Topic Author
Posts: 303
Joined: Sun May 28, 2000 10:02 am

Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 8:57 am

I've grown so weary of free air travel, that I'm planning to do something different: Take Amtrak from the East Coast all the way out West to California or the Pacific NW (just for the scenery). ...The problem? I don't know which transcontinental rail routes are the most interesting:

-The one that goes through Chicago, Colorado, Utah and San Francisco?

-Chicago, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona to L.A?

-Chicago, Nevada, Utah to L.A?

-Chicago through the North Central Plains and Northern Rockies to Seattle?

-or from Jacksonville, Florida through the Gulf states, to New Mexico, Arizona and L.A?

Anyone knowledgeable in this regard would be appreciated!
Posts: 549
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2000 6:08 am

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 12:42 pm

I have never been on any of them, but I think the one that goes from Chicago to Seattle would be the best. I think that it is called Empire Builder. I have wanted to go one that route, but haven't yet.
Posts: 1665
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 1999 3:16 am

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 12:50 pm

Try the newsgroups. or somesuch--not sure of the exact address. Many will be happy to relay their experiences. I know the 'Cardinal' (DC-Va/WVa mountains-Chicago) is good for scenery on the eastern half, as is the 'Capitol Limited' (DC-Pittsburg-Chicago). 'Capitol' is the fuller service train (sleepers,diners).
Posts: 7617
Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2000 3:12 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 1:23 pm

I'd suggest the Southwest Chief, that takes you through Northern New Mexico, the Painted Desert, Flagstaff, and the Mohave... if you take a Southern route I would recommend that over the Texas Eagle which goes from Chicago, via Dallas, San Antonio, Tucson.... even though I live in the southern Arizona desert I find it dull.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 4:00 pm

The California Zephyr from Denver west to Salt Lake City and Reno, NV to Emeryville, CA (San Francisco).
Posts: 226
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:48 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Tue Jul 11, 2000 10:39 pm

Hi Ual......! Years ago I went from Boston to Albuquerque N.M. on Amtrak. The route was Boston-New York-Chicago-Colorado and into N.M. It was a great trip, met lots of wonderful people, and had a good time, however if I were to do it again I would definitely get a sleeper, it is very hard sleeping in those seats for 2-3 nights in a row! The trains from Chicago out west are more comfortable and larger than the eastern ones with club cars and observation cars. Of course I am talking many years ago now and things have probably changed somewhat since then, but it was great to be able to see the country side as you travel. There is not much to see in the east except the cities but as you go further out west the scenery gets better!
Posts: 2525
Joined: Thu Mar 09, 2000 2:45 am

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Jul 12, 2000 4:08 am

I've done the Empire Builder (Seattle - Chicago) a few times, and I loved it!! I would suggest getting a sleeper car, it's more expensive, but the coach seats are terrible to sleep in. The lounge car is fun, and the best part is probably just watching the scenery go by. Most people would consider the Great Plains to be boring, and in a way they are right. However, I feel they have their own beauty that is wonderful to see. Of course, Glacier National Park and the Cascades (my homeland) are nothing to sneeze at. One interesting point; the train actually goes UNDER Stevens Pass in the Cascades. The tunnel is 7(?) miles long, the second longest in the United States.

All gave some. Some gave all.
Posts: 6673
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2000 12:26 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Jul 12, 2000 6:44 am

Alas the "Desert Wind" has been discontinued... That's the one I took from Chicago, IL to Las Vegas, NV.

You'll actually have to take two trains and it will probably take you at least five days to cross the continent. All of the westbound trains from the East Coast stop in Chicago, with the exception of the JAX-LAX train. For that one you'll have to take a train from New York down the East Coast to JAX.

I agree that the "Empire Builder" is great. Although I have never been on it I think it probably has the most travel time in mountainous territory and I like that.

A nice thing about the trains, as has been already said, is the social opportunities. Gosh, in two days I met people my age from three different countries, ate dinner in the dining car with people old enough to be my grandparents (they had great stories!) and still got to Vegas in a relatively good mood.

Two words of warning, though:
1. AMTRAK does not have a very good on-time record on the western routes. Be prepared to be several hours late -- six was good on the Desert Wind!
2. Do NOT take the Lake Shore Limited from Boston or New York to Chicago... unless it is your only option. It has a terrible on-time record, you are likely to miss your connection if you are more than four hours late to Chicago... That train is also notorious for running out of food and having maintenance problems with toilets, probably because of being so late all the time.

Good luck,
Up, up and away!
Posts: 5752
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2000 5:30 am

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Jul 12, 2000 7:15 am

Empire Builder - definitely!!! Route forged by St. Paulite James J. Hill and his Great Northern Railroad. Scenery is absolutely spectacular (Glacier National Park).
An unexamined life isn't worth living.
Posts: 2556
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:35 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Jul 12, 2000 11:02 am

I like Amtrak's Northeast direct. I'll like it when The Acela begins service. I also like Amtrak's Silver Meteor and Silver Star which is both New York City to Orlando Florida
Posts: 2604
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 1999 9:09 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Thu Jul 13, 2000 2:15 am

This is not answering your specific question, but once you arrive on the West Coast, why not consider taking the Coast Starlight (LA-Seattle)? I haven't taken it, but i've talked to many who have and loved it.

For a small taste of coastal railroading, you might try the Pacific Surfliner route (formerly Amtrak's San Diegans) from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Beautiful scenery along the way, and leaves the coast only to travel to downtown Los Angeles Union Station.

While the Empire Builder probably has spectacular scenery, I think the California Zephyr has both fantastic cities AND scenery on its route over the Plains, Rockies, Great Basin, Sierra Nevadas, and finally over the Sacramento Valley to San Francisco (actually Emeryville, across from San Francisco). I've always wanted to stop at Glenwood Springs ( I think that's the name) and take a dip in that HUGE hot springs pool in the dead of winter!
Topic Author
Posts: 303
Joined: Sun May 28, 2000 10:02 am

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Thu Jul 13, 2000 6:52 am

Thanx guys!

All of you have been helpful!

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Aug 09, 2000 2:14 am

One correction. It doesn't take 5 days to cross the country it really only takes about 3 and half. If i left Los Angeles on Sunday evening on the Southwest Chief I'd arrive in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, make a connection with the evening departure of the Lake Shore Limited and arrive in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

Re Coast Starlight: is is Amtrak's premier train, and the most luxurious with the most amenities and BEAUTIFUL scenery. There are Sleeepers of course on this train, a dining car a coach lounge and a lounge exclusively for frist class passengers plus a kids car and I dont know if they started this or not but one car was going to be configured to show movies (a cinema car).

Re Lake Shore Limited: it consists of new "viewliner" sleepers and the rooms have video entertainment in them. The silver service routes have them also.

Get yourself of copy of Amtrak's America travel planner to investigate all your options. There are Standard Bedrooms, Deluxe Bedrooms and Family Bedrooms. If you are going over night DO NOT GO COACH! Get a sleeper! Also all meals are included when you travel on a first class ticket. If you go coach, you must pay serperately for meals in the dining car.

Posts: 6673
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2000 12:26 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Aug 09, 2000 7:06 am

The five days includes layover time especially in New York and Chicago.

FYI the southern coast-to-coast route (JAX-LAX) is called the "Sunset Limited". It is the only transcontinental route that doesn't go through Chicago.

Up, up and away!

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Wed Aug 09, 2000 7:38 am

If you cross country from Los Angeles to New York via Chicago on the train it will NOT take you five days (unless you mean a layover where you stay in a hotel on purpouse to sightsee for two days). Actually if you add it up, even with your layover time between your connection in Chicago, it may actually come out to only three days or less (less than 72 hours total). I'll do some research, and post later.
Posts: 6673
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2000 12:26 pm

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Thu Aug 10, 2000 7:28 am

OK, OK, OK Surf... I give up.... Just remember, most of the trains from Boston take 1-1/2 days to get to Chicago, and the trains to the West Coast take almost 3 days, even if they're on time. and even though I'm a die-hard AMTRAKer, I won't even begin to lie that Amtrak is always on time and you always make your connections.

If you want to say it takes less than five days, be my guest.  

Up, up and away!

RE: Best Amtrak Rail Routes?

Thu Aug 10, 2000 8:00 am

Well here is the train schedule from Amtrak. You leave on August 9th, arrive in New York on August 12.

3 days.

Train #4
Sold Out Los Angeles-Union Station, CA Chicago, IL 8/9/00
Depart Los Angeles 7:05PM
Arrive Chicago 4:15PM

Train #48
Sold Out Chicago, IL New York-Penn. Station, NY 8/11/00
Depart Chicago 7:00PM
Arrive New York-Penn 3:00PM

Total Elapsed Travel Time (including layover in Chicago): 65 hours (which is actually less than 3 days, to be technical)

Now I will admit too that it is a rare day when Amtrak stays right on schedule (mostly through no fault of their own), so many hours yes, but they sure as hell aren't gonna arrive you in New York two DAYS late!!!

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Airstud, LAH1, TheF15Ace, tommy1808 and 3 guests

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos