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I may be crazy, but I'm going to take 3 trains across country

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I may be crazy. I'm no stranger to overnight train travel, I do it 3-4 times a year, but to date, I have only done two consecutive nights on board. On a whim, I just priced a trip from Birmingham AL, to LA. I already have airline tickets, but January is usually a little slow for me. I have to be in LA for a conference Wed-Fri that month. Was arriving Orange County on American, in FC on Tuesday, and flying home that Friday.

 

However, I was on the Amtrak website booking a trip later this month from CHI-OMA, and decided for fun, to price BHM-LAX. It wasn't as bad as I expected, in a roomette anyway. I usually take bedrooms on 2 night trips, but the only way to make this work was to do the whole thing in a Roomette. I went ahead and booked it.....Leaving BHM on a Friday, to WAS. Then WAS-CHI, and CHI-LAX on the Southwest Chief, then flying back to BHM on that Friday.

 

That's 4 consecutive nights on board. I don't know it I will love it, or hate it. I enjoy my overnights, even those 2 night trips, but I'm usually ready to get off after that....This may cure me completely from train travel, I guess we'll see! If worse comes to worse, I can always jump off in Chicago, Kansas City, or Albuquerque if I've had enough, and just fly on to LA. Not sure if I'm kinda excited, or absolutely nuts. I think I'm looking forward to the quiet time, but that's a LOT of quiet time!

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Oh, you'll have a great trip! A Roomette is fine for one person--I think it's actually better for reclining and viewing the scenery than a Bedroom. And the fact that you're taking three trains means the trip is really broken-up--there's really only one full day on a single train.

 

Just be prepared for those little quirks Amtrak can throw at you...

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Just remember: if you aren’t having pizza at Giordano’s in Chicago, you are doing it wrong. 4 consecutive days on a train is indeed nuts, but not when you get off and walk around and explore when safe at extended stops, and enjoy what connecting cities have to offer. In fact, don’t you dare forget the national postal museums, right across the street from Washington Union Station.

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Just remember, the bast part you've probably never seen is the dry mountains of the Southwest! Sun, snow, red rocks... you will love it. Just take along some ways to amuse yourself in case you get bored with the flatlands of middle America. If you are at all like me, you'll find it's a chance to do things you never seem to get done at home: small handcrafts, reading or writing, editing photos, listening to music or watching movies (just make sure and pre-load large files or take on removable media -- even if there is wi-fi on your trains, it won't be up to streaming).

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But those 4 nights are broken up by about a 6 hour layover in WAS and another 6 hours in CHI - if the trains are on time. Plenty of time to shake out any kinks and get ready for the SWC.

 

Your trip may be more enjoyable if you have the time to preview the sights along the way - so you won't always be wondering if you'll miss something - or if the scenery is better on the other side of the train. Here are some of the things I use when getting ready to travel:

 

• FRA Safety Map... https://fragis.fra.dot.gov/GISFRASafety/

• Google Earth

• Topographical Maps: http://www.mytopo.com/maps/index.cfm

• Amtrak Route Guides: https://www.amtrak.com/route-guides

 

Out in the West you can come across a name along the tracks on a topographic map way out in the middle of nowhere - with absolutely nothing around it, except perhaps a railroad siding. A google search for some of those named places will turn up a little dose of history about a ghost town or some other long-gone piece of trivia.

 

The FRA Safety Map is especially useful when trying to figure out how a train gets into or out of a large city. The topographic maps show all the tracks, but Amtrak only uses a few of them.

Edited by niemi24s

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Thanks all. I'm actually quite familiar with each of the routes, I've taken all three at lease half a dozen times over the years, individually. I just have never had the time to do more than one at a time. And I've had so much Giordanos, I think I'll probably pass, if the train is on time. It is good, but I really prefer Ginos, or Lou Malnattis if I have time, and the absolute ULTIMATE, is Chicago Grinder and Pizza Co Pizza pot pie! (I spend a lot of time in Chicago on business.....)

 

Actually, come to think of it, the only Long Distance train I haven't been on, is the Coast Starlight. Been booked on it several times since 1996 but something always came up. Maybe this year.....So having taken 3-4 LD trips a year, for a lot of the last 14 years for work, I'm very familiar with the delays, the service issues, the routes, etc. I usually just roll with it. Just not sure I will enjoy quite this long of a trip. I guess this will be a test! Sounds good in theory anyway!

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Two months ago I did a 15 day 8 segment rail pass. There were only two full days I wasn't on the train and except for a roomette on the Coast Starlight from PDX to LA I was in Coach. Loved every bit of it.

 

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Amtrak Forum mobile app

Wow-THAT is hard core. I used to do overnight coach trips when I was young, in the service, after sleeping on the ground, a coach seat wasn't that bad....But today? I need a room for anything over 4 hours, especially at night!

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Anyone who's done the CZ or SWC from endpoint to endpoint has spend two consecutive nights on a train and anyone who's done the TE from CHI-LAX has done three consecutive nights on a train. I have gone coast to coast before. I believe most of the time I have spent overnight either in CHI or SLC at least one night although I might have gone straight through at least once (certainly I changed trains).

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I can't say whether you'll enjoy it or not. All I can say is that I would love it! Have fun.

 

I like following along on a railroad map to see where I am, and sometimes I listen in to the engineer on a radio scanner, but usually I just stare out the window and am rocked to sleep.

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I will also say, Birmingham AL to Los Angeles... is a trip which *should* be possible with one night in New Orleans and two on the train, using the Crescent and Sunset Limited. I'm guessing the three-a-week schedule of the Sunset Limited made that impossible?

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Oh, you'll have a great trip! A Roomette is fine for one person--I think it's actually better for reclining and viewing the scenery than a Bedroom.

 

Agree with Maglev, and a roomette can be quieter, too. The partition that can be retracted and allow two bedrooms to be opened together can vibrate and be noisy. I've heard others describe a roomette as a "cocoon", and I think that is pretty close.

 

I did ride the Cap and the SW Chief for three straight nights on the train once, and absolutely loved it! Hopefully, you will too!

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Just remember: if you aren’t having pizza at Giordano’s in Chicago, you are doing it wrong. 4 consecutive days on a train is indeed nuts, but not when you get off and walk around and explore when safe at extended stops, and enjoy what connecting cities have to offer. In fact, don’t you dare forget the national postal museums, right across the street from Washington Union Station.

 

I'm hoping to hit Giardano's between the TE and LSL. I'm assuming the layover between the 49 and 21 is unrealistic but if the northbound 22 is on time or not too late I should have plenty of time to make it to Giardano's and back before the cleanup 48.

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I'm doubting my sanity for planning something similar.

Going to LA from NY in January. Taking LSL to SWC in CHI, which I've done before, the other way, but on the way back, am taking the TE from LAX to SAS to CHI and then the LSL to ROC. 80 hours if all is on time.

It'll either be amazing, or make me never want to take Amtrak again.

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Just remember: if you aren’t having pizza at Giordano’s in Chicago, you are doing it wrong. 4 consecutive days on a train is indeed nuts, but not when you get off and walk around and explore when safe at extended stops, and enjoy what connecting cities have to offer. In fact, don’t you dare forget the national postal museums, right across the street from Washington Union Station.

 

NOTHING wrong with four consecutive days or nights on trains.

 

Back in the day of USA Railpasses, I did more than that. Of course I was in my 20s then, and for younger folks Amtrak was a rolling party then. I miss that.

 

Alternated between coach and sleeper--Slumbercoach when possible. My quest was to do as many days and/or nights on board within 14 days (length of the Pass I could afford) as possible. I think I topped out at 10. And this was back when Amtrak was all-Heritage. No showers!

 

It was fun studying the national timetable to put together a continuous journey. The journey truly was the destination, although I managed some time in various cities--especially SFO and SEA.

 

Enjoy the four nights on board. Go with the flow, no matter what.

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For several years, I have done multiple LD routes in one trip several times a year and I LOVE IT. The actual trip is for me, relaxing, adventurous, and the time just flies by and I have to get off when I have just gotten to know my new friends including the SCA and LSA and dining room servers. As much fun as I have on the trips, I have just a much fun planning the trips. I do use sleeping cars on all my LD trips--after all I am 76.

 

If you are not familiar with my photo galleries, check this link for my rail trip galleries: Rail Trips

Edited by Tennessee Traveler

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Get on, chill for 4 days and get off. I don't see a problem.

 

You have to have a place to do that. Unless you have family/friends to crash at for 4 days, you have to add 4 days accommodations on top of rail fares.

 

I feel like AU talk about trips and staying overnight like it costs nothing. I hear people talk like "I can't travel overnight in coach at my age" and my response is "I can't afford to travel in a sleeper". Now I do know a few of you have said you were retired so you might have the money as well as the time to travel.

Edited by Philly Amtrak Fan

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I will also say, Birmingham AL to Los Angeles... is a trip which *should* be possible with one night in New Orleans and two on the train, using the Crescent and Sunset Limited. I'm guessing the three-a-week schedule of the Sunset Limited made that impossible?

That was an option, if I arrived in LA a day early. Considered it, but ultimately didn't want to burn a night in NOL and another unnecessary night in LA. That, plus I used to take the TE/SSL from FTW to LA quite a bit when I lived in Oklahoma CIty, so wanted to see something different. Only taken the SWC a couple times, and I kinda dig Raton and NM better than Southern TX. So, yes it could have worked, and was actually cheaper, even with having to hotel in NOL. But the scenery, and the thought it might be fun to go from true coast to coast made me choose the longer route.

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I guess the things that might detract would be any long delays en route, and if you are unlucky to get a duff SCA or Dining Car staff. Doing it all with a roomette sounds pretty attractive to me!

 

Ed.

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