Amtrak Southwest Chief?

Old Aug 25th, 2010, 03:10 PM
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Amtrak Southwest Chief?

Anybody ridden the Southwest Chief between Chicago & LA? How did you like it? I'm looking at an early Nov. trip. Am not worried about keeping to schedule, and will get a roomette. I've ridden the Empire Building from Chicago and the Zephyer from Chicago to Sacramento. Any idea on how the Chief stacks up against those trips?
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 05:38 PM
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Um, well, it's been a few years, and we only did the Chicago to Kansas City portion, but I would say it compares pretty well on a basic level, especially if you aren't in a hurry.

However, the scenery on those other trips offers quite a bit more. On the Empire Builder, I found the trip alongside the Mississippi River to be quite charming, and of course there's Montana (we only went as far as GNP). And the Zephyr has the rockies and the Sierras...all that is pretty hard to beat.
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Old Aug 27th, 2010, 07:08 PM
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Yes we have ridden it. It is scenic, maybe not as scenic as the California Zephyer. It was an enjoyable ride and did enjoy it. However, be prepared to arrive late to your destination. Amtrak is a great way to travel but usually runs late. Hope this helps.
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 01:28 PM
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Becky - Thanks. I never expect Amtrak to be on time, but I get fooled from time-to-time. My Empire Builder trip started late but arrived 30 minutes early. On the other hand, my last Coast Starlight trip we were 8 hours late!
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 08:54 AM
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Boom_boom,

If you take the Southwest Chief, do report back. I love the whole experience of riding long-distance sleeper trains, the changes in scenery, the relaxation, the conversations between those from different regions of North America. Long-distance trains I've been on are the Empire Builder, the California Zephyr, the Canadian (mind-blowingly spectacular each in parts), the Adirondack, the Ocean, the Capitol Limited (these 3 quite gorgeous too in parts), the Silver Meteor, and the Crescent (least spectacular of the lot, but still lovely and interesting to move from temperate to semi-tropical landscape with the accompanying changes in vegetation, etc...). I've felt that each ride offered uniquely enjoyable experiences.

Having taken the other two Chicago--> west coast trains, I'll be especially interested to hear your perspective of the Southwest Chief!

Best wishes, Daniel
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Old Oct 9th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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I've taken the SWC between Chicago and Albuquerque. There's not much scenery between Chicago and Kansas City, unless you love fields of corn. I imagine it will be rather pretty if there is snow on the ground in early November, though. The portion that travels over the Mississippi is quite nice, and you might get treated to a sunset at that point since you're traveling after DST.

You'll stop in Kansas City, MO around 11:30 and start again at midnight. That means you'll cross Kansas while sleeping and then wake up in the flat portions of Colorado around 7:00. Since I traveled during the summer, I enjoyed watching distant thunderstorms all the way across Kansas. It was like my own, private light show since everyone was sleeping/oblivious. (I had trouble sleeping in Coach and will probably book a room next time.)

Colorado and New Mexico are absolutely breathtaking. I took the majority of my pictures there, and I'm sure it's going to be stunning in November, since the mountains will be covered with snow. You will definitely enjoy this portion of the trip.

Once you pass through New Mexico into Arizona, you'll be treated to a beautiful red rock landscape before turning in for the night. When you wake up, you'll be just about an hour from L.A.

The train itself has two locomotives, a dorm car for the crew, baggage car, dining car, lounge car (cafe on the lower level), 2-3 sleepers, and 3-4 coaches, depending on how many people are booked. The sleepers are separated from the coaches by the dining car and lounge car.

Have fun!
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Old Oct 9th, 2010, 01:28 PM
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I wanted to add... depending on the speed of the train, you'll have anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours for a break in Albuquerque. The station is downtown, so most people have enough time to go out and get ice cream or whatnot.

From my experiences and what I've read from others, the SWC tends to run anywhere from 30 minutes early to an hour late, but it makes up a ton of time during the flat portions of Arizona and Kansas. You'll feel it speeding across the prairies and plains while you sleep. It's pretty cool. They also build a ton of extra time into their schedule to allow for any delays due to freight trains. When I took my trip, we were a half-hour early to almost every single stop.
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Old Oct 9th, 2010, 06:36 PM
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Thanks sarahwolf....this is the last leg of a trip that will start on a cruise ship in Barcelona, Spain. 14 days of leisure then a flight from Miami to Chicago and another couple of days of leisure before the real world beckons.
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