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Amtrack between San Franciscoand Denver question

Amtrack between San Franciscoand Denver question

Sep 1st, 2008, 01:35 PM
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Amtrack between San Franciscoand Denver question

We are considering taking the train from SF to Denver over Christmas. We can find little information about what is on the train itself... so I'd like to hear from anyone who might be familiar with trains in the USA. Are there sleeper compartments on this train? Are there different class accommodations? What is the food like? and tips or opinions would be appreciated.
kleroux is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 02:38 PM
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Can't imagine why you "can find little information about what is on the train itself." Within thirty seconds of going to www.amtrak.com, I found this URL:


which states that this route's trains have coach seats, roomettes, bedroom suites, and family bedrooms.

Not sure what you mean by different "class" accomodations, as the only difference between the various sleeping choices is the size of the compartment.
PaulRabe is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 03:58 PM
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Be aware, that route, the California Zephyr, is notorious for being behind schedule. My mother takes it frequently to/from SF and Truckee, and it's often running anywhere from 2 - 6 hours late.
hazel1 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 04:42 PM
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Unfortunately train travel in the US is noting like in europe. The federal gov't provides very little support - instead spending money on air and roads.

There are no classes for seats. For overnights the "class" is what type of room you take. Prices are generally higher than flying, conditions range from acceptable to awful, the food is poor and the train is usually quite late. (The tracks are owned by freight companies and they give preference to their own trains, so the very few passenger trains have to pull over so extremely long freight trains can pass).

Amtrak is not a recommended means of travel except in the NE corridor (Boston to NYC to DC) which runs a large number of trains and is usually reasonably on time (within 15 or 30 minutes or so). Again, prices are similar to flying - but to go center city to center city the time is about the same and train seats are more comfortable (although the food cannot be recommended).
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 04:47 PM
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nytraveler took the words out of my mouth.

happytrailstoyou is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 04:57 PM
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I am assume you are not a resident of the US kleroux.

Sadly the reputation of Amtrak is terrible as you will note here on the responses to you questions.

I haven't used Amtrak in over 12 years and never will again unless I am convinced there is a huge improvement in service, on time schedules, clean restrooms, enough decent food to feed ever passenger and so forth. And I don't expect that to happen.

I would fly kleroux, as much as I love trains I don't consider travelling by Amtrak a great adventure.

LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 04:59 PM
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True, this route is notorious for running VERY late. But the ride thru the Sierra Nevada is spectacular in the snow. It look like travelling thru a Xmas card.

I guess it depends if you can spend the time and not mind any delays.

MichelleY is online now  
Sep 1st, 2008, 07:16 PM
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I have ridden the California Zephyr numerous times, sometimes all the way from San Francisco (actually Emerville) to Denver and sometimes only as far as Reno in both directions. Aside from the issues of being frequently late, I have never experienced the problems others note every time a question like this shows up. I sometimes wonder if many posters don't take information they have heard third-hand and post as if it happened to them. Certainly, not having taken the route in 12 years wouldn't qualify as current information.

For me, the train is a relaxing and pleasant way to travel. I always meet lots of interesting people and, especially on this route, much of the scenery is superb. While the accomodations are not as luxurious as in Europe and the "train" experience is not as nostalgic as the ViaRail cross-country routes, the AMTRAK trains I have been on (maybe 25 long trips in the past ten years on a variety of routes) have been acceptable both in terms of accomodations and food.

The primary complaint many people have that is well-founded is its on-time record. For me, though, that's not even a big issue. I just plan that the train will be late and, if it is, just relax and appreciate that much more time to spend on the rails.
dwooddon is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 08:32 PM
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Well dwooddon, if you can tell me that Amtrak now has sufficient food to feed all their passengers and if you can tell me they keep the restrooms clean I would be most interested and happy to hear the news. I love trains but after many miserable train trips via Amtrak I finally gave up traveling on Amtrak. And after that various family members did continue with Amtrak up until oh about four years ago and had nothing but negative stories to relate. Not that flying is that wonderful either keep I acknowledge.

Anyway..has there been a big improvement with Amtrak these last few years?
LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 08:41 PM
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I can only tell you I have not been on a train that ran out of food, even when they had to serve extra meals because of the late arrival. Nor have I experienced terrible bathrooms.

My latest trip was the worst late I have been because of a broken rail. they had to serve an extra breakfast and lunch and my choices were available for both.

I have also never been more than 12 hours late on AMTRAK and I have had a number of flights over the years that got me home 24 or more hours late because, once a flight cancels, there often aren't that many open seats on succeeding flights.
dwooddon is offline  
Sep 1st, 2008, 09:46 PM
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I've only taken the Sacramento / Reno leg of the CA Zephyr (several times) and have really, REALLY enjoyed it.

the on-time thing is an issue. But I consider the train trip more like a cruise than mere point-to-point transportation. I wouldn't take Amtrak if I had to be somewhere at a specific time - if that was important, I'd fly. But just to travel around the West - it is much more comfortable than flying coach and schlepping through airports.
janisj is online now  
Sep 1st, 2008, 10:09 PM
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I took the Zephyr all the way to Chicago AND it was on time.
We booked the delux sleeper, the big one with the bathroom.
I was quite comfy but my husband felt a little squished.
The food was very good and included in the price of a sleeper ticket. All in all we enjoyed it and the ride to Denver is only one night so any discomfort is short lived.
glimmer2 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 09:22 AM
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I have yet to have any food on Amtrak that was acceptable. Edible - yes. Won;t make you sick - yes. But not something that anyone would voluntarily eat unless they were captive onthe train. (Unlike europe - wher the meals are usually acceptbel - not 3* michelin - but similar to a casuale cafe).

Restrooms are often abosolutely digusting. Not every train, or every car - but often enough as to be completely unacceptable.

nytraveler is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 09:35 AM
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I only took 1 R/T on Amtrak few years ago. Had a private sleeper with a bathroom/shower down the hall. Orlando to New Orleans.

The food was very good, the bathrooms were clean. Met some interesting people.

All in all, I was a happy customer.

The train was about 3-4 hours late in New Orleans but pretty much on time back to Orlando.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 09:40 AM
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I would just like to add:

Food was included in the price of the sleeper. It was a sit down, white tablecloth experience.

I actually held a ticket from Sarasota to New Orleans. The Sarasota to Orlando part of the trip was on a Amtrak Bus. The bus started in Ft. Myers, picked few of us in Sarasota at a designated downtown stop, stopped in Bradenton, Tampa, couple of more stops and delivered us to the Orlando Amtrak station right on time.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 11:38 AM
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I rode Chicago - Emeryville in the summer, and it was no fun to get stuck on a high mountain waiting for engineers to arrive to access the damage of a broken rail UNDER the train.

Travelling in December, bring warm clothes in case heater breaks. Bring snacks in case the restaurant starts running out of food. Have a backup plan for hotel in case you are so late, they give away your reserved room

(happened to a woman on the train, she made a reservation to stay in a hotel between trains, lost money as her B&B was non-refundable)

There are sleeper compartments of different classes: sitting only, and several types of sleepers.

Being prepared for a disaster, take your seat and enjoy the view! You shouldn't be late more then 8-10 hours!

I had a roommette - good I was there alone! No room for bags, no standing room if the "beds" are made! Whoever sleeps on the upper shelf, has his nose in the ceiling - the spaces are tiny. The lavatories and one shower are at the end of the car.

Food was not bad at all! Just not enough. Plus on day 2 we started to run out of it! No desserts. On day 3 they just gave us what was left.

If you buy a sleeping compartment, the food is included in the price. If only a seat, you can go to the restaurant to buy food after the sleepers are done with theirs.

I was glad it was a one-way trip coming home, so I didn't have to worry about getting to a hotel after arriving at 1 am instead of scheduled 6 pm.
FainaAgain is offline  
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