Jump to content
TonyLemur

Reno/SF -> Chicago route suggestions?

Recommended Posts

We're taking another trip out west to Reno this year around September to visit relatives in Lake Tahoe and I'd like to get some advice regarding routes. Last year we took the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, then went down to San Diego for a couple of days, then up north to Reno (via bus thanks to a certain police incident). After a stay in Lake Tahoe we took the California Zephyr back to Chicago and through to Michigan.

 

This year I'd like to do the California Zephyr westbound to see the Rockies during the day (and hopefully not so snowy and foggy!), and take another route back home. We're planning on spending a night in San Francisco and I think taking a train out of there (or Emeryville) might work well. Ideally, whatever we take out of SF would leave late at night so we don't have to book a hotel just to leave first thing the next morning. Alternatively we could drive back from SF and catch something out of Reno instead.

 

Here's some options I'm looking at:

  • Empire Builder - via Coast Starlight to Portland or Seattle
  • Texas Eagle - via Coast Starlight, Pacific Surfliner, or bus to Los Angeles
  • Southwest Chief - via Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles (not ideal since we've already taken the SWC westbound)

1. Which route do you think would be the most scenic, taking daylight hours in September into account? We've taken the SWC westbound already, so I don't think we'd be seeing much new except a little bit of Arizona in the early morning that we missed going the other way. The Empire Builder seems like we'd see more "new" scenery than the Texas Eagle but I'd like to hear from people who have taken those routes personally.

 

Another question regarding the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles:

 

 

The Texas Eagle serves all stations between Chicago and San Antonio daily. Through service west of San Antonio operates tri-weekly, departing Chicago, Poplar Bluff and intermediate stations on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Eastbound trains departing Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday arrive stations San Antonio-Little Rock on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and stations Walnut Ridge-Chicago on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday.

 

This means that 2. We can only board the Texas Eagle in Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, right? Is the booking site smart enough to know this or do I have to make sure I'm boarding the 422 on one of those days myself?

 

 

Last question: 3. Why does the site not allow a Texas Eagle -> Blue Water connection in Chicago on the same ticket? Is it because the Texas Eagle arrives at 1:52 pm and the Blue Water departs at 4:00 pm and that's too close for comfort for a long-distance route? I'd rather not have to get a hotel in Chicago for 26 hours, but I'm definitely not going to force-book them separately and risk missing the same day's Blue Water.

 

Thanks and sorry for all the questions and rambling!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If it's scenery you want, take the Coast Starlight / Empire Builder via Portland. Oregon mountains, Columbia River gorge at sunset, Glacier Park, big sky country of the upper plains, bluffs of the upper Mississippi.

 

While Amtrak will guarantee the connection in Portland, I would recommend planning on spending the night there so you don't stress about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The website will not allow you to book train 422 on those other days, because there is no other train running on those days. Train 422 is 2 cars (a coach and a sleeper) that is on train 2, so if train 2 is not operating, neither is train 422.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice trip!😎

 

I say go with the Zephyr heading West,then take the Starlight to Portland from Emeryville and catch the same day Empire Builder #28 from Portland to Chicago as snvboy says!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The CS to EB connection in Portland is a tight one time wise (1 hr 13 minutes), but is long enough to be a guaranteed connection as long as both trains are on the same reservation.

 

What that means though is that if the CS is too late to Portland to make it sensible to delay the EB departure for a bit you would likely get bused to Pasco, WA to catch up to the train.

You would still go along the lovely Columbia river but on the south side on I-84 instead of the north side where the railroad tracks are.

 

If the CS is later still Amtrak might instead exercise their option to put you up for the night in Portland so you can connect to the EB the next afternoon.

 

Here is Amtrak's guaranteed connections policy: https://www.amtrak.com/at-the-station.html

"Amtrak does not normally guarantee connections of less than 60 minutes (90 minutes between arriving long-distance trains and local trains in the Northeast Corridor). Please call Amtrak 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or your travel agent if your planned itinerary includes a shorter connection. A guaranteed connection does not ensure that such a connection will always be made. In the case of a missed guaranteed connection, Amtrak will provide alternate transportation on Amtrak, another carrier, or overnight hotel accommodations, at Amtrak's discretion."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A slight correction to KmH’s post.

 

You may or may not be bussed from K-Falls to Pasco. It all depends on if the CS is slightly late, late or very late. If it is just a little late, they may hold the EB in Portland until the CS arrives. (I have had this happen.) if it is late, they could bus you from Albany, OR to Portland. (I have had this happen.) Or If is very late, they could bus you from k-Falls to Pasco.(I never had that happen.) They also could put you up in a hotel in Portland (on their dime) and send you the next. Day.

 

Another correction is on the south side of the Columbia River (where I-84 is), there are railroad tracks also. These are UP tracks - previously used by the Pioneer. The EB uses the BNSF tracks along the north shore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

The Texas Eagle serves all stations between Chicago and San Antonio daily. Through service west of San Antonio operates tri-weekly, departing Chicago, Poplar Bluff and intermediate stations on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Eastbound trains departing Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday arrive stations San Antonio-Little Rock on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and stations Walnut Ridge-Chicago on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday.

 

This means that 2. We can only board the Texas Eagle in Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, right? Is the booking site smart enough to know this or do I have to make sure I'm boarding the 422 on one of those days myself?

 

 

 

"Train" #422 only exists on the three days of the Sunset Limited #2. Same with 421 in the reverse direction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Starlight north is better scenery than the Starlight south, and the Empire Builder has better daylight scenery eastbound so I would def. choose that route.

 

Sunset Limited does have some very neat scenery, but the Starlight And Builder combo is hard to beat. Be sure to watch for Eagles fishing in the Mississippi after your morning departure from Minniapolis. I usually see about 2 dozen or so each trip. Magnificent birds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Take the Zephyr west and the CS/Builder east via Portland. Wonderful views both way and a great boxed dinner from a local restaurant on the EB.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will say that the Sunset/Eagle is also a wonderful train, and you would get to enjoy the Starlight's scenery along the coast, but the scenery of the CZ and EB pretty much blow the Eagle out of the water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Say my original plan is what I mentioned earlier - take the EB to Chicago, stay a night, and catch the next day's Blue Water to Michigan, hence it's not a guaranteed connection since it's two bookings. If the CS were delayed enough for them to put me on the next day's EB instead, and I miss the original Blue Water (arriving five minutes before departure in the best case) - do you think they'd let me reschedule if I asked nicely over the phone, or is it just one of those "they might, but don't depend on it" things? For what it's worth, I would know two days ahead of time if I'd miss it. On the other hand, another Blue Water ticket isn't exactly breaking the bank...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would take the CS either to Portland and spend the night, or Seattle. I really enjoy the ride along Puget Sound, plus an over night in Seattle allows me to take the ferries, so love the views on the water. The EB goes through Glacier NP during the morning of the second day. Actually, from day break on is very scenic. Love the the fresh crisp air walk in Whitefish before entering the NP. This is a great trip along the most northern route in the US. There are so many changes along the way to the landscape.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Say my original plan is what I mentioned earlier - take the EB to Chicago, stay a night, and catch the next day's Blue Water to Michigan, hence it's not a guaranteed connection since it's two bookings. If the CS were delayed enough for them to put me on the next day's EB instead, and I miss the original Blue Water (arriving five minutes before departure in the best case) - do you think they'd let me reschedule if I asked nicely over the phone, or is it just one of those "they might, but don't depend on it" things? For what it's worth, I would know two days ahead of time if I'd miss it. On the other hand, another Blue Water ticket isn't exactly breaking the bank...

Since they'd be getting you into Chicago a day late, I think they'll be cool with moving you to the next day's BW. It's one thing if you intentionally booked a five minute connection, but a 24 hour connection? If they say no, just make a big fuss about it and they might give in. Either way, I would call customer relations afterwards and ream them for such a massive delay.

 

Bear in mind, if you miss your connection to the EB, they might not have room for you on the next day's Builder in the first place, which would basically cancel the whole ride home...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If your trlp is all after the first week in September, then I would think there would be rooms available on all of the long distance trains. If travel is earlier in September (or in August), then book your space ASAP.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If your trlp is all after the first week in September, then I would think there would be rooms available on all of the long distance trains. If travel is earlier in September (or in August), then book your space ASAP.

But if you have many passengers missing a connection, there might not be sufficient spare rooms to accommodate everyone...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×