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I Just Booked My Trip With Amtrak  
User currently offlineATA1011Tristar From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 93 posts, RR: 0
Posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 3660 times:

Hello Everyone!

Spring Break is rapidly approaching! In preparation, I just booked MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - POG (Portage, Wisconsin) with Amtrak. I love trains, and was looking into riding one home for a long time. I am so excited about this trip; almost as much as flying Big grin. This will also allow my dad to only have to drive one hour to pick me up and it will additionally save him a trip to the Twin Cities. This journey will be conducted on the Empire Builder (Route 8). The last time I rode Amtrak was when I was about six.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has rode Amtrak lately. Tell me what to expect and give me any tips so that I may enjoy my trip to the maximum.

Thanks!

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineSTLGph From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 9518 posts, RR: 26
Reply 1, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 3627 times:

Amtrak is fun. Too bad you're taking too "short" of a trip per se  Smile

So with that in mind, I'd try to make your way to the Lounge car and enjoy the trip from there ... in its entirety to Portage.



if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
User currently offlineCPH-R From Denmark, joined May 2001, 6054 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 3617 times:

Hope you have better luck than my last train trip. Got stuck in the middle of nowhere for 45 minutes due to problems with the track changers and as a result, I had to see my connecting train journey going from a EuroCity train with a minimum of stops, to a regional train with too many stopovers, than I could be bothered to count, thrown in for good measure  Yeah sure

On the bright side, I did make it to Hamburg and the Reeperbahn (Which is damn hilarious to pass through at night Big grin)


User currently offlinePilotfox From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 553 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3604 times:

I've taken the Empire Builder a few times, it's quite scenic. After you leave the Twin Cities you follow the Mississippi River down to La Crosse and cross the river there. Then you head on down into Tomah and the Dells. I would recommend siting up in the sightseers lounge for the best views. Overall I enjoyed taking the train, my longest trip was from Milwaukee up to Grand Forks, it was quite the haul.

User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26815 posts, RR: 75
Reply 4, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3599 times:



Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Thread starter):
Tell me what to expect and give me any tips so that I may enjoy my trip to the maximum.

Expect to meet some interesting people who have great stories from all over the world.

Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Thread starter):

I would love to hear from anyone else who has rode Amtrak lately.

Amtrak, despite losing some of its lustre because of budget cuts, still is a great way to travel.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently onlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1505 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks ago) and read 3578 times:



Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Thread starter):
I would love to hear from anyone else who has rode Amtrak lately. Tell me what to expect and give me any tips so that I may enjoy my trip to the maximum.

Thanks!

I haven't ridden on Amtrak since 2000 however it didn't seem to be much different than when I had ridden the train in the 80's. The dining car isn't bad however nothing fancy.

Most of the routes did sell alcoholic drinks back in 2000 except a few state had strict liquor laws. Assuming the routes or trains haven't changed IIRC the route you described should be on a Super-Liner which is a double Decker train they have a observation car on the 2nd level of the car which has bigger windows fpr viewing the scenery ,comfortable seats, and TV's. There is usually a snack bar in the bottom level of most cars which sells microwavable snacks like (White Castle burgers, chips, soft drinks etc...)

The coach seats are usually more comfortable than Greyhound buses and ok for sleeping. I don't think you'll be disappointed and with the distance you'll be travelling which isn't far the trip will fly by quick.

The routes I have taken are The Empire Builder Seattle-Spokane and back, and NYC Penn station-Chicago-ST Paul, MN on the Empire Service.

Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Thread starter):
I just booked MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - POG (Portage, Wisconsin) with Amtrak.

I wasn't aware Amtrak stopped in Minneapolis when I last rode Amtrak from Chicago-Minneapolis segment it stopped in ST Paul but no station in Minneapolis it went straight thru the city after leaving ST Paul.


User currently offlineATA1011Tristar From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks ago) and read 3566 times:

Thanks for the replies everyone. I will take your advice that I sit in the observation/lounge car.

Everyone is right about the great beauty of the Midwest. This will be one of the highlights of the trip. The Mississippi should be gorgeous! Although I love flying second to none, you miss so much on the way there.

Is there anyone, in terms of employees, that I should try to make small talk with? Some of the most interesting things I have read in the civil aviation forum seem to have been said to the poster by a flight attendant or pilot.

Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 5):
I wasn't aware Amtrak stopped in Minneapolis when I last rode Amtrak from Chicago-Minneapolis segment it stopped in ST Paul but no station in Minneapolis it went straight thru the city after leaving ST Paul.

Yes, you are quite right. The train stops in St. Paul only. It's quite funny really. When I went to buy the ticket, I typed in MSP as the origin. I did not even think about it; I'm so used to using MSP because of the airport. Why can't Minneapolis/St. Paul just be a normal big city with one name! Big grin


User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26815 posts, RR: 75
Reply 7, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks ago) and read 3560 times:



Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 5):

The coach seats are usually more comfortable than Greyhound buses and ok for sleeping.

They recline nearly 180 degrees and are much wider.

Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Reply 6):

Everyone is right about the great beauty of the Midwest.

Uh, I wouldn't go that far. The part of the trip between Cut Bank, MT and central MN is miles of ugly prairie.

Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Reply 6):
The Mississippi should be gorgeous!

That is definately true.

Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Reply 6):

Is there anyone, in terms of employees, that I should try to make small talk with?

Look for the LSA (Lead Service Attendant). They will likely be the person running the dining car. They often can give the best stories.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently onlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1505 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (6 years 9 months 3 weeks ago) and read 3555 times:



Quoting N1120A (Reply 7):
Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Reply 6):

Everyone is right about the great beauty of the Midwest.

Uh, I wouldn't go that far. The part of the trip between Cut Bank, MT and central MN is miles of ugly prairie.

North Dakota is one of the most boring segments of any trip.  yawn 


User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2556 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 3480 times:



Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 5):
Most of the routes did sell alcoholic drinks back in 2000 except a few state had strict liquor laws. Assuming the routes or trains haven't changed IIRC the route you described should be on a Super-Liner which is a double Decker train they have a observation car on the 2nd level of the car which has bigger windows fpr viewing the scenery ,comfortable seats, and TV's.

The lounge design is OK but not great by any means. The seats are pretty uncomfortable compared to the ones used on older lounge cars. The amount of padding is akin to that on a city bus. Worse yet, they're fixed in position and cannot be moved or turned. Amtrak doesn't have any observation cars-observation cars have either an open rear platform or enclosed solarium and ride at the end of the train.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
User currently offlineKevinL1011 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 2964 posts, RR: 47
Reply 10, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3465 times:



Quoting N1120A (Reply 4):
Amtrak, despite losing some of its lustre because of budget cuts, still is a great way to travel.

Track maintenance has suffered the most. I've taken the Southwest Chief from LA to CHI twice in the last 3 years. I booked a "Roomette" which is equivalent to a motor home size private bunk bed. While sleeping in the upper bed, I had to wedge my body between the mattress and ceiling panel. That was the only way I could sleep without hanging on to something. Several times while traveling through Arizona and New Mexico, I could have sworn that we were derailing.
I'm talking about the trucks completely bottoming out with a loud bang from the impact.

Quoting N1120A (Reply 7):
Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Reply 6):
The Mississippi should be gorgeous!
That is definately true.

I dunno about that. It looks like a mud flow and you can only get a good view of it while crossing on the trestle. Otherwise, most of the view is obscured by vegetation along the banks.

I get a kick out of trying to identify the numerous abandoned vehicles dumped along the way.



474218, Carl, You will be missed.
User currently offlineFXramper From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 7364 posts, RR: 85
Reply 11, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3463 times:
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NicksAir uses them often. Hit him up on private message.

 twocents 


User currently onlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1505 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3455 times:



Quoting 57AZ (Reply 9):
Amtrak doesn't have any observation cars-observation cars have either an open rear platform or enclosed solarium and ride at the end of the train.

Maybe I phrased it wrong but remember only on the Superliner IIRC they had a car that was like a lounge with bigger windows maybe someone can help me out.


User currently offlineKevinL1011 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 2964 posts, RR: 47
Reply 13, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3449 times:



Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 12):
they had a car that was like a lounge with bigger windows maybe someone can help me out.



http://www.morscher.com/rr/1993/19930821_03.jpg



474218, Carl, You will be missed.
User currently onlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1505 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3448 times:



Quoting KevinL1011 (Reply 13):
Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 12):
they had a car that was like a lounge with bigger windows maybe someone can help me out.

Thats the one, Thanks


User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2556 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 3412 times:



Quoting KevinL1011 (Reply 10):
Track maintenance has suffered the most.

However, in the example that you cited it is not a result of Amtrak funding cuts. Amtrak trains are typically run on trackage rights over private rail lines such as Burlington Northern and Santa Fe or Union Pacific. Maintenance of the lines is their perogative. Rough riding is another reason to see that your roomette is in the center of the car and not at either end. Typically the roughest rides are above the trucks. You also tend to get a rough ride when the trucks pass over a turnout at speed due to the gap presented by the frog. Face it-tracks today are maintained for freight trains, not passenger trains. You won't get as good a ride as back in the heyday of passenger train travel.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
User currently offlineBMIFlyer From UK - England, joined Feb 2004, 8810 posts, RR: 58
Reply 16, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 3388 times:

Amtrak is alright, I always enjoy my trips on them.

Have fun  Smile




Lee



Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2556 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 3352 times:

Whenever someone mentions observation car, this is what automatically comes to my mind. Granted that in this specific case, the car is a Business Car. Almost all railroad Business Cars were built with an open observation platform at the rear end.



This car is Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum No. 98-built in 1917 as part of a two car order for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It was assigned to a Vice President and only used on his orders. The car was permanently staffed with one cook and steward. They were usually the highest seniority numbers and were paid full salary but only worked when the car was on the line. The 98 seats a maximum of 12 guests in day configuration-night configuration is 6 guests. The 98 is the Business Car of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and is only used on official railroad business or when chartered. I've ridden that car many times in my years. She's much more comfortable than the Amtrak cars but comparing a Business Car to an Amtrak Superliner Lounge is a bit like comparing a BBJ/ACJ to Ryanair.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
User currently offlineCadet985 From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 1671 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 3351 times:



Quoting ATA1011Tristar (Thread starter):
I just booked MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - POG (Portage, Wisconsin)

I'm taking Amtrak on March 18...going to visit some friends in Washington, DC for spring break. Hell...its an excuse to blow more money at the gift shop of the National Air and Space Museum. Anyway, I'm taking the Carolinian from 30th Street Station in Philly to Union Station in DC. When I head back to Philly, I'll just be on a regional service train, whatever that means. Some day, I'd like to take Amtrak coast to coast, and back again.

Marc


User currently onlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1505 posts, RR: 3
Reply 19, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 3330 times:



Quoting BMIFlyer (Reply 16):
Amtrak is alright, I always enjoy my trips on them.

Have fun

Well its certainly better than riding Greyhound any day.

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 17):
Whenever someone mentions observation car, this is what automatically comes to my mind. Granted that in this specific case, the car is a Business Car. Almost all railroad Business Cars were built with an open observation platform at the rear end.

Duly Noted......


Mike


User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26815 posts, RR: 75
Reply 20, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3316 times:



Quoting 57AZ (Reply 9):
Amtrak doesn't have any observation cars-observation cars have either an open rear platform or enclosed solarium and ride at the end of the train.

Actually, I prefer the current Amtrak lounges to the older dome cars.

Quoting KevinL1011 (Reply 10):

Track maintenance has suffered the most.

That's not Amtrak's fault. Amtrak is getting ripped off to rent what the federal government handed the railroads in the 19th century. Blame BNSF for the poor condition of those specific tracks.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2556 posts, RR: 2
Reply 21, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 3287 times:



Quoting N1120A (Reply 20):
Blame BNSF for the poor condition of those specific tracks.

That depends on one's definition of poor maintenance. One limitation on train speeds is the fact that the railroads have removed a lot of the super elevation in curves-the reasoning being that freight trains run at lower speeds and thus there is no justification in maintaining the degree of elevation that passenger train speeds require. Another factor that has been a constraint for years was the requirement of Automatic Train Control/Automatic Train Stop for high speed lines. Railroads opting not to install ATC/ATS had their lines limited to 79 mph for passenger trains by ICC rules.

From the railroads viewpoint, Amtrak is doing what it was intended to do-unload what had previously been a responsibility of the railroads onto the federal government. The railroads knew that Amtrak would not be able to break even. Some in the industry hoped that Amtrak would collapse, allowing them to neatly wipe their hands of the matter and kill off the intercity passenger train. The hard economic facts are that passenger trains are (as a general rule) not profitable. Only one railroad in the US made the majority of it's profits off of passengers-the Long Island Rail Road. It also had a nasty habit of dispatching good numbers of it's patrons into the Great Beyond through mishaps throughout the 19th and 20th centuries but that's another story. The biggest financial money pit of passenger service was and still is dining car service. Dining car service was and is provided mainly as a necessity on long haul trains. It never has and never will be profitable. Most railroad accountants considered themselves fortunate if their railroad's dining car service broke even or ran a slight deficit.

One of the other problems that our government has failed to address is the wholesale abandonment of certain railroad lines due to oppressive real estate taxes on the railroads. In order for them to cut tax payments, railroads have to abandon parallel routes that create duplicate or excess capacity. That means in most cases, lifting rail that will never be relaid. If the state and federal governments would allow the railroads to railbank those routes, they would survive to relieve the traffic saturation that is clogging the existing rail network. If the old Milwaukee Road and Rock Island lines were still intact, they would provide great relief to the overloaded UP Sunset, BNSF Transcon and NP/GN routes that survived the cuts of the 1970s and 1980s. That in itself would improve passenger train running among other things.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
User currently offlineKaiGywer From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 12281 posts, RR: 35
Reply 22, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 3285 times:
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FORUM MODERATOR

One of these days I gotta ride Amtrak. Maybe I'll take it MSP-CHI and then fly back  Smile


“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, an
User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2556 posts, RR: 2
Reply 23, posted (6 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 3281 times:



Quoting KaiGywer (Reply 22):
Maybe I'll take it MSP-CHI and then fly back

You mean from St. Paul to Chicago. Kind of like taking Amtrak from Tucson to Phoenix-only Amtrak doesn't go to Phoenix anymore. Phoenix passengers have to get off at Maricopa which is down on the reservation. Station consists of a passenger car for a waiting room and a covered platform. No connecting bus or taxi service is available there unless you prearrange it. What's even more fun is that the train only stops there in the wee hours of the morning IIRC.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
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