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Trip Report: Riding Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Trip Report: Riding Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Old Nov 15th, 2010, 09:04 PM
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Trip Report: Riding Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles.

.Having previously ridden several of Amtrak's long distance trains I looked forward to a trip on the Chief. The experience was similar to that on the California Zephyr, but not as good as the Empire Builder or Coast Starlight trains.

Having said that, I think it would have been much different if I had taken the trip in early fall when the days are longer. Coming right after the end of Daylight Savings Time, this trip suffered from the lack to sufficient daylight hours to enjoy the scenery.

We left Chicago on time and continued to be on time or a little ahead of schedule the entire journey. In fact we arrived at Los Angeles Union Station about 45 minutes early. There is only one significant stop en route- in Albuquerque- where passengers had time to get off, look over local merchandise and maybe even get a non-Amtrak meal. There were a couple of other brief stops where the smokers could indulge in their habit.

Because of the limited daylight, the scenic highlight of the trip, at least IMO, was Shoemaker Canyon between Raton, NM and Las vegas, NM. Climbing over and descending Raton Pass also offered some nice scenery. Contrasted with California’s Cajon Pass which we crossed in the wee hours of the final morning.

The beefs with this trip were mainly in the dining car. The folks in Chicago had "forgotten" to load the mushrooms used in several dishes. The food was sometimes warm, not hot. Nobody seemed to like the salmon for dinner, dry and unappetizing with a strange green sauce was the way one person described it to me. The veggie dinner dish was very bland according to dining car commentary. The chicken must have been good because they ran out. I did hear one diner rave about the steak as being perfectly done and tender.

On the second dinner, by 7:15 p.m. they were out of chicken, out of salad, had only one piece of carrot cake left. Because we were early breakfast service on the 2nd morning was slated to last about an hour starting at 5 a.m., but was really less than 45 minutes. It has to stop at Riverside. The service was mixed. One server was greater, she was friendly, prompt to take orders, kept water glasses and coffee cups filled. Some just went through the motions.

In the sleeping car, the attendant for my car was great. Checking regularly to see if you needed anything, ensuring you knew when to make dining car reservations and on the final leg of the trip providing a nice commentary on what we were seeing out the windows. He also provided information for those folks connecting to another Amtrak train or to the Los Angeles transportation system.

Overall it was a positive experience. I'd take the Chief again, but not at this time of year.
boom_boom is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2010, 03:37 AM
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"The beefs with this trip were mainly in the dining car" Is the food included in the ticket price? You mentioned running out of chicken etc.

Enjoyed reading your most interesting report. Thanks for sharing.

SandyBrit is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2010, 04:20 AM
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Thanks for reporting, I've often thought about taking the train but haven't done it yet.
emalloy is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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Thanks for the report boom_boom

I've enjoyed the California Zephyr and the Empire Builder, but have never taken the Southwest Chief, so I enjoyed the compare-contrast, as well as the mentioning of the scenic highlights. One day maybe...

Best wishes, Daniel
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Old Nov 16th, 2010, 07:16 AM
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If you have sleeper accommodations, then yes, your meals are included in your ticket/accommodation price.

Thanks for the trip report...have only done the Chicago--Kansas City leg of that route a few times, never the entire thing. Did the Empire Builder a few years ago...lovely trip.
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