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Train trip from Chicago to New York


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#1 Guest_Gab Gordon_*

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:19 AM

Hi.

I am travelling from Chicago to New York in late April this year with my 14 year old son and was interested in taking the train from Chicago to New York rather than flying.  A chance for a different experience and to see part of the US we wouldn't otherwise get a chance to see.  Interested in any thoughts people have on taking this trip please.



#2 ehbowen

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:25 AM

I'm always ready to recommend a train trip over flying, but in this case (first time, new experience) I would strongly recommend that you travel via Washington and book a Roomette on the Capitol Limited, allow a couple of hours for sightseeing on the Capitol Mall, then transfer to a Northeast Regional or Acela to head up to New York City. My recommendation is based on my (and others') perception that the Capitol Limited has superior (Superliner) equipment, a Sightseer Lounge car, and a real dining car. The other choices (Lake Shore Limited or Cardinal) aren't "bad", per se, but if this is a new experience for you both I really think that you'll enjoy the trip more via Washington.


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#3 Bob Dylan

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:46 AM

Wonderful idea, I agree that for yalls first trip you should book the Cap.Ltd #30 to WAS and a Regional or Acela to NYP!
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#4 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 07:28 AM

The problem with ehbowen's idea is you have to change trains in Washington (WAS). The last time I was on the Capitol Limited I made a connection from the CL to a Northeast Regional train the CL was delayed getting into WAS and I missed my connection to the Northeast Regional train. If you only want to go to New York (NYP) you are better off just taking the direct train which is the Lake Shore Limited (LSL). If you want to see Washington as well and can afford to see both cities then take the CL one way, take a train between WAS and NYP and the LSL the other. Stop by Philadelphia (my hometown) if you have the chance and time as well! I will say the Superliner car ehbowen of the CL is superior is to the Viewliner in terms of but it isn't worth changing trains unless you really want to see Washington DC. The food is better on the CL but only if you pay extra for it and IMO not worth the price. You would pay $25 for a steak that's probably worth $15 at Outback.


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL), Texas Eagle (CHI-DAL)
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#5 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 07:49 AM

CHI - Chicago Union Station   WAS - Washington, DC   NYP - New York Penn Station

 

1)  Take Philly Amtrak Fan's post with a grain of salt.  He HATES making connections and wishes all train trips were one seaters.  

 

2)  Yes, it's possible to miss the connection a CHI-WAS-NYP reservation would make for you, but Amtrak would put you on the next train to NYP, which run about every hour, so not a big deal.

 

3)  ehbowen suggested you spend a few hours in Washington doing some sightseeing.  In that case you would want to book CHI-WAS-NYP as a mulit-city reservation to enable you to choose what time you want to leave WAS for NYP

 

4)  If you book a room on the train.  Room accommodation fee, which includes meals, is one charge for everyone in the room.  So you'd pay two rail fares and one accommodation fee for you and your son.

 

5)  Menus can be found on Amtrak's website.

 

Enjoy your trip, any train you pick will be good.



#6 ehbowen

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 08:36 AM

And... 6) If you book a Roomette (or any other sleeper accommodation) as I recommended, you will NOT be "paying $25 for a steak." Meals, for all ticketed passengers (up to the room capacity) are included in sleeper accommodation charges. Your only cost in the dining car will be for adult beverages, if you so choose, and whatever level of gratuity you deem appropriate.

 

ETA: Sorry, AB, at first missed your "which includes meals" in point 4. Still wanted to emphasize it, especially for a likely first-time traveler.

 

ETA2: I will say that if you are planning a round-trip by train, PhillyFan's suggestion of direct via Lake Shore Limited one way and via Washington by Capitol Limited the other is a very good one.


Edited by ehbowen, 09 January 2018 - 08:48 AM.

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#7 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 11:47 AM

Using Amtrak's Website, Fri. April 20 Lake Shore Limited CHI-NYP and Sun. April 22 NYP-CHI 2 adult (unfortunately child fare is only up to 12 years old)

 

Saver is $174 for 2 coach seats, Value is $218 for 2 coach seats, Roomette would be $449, that would include all meals for the trip.  Those are the cost each way. The saver is non refundable so I'd probably pay the extra money or wait. The roomette includes two beds and all meals but is that worth $231 each way? I normally don't pay that but that's because I travel alone and I would have to pay the $449 vs. just a single seat. Remember if you get coach seats you have to pay for all your meals and your son's meals. They have a diner car and a café car on the train. The LSL has what is known as a "diner lite" vs. a traditional diner car where many of the traditional Amtrak meals are unavailable which is one reason ehbowen and some others may be suggesting you take the CL instead of the LSL. One advantage of the LSL and Viewliner cars over Superliner cars is that wiFi is only currently available in Viewliner cars so if your son can't live without the internet/his phone he's probably better off on the LSL.

 

I would suggest this page for sleeping and eating on the train: https://www.amtrak.com/onboard.html


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL), Texas Eagle (CHI-DAL)
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#8 ehbowen

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:06 PM

The roomette includes two beds and all meals but is that worth $231 each way? I normally don't pay that but that's because I travel alone and I would have to pay the $449 vs. just a single seat.


Point 1: Amtrak coach seats, especially on overnight trains, are comparable to airline first class seats in many respects and often superior when it comes to seat pitch (spacing between rows). Overnight coach travel, particularly if it is only one night, is a very viable alternative if budget is an overriding consideration.

 

Point 2: The difference between airline coach class and first class is minor. You get a bit more roomy of a seat; you (may) get a meal; and you get to board and deplane first. The difference between Amtrak coach and a sleeper accommodation is massive. In addition to the meals (all-inclusive) you get a real lay-flat bed, privacy, coffee and orange juice in the mornings (if the attendant is on his game as he should be), and (with the occasional regrettable exception) a higher standard of service overall. There have been many times after an overnight coach trip when I have later said, "I wish I had spent the extra money and gone in the sleeper." There has never yet been a time after an overnight sleeper trip when I have said, "You know, I wish I had saved that accommodation charge and gone coach."


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#9 Manny T

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 07:07 PM

Here are my thoughts:

 

1. Heading east, the LSL leaves Chicago at 9:30 pm, and there is no lounge car (just a small cafe). There is nothing to do but go to sleep. Heading east the Capitol Ltd leaves Chicago at 6:40 pm with a full dinner service in a real dining car beginning at 7 pm. After that, you can go to the Observation lounge car until midnight. This is more enjoyable than the LSL imho. 

 

2. Day 2 of the LSL journey is all New York State, with a scheduled arrival in NYC at 6:30. This may be ok for some, but in my experience the all day ride (with an hour+ stop-over in Albany) can be tiresome. Then you arrive in Penn Station during rush hour. By contrast, the Cap Ltd arrives in D.C. around 1 pm, after serving brunch until 11. Much better.

 

3. If you continue to New York the same day, and you're worried about missing your connection in DC because the Cap Ltd might be late, don't worry. If you book both trains together as a single trip Chi-NYP, and the Cap Ltd is delayed, Amtrak with automatically rebook you on a later Regional, based on your actual (not scheduled) time of arrival in DC. 

 

If you stay over in D.C., of course you don't have to worry at all about the connection.

 

4. Finally, you might want to consider the Acela for the DC-NY leg. It's a different experience entirely and quite nice. 



#10 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 07:46 PM

Here are my thoughts:

 

1. Heading east, the LSL leaves Chicago at 9:30 pm, and there is no lounge car (just a small cafe). There is nothing to do but go to sleep. Heading east the Capitol Ltd leaves Chicago at 6:40 pm with a full dinner service in a real dining car beginning at 7 pm. After that, you can go to the Observation lounge car until midnight. This is more enjoyable than the LSL imho. 

 

2. Day 2 of the LSL journey is all New York State, with a scheduled arrival in NYC at 6:30. This may be ok for some, but in my experience the all day ride (with an hour+ stop-over in Albany) can be tiresome. Then you arrive in Penn Station during rush hour. By contrast, the Cap Ltd arrives in D.C. around 1 pm, after serving brunch until 11. Much better.

 

3. If you continue to New York the same day, and you're worried about missing your connection in DC because the Cap Ltd might be late, don't worry. If you book both trains together as a single trip Chi-NYP, and the Cap Ltd is delayed, Amtrak with automatically rebook you on a later Regional, based on your actual (not scheduled) time of arrival in DC. 

 

If you stay over in D.C., of course you don't have to worry at all about the connection.

 

4. Finally, you might want to consider the Acela for the DC-NY leg. It's a different experience entirely and quite nice. 

 

Assuming you want to go to New York, remember that 1pm arrival is Washington, not New York. You still have to get up to New York. Using Thursday, April 19 the earliest connection I could get off the CL to a NER to NYP was to the 148 which leaves WAS at 3:05pm and arrives in NYP at 6:30pm, seven minutes after the LSL arrives (assuming the LSL is on time, AU regulars snicker). If you arrive in Washington on Saturday or Sunday it may be slightly later since fewer trains run on those days. Also remember to go via the CL you also have to leave CHI about three hours earlier (6:40pm vs. 9:30pm) so your trip is three hours longer. Plus assuming the train is on time (again, snickers from AU regulars) you have to wait in WAS for two hours which is long enough to be annoying but not long enough to visit the city.

 

As for "automatically" rebook, what is your definition of "automatically"? I had to wait in a long line in Union Station with all the other passengers who had to rebook their tickets. Sure, they will do it with no extra charge but the fact that the CL was late is their fault so the fact that they reschedule you should be understood. It's just a pain in the butt waiting in line with everyone else and the next train could leave while you're waiting in line. If you take the LSL directly to NYP you wouldn't have to deal with this crap.

 

Sure there are benefits to the CL (Superliner, observation lounge, better food) but drawbacks (longer ride, connection). If you have any desire to include Washington DC in your plans, then you should ride the CL one way and the LSL the other and take a NER between the two (the Acela is nicer but more expensive). Some people here are talking about all these things being nicer but we don't know what kind of budget the OP is working off of. But if you just want to visit New York, the LSL is the fastest and most direct trip and if you have a 14 year old son and he's impatient I'd think an extra three hours and a transfer probably is unnecessary if you can avoid it.  


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL), Texas Eagle (CHI-DAL)
Bring back the Broadway Limited (or Three Rivers or any Chicago-Pittsburgh-Philly train)!
 
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#11 City of Miami

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 08:05 PM

If the Capital Ltd is late enough to miss connection can't you rebook on the phone before you even get to WAS rather than stand online?

#12 DoB

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 08:18 PM

If your goal is to get from Chicago to New York as quickly as possible, fly.

If you want to see the scenery along the way, take whichever route will give you the sort of scenery you're looking for.

In my opinion, the scenery on the Lake Shore Limited is pretty blah, aside from the run along the Hudson River. But since I live in New York, I can catch that scenery simply by taking the train to Albany.

I rode the Cardinal in 2016 and found the scenery fantastic. I'd like to ride it again.

I've never ridden the Capitol Limited, but based on what I've read about it, I'd like to. The Pennsylvanian also looks great.

But especially eastbound, with the timing working out so well for the other options, I can't imagine why I'd ride the LSL again from Chicago to New York.

Just my opinion. Feel free to disagree.


Edited by DoB, 09 January 2018 - 08:19 PM.


#13 Maglev

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 01:14 AM

I would also like to suggest that you go by way of Washington on the Capitol Limited.  I really think this route is very scenic, and Washington is a great place to spend a few hours (zip over to the National Museum of American History to see Southern Railway 1401!). 


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#14 PVD

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 11:56 AM

Another factor to consider is price, the CL-NER combo usually (not always) prices much better for roomettes than the lsl. And to save a few more dollars, you can switch the default BC on selection on the NER to regular coach for a short trip it isn't bad at all, BC on the NER is nothing special.


Edited by PVD, 10 January 2018 - 12:28 PM.


#15 Philly Amtrak Fan

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 12:10 PM

I'm curious to hear the OP's opinions here. Hopefully we didn't scare him/her away with all our opinions/feedback.


Trains Traveled: Broadway Limited (CHI-Harrisburg, PA), Three Rivers (Harrisburg, PA-CHI, Altoona, PA-CHI, PHL-CHI), Capitol Limited (CHI-WAS), Lake Shore Limited (NYP-CHI), , Silver Meteor (PHL-ORL), Southwest Chief (CHI-LAX), California Zephyr (CHI-SLC, SLC-EMY), City of New Orleans and/or Illini (CHI-Champaign, IL), Texas Eagle (CHI-DAL)
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#16 Ronbo

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 03:07 PM

[quote name="Philly Amtrak Fan" post="737138" timestamp="1515604256"]I'm curious to hear the OP's opinions here. Hopefully we didn't scare him/her away with all our opinions/feedback.[/quote]


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#17 the_traveler

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 04:17 PM

Sometimes, if a guest posts but later becomes a member the thread is transferred to the member section.

Example: Guest_John_Smith posts and asks questions about an upcoming trip. He later becomes a member. The thread may get moved.

However, most times Guests ask a question and never come back again.
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!

#18 jebr

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 02:28 PM

Personally, I'd take whatever train is the least expensive that includes a roomette on the overnight portion. Usually that's the Capitol Limited with a transfer to the Northeast Regional, but not always. Each train has its plusses and minuses, but I don't think any train has enough one way or the other for me to feel strongly one way or the other on it. I've actually never taken the Capitol Limited myself, but I plan to this year. I've enjoyed both the Cardinal and the Lake Shore Limited, and most people have enjoyed the Capitol, so I'd just do whatever's least expensive for your first trip. :)

 

One other advantage to the Capitol Limited (and the Cardinal to some extent): if your destination is closer/easier to get to from another Amtrak station, the Capitol Limited will transfer to the Northeast Regional that gets you there, and the arrival time will typically be quite a bit sooner than what the Lake Shore Limited has (Amtrak's transfer policy winds up kicking people to the 9:30 PM Regional train out of NY, whereas the transfer in DC is usually to either the 3 or 4 PM train, so you're arriving around 6-7 PM instead of 10-11 PM.) The Cardinal does also stop at a couple of the New Jersey stops, so that's an option.

 

One other thing to note: the Lake Shore Limited leaves Chicago at 9:30 PM, which means that there's not a whole lot of time to settle into the room before going to sleep (at least for me.) I'm looking forward to having some time to settle into the room on the Capitol Limited before having to go to sleep (it leaves at 6:40 PM, I believe,) as I think that will feel more relaxing.



#19 Rail Freak

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 02:50 PM

The Capitol's route is very scenic also, IMO! 


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#20 jebr

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 02:55 PM

Plus assuming the train is on time (again, snickers from AU regulars) you have to wait in WAS for two hours which is long enough to be annoying but not long enough to visit the city.

 

Two hours is enough time to see one sight or do a quick loop on the DC Circulator. If a roomette is booked, access to the Acela Lounge is included, which does have bag storage that I'd be comfortable with for non-valuable items (it's not under lock-and-key, but it's only accessible to those in the Acela Lounge.) Across the street is the National Postal Museum, which could comfortably be seen in an hour or so. The National Mall route on the DC Circulator costs $1/person and goes by most of the major attractions, and if they happen to have the SmarTrip card (previous visit to DC, maybe) you can hop on/hop off for 2 hours for no additional charge. Otherwise you'll have to pay $1 every time you hop on, but even with a stop or two that's only a few bucks.

 

Sure, you're not going to see the whole town in a couple hours, but there's definitely enough time to get a small taste of the city. There's also the option of using the multi-city option to book segment one as CHI - WAS and then segment 2 as WAS - NYP (or their ending station) and picking a later time if they want to fit in more of the city/lengthen their layover a bit. As long as the scheduled layover time is less than 23.5 hours (or so, it's either 23 or 23.5) the system will still give the deeply discounted rate on the connecting Regional train (only Regionals have the deeply discounted fare when connecting from a LD train, not the Acelas.)





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