Old 08-16-2008, 10:33 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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Default Amtrak 2008 Trip Report

If anyone saw any of the trains I was on and was able to take a photo, I would love to see it!

Lakeshore Limited #49 (Aug 2-3)
Buffalo NY – Chicago IL
Consist: Amtk 188, P42 unknown.
Remarks: Arrived one hour late into Buffalo around 0100hr. Arrived into Chicago only 30minutes late around 1015hr. We were in a coach which was terrible to sleep in. The seats are very uncomfortable to sleep in; I could not find a comfortable position. I only got 4hrs of sleep off and on. A person also had to talk on her cell right behind me at 2 in the morning, since see could not sleep, ugh!
Meals: No meals included, ate in Chicago at a restaurant known for their breakfasts.
Staff: Didn’t see much of them, only a few times when they walked through the car and collecting the garbage upon arrival into Chicago.

California Zephyr #5 (Aug 3-5)
Chicago IL – Emeryville CA
Consist: Amtk 196, Amtk 197, Baggage 1160, Dorm 39036, Sleepers 32053, Sleeper 32078, Diner, SightSeers Lounge, Coach, Coach, Coach 34180, Coach (which was taken off in Denver where a large group got off)
-Left Chicago 2hrs late due to a malfunctioning dining car that had to be swapped out.
-This was the only sleeping room where the main sofa (bed) was facing the direction of travel of the train.
Scenery: Was outstanding. From the rocky hills of Nevada, to the winding mountain passes in Colorado and Donner Pass in California, and especially the canyons carved by the Colorado River.
We had a Trails and Rails Personnel from Reno to Sacramento.
Meals: Were very well done. The steak was done the way I like it. The diner car staff was however over worked and under staffed. There were three, but after Denver, they only had two people working the tables. The dining car was full, making it even worse. One meal it took over an hour just to order!
Staff: Sleeping car attendant ready to help when needed. Dining car staffed very stressed out.

Coast Starlight #11 (Aug 7)
Emeryville CA – Los Angeles CA
Consist: Amtk 184, Amtk 203, Baggage 1708, Dorm, 3 sleepers, Pacific Parlour Car (really a dining car), Dining car, Lounge, 4 coaches.
Remarks: Arrived on time into Emeryville. For the most part of the trip, it was running either on time or early! Yes I said early. We pulled into San Luis Opispo 30minutes early! We however were 30minutes late arriving into LA account of having to wait for a Pacific Surfliner at one siding and a broken down Metrolink (hit a grade crossing arm, breaking an air line, and not having all the right parts to fix it) at another siding.
Scenery: Included numerous vegetable fields, with later on deep valleys with the interstate way below us. And of course there was the Pacific Ocean from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara.
No Trails and Rails Personnel.
Meals: Bought diner from the Café car (was in a coach, no meals included this time). They only had burgers and a couple of pizzas left when I was there (around 1630). Everything was microwaved and seal in a plastic bag, but it did the trick. Besides it was cheaper than buying a meal from the diner.
Staff: Conductors were the youngest we had on all the train (mid to late 20’s) and were very friendly, keeping you up to date on the train’s progress. The coach attendant seemed a bit disorganized, asking us three time how many we had in our party, and wanting to see our tickets and boarding passes. He even made us move seats right after we sat down the first time.

Sunset Limited #2 (Aug 8-10)
Los Angeles CA – New Orleans LA
Consist: Amtk 170, Amtk 207, baggage, dorm, 2 sleepers, diner, lounge, 2 coaches, 1 sleeper, and 1 coach
Remarks: Left right on time out of LA. We arrived into New Orleans about ½ an hour late. We had a toilet that would flush when you put the seat down. The only problem was it didn’t want to flush in higher altitudes. The solution was for the attendant needing to reset the main switch in the breaker every 15mintues or so. The taps were also very powerful. They could blow a hole through a paper cup in no time!
Scenery: Was very nice. The rocky hills of the Arizona and New Mexico desert, the wind farms and the Salton Sea in Arizona. The boring part was Louisiana, with trees right next to the train, did not provide much of a view. Probably the most stunning part of the trip was crossing an extremely long and high bridge in New Orleans to cross the Mississippi. The view was amazing!
We had no Trail and Rails personnel aboard.
Meals: Meals were the same as on the California Zephyr. The staff was a lot less stressed than on the California Zephyr, this train was not as nearly as full at the Cal Zephyr, which provided faster meals.
Staff: Mostly the same as on the California Zephyr. The dining car staff was a lot better though on this train. We also had a Conductor (Willy Scott) from Alpine to Del Rio TX. He was very knowledge about the land around us and gave a narration about the places and sights along this segment of track. He was probably better than Trails and Rails!

City of New Orleans #58 (Aug 11-12)
New Orleans LA – Chicago IL
Consist: Amtk 112, dorm, sleeper, cross country café, 3 coaches.
Remarks: Left New Orleans right on time and arrived into Chicago about 15minutes late. Overall this was the roughest ride of all the trains I was on, with many jolts to the left and right (it seems like CN is even worse regarding track maintenance in the US than here in Canada).
Scenery: Upon leaving New Orleans we were parallel to the shore of Lake Pontchartain for several miles, with marsh land on the other side. I think I saw of a couple of alligators as well. After that the area became more forested providing less of a view, until reaching the Chicago area.
Meals: We had a few variations in the menu from the other trains, particularly Crawfish Etoufee and Catfish. The meals were served in Amtrak’s new Cross Country Café (combined lounge and diner). The car was redone very nicely, probably the best looking diner I was in on the entire trip! There were no salads included in the meals however, compared to the other trains that served a tossed salad with dinner.
Staff: Were very friendly and talkative. Probably one of the best dinning car staffs (only maybe beaten by the Lakeshore Limited staff).

Lakeshore Limited #48 (Aug 12-13)
Chicago IL – Buffalo NY
Consist: Amtk 94, Amtk 74, baggage 1245, viewliner sleepers 62011, 620200, 62042, café 28008, dinette, Amfleet coaches 25108, 25031, 25107, 25078.
Remarks: Left Chicago right on time. (My watch beeped 2200, we started to move). We arrived into Buffalo about 10minutes late, if that. Fairly smooth ride, with a few jolts here and there, but not as nearly as bad as the City of New Orleans. The viewliner sleepers had more headroom in the upper bunk, and probably the best taps! The only down fall was there was no seat next to the bathroom, as there were on the Superliners. We had three people in my party, and having no seat next to the window across from the bed made one person missed out on the views.
Scenery: Nothing fancy compared to the other trains. There were rolling farmland and vineyards in Pennsylvania and New York. I could see Lake Erie a couple of times. Other wise there lots of tree and buildings.
Meals: Only had breakfast on the train, plus the wine tasting in Chicago. Breakfast was the same as all the other trains. This time however, I think the meals were made the best on this train. The scrambled eggs looked more like scrambled eggs. The hash browns/ homefries were the best, made from real potatoes, even had the skins left on!
Staff: The dinning car staff was one of the best, as well as the sleeping car attendant. All were joking around having a good time, and very friendly.

Overall I had a wonderful trip. The scenery was very nice. The only thing I noticed is everything was dry. Denver was extremely dry, not that lush green I thought Denver was, but dry brown. The California Mountains also had lots of garbage, running the views. Emeryville was fairly cool, only about 68F.

Would I do this trip again, yes, but not before doing VIA’s Canadian again!

Points I think Amtrak needs to work (but probably won’t happen anytime in the near future):
- Clean the windows better.
- Provide more dinning car staff
- Have different meals on each train, particularly serving the local foods.
- Allow people to be able to take photos of the Locomotives and the entire train. I am not just looking at chattering to us railfans, but all foreigners from out of continent. I noticed in Emeryville, were the units were right next to the station, that the people most interested in them were the railfans and foreigners, since they have never something like this. I asked one person from the UK, and she said these are nothing like in the UK, these are so much bigger, louder and powerful.
- Provide a lounge in LA union station, or at least have air conditioning in it!
- One thing I didn't mind, but others may, is Amtrak has gone all plastic. In the diner, all their plates and cups are plastic. The only thing not plastic is the silver wear. One thing however I thought they should change, is recycle all the plastic plates and cups instead of throwing them away.
- Bring back a real dome car, the vista domes! (I know that won’t happen, but I thought I would throw that in).

I hope you enjoyed and hopefully I have convinced some of you to take a long distance Amtrak train!

Disclaimers: The points express in this report are from my point of view, and may not match the views of others.

Last edited by cp9524; 08-16-2008 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 08-18-2008, 10:07 PM   #2
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Sorry, missed you by a day. I caught the 48 in North East, PA on the 12th with 100&101 as the power.
A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words. A Memory Is Worth 1000 Pictures.
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