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bratkinson

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About bratkinson

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    OBS Chief

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  1. bratkinson

    Texas Eagle late leaving SAS (11/13)

    A couple years ago, on one of my 'joyrides', I took #21 to SAS and back the next AM on #22. I also stayed at the hotel about a block from the station. I walked there right behind the train crew and OBS crew. And the next morning, they were the outbound crew! So, given that #21 was quite late, it's likely the crew had to get its mandatory/legally required rest period before getting back on the train. Cleaning, restocking, and turning the train also takes some time, as well.
  2. bratkinson

    10 Companion Coupons available

    All Gone...
  3. I just made Select Executive status for the first time ever today! Naturally, I got 4 free companion coupons with it. Combined with the 4 I got for 2018 Select Plus 'renewal' on March 1, and 2 more for BofA credit card anniversary, I have a total of 10 available that will go first come, first served takers. 4 of them have a 3/1/19 expire date, 2 with 9/15/19 expire date and 4 with 11/12/19. Please indicate your preference in a PM to me. If the 'earlier' expire date coupons are all taken, the next later date coupons will be transferred. Limit: 4 per person. Now all I have to do is figure out how to transfer them. I'm thinking I have to call and give them your name and AGR number. PS - I'll be using the upgrade coupons I also got myself. Bruce
  4. To add to cpotisch's response...valuables I would never leave behind include wallet, passport, cell phone, money clip, etc. The times I've gone to the lounge car for more than a couple minutes, I've taken my laptop with me as well. Other than that, if someone wants to reach blindly into my suitcase and come out with dirty underwear.....HAVE AT IT! As far as leaving your seat for longer than 1 intermediate stop, make sure there's something physically on your seat to show it's 'taken'. Most boarding passengers don't look at the 'seat check' area above the seats to see if someone is sitting there. A hat, jacket, even a book, should work just fine. Don't be surprised, though, if you come back to someone sitting in the other half of 'your' seat!
  5. I usually disregard the whole thing as I've usually made a couple of trips since the end of the month before I get their monthly eStatement. But after seeing PRR 60s' remark about it being on the monthly statement, I went back to the 'trash' folder and there it was, buried in a less than 2x2 box was the 3x points deal. Perhaps someone at AGR is thinking they have to pay by the 'column inch' like newspapers for internet advertising? One question I have is: who is paying for the extra points? BofA or Amtrak AGR? They're basically 'giving away money' and as everyone knows, it doesn't grow on trees or come out of color laser printers (without going to jail). So, exactly whose money is paying for it? If you consider that Amazon, Walmart and other major retailers are now offering FREE shipping on everything for the holidays, and now with 'free' extra points, it would seem the retailers are far more 'eager' this year to get everyones' shopping dollars than previous years. The extra-early 'black Friday' sales is another indicator that the retailers are all 'hungry' for your money. So maybe they're the ones paying BofA? Or are they simply looking for everyone to run up a balance they can't pay off each month and BofA gets the interest?
  6. bratkinson

    Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

    If only the occupied/empty sign above the seats actually worked, and display a first of last name... Unfortunately, the electronic 'taken' seat check/system fell into disuse shortly after the Acelas' started running as it was 'buggy' and the conductors had/have been using paper seat checks for eons. So, they ended up sewing on small seat check holders on the top of each seat. What's needed is clear, easy to read row and seat numbers, akin to what's on an airplane. The couple of times I rode Acela FC in the past month or so I had to really 'look hard' to find the row number, much less seat number. I think once upon a time they may have been back lit, but those bulbs must have long since burned out on all of them! Even peel-and-stick row/seat numbers near the bottom of the always-hit-my-head-on-them overhead bin doors would be a big step in alleviating the wrong-seat problem.
  7. bratkinson

    Help on planning 7,440 miles cross-country

    As far as spending a night in a strange city goes, my method is to find the lowest price that's easily accessible by public transit from the train station...ideally light rail or subway. I start with a simple Google for 'hotels in xxx' and see what pops up. Invariably one of the many .com hotel/fly sites pops up with a good comparison around town. A couple of Google maps with the address of the train station is a great help as well as when enlarged enough, the hotels start to be displayed. Then I go to the AGR web site and book the hotel through there to get the points. Chicago is the rail capitol of the world! Whether you spend your day there railfanning, sight seeing, or simply riding commuter trains and subways and the "L", it's a fantastic place for all of the above! Over the years, I've managed to ride all of the subway/L routes end to end, and all but 2 of the commuter routes end to end. It's a great way to see ALL of the city! Since you're spending time in the San Francisco area, there's always the 'usual' tourist places, but if you're like me, it's more like ride all the commute (no 'r' out there!) trains you can squeeze in on routes your Amtrak trains don't cover. I'm a traction fan, so spending the day riding streetcars in San Francisco would be a perfect day for me. BART, too. The 2 days you have planned in Los Angeles could also be spent riding commuter trains, even down to San Diego and back. I did that a couple years ago between train #3 and #2/422. You could spend a couple days each at SFO and LAX seeing all the tourist places, too. SAS to NOL? It looks like the Sunset Ltd is the best choice, especially if you would like to see the territory, not from 30,000 feet. Of course, in NOL, you have to go to Basin St, just for the music and food. Riding the street car (one line ends at the station!) is a great way to see the town as well! WAS? Over the years, I think I spent 20-25 partial-day layovers between trains doing the Smithsonian, the monuments, etc. The good news is most of the sites are within walking distance from Union Station, or only a stop or two on the subway (changing at Metro Center, IIRC). I haven't tried it, but I think you could ride all the Metro lines end to end during daylight hours. These days, my Metro joyrides are one line at a time before I catch #148 back to WNL. One of the things I've discovered through the years of spending anywhere from 2-3 hours to a full day or two railfanning a town without a car is to lay out the schedule of sites/trips you would like to do. Also plan for a delayed Amtrak train arrival, delayed commuter train, missed connections, etc. Always have a Plan B, and even a Plan C or D where something(s) gets 'cut out' for that trip. There's always next year, or the year after, to get the cut out parts and more places you didn't see the first time you were there. I've even planned to eat lunch at some specific restaurant in Chicago and again in Philadelphia, but in both cases, I missed the bus from the "L"/subway to the restaurant and had to wait 20-25 minutes until the next one. That put everything after that back and caused me to take a different commuter train with a shorter round trip time before having to be back at the station to catch the train home (448 and 148, respectively). It pays to have the appropriate timetables in printed form for quick 'on the fly' changes of plans. I always plan to arrive a minimum of 90 minutes ahead of time back at the Amtrak train station to catch my train home or to the next town. The commuter train to Union Station could be delayed, etc, and my train home leave without me. I've had that happen three times in over 40 years of riding Amtrak (all were my fault, not a late commuter, etc) and believe me, 'scrambling' to figure something out after it's too late is not pleasant and is always costly! I even flew to Omaha to 'catch' my bedroom on #6 after missing it in Denver one time! One footnote, too...thinking a taxi cab would 'save the day' could even be worse. You may be familiar enough with New York City traffic and getting nowhere fast, even during non-rush hour! Other large cities have the same problems, too! As mentioned by other respondents, pillows, blankets, blinders and ear plugs are a requirement. I 'discovered' what I think is the perfect combination of all 4 at Amazon in one item: Shameless 'plug' for what I think is a great pillow/blanket! The blanket 'case' is actually the inflatable pillow with fuzzy stuff on one side. I use 3 of them while riding in roomettes, and use the inflatable pillows (and others, if needed) to stuff down the gap between the armrest and wall in coach/business class. Note that the 2-1 business class seating in the 'split' cafe/BC cars have unusually large gaps to the wall (3" on the '2' side, 5" on the '1' side). Plan your trip carefully. Be ready to change it 'on the fly' if needed. But most of all, have a great time!
  8. bratkinson

    Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

    I suspect some lawyer types out there 'required' Amtrak to state specific exclusions, train by train. Otherwise, some jerk may want to use their upgrade coupon on one of those trains and then become beligerant with the Amtrak reservations person or station ticket clerk when they are refused the upgrade. They might even think it was some kind of discrimination based on just about anything. I was politely refused my 48hr upgrades for this past Tuesdays' Acelas when I called on Saturday! The kind lady had to repeat my reservation was a Tuesday train a couple times before I 'got it', not a Monday train as I had been thinking/telling her all along. I apologized for proving I'm a senile citizen these days. This old geezer brain of mine is getting worse by the day! I have to remind myself every morning when I get out of bed what day of the week it is. One of the many joys of being retired, I guess. At least Amtrak didn't use the jargon I've seen in too many contracts..."Including, but not limited to...", I've even written that into a couple of contracts of my own in years gone by! The 'other restrictions may apply' clause essentially provides an 'easy out' for any legitimate reason an upgrade can't be used...like...the train is sold out, or, it's the Sunday after Thanksgiving...duh!!!
  9. bratkinson

    Question about Empire Builder

    It should be noted that the sightseer lounge car gets split off with the Portland section (the last 3-4 cars of the train) at Spokane shortly after 1AM. So the morning trip through the Cascades will have to be viewed from the diner or your roomette.
  10. bratkinson

    Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

    Here's the exact text copied from my as yet unused 12 hr upgrade coupon from BofA credit card anniversary: Coupon Restrictions: Coupon valid for one (1) space-available, one-way, One-Class Upgrade. Valid only from Coach class to Business class, or from Acela® Business class to Acela First class, on a single travel segment or leg. Not valid for upgrade to sleeping car accommodations. Not eligible for use with 10-trip, monthly or other multiride tickets. Subject to availability; upgrade not available on all trains at all times. Upgrade may be combined with corporate discount, but is not combinable with any other discount, coupon or Amtrak Guest Rewards® redemption travel. Travel blackout dates apply. Offer is not valid on the following services: Adirondack®, Auto Train®, California Zephyr®, Capitol Limited®, City of New Orleans®, Crescent®, Empire Builder®, Keystone Service®, Silver Meteor®, Silver Star®, Southwest Chief®, Sunset Limited®, Texas Eagle®, and train/Thruway series 7000 – 8999. This Coupon# is unique to your coupon and valid for one use only. Buying or selling this coupon is prohibited and will invalidate the coupon. Coupon may be transferred to a family member or friend. Other restrictions may apply.
  11. I'm wondering the same thing. Perhaps they didn't have someone available to compose and create a mass emailing? Or else, we'll get it a week or two after the fact...just like the monthly 'AGR point balance statements'
  12. Unfortunately, the 7th is the cutoff for my BofA Amtrak card. I'm about to buy tix WNL-PHL RT, so I'll have to wait another month to find out if I got 3, 5 or 6 points per dollar purchase. NUTS!
  13. bratkinson

    Seat assignments (Acela pilot Feb 2018)

    I have to agree. Seeing how in less than 48 hours, almost all the available seats got taken, I'd have to say the 'upgraders' got the seats. Those with 12 hour upgrade coupons probably got some of those seats, simply because there are fewer Select Plus/Executive riders than Select only. Could be some of those 12-hour coupons for BofA card anniversaries got used as well.
  14. bratkinson

    30-42 connection in Pittsburgh

    As it turned out, on the "cut 'em off at the pass(PGH)" move, the Amtrak agent (or someone else) refunded the AGR points penalty for effectively changing my reservation. On the aborted trip to PDX, I didn't get any penalty, but paid then current prices for my revised itinerary. But something good came out of that. I got to spend my first and only nights in a Superliner family room and two days later, in the trans dorm car. That leaves only a 'double slumbercoach' Amtrak accomodation I never got to sleep in. But then, the double slumbercoach is the basis for all Amtrak roomettes today.
  15. bratkinson

    Schedule Changes Still NOT Posted

    Don't expect that the online timetables at Amtrak 'keep up' with reality. However, when making an online reservation, I'm quite sure they do keep them up to date for each 'A to B' pair. But I wouldn't bet on it. Once upon a time - just a few years ago - Amtrak would post new timetables as 'effective mm/dd/yy' on their website just below the currently in effect timetables. Within a day or so of the new effective timetables, the old ones were gone. I'll take a wild guess that when Amtrak ended all paper timetables, they also ended the employment of nearly all employees whose job was to create them. So now, I suspect there's maybe 1 full time person to create PDFs of the new/near future timetables.
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