Treating myself to a trip on Amtrak

Discussion in 'Passenger Service' started by myltlpny, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. myltlpny

    myltlpny TrainBoard Member

    I will be a guest speaker at a conference in Michigan next month and looked into taking the train as opposed to flying. I love to fly, but it's just gotten to be such a hassle. Due to time constraints, I'm still flying up, but as the conference ends on a Friday evening, I'm going to take the train home. It's a two day trip by train but I splurged and got myself a roomette for the overnight portion. I've taken coaches up the East coast before, but never had sleeping accommodations. It'll also be my first trip on a Superliner.
    I'm catching the Pere Marquette out of Michigan to Chicago, then the Capitol Limited just before dinner for the overnight to Washington. I can't wait to have dinner in the dining car. My only other experience eating on a train was the snack bar. Once in Washington, I catch the Northeast Regional back home to Williamsburg, VA. I'm really looking forward to this. It'll be something to look forward to after the conference.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Good choice on the roomette. If it can be afforded, it's a nice way to go.

    Please grab a few photos and let us know how the ride goes.

    Boxcab E50
  3. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Have fun. I always have fun. And if the train is running late, that is just more time for you on the train. The last train ride I took, I rode the train first and then flew home. Wow, what a let down to be shoe horned into a little airplane seat and strapped in for two hours. The guy sitting next to me should have been required to purchase two seats but that is a different story.

    Keep us posted on the voyage. :)
  4. myltlpny

    myltlpny TrainBoard Member

    I wasn't going to bring my good camera, but you can bet I will now. I have a pretty good layover in Chicago, so hopefully I can do a little railfanning while I'm there, too.
  5. bkloss

    bkloss TrainBoard Supporter

    It will be memorable trip! We took Amtrak from Chicago to San Diego in a sleeping car 12 years ago and it was the best experience(when we moved to the left coast). You may or may not get too much sleep but it is well worth it if you can afford it. The meals in the diner were outstanding and the service was great. Last June for our 25th Anniversary, my wife and I flew to Toronto and took VIA rail and the Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver - another trip for the memories! If you bring your camera; take shots out your sleeping car window and not the dome cars as the glass is curved and will fool the camera. Depending on your layover in Chicago; there are lots of photo ops within a few blocks of the station.

    Have fun

  6. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    You DO know that going on such an adventure requires you to post a report and pictures here upon your return :) :) :) Enjoy!
  7. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Supporter

    The last 8 years of working I took Amtrak's Crescent between Slidell, LA and DC 90% of the time rather than fly. Not only was the train more convenient and pleasant, the sleeper (roomette) was less expensive than two hotel nights in DC, I was away from home fewer days due to the train travelling overnight, and the rail fare, including the roomette, was 2/3 the cost of coach airfare. Couldn't beat them apples.

    As said on the Chattanooga Choo Choo..."Nothing Could Be Finer Than Dinner In The Diner..."

    Besides, all meals are FREE with a Sleeper ticket, which makes them even Finer!
  8. Mudkip Orange

    Mudkip Orange TrainBoard Member

    If you're in the diner as a solo you'll almost certainly be assigned a tablemate. That can go any number of directions... but you don't have to share photos for that portion. :tb-cool:
  9. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    All and all I have had quite pleasant tablemates. A few were a little weird, like the psychic who wanted to analyze everyone's handwriting to predict their future.
  10. GN-Z-phile

    GN-Z-phile TrainBoard Member

    "North By Northwest"?

    If I get Eva Marie-Saint, *I'm* not telling! ;-)
  11. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

    Sure, flying is still a convince for time constrained travel, but I always find the stress and hassle from the airport sticks with me a few days. Then there's the dreaded anticipation of going through the security line and that starts about a day before boarding.

    Not with the train though! I'm like a kid at Christmas while I'm waiting for the Amtrak bus to pick me up and take me to the station. Then when I board traveling SF - Lincoln, NE, I get 2 whole days to worry about absolutely nothing! :D :D
    By the time I arrive, I'm always fully refreshed and feel like I could take on the entire Empire myself. :p

    Have a good trip, and be sure to enjoy everything to its fullest. :)
  12. myltlpny

    myltlpny TrainBoard Member

    OK, everyone. Time for my report.
    My presentation at the conference was a great success, so I was eager for my ride home. I woke up extra early on Saturday morning, anxious for my trip to start. The Amtrak site said to be at the station 40 minutes early. OK, so I was there about an hour and 20 minutes early. My first surprise was getting to the station. With a city the size of Grand Rapids, I was expecting a proper station. Nope. They have a Depot. OK, that's fine. The Conductor arrived around 30 minutes before departure to take tickets and such. She seemed a bit of a hard nose, but once she spotted my camera equipment she started asking questions and turned out to be pretty cool. Once she found out I was a railfan, she escorted me to what she called the best seat for train watching.
    The first part of the trip was the Pere Marquette to Chicago. This was a push-pull train with an F40ph npcu at one end (side roll-up door and all) and a P42 at the other. All the cars (5 or 6) were high level superliner coaches. The seats were very comfortable, nice tray table and 110v AC power. Restrooms and a cafe were downstairs along with ADA seating, baggage, and restrooms. The trip lasted about 3 hours.
    My first stop was in Chicago. I wanted to get some photos of the station (I'm into architecture), but there was a fashion show going on so the main hall was closed. I was told I could come back the next day, but apparently somebody didn't realize I was in a train station and not likely to be there for any length of time. My first impression was lackluster to say the least. I was greeted with lounges full of people, luggage, running children, etc. I had an eight hour layover (oh, no. Make that nine hour as we crossed from eastern to central time) and things weren't looking good. I had luggage from my conference and the thought of babysitting it for 9 hours seemed daunting. I went to the Amtrak desk to find my departure location so I could at least be in the general area. While they didn't know which track the Capitol limited would be at it would be from lounge "such and such". Unless I was a sleeping car passenger. Why, YES I am. THAT's different. I was directed to a quiet lounge with sofas, snacks, WiFi, beverages and movies, plus a rather nice restroom. The Redcap service meant I didn't have to babysit my baggage, so I had some time to explore. I tried to get back out onto the platforms for pictures, but due to Homeland Security regulations I wasn't allowed back out. The Metra guys said they would be cool with it, but the Amtrak people weren't hearing of it. Being in Chicago however, I just had to find myself a Bratwurst. And I did. Yum. Oh, my dinner reservation? 7:30 please and I'd like the boneless braised beef short ribs. I could get used to this.
    Well, nine hours later and it was time to board. There were about 10 or so superliner cars with two P42's at the head end. My roomette was comfortable if not palatial. Two seats, a fold-down bunk, and a bit of room to turn around. Not huge, but at least it was private and I could get undressed to go to bed. The room had its own lighting, climate control, and AC power so I was happy enough. The lower level was for showers, rest rooms, baggage, and ADA rooms. I charged my camera batteries and laptop and headed to the dining car.
    Dinner was good. I make boneless beef shortribs at home, and they were every bit as good as mine (I also enjoy gourmet cooking), but the sides seemed rather mass produced and lacked imagination. Overall I was satisfied. As previous posters noted, you get some interesting table mates, and I was no exception. Opposite me was a biker dude (nothing against bikers here) who complained the rolls weren't hot and the margarine wasn't real butter. Beside me was a rather nice woman, who had the inexplicable expectation that everyone would know she had an allergy to latex. So it was no wonder the server looked at her like she had two heads when he approached and she inquired to what type of gloves they wear. Hey, warn somebody first. Well, as meals are included with the room, I took my ice cream desert and headed back to my room to sit down and watch John Pinette's "I'm Starvin' " on my laptop. Funny stuff there.
    With my Upper bunk folded down it was time for bed. I had to sleep in the upper bunk. I know the lower would have probably been more comfortable, but hey, for one day I was 10 years old. I was so excited I had a hard time falling asleep. I finally did, and woke up when the motion of the train stopped. It must have been somewhere in Pennsylvania. I could feel the car being moved back and forth as cars were cut in and out.
    The following morning, I woke up and made my way to the dining car. I got seated across from Mr. Biker dude again. What are the chances? Once again I had to hear him complain about the lack of real butter. OK, I guess everyone has their pet peeves. Breakfast was Ok, but unamazing.
    There was lots of fog outside and not much to see in the morning, but as we approached Cumberland, Maryland, I made my way to the lounge car with its big windows. I got to squeeze off quite a few shots. I also noticed the family I was sitting next to got up and moved. I wonder why?
    Eventually we got into Washington, where I've been a number of times before. I had a four hour layover, so I paid to have my bags checked, and went exploring. I snapped some photos, browsed the shops, got something to eat, etc. (you'll notice food keeps popping up).
    My final leg home was the local commuter from DC to Williamsburg, VA. The head end was a P42 with budd coaches behind. With several stops along the way, it was a rather long trip. The seats were comfortable, and I was able to play around on the laptop some more so it was OK. I pulled in after 9 PM, but was happy to be home.
    I loved my trip. My dream vacation is to take the Canadian across Canada, then pick up the Amtrak Cascades into Washington. I had envisioned continuing on to take a loop of the US, but I think now that might be a bit much. I think once I get to Seattle, I'll stay a while and fly home from there. We'll see.
    For some reason I'm not able to post pictures right now. I'm going to post this, then add photos.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2011
  13. myltlpny

    myltlpny TrainBoard Member

    Ok, photo time. The first photo is the Pere Marquette coming in, and the second is from my seat. The later views are in Chigago.

    Attached Files:

  14. myltlpny

    myltlpny TrainBoard Member

    And more photos. I wasn't expecting to see a BNSF Superliner. I see modeling possibilities here. The bascule bridge and rotary dumper were things I had only read about and never seen.

    Attached Files:

  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Nice to read how you were excited enough that sleep was hard to obtain. Been quite a while since I had that kind of experience. I can believe how good you felt!

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