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Train Buffs: Questions About The SW Chief  
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7907 posts, RR: 14
Posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 4128 times:

Been driving around Albuquerque since I moved here a few days ago and caught a glimpse of the westbound Southwest Chief as is was speeding down towards the Albuquerque station -- also the first time I've seen an Amtrak train running w/ 3 locos.

Anyways this was around 7/7:30pm and roughly 10-15 minutes away from the train station. The schedule says it is supposed to arrive in ABQ around 3:35pm. However this train was running decidedly late. Is this normal for the Southwest Chief?

Secondly I am interested in what this train is like, I have semi-convinced the girlfriend that we should take it somewhere... either Chicago or LA. Since it is overnight in each direction I'd like to get a feel for what the service is like onboard and if getting a roomette would be a good idea or if coach is comfy enough.

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
7 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineTZ757300 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 2922 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 4090 times:

Quoting DesertJets (Thread starter):
Is this normal for the Southwest Chief?

Unfortunately, it's normal for a lot of Amtrak's long distance trains since they don't run on their own track.

Quoting DesertJets (Thread starter):
Secondly I am interested in what this train is like

Doing an overnight train is much different than a commuter or say Amtrakss various corridor services (Northeast, California service, etc) I rode between Miami and Washington on the Silver Meteor and it was great. The seats are pretty good, comfy and lots of leg room, like business class on an airplane, the food wasn't too bad, and every staff person was absolutely awesome. Now I've never rode in a roomette, but I'm sure it's just as nice, plus your meals are paid for. As for your train, the view would probably be better since you are higher up than the equipment I was in, which more most long distance trains is a huge plus. America has lots of scenery to go around.

User currently offlineBMIFlyer From UK - England, joined Feb 2004, 8810 posts, RR: 56
Reply 2, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 4081 times:

I've been on the Southwest Chief, and I enjoyed it alot.

There is a trip report on here featuring the SWC, here it is  

LAX-MEM Via Amtk, MEM-LIT-LAX Via GLI & WN (by Glid4500 Jan 24 2006 in Trip Reports)

Hope this helps  

[Edited 2009-07-30 03:47:31]

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
User currently offlineFlybaurLAX From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 640 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 4045 times:

I traveled the SW Chief with my parents a while back from LA to Chicago. It was really a fun ride. I must admit that I liked the California Zephyr a bit more, since it goes through the Rockies along the Colorado River, but traveling by train is really fun. We had 2 bedrooms, which were fantastic. Traveling by train is much more relaxing than flying, as you can walk around the train, have decent food, and beautiful views.

Keep in mind, that if you travel by train, don't make any appointments according to the scheduled arrival of your destination. As mentioned above, Amtrak doesn't own the rails it uses cross country, so they must give way to freight traffic. Maintenance stops aren't all that uncommon, either.

I was also on the Empire Builder going from Chicago to Seattle, then the Coast Starlight back down to LA. That was very nice. While we were on the Empire Builder, the train stopped in the middle of the mountains. They wouldn't say why we stopped, but about 30 minutes later we saw the conductor run out to the engines with a roll of duct tape, and believe it or not a few minutes later we were moving. Kinda makes you wonder.....

Boilerup! Go Purdue!
User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 4042 times:

The SWC normally is one of the better trains in the system in terms of on time performance. It runs over the rails of the BNSF railway, and they, more times than not, do a great job of getting Amtrak through on time.

I rode the train once in '07...LAX to CHI. I had a roomette (small, private sleeping car room) and I had a great ride. Like others have said, I don't think this ride is quite as scenic as the California Zephyr (SFO area to CHI), but the first morning through Arizona and then the rest of the day through New Mexico is very pretty in its own right. At night through Kansas the train makes very good time, and the final day is spent cruising through Missouri and Illinois, and features a scenic crossing of the Mississippi River.

Overall I'd say the SWC is one of the more reliable long distance trains out there today, and also one of the fastest, in terms of running time.

User currently offlineTimz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 7231 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 hours ago) and read 3983 times:

One problem with coach: the seats don't recline far enough for comfortable sleep. 1950s-era long-distance coaches had seats on 52-inch centers, which left room for them to recline to... maybe 30 degrees from horizontal? For whatever reason, today's coaches don't come close to that.

User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7907 posts, RR: 14
Reply 6, posted (6 years 10 months 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 3957 times:

Quoting Timz (Reply 5):
One problem with coach: the seats don't recline far enough for comfortable sleep.

Probably still more recline than on my last transatlantic flight in coach. The coach seats when I took a NEC train from DC to NY and back was pretty comfortable but that was only a 3 hour ride.

Either way I still want to ride a long-distance train somewhere. Chicago would probably be the preferred destination though. So the scenery along the way isn't a huge factor.

Quoting FlybaurLAX (Reply 3):
I was also on the Empire Builder going from Chicago to Seattle

There was an interesting show on the History Channel where they featured the Empire Builder and talked about the challenges of building the Great Northern Railroad 100+ years ago. Good show but the host sucked. It did pique my interest to ride the train again, and if I could do any train I'd really want to do the Empire Builder, with the obligatory stay at Glacier Nat'l Park before the glaciers are gone.

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2586 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (6 years 10 months 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3867 times:

On time performance varies, but the long haul trains (particularly the transcontinental ones) are notorious for long delays. UP is infamous for sticking Amtrak trains in the hole for freights. Norfolk Southern, CSXT and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe are much better at running trains near to the minute on the time card. Of course, they have heritage trains such as the Crescent, Silver Meteor, Silver Star and the Empire Builder. It doesn't hurt that the Crescent, Meteor and Star all serve DC-Amtrak's home office city.

Last trip I took on Amtrak, the UP ended up delaying the eastbound Sunset by at least five hours between Tucson and New Orleans. On the other hand, the Norfolk Southern got the northbound Crescent out of New Orleans right on the advertised and from New Orleans to Atlanta, the train only lost two minutes on the schedule. During that whole segment of the trip, the only time the train actually stopped was at the scheduled station stops-NS kept us rolling at track speed. Every freight train we met was either waiting for us in a siding or on double track. I love riding the Crescent-good service and good old fashioned train handling-smooth and on time.

"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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