 - 04:20 PM.

I used to be with ‘it,’ but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary.


#19 KmH

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 03:34 PM

Yes. The Multi-City ticket option, not a multi-day/multi-segment rail pass.


Edited by KmH, 12 July 2017 - 03:37 PM.

1963U. S. Congress - underground trolley system • Disneyland train (1968/various other dates) • Old Tucson steam train (1969)

Amtrak: California Zephyr Coast Starlight •  Southwest ChiefSunset LimitedTexas Eagle • Illinois Zephyr

. . . . . . . Amtrak miles - 16,383, so far.

 

 

 

 

 


#20 Guest_kwestionmark_*

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Posted 12 July 2017 - 08:07 PM

Got it. Thank you for all the responses and advice!  Much appreciated. :)





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