Amtrak out West?

Apr 3rd, 2005, 01:41 PM
  #1  
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Amtrak out West?

We're planning to take Amtrak from Eugene, Or., to L.A., drive L.A. to Santa Fe., and then Amtrak again from Las Vegas, NM to St. Louis, and then drive east some more. Any experiences, thoughts, opinions, advice, warnings ... re Amtrak out west? We've booked a deluxe one bedroom w/ private bathroom for the overnight portions of this trip. Thank you.
horizon is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 02:01 PM
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We took the trip from San Francisco to Eugene, then to Seattle. It's not luxurious by any means, but having your own bathroom should help immensely. We didn't have one and the sleeping quarters were very cramped and stuffy. I would rather rent a car and drive the portions that required sleeping on the train, but the one bedroom berth may make the trip more pleasant.

Travelling in business class from Eugene to Seattle was comfortable but, since it's near the front of the train, there was a lot of whistle-blowing noise.
April is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 02:28 PM
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Is the Eugene to LA the Coast Starlight? If so it is a nice train with a lounge car where you can sit and see the sights. We did the trip from Seattle to San Francisco and enjoyed our time but did not get much sleep because of the many stops during the night. If you are on that train go to the lounge area and get a seat soon after boarding as it gets crowded quickly.

A potential warning - Our train was generally on time but other passengers warned us that the train is often behind schedule sometimes by many hours. I often ride the train between DC and NYC where the trains are generally on schedule. We were told that Amtrak does not own the track out west and they don't have the right of way so the passenger trains often wait long periods for other traffic. If you are not on a schedule this does not really matter.
detraveler is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 02:38 PM
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thank you. we are on somewhat of a schedule, but maybe the fact we're traveling on a saturday night will mean less commercial traffic on the same rails. i know what you mean, though. we are acela/metroliner people and one gets spoiled. we once took the train between DC and FLA. - btw, never again - and sat somewhere in South Carolina for 3 hours! it was a kind of hell.
horizon is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 03:22 PM
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The freight trains run all the time, so I don't think a Saturday night gives you any better shot of being on time than on a weekday.

Andrew
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Apr 3rd, 2005, 04:44 PM
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I guess we were lucky. Our train arrived in Seattle on schedule, to the minute.
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Apr 4th, 2005, 12:48 PM
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Being on time or late is the same as gambling in Vegas: if you win (train on time) you feel happy, if you lose (train late) just think of it as of an adventure.

Don't count on being on time. And it's not alway the freight. Once my train was 2 hours late leaving Los Angeles - mechanical problem.

Once the bridge before Sacramento wouldn't close after letting a tall boat go. And because of a weekend or a holiday they couldn't locate an engineer to fix it. Luckily it was the last stop of a local train, so the passengers were bussed to the station.

Once, approaching Oakland, a tree fell on the rails. I don't know if it's a joke, at least not mine - this was announced on the loudspeaker. We arrived at midnight instead of 10 pm.

If you need to be somewhere on time Amtrak is not dependable. Especially now with all their financial troubles.
FainaAgain is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 01:11 PM
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Amtrak is not a treat. You would be much better off flying, driving, and sleeping someplace where you can get a good night's rest.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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For midgets only. Oops, sorry. For our little friends only.
clarkgriswold is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 01:56 PM
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Opinions vary. Mine is that Amtrak is not a preferred mode for long-haul travel in the west, for a couple of reasons.

First, the north-south mainline route takes far from the most scenic path, and the scheduling geniuses at Amtrak seem to have a real knack of insuring that the most attractive scenery is passed at night. Not always the case but often enough to be seriously irritating, given the transport and accommodation prices they get.

Second, they are often late and prone to equipment imperfections - not necessarily dead trains, but track difficulties, something wrong with the cars or services - something. Again, not every trip and not every route, but enough...

Third, they're slow as Moses. But give more credit to Moses - he was lost for 40 years, and Amtrak just has to follow...tracks.

Take Amtrak across the Great Plains - fine. Across Texas - better. But skip the Redwoods and the California coast? No way. Rent a car. Stay at a motel with a real shower.

Others may disagree.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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On a side note... Gardyloo, do you know why Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years?

Because even back then, a man wouldn't stop to ask for directions!
FainaAgain is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 02:56 PM
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Nah, it was because Mapquest.com sucks on the Sinai.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2005, 04:29 PM
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thank you, all. as of now, we're committed to the train, because we will have just traveled by auto from chicago to eugene, or. also, we drove the pacific coast a year ago. it seemed like an opportunity to kick back with a book and veg. i know it's a gamble. poor amtrak. if only they cared. in august we trained from antibes to paris...in a sleeper...and it was a thrill. still, after all these years.
horizon is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 07:03 PM
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I hope you will reflect on the suggestions given here as you bounce around in your tiny, tardy itsy-bitsy deluxe one-bedroom cabin.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 09:58 PM
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It's not that Amtrak doesn't care - it's that the US Congress and Executive Branch do not think Amtrak is worth the money to improve it. Even now they are talking about not funding Amtrak to save money. Amtrak would do all kinds of wonderful things if given the money, but they aren't getting it. That's too bad - very short-sighted.

Trains are no longer a practical way to travel long distances when we have affordable air travel, but they are a great way to travel shorter distances (e.g. Seattle to Portland) vs. airplanes. Air traffic is going to get clogged up in the next 20 years and trains could help relieve some of the burden on the air traffic system. A fast Portland-Seattle train (currently takes about 3.5 hours on time) could be about as fast as a plane, once you factor in security waits, etc., but would take some planes out of the system and be a much more pleasant way to travel.

I've often thought that a passenger train between Portland and the coast - say, Lincoln City, stopping at the Grand Rhonde casino - would be very popular with tourists. It would parallel a dangerous highway (18) that is increasing in traffic, so it would probably save lives and money down the line, too, while improving the tourist industry. I believe there are opportunities for passenger rail like this all over the place.

Andrew
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Apr 4th, 2005, 10:48 PM
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We don't need a Federal-government funded central agency like AMTRAK to run trains all over the country. It can be cut down to simply run trains in the NE corridor. In other parts of the country, the individual states can fund their own trains, if that make economical sense. California is doing well, and the service along the I-5 corridor can also survive.

However, the really long distance trains really have to go.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 07:30 AM
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The Coast Starlight is run independently of the overall Amtrak organization (at least it was at the time of our trip in 1998). Do look into this option, as opposed to any 'ordinary' train for your journey. And if you google you will find lots of information on the CS and journals/trip reviews (more recent than mine, I'm sure!) of their travels. Happy rails to you!

(And as the daughter of a steam locomotive engineer and fireman, yes, I'm biased when it comes to trains!)
tuckerdc is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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What Andrew has posted above is true - many of the issues that plague Amtrak are due to the fact that, unlike highways and airports, Passenger rail in the United States has no dedicated long term source of funding. the highways are (partly) funded by the gas taxes, which go into the Highway Trust Fund, while the airlines & airports are funded by, among other things, local bond issues and the Airline Trust fund. These mechanisms create a lot more money, to the point that these have budgets that are 30 times what Amtrak has. The railroads, for the most part, have to pay for all of their own maintenance out of their own pockets, while the airports and highways are supported by the taxpayers. The railroads also, for the most part, have to pay for any expansion to their track capacity. having the states buy track capacity for them is the rare exception, and far from the rule. As Andrew points out amtrak would be a nicer system, and there would be higher ridership in many parts of our nation, however, Amtrak (or somebody else) would have to buy the tracks, signals, etc, for the RRs, otherwise you will be stuck in the situation similar to what you have right now. Don't compare the NYC-WAS corridor to the long distance trains, there are those in the RR industry who have indicated that it is the long distance trains which are the money makers and the NYC-DC trains which are the financial "albatross" around Amtrak's neck.

As always, it depends a lot upon your personal perspective as to how your trips go - I've been on several trips throughout the system, and met folks aboard the same train where some are describing it as the trip from hell while others are having a great fun time. It really does depend on the route, who the landlord RR is (right now the Burlington Northern RR and the Canadian Pacific RR are very professional and tolerant of Amtrak being on their tracks, while the Union Pacific RR is the most hostile), who the crews happen to be at the time, and what your perception is. I don't mind riding in the sleeper, but then I usually travel just by myself.
Another thing that I want to point out is that Amtraks sleepers are more functional than luxurious. If you expect serious rail luxury, you should look at the American Orient Express, or perhaps Rail Ventures.com. if you do so you should be expect to pay anywhere from 4 - 8 times what Amtrak charges. As for several of the other criticisms leveled at Amtrak on these boards, you could make similar ones regarding the Airlines or car travel as well. Ever been stuck in traffic jams for long periods? Ever have cancelled flights at the airport? And, just about every airline has had their share of complaints regarding serivice, tardiness, facilities, maintenance delays, etc. Every mode of travel has its share of flaws. Soemtimes it bothers people, other times it doesn't.

The European countries have better train service due to the bottom line - they spend as much on their trains as the US spends on its highways.

*/rant mode *ON/
As long as I've got full steam on here, rkkwan, how about privatizing every last inch of the Interstate Highways, and also getting rid of all of the various funds that support highways and making them all toll roads? And get rid of the FAA as well - make airlines buy their own airports and pay for their own traffic controllers if they want to service a particular city. No airport trust funds, either. Privatize the airports and the highways.
/rant mode *OFF/
WICT_106 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 02:26 PM
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I guess I'll bring some good wine, a good book, a good pillow, and hope for the best.
horizon is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 03:24 PM
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WICT_106 - Main difference between taxpayer subsidizing trains vs plane/highway is that tonnes of people use the planes and the highways, and is crucial in the economy of this country. Long distance trains outside the corridors are not.

I never suggest we don't need the NE Corridor. If taxpayer's money is needed to keep in running, so be it. And so are various trains in California and West.

What I severly object is running trains like the Sunset Limited that lose tonnes of money for every passenger it carries. For what purpose, you tell me? It's simply federally subsidized tourism.

If people want to take trains, there are luxury train excursions they can take. Don't ask me to pay for it!
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