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Topic: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-17 20:04:56 and read 16465 times.



I've been to Chicago many times. It's one of my favorite cities in America. I've also ridden Amtrak many times. In fact I've been on every long distance train in the U.S from end point to end point, and many of the short regional routes as well. Seeing as how I recently moved back to New Orleans, which has excellent Amtrak service, I was looking forward to once again riding the rails. I decided to take the daily overnight service to Chicago on one of the most storied trains in America...the City of New Orleans...and spend the day in Chi-town before riding back. The schedule of the train allows for a perfect Chicago day trip, with a 900a arrival and a 800p departure. So sit back, relax, and come along with me as I ride "The Main Line of Mid America"...the former Illinois Central route linking two of America's greatest cities.



12/15/12
Amtrak
Train #58
City of New Orleans
Dp NOL: 145p
Ar CHI: 900a
Superliner Roomette
Car 5809, Room 20

I arrived at New Orleans Union Passenger terminal at 1:00p and checked in at the temporary counter. The main Amtrak counter is being renovated, and a new counter is being added for the new Pullman Rail Ventures luxury scheduled service which will begin twice weekly, year round service between New Orleans and Chicago in January (some test runs have already operated; www.travelpullman.com). The friendly Amtrak agent gave me the passcode to enter the Magnolia Room, which is a private waiting area for Sleeping Car passengers. It was recently renovated as well...some comfy sofas and chairs (total seating for about 25 I guess), flat screen TV, free coffee, juice, water, and snacks. The Conductor entered the room at 1:15p and invited us to board, bypassing the long line (about 70) who were boarding in Coach. There were about 25 of us boarding the Sleeping Car, and I was told the train would be totally sold out by the time it left Memphis. I walked down the platform to the first car on the train, right behind the locomotive. This is known as the Transition Sleeper. Half of the car is reserved for crew members, and the other half for fare paying passengers. I usually avoid this car just because I've found the service to be less attentive, but nothing was available in the regular Sleeper. I settled in to room 20 on the upper level. The room was clean and was stocked with two bottles of water, timetable, route guide, and safety card. Hangars and wash cloths were also provided. A few minutes later the attendant showed and introduced himself. Nice guy. Then at 1:45, right on time, we departed New Orleans. After a leisurely and on-time afternoon of skirting Lake Pontchartain, crossing swampland on a long trestle, and racing through the dense forest of southern Mississippi, dinner was served at 5:30, while we were stopped in Jackson, MS. It's community seating in the Dining Car, and I was seated with a nice young couple going to Chicago for a short vacation. The conversation was welcoming and the steak was excellent. I then spent some time in the Sightseer Lounge Car before returning to my room around 8. The attendant turned my room into the sleeping configuration at around 9, and I settled in with a book. I decided to crash at 10, just as we were arriving Memphis. I made it a point to witness our crossing of the Ohio River in Cairo, IL, at around 1:45am. The moonlight lit up the wide river as we lumbered across the high bridge. I then slept soundly until 6:30am. Woke up, took a shower (always fun at 79mph), and had a great breakfast with the same couple from the previous night. By the time I got back to my room at 7:30 it was (on request) turned back into its day configuration. We came to a stop at Chicago's Union Station on-time at 9:00am. Overall, a very enjoyable trip on train 58, with excellent meals, friendly service, and comfortable accomadations. Here are the pictures of the ride and a few from Chicago.

My train on the left. Private Dome Car (jealous!) on the right.


NOLA train station is located basically right downtown.


Chicago Union Station Great Hall


Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge


12/16/12
Amtrak
Train #59
City of New Orleans
Dp CHI: 8:00p
Ar NOL: 3:32p+1 (actual 3:10p)
Superliner Roomette
Car 5909, Room 18

After wandering around town for much of the afternoon, I returned to the station for 5:00pm to relax a bit in the Metropolitan Lounge, which is a much larger version of the Magnolia Room in NOLA. The lounge was still packed at 5, as there was a large number of passengers boarding the 6:10pm Capitol Limited to Washington D.C. Boarding for my train was called at 7:15p. Again, I had a room in the Transition Sleeper, and it was the same attendant from the way up so he was surprised to see me. Same Dining Car crew, too...but the funny thing is they recognized me from my past trips so I don't think they were too surprised! Anyway, we departed on-time at 8. Dinner was called at 8:15. Leaving Chicago they offer an express menu, which means only three entree choices, as opposed to six on the regular menu. The options were half a baked chicken, burger, or pasta. All come with salad and bread. I had the pasta, and it was good...penne with an alfredo sauce. Had dinner was a gentleman going to Yazoo City, MS (an hour north of Jackson) after visiting family in MKE. The Dining Car was full by 8:45pm...indeed, it was another very full train. I didn't leave the diner until nearly 10...and by that time, I was dog tired. My bed had been turned down when I got back thankfully, so I wasted little time in putting on the pyjamas and getting comfortable. Sleep came fast, and I slept straight on the through the night. I woke up at 6:30 to find us in Memphis, right on time. After a quick shower, it was off for breakfast. Pancakes this time, and they were delicious. My dining companion was a freight train engineer from BNSF railroad who was going down to NOLA for a few days of R&R. He had many interesting stories to tell. I went back in my room and fell back asleep until around 9:30, and then I had the attendant change the bed into seats again. The rest of the journey was uneventful and relaxing. Lunch was served at 11:30, after departure from Jackson. We passed right next to MSY at 2:50 (my friend Tom got a video of my train passing the airport cargo area), and came to a stop at the station about twenty minutes later, well ahead of schedule. Here are the pictures from train 59...

All Aboard!

The fairly spacious/modern shower room.

MEM @ 0630

You just never know what you'll see from a train.


Link to video from the rear of the train in Louisiana:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTDT5kS6K2Q&list=UUqroVooI7f8z-uL4NCTklSw&index=1

In conclusion...

If you have the time, Amtrak can be a great way to go. And if you have the money, getting a Sleeping Car room will make the experience even more rewarding. There's just nothing like lying there, looking up at the stars, and listening to the rythym of the rails rock your worries away. It's a forced way of slowing down your life. It gives you time to reflect and recharge. And the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination. Is Amtrak perfect? No. But throughout my travels, my experiences have been much more positive than negative. Give the train a chance if you can. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: joacocifuentes
Posted 2012-12-17 20:46:15 and read 16360 times.

It's good to see something new. Liked it!

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: adh214
Posted 2012-12-17 20:56:33 and read 16343 times.

Thanks for the review, it is interesting to read something a little different.

Andrew

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-17 21:07:44 and read 16310 times.

Thanks for reading it!

Here are a few more pictures I forgot to post.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: spiritair97
Posted 2012-12-17 21:26:10 and read 16279 times.

Nice report!! The train there seems a bit nicer than the Silver Bullet and the Palmetto that we have going up and down the east coast.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MarcoPoloWorld
Posted 2012-12-17 21:29:00 and read 16274 times.

Great little TR - Thanks for sharing!

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSS658
Posted 2012-12-18 01:46:26 and read 15959 times.

Hello

Great brief review! I would like to take one of those long-distance trains once. Just shame for the steep price.

Greetings
Marc

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-18 06:06:52 and read 15615 times.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Quoting spiritair97 (Reply 4):
The train there seems a bit nicer than the Silver Bullet and the Palmetto that we have going up and down the east coast.

Yeah, the double deck trains are nicer. The eastern seaboard trains are mostly single level because of low clearance tunnels in the northeast.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: cambridgeflyer1
Posted 2012-12-18 07:40:06 and read 15472 times.

Great report, I recently took the Starlight 11 from Seattle to LA, I had a roomette as well. Surprisingly good fun!

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: N62NA
Posted 2012-12-18 09:34:06 and read 15257 times.

Wow, I had no idea we could post train trip reports here!

Like you, I am a big fan of traveling on Amtrak. As some on here know, I got so sick and tired of the lunacy that is flying into NYC (with the almost daily "traffic management program" delays and such) that now I ALWAYS take the overnight Amtrak train up from Miami to NYC (I do fly back to MIA, as the horrendous delays at the NYC airports at least won't cause me to miss my meetings / events in NYC 'cuz I've already had them!).

Anyway, last summer I was on the Amtrak from Chicago to New Orleans and it was definitely up to the usual Amtrak standards of friendly staff, friendly and non-stressed passengers, great food and on-time departure and arrival. My only complaint was that it was BUMPY, especially on the overnight portion, thus making it rather difficult to sleep (I was in one of the bedrooms, not the roomette).

I've done the New Orleans - Los Angeles route (also in the bedroom) and it wasn't bumpy at all (nor is the Miami-New York route).

I will echo your comments about train travel - it is something that everyone should at least try once. You might end up liking the fact that you will depart and arrive on time (most of the times), be able to use your cell phone and if you've got a mobile hot spot card you can do internet along most routes (though some Amtrak trains actually do have WiFi aboard). Plus, you'll have fantastic meals, see the countryside and basically decompress, relax and be reminded that travel doesn't have to be long lines waiting to check bags at TSA, going through TSA security, annoying and endless delays, angry and stressed out fellow passengers, missed connections and little or no available food on flights.

One other note: I prefer the roomette on the single-level trains (east coast) to the roomette on the double decker trains. Bedrooms on both the single-level and double-decker trains seemed about the same to me.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: readytotaxi
Posted 2012-12-18 10:02:45 and read 15213 times.

From this side of the pond that looked like a great trip.
Web link so I could book it?
Nice photos and all, thanks.  

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-18 10:13:46 and read 15192 times.

Quoting cambridgeflyer1 (Reply 8):
Great report, I recently took the Starlight 11 from Seattle to LA, I had a roomette as well. Surprisingly good fun!

That's a great ride. I did that one two years ago.

Quoting N62NA (Reply 9):
Wow, I had no idea we could post train trip reports here!

I decided to mix things up a bit. Nice change of pace from the norm.  
Quoting cambridgeflyer1 (Reply 8):
One other note: I prefer the roomette on the single-level trains (east coast) to the roomette on the double decker trains. Bedrooms on both the single-level and double-decker trains seemed about the same to me.

Yeah, me too. I think the second window on the Viewliners make them seem a bit more spacious.

Quoting readytotaxi (Reply 10):
From this side of the pond that looked like a great trip.
Web link so I could book it?
Nice photos and all, thanks.

Thanks for reading!

Just enter the departure and arrival cities on the left part of the screen and it'll walk you through the steps. Very easy.

http://www.amtrak.com/city-of-new-orleans-train

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: AA737-823
Posted 2012-12-18 14:53:34 and read 14930 times.

I've enjoyed reading your trip report, and also both your and N62NA's comments afterward.
I love train travel, but I rarely get the opportunity to take part in it.
That said, my experiences on the Texas Eagle have been 100% delayed, in some cases by over three hours.
So I've been wary of Amtrak since that trip.
I had an opportunity to travel DAL-CHI this past summer, but ended up flying WN DAL-MDW because the fare was $116, and a roomette on the Amtrak ended up pricing at $390.
ANYHOW, hopefully I'll get another chance some day!

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-21 12:39:33 and read 13855 times.

Quoting AA737-823 (Reply 12):
ANYHOW, hopefully I'll get another chance some day!

Sometimes there are good deals on the roomette's. CHI-NOL, for example, can be as low as $92 extra for one. It's like the airlines though. Once the low bucket prices sell out, it moves to the next bucket, and so on.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: roswell41
Posted 2012-12-21 20:33:56 and read 13637 times.

Cool report! I've never read a train report until now.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: stipica
Posted 2012-12-21 23:47:16 and read 13515 times.

Hi MSYtristar !
thanks for posting this informative report ... quite interesting service from Amtrak ... but apart from a few countries in the world that have developed high-quality and fast train service I did not see any advantage other than nostalgic experience ... in any case a nice experience ... stipica  

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: beeweel15
Posted 2012-12-22 11:42:25 and read 13259 times.

Nice report looks like it could give the airlines a run for the money on travelers who are not in a hurry. I dont know if it was done before but I would love to see a report on London to Paris comparison between air and the eurostar train.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: ghYHZ
Posted 2012-12-23 06:08:58 and read 12935 times.

The past few weeks I’ve been travelling regularly between Ottawa and Toronto. Going…… depending on my schedule, it’s been a toss-up between flying and VIA Rail……but returning, VIA wins hands-down It’s really only about a half hour longer than flying all things considered and just a much more relaxing experience!

If I’m at our office on Markham Road, Scarborough (Toronto) it’s about equal distance to Pearson YYZ or VIA Oshawa……about a half hour drive either way. (If I’m taking the evening train……Guildwood is just down the road) Someone will usually give me a ride to the station and we’ll wait in the Park & Ride until I see the trains headlight approaching. Then it’s a one minute walk to the train and I just a step aboard…...no lining up what so ever!

Then the service begins and IMHO the finest Business Class product in Canada……air or rail! As soon as I’m seated, I have a cold Sleemans Beer in my hand along with a bag of munchies then just sit back, relax and watch as we’re easily overtaking everything over on parallel 401 at 95 + MPH! Shortly afterwards, there’s a hot towel to freshen up before the appetizer, dinner and wine. Here’s a sample menu.……I had the Pork and very good:

Appetizer
Corn, Edamame soybean and carrot salad

Main Course
Four Cheese and Spinach Medallions
served in an Alfredo sauce and topped with Fontina cheese,
julienne sundried tomatoes and fresh spinach.
or
Breaded Wonton Shrimp
served with Shanghai noodles and siu choy (Chinese cabbage).
or
Pork Tenderloin
stuffed with Asiago cheese, spinach and roasted peppers,
served with corn fritters and long-grain rice with red kidney beans.
All meals are served with a selection of bread.

Dessert
Raspberry Chocolate Brownie

After dinner a tray of VIA’s signature Truffles is passed around then the bar cart makes a pass…….. I have a Drambuie……It’s nice to just mellow-out or get on the internet with the complementary Wi-Fi.

After about 3 hours and 15 minutes we’re slowing for Fallowfield in suburban Ottawa and I gather my things Then again, it’s a quick one minute walk to the park and ride with the GF waiting in the car.

When I’m working downtown, Porter Airlines might have the edge time wise (and I have used them a few times) but for the service and the time to relax……I’ll take VIA’s new Express run…..scheduled for under 4 hrs to Ottawa. Even Porter requires line-up and wait….shuttle, ferry, check-in, security, boarding etc. But on VIA, if I time it right, I just walk to Union Station, show my boarding pass at the bottom of the escalator and step aboard the train…..effortlessly. And if I’m a few minutes early, I have the nice new Business Class “Panorama Lounge” in Union Station to wait in.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: jetstar
Posted 2012-12-23 12:47:53 and read 12731 times.

I have taken Amtrak’s Auto Train equipped with Superliners, both in coach and in a roomette and I have found the ride is a lot better on the lower level than the upper level.

When on the upper level, you are seated about 14 feet above the tracks and the train side to side movement is exaggerated because of the distance from the tracks, I have also found that sitting in the center of the car the ride is better than sitting over the wheels. On the lower level you are sitting between the truck assemblies and are on the same plane where the truck attaches to the car so you don’t feel the side to side rocking motion

On the Auto Train’s route, the tracks are owned by CSX some of the tracks have been upgraded to welded rail, but in the sections through North and South Carolina I believe are still joined rail and the ride is very bumpy to say the least, and this is the time of the trip when you are usually sleeping so it can make for a long night

We learned this the hard way the first time we took the Auto Train, where we were seated in the upper section near the doors, so besides the rough ride, every time someone opened the door to go from one car to another all the train noise came into the car until the door finally closed so we got very little sleep that night.

Ever since then we now only sit in the lower level, there are 4 roomettes in the sleeping cars and in the coach cars there are 12 seats in a small cabin with its own door and nobody passes through there so it is very quiet and the ride is much better.

JetStar

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: type-rated
Posted 2012-12-23 13:19:48 and read 12706 times.

When entering or leaving Chicago did the train have to go back and forth a bunch of times and then take that route called "the airline" to get to the IC tracks?

When I worked for Amtrak at CUS a lot of people commented on that. It would take 45 min or so just to get to the east side of downtown before the train would really get going.

Amtrak has really upgraded CUS since the last time I worked there.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: adamspotter
Posted 2012-12-23 13:49:29 and read 12688 times.

Nice and interesting report, thanks for sharing it with us. Its great to read something different and informative. I would love to try this out one day, out of curiosity how much did it all cost?

cheers,

Brendan

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: N62NA
Posted 2012-12-24 20:07:38 and read 12138 times.

Quoting type-rated (Reply 19):
When entering or leaving Chicago did the train have to go back and forth a bunch of times and then take that route called "the airline" to get to the IC tracks?

Yes.

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: 9w748capt
Posted 2012-12-24 20:21:26 and read 12130 times.

Wow - fantastic report! Great to see something a little different. Thanks for going out on a limb and sharing!

I too would love ride the sleeping car on the Chicago-Emeryville route - I've heard that's a good one   Sadly my only
Amtrak trips have consisted of Chicago-Milwaukee or to Kalamazoo. Hopefully one day.

Have to echo the comments about the food too - wow the portions look filling and rather tasty - who knew!

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: YYZatcboy
Posted 2012-12-24 20:33:59 and read 12124 times.

I've done YYZ-YVR on the VIA RAIL train the Canadian a couple of times. Very much enjoyed it. Will have to take some US trains sometime. Were your meals included in your ticket or did you have to pay extra for them?

Topic: RE: Chicago And New Orleans, By Train (Amtrak)
Username: MSYtristar
Posted 2012-12-27 17:46:25 and read 11621 times.

Thanks for all the great comments and feedback. I have another train trip coming up soon...San Francisco (Emeryville) to Chicago to New Orleans...so I may do a report on the SFO-CHI segment. I'm flying out to Cali on AA so I'll throw those in there as well.  
Quoting type-rated (Reply 19):
When entering or leaving Chicago did the train have to go back and forth a bunch of times and then take that route called "the airline" to get to the IC tracks?

Yes, the train crossed the St. Charles Air Line on approach to CHI and again on departure.

Quoting 9w748capt (Reply 22):
Have to echo the comments about the food too - wow the portions look filling and rather tasty - who knew!

It's really not bad at all. It was better in the early-mid 90's, but it's much better than anything served in Y class on a transoceanic flight.

Quoting YYZatcboy (Reply 23):
Were your meals included in your ticket or did you have to pay extra for them?

Meals are included when you book a Sleeping Car room. If you go in Coach, you need to pay for meals.

[Edited 2012-12-27 18:04:30]


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