Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Radvlad, Jun 2, 2019.
A minor point of clarification...ALL cars originating in NOL as train #1 a 'through' cars. None of them are dropped enroute. No 'be sure' is necessary, as it's impossible to be booked on #422 from NOL since only train #1 goes NOL to LAX. The 2 cars of 'train' #421 are added at SAS.
Traveling LAX to NOL, you'll be booked on train #2. All of train #2 cars go to NOL. At SAS, the last 2 cars, aka Train #422, are dropped at SAS and added to #22 which originates at SAS using the same trainset that #21 arrived with the prior evening.
However....just to throw a monkey wrench into the works.... Sometimes there's no space left on #2 from LAX to NOL. But there's space available on train #422 to SAS (and on to Chicago). So, the savvy traveler would book space on #422 LAX to SAS, and then physically change trains (eg, move to a different car forward of the last 2 cars comprising #422) during the layover at SAS and board #2 there to get to NOL. To avoid being rousted in the middle of the night to get off #422 at SAS, I'd check availability from ELP to NOL, and change cars at ELP in daylight. It should be noted that the Amtrak computer does NOT offer a train #422 with 'switch cars' to #2 option. It has to be booked as two separate segments LAX to <wherever at or before SAS> and a second segment SAS (or wherever you want to move to another car) to NOL. When I rode #2/422 in April, I noticed a significant number of roomettes emptied at Maricopa (Phoenix), so booking LAX->MRC on #422 and MRC->NOL on #2 would provide an earlier in the day change than ELP or ALP.
Actually if you try to book CHI-LAX on a day that 421 runs, you are presented with 6 options, some better than others:
3. 21 changing to 1 in San Antonio
4. 21 to 421 changing in Ft. Worth
5. 5 changing in Sacramento to 704 changing in Bakersfield to 5804 (bus)
6. 27 to 11 changing in Portland.
Back in the good ole days of AGR 1.0, I enjoyed No. 6. I wouldn't do No. 5 for free.
If my primary goal was just to get to Los Angeles, I'd choose option 2 in a heartbeat.
Edit To Add: Back in the good old days of AGR 1.0, when my objective was riding the route of the Southwest Chief for the first time, I experimented with a NOL-LAX booking on a day the Sunset Limited didn't run. The resulting itinerary became the core of what I modestly referred to as "Railfan Madness, Part 1."
Yes, option 6 was a great trip under the old guest rewards zone system. I did the trip once and then, after learning that the zone system was being discontinued, I made another trip before the system ended.
I'm stunned that the Amtrak website offers option #3. Upon arrival at SAS, everyone on train #21 must leave the train except those in the last 2 cars, eg, train #421. While it might be possible to immediately board one of the rear #421 cars, I wouldn't count on it as the entire crew leaves the train there and based on my own observations, do so quickly once all the passengers are off. OBS crew goes to the hotel about a block away for the night. The 'new' sleeping car attendant for #421 may or may not be there yet. As a result, the passenger(s) would end up killing time in the station until boarding time, typically 10 minutes or so prior to departure.
On the other hand, as I noted in my previous post, it's possible that a passenger boarding in DAL, for example, encountered 'sold out' in the #421 section and so booked train #21 to SAS after which space was available on #421 (or even #1) from SAS to LAX or any intermediate stop between the two.
Out of curiosity I did a price comparison for a hypothetical trip from Tucson to New Orleans in March 2020. For one senior travelling in a bedroom, the cost in a through sleeper (train 2) was $1,673. However if you traveled between Tucson and San Antonio in the 422 sleeper and transferred to a train 2 sleeper at San Antonio, the cost was $1331. So you would lose sleep by making the transfer at San Antonio but you would save $340 (which you could then blow at the Casino in New Orleans).
You found one of the interesting 'oddities' of the Amtrak ticketing system. As the computer doesn't 'know' that train #2 and #422 are physically attached LAX-SAS and treats them completely independently from each other for the entire length of their routes. As a result, prices on one train may increase based on 'demand' faster than the other. A couple of times I've looked at prices on #21 vs #421 from CHI to SAS, and sometimes see $100 or more 'difference' for a roomette on the same 'connected' train.
Living in Massachusetts, I consistently book coach or BC from Springfield to Albany, and then move to a New York section roomette in Albany after the New York and Boston sections of the train are joined. The price for a roomette in the Boston section (tr #449) is usually more than $100 higher than the New York section (tr #49) roomette because there's only 1 Boston sleeper (no BOS sleeper this summer on non-bus days, though, due to CSX trackwork) vs 2 from New York. Each section is treated as separate trains although they are joined together ALB->CHI.
In short, it pays to check out all the options from A to B. Amsnag is a fantastic way to find the best prices from A to B. Last fall, I discovered that PDX to CHI via #11 to LAX and #422 to CHI in a roomette cost less than #28 or #11/#6, so I grabbed it using AGR points. I then 'filled in' the rest of my annual vacation (I'm retired) joyride using Amsnag almost daily and ended up with a 9,429 mile trip with only 2 segments paid by credit card as I had used a bunch of points last fall.
Good you all did walk in a group, to be safer. You do for sure, never know about safety late in night in other cities. I'm sure in a worst case scenario, those women could've booked an Uber or Lyft, if noone else would've walked with them. Though I would've volunteered to walk with them, if I was on that train just to make sure they were okay getting over there and back!
If you try to book the Empire Builder between Chicago to Spokane, you see the same situation with trains 8 and 28, and 7 and 27 respectively(7 and 8 to Seattle, 27 and 28 to Portland). Different fares, since those cars go to different destinations. I suspect that's why one will see different fares for trains 1 and 421, and 2 and 422 respectively on the combined Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited between San Antonio and LA.
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