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Guest David Archer UK

Choice of CZ or SWC for a first timer.

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Guest David Archer UK

We are flying into San Francisco from Auckland on way back to the UK and wish to experience a west coast to Chicago train ride. It is worth hopping on a flight to LAX to then get on the SWC or is it not worth the extra trip. It is unlikely we will get another chance to do this so wish to make the most of it. What started to put us off is the fact of getting to Emeryville first to pick up the CZ first thing in the morning. Would be grateful of any opinions from regular Amtrak users

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Hi David,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

I have taken both trains, and in terms of scenery, nothing to compare between the two. The Zephyr is the tops for dramatic views, mountains, rivers, cliffs, valleys.

 

Going to LA to take a lesser train is not the way to go. There are some interesting views from the SWC, but I would take the Zephyr every time!

 

As you probably know, there is a dedicated Amtrak bus service from San Francisco to Emeryville station.

 

Ed.

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If you are already booked to San Fran, the Zephyr has great views of the Rocky Mountains. One other possibility however is to take the Coast Starlight from the Bay Area (can get on from Emeryville to LAX) and catch views of the Pacific Ocean and the California Coast and then catch the SWC to CHI.. Do you prefer seeing mountains or oceans? Also, you would have to leave EMY early in the morning and get in LA late at night and can't leave Los Angeles on the Chief until the next night so you'd have to spend an overnight in LA.

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I agree that in terms of scenery, the California Zephyr beats the Southwest Chief hands down.

 

If you don't like the idea of getting to Emeryville so early in the morning, another option is to take a Capitol Corridor train (frequent departures throughout the day) to somewhere like Davis or Sacramento, stay overnight there, and then catch the California Zephyr mid-morning the next day. Note, however, that I've never done this.

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The Zephyr is no question a better ride than the Chief - it leaves the Chief in the dust. Many people feel that the CZ is the best and most scenic train in the Amtrak system. There is virtually no reason to head down to LA, spend an overnight, and take an inferior train.

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Guest David Archer UK

Many thanks everyone. You have made it so easy for us to decide. The CZ it is and so looking forward to the adventure. We have been inspired by a BBC documentary series here in the UK by Michael Portillo, all about Amtrak and America history. DVD's available on Amazon and we recommend it to all our USA friends who love train travel.

 

Happy travelling everyone

 

David A UK

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I have taken the CZ several times, hitting all the seasons, so I can say it is a fantastic trip no matter which season. Winter has some spectacular snow scenes, the fall has the Aspens turning, Summer is great because you have more hours to see more of the mountains, and Spring with seasonal awakening. Just make sure you have enough digital space on your camera because I always feel I am taking photos almost continuously. Have a great trip!!

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Many thanks everyone. You have made it so easy for us to decide. The CZ it is and so looking forward to the adventure. We have been inspired by a BBC documentary series here in the UK by Michael Portillo, all about Amtrak and America history. DVD's available on Amazon and we recommend it to all our USA friends who love train travel.

 

Happy travelling everyone

 

David A UK

Good Decision!!!!!!!!!

HAVE FUN

Edited by Rail Freak

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Yep. Expect to have your socks blown off by the scenery between Emeryville and Denver along the CZ route.

 

I'll be on the CZ again late this month OTM - SAC - OTM.

I'm planning on using 3 of the 4 cameras I'll have with me.

I'll be using my DSLR, an action camera, and my smartphone cameras to shoot video.

Edited by KmH

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No matter what time of the year.....the Zephyr is the best.

Edited by zepherdude

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For a scenic rail journey, the California Zephyr is the better of the two.

 

I found the Southwest Chief's and the Sunset Limited's itinerary provided interesting to me views as well.

 

But, I still prefer the Empire Builder's itinerary. Have enjoyed this route during Winter and Summer seasons and the views are magnificent, particularly during the Winter when there is fresh fallen snow. And, I so well remember conversations with with the men traveling to/from their jobs in the North Dakota oil fields. Their job experiences opened my eyes to a way of life that is lucrative in salary earned, but at a quality of life lost.

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I am looking forward to trying both and then I can add my two cents worth. Can’t do it this year, but hopefully next!

 

I really have enjoyed the debate.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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I will agree that if you can only do one, do the Zephyr. There's nothing else quite like it in the system. But, if you can make two trips, I would encourage you to try both routes. I find such a sense of history along the old Santa Fe trail, and 90 mph running has something in its favor as well!

Sent from my STV100-1 using Amtrak Forum mobile app

Edited by ehbowen

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I haven't ridden either train yet, but I would probably choose the CZ for the scenery, especially around Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. I say that because I've watched a YouTube timelapse video of someone driving along I-70 through that area.

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CZ to see the Sierra Nevada and Rockies.

Agreed. The rest of the route was great, but the Sierras and Rockies were possibly the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen.

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Caveat: I’ve only been on the Zephyr so I have no comparison, but definitely take the Zephyr

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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I’ve been on them all from the West Coast to Chicago. And for a first-timer, the CZ is definitely the choice. You can get an Amtrak ticket starting in San Francisco with a bus connection from several locations in the City that travels across the Bay Bridge to meet the CZ’s starting point in Emeryville.

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