QXatFAT From Israel, joined Feb 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 5 Posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 3517 times:
So I am getting ready to go back to college in Michigan for my final semester and my parents have suggested I try taking the train. They have both flown and taken the train to Michigan plenty of times to visit me and tell me the train is a really neat experience. I have driven from California to Michigan 3 times but what will I expect on this train? The only time I have ridden on a train is from Washington D.C. to Detroit. This will be a longer route from Fresno, CA to Los Angeles, CA to Chicago, IL to then Jackson, MI.
How are the seats? Meals? Scenery? Should I take things that will help me on this trip besides the books and such?
DocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 17896 posts, RR: 57 Reply 1, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 3491 times:
Jackson? Spring Arbor U I'm guessing? What, the weather was too nice in CA? I mean I'm from Michigan and I had the good sense to correct that problem ASAP.
Anyway, you're about to spend three or four days on a train. I sincerely hope you're renting a cabin. Train seats are way more comfortable than Y-seats on a plane, but not for three whole days. Yes it's expensive. Flying's cheaper.
Long-range trains have dining cars. Meals are not typically included in the fare. Take lots and LOTS to read. A GPS device, if you have one, might also be fun. Get a cabin on the left side of the train if you can so that you don't get the full-on brunt of the sun.
And a camera. But, as you know, once you're past the Rockies, it's just a lot of flat.
Glid4500 From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 587 posts, RR: 8 Reply 2, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3441 times:
You are about to have a good trip, and please be sure to post a TR when u have time.
But anywho, the train is a wonder way to see the americas. Coach seats are wide, comfty, and offer generous pitch. Only thing u'd prolly need is a blanket...just in case it gets cold. I agree with DocLightning, try and get a seat on the left side of the train...so the sun wont get u in the face. I believe there are draw-curtains in the Superliner coach cars. You might have plenty of time to take a good long walk, stretch at Albuquerque. Across from the Alvarado Transportation Center there is a Coldstone Ice Cream shop. Once u pass Lamar, Colorado is all flatlands. have a nice trip
TheSonntag From Germany, joined Jun 2005, 3379 posts, RR: 30 Reply 5, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 3395 times:
Just of curiosity, as you mentioned the GPS. How fast are Amtrak trains going? I know the US rail network is very old, on the other hand it has long stretches which could help high speeds. So how fast does such a train travel?
57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2550 posts, RR: 2 Reply 7, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 3330 times:
Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 5): How fast are Amtrak trains going? I know the US rail network is very old, on the other hand it has long stretches which could help high speeds. So how fast does such a train travel?
Depends on the track and signaling systems. In many areas, Amtrak has a 79 mph speed limit due to lack of Automatic Train Control or Automatic Train Stop features on either/both the wayside signals and locomotives. There is one corridor in the Midwest where trains routinely run at 90+mph. Even then, the limit is often 90 or 100.
"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."
Quoting Goldenshield (Reply 4): As far as food, expect the snacks and beverages to be overpriced.
If you rent a cabin of some sort, meals will be included. So while a cabin on a train is more expensive than flying, keep in mind they are providing you with at least three meals a day, showers, linens, and many other comforts. I highly recommend you drive up to SMF and catch the California Zephyr and take it to Chicago. Going through the Sierras and Rockies is absolutely stunning. I have ridden the train to Michigan many times as I have family there. Let me know of any questions you may have.
TheSonntag From Germany, joined Jun 2005, 3379 posts, RR: 30 Reply 9, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day ago) and read 3302 times:
Quoting PWM2TXLHopper (Reply 6): Expect a lot of waiting and delays on side tracks out in the middle of nowhere, while you wait for priority freight trains to pass. After all, you're using their tracks.
Quoting JetsGo (Reply 8):
On a good stretch, I have seen the them hit 75-80 mph.
I understand that the railroad network in the US generally only exits because it retained its importance in the cargo sector, but it is interesting that it is the other way around in Germany. Usually, cargo trains must wait for passenger trains here, at least the long distance high-speed trains have highest priority.
The general average top speed is usually 80 - 100 MpH for long distance trains on the old train network, unless it has been upgraded to 120 mph. Going faster is only allowed on new built high-speed tracks.
Of course, long distance means some hours in Germany, something entirely different than sitting days in an Amtrak train. I would love to do that once when I get to the US.
Goldenshield From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5641 posts, RR: 15 Reply 10, posted (5 years 4 months 3 weeks 1 day ago) and read 3297 times:
Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 9): I understand that the railroad network in the US generally only exits because it retained its importance in the cargo sector, but it is interesting that it is the other way around in Germany. Usually, cargo trains must wait for passenger trains here, at least the long distance high-speed trains have highest priority.
There's only 1-2 companies that don't give priority to passenger trains here in the states, and that's usually because of union contracts. For the most part, though, passenger trains do take priority if they aren't on their own rail. Amtrak even owns its own rail in the northeast section of the country.
Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2550 posts, RR: 2 Reply 11, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3236 times:
Quoting Goldenshield (Reply 10): There's only 1-2 companies that don't give priority to passenger trains here in the states, and that's usually because of union contracts. For the most part, though, passenger trains do take priority if they aren't on their own rail. Amtrak even owns its own rail in the northeast section of the country.
True with some exception. UP would give the Sunset priority if they had the capacity to do so. However, the Sunset Route is over capacity now-thanks mostly to post-PanaMax ships offloading at San Diego or Long Beach. Norfolk Southern and CSXT both do pretty good forwarding Amtrak trains on their lines, especially the NS.
As for track speed, that corrolates directly into costs. It costs much more to maintain a line for high speed passenger service-superelevated curves to maintain, ATC control equipment, high speed switches versus low speed switches, etc. That's why Amtrak is limited to 79 mph in most areas. Back in the day, steam railroads such as the Milwaukee Road ran some trains as fast as 110 mph on a daily basis. Way freights would run at top speeds around 40-50 mph, depending on the road and terrain. Fast freights, such as the AT&SF's Green Fruit Express ran at passenger train speeds. Woe be to the dispatcher that unnecessacerily delayed a passenger train or a GFX.
"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."
MSYtristar From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 6344 posts, RR: 50 Reply 12, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 3229 times:
L.A-Chicago on the "Southwest Chief" is a very nice ride. The train is comprised of bi-level Superliner cars. Expect some great scenery leaving L.A over Cajon Pass and then the next morning cruising through Arizone followed by a full day trek across scenic New Mexico. The stop in ABQ lasts for nearly an hour and they have locals next to the train sellling local gifts and food. Be sure to check that out. That second evening you pass through the extreme Southeast corner of Colorado. It should be getting dark around that time. When you wake up you'll be in or near Kansas City. You'll have time to get off here for some fresh air as well. Then you cruise through the heart of Missouri and Iowa (inclduding a great crossing of the Mississippi River in Fort Madison) before heading into the Chicago area. It really is a nice ride. Bring a few books, a blanket, a pillow (they give out small ones but I always bring one of my own also), iPod, and camera. You'll spend a lot of time in the Sightseer Lounge car which has floor-to-ceiling windows for great viewing. The time will pass by quickly. Don't expect to get a TON of sleep in coach, but if you can manage 4 or 5 hours, you'll be fine. Also, it's very easy to take small naps throughout the day. The food is decent...nothing spectacular...but you'll have pay for all meals since you're riding in Coach. The Dining car's nowadays have generally 4 to 5 entrees, and they range from $9 (for breakfast) to $21 (steak for dinner). Sandwiches and snacks in the lounge car are a little overpriced but nothing too bad. Sodas are $1.75...cheaper than US Airways! The on-time performance of the Southwest Chief is usually good compared to other long distance trains.
Chicago to Michigan will be on a single-level train known as the "Wolverine". It's a basic commuter railroad-type train (the seats are better, however) with a cafe car.
QXatFAT From Israel, joined Feb 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 5 Reply 13, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3200 times:
Thank you everyone for all of your insight. It looks like the trip from L.A. on is booked on upper level coach and only lower level is available. So I will not be taking that route. I will be taking the northern route out of Sacramento. I see it is a bit longer as well as there is a bus ride from Stockton to Sacramento and then Sacramento on to Reno, Nevada. How is this? I do not think I will be enjoying a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Nevada.
Nathanr From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 22 posts, RR: 0 Reply 14, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3190 times:
Expect to be late.
Last time I was on Amtrak, a tree fell on our train, and made a 3 hour train trip a 13 hour trip. While this wasn't anything Amtrak could have controlled, all the other times I have rode I've been late...
MSYtristar From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 6344 posts, RR: 50 Reply 16, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 3156 times:
Quoting QXatFAT (Reply 13): I will be taking the northern route out of Sacramento
Sacramento to Chicago on the California Zephyr is, in my opinion, the bet route in the Amtrak system. The scenery between SMF and DEN is just awesome the entire way. The entire second day you'll be passing through the heart of the Rocky Mountains en route to Denver. Once you leave Grand Junction be sure to grab a seat in the Sightseer car because it will fill up quickly. If on time ( a big if for that train) you'll be getting to DEN around 8:00pm and you'll have time to get out there for a little bit...maybe :30. Night falls as you leave DEN and head out in the vast plains of eastern CO and then Nebraska . The next morning you'll be in OMA and then you'll pass through the flat lands of Iowa before approaching the suburbs of Chicago.
DeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 8818 posts, RR: 12 Reply 17, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3137 times:
Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 15): These Amtrak long distance trains travel hours without stopping anywhere, correct? This is something we don't know in most of Europe, except for some night trains.
I believe they do make stops in the middle of the night. I know that when I lived in North Carolina, one train made a local stop at about 2 a.m. on it's way to Atlanta or Miami (forget which).
Up here in the Northeast, there's only two true overnight trains out of Boston - the Lake Shore Limited (to Chicago) and the overnight Regional train to Washington - I know this train makes a good 1-2 hour stop in New York Penn Station to allow for a longer travel time so people can get more sleep (was more practical when they had sleepers on this train; now it's just regular business/coach classes).
Yes they do...on every Amtrak long distance overnight train. That's just how it goes with train schedules. On the Crescent line that you speak of, for example, all of the cities in NC and SC are served between midnight and 5:00am.
QXatFAT From Israel, joined Feb 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 5 Reply 19, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3106 times:
Well I just booked my tickets. I am going to drive up to Sacramento and go on the California Zephyr there. I saved some money only paying $179 with AAA discount. Pretty good price from $330 from here in Fresno. Plus my parents would like to just hang out in Sacramento while we are up there the night before.
My friend is actually going to fly down from Seattle and meet up with me in Sacramento and she will ride the train with me all the way to Michigan. Our other classmate and friend will join the train in Colorado. A nice trip with all three of us.
Question: Are there outlets in Coach that I could charge the ipod and cell phone? Also, I might be pushing it but is there any chance of internet at any of these stations that we stop at for 30 min?
MSYtristar From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 6344 posts, RR: 50 Reply 21, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3102 times:
Quoting QXatFAT (Reply 19): Are there outlets in Coach that I could charge the ipod and cell phone?
Many Superliner coaches have a pair of outlets at every seat, but some cars do not. Worst case scenario you'd have to go charge it in the Sightseer Lounge for a while. Hopefully you'll get on a refurbished coach with outlets. The coach I was in from Seattle to St. Paul last month did not have outlets at every seat.
QXatFAT From Israel, joined Feb 2006, 2402 posts, RR: 5 Reply 22, posted (5 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 3072 times:
Here is a question I have on my luggage, what am I allowed to take? They said I have checked luggage to Chicago but no checked luggage to Jackson. What does that mean? Am I loosing out on precious essentials that I need for school?