Coast to coast by train ?

Discussion in 'New York/US' started by Reno, Oct 9, 2012.

  1. Reno

    Reno The In Kraut

    Has anybody here done it ? Next May is my 50th birthday and I'm thinking of treating myself to a holiday. I always wanted to do a coast to coast US trip, but I don't drive, so have been looking into trains. There is the California Zephyr which goes from Chicago to Emeryville near San Francisco, so I could do much of the journey in one 52 hour trip.

    There is some amazing scenery along the way and they have an observation car with ceiling windows. I read some reports that trains often get badly delayed or break down. I love trains, but would the novelty of being stuck on one wear off after a day ? Found this travel blog, which makes it sound fun:

    Unlike them I'd probably splash out on a 'roomette' the lowest cost sleeper option. I could do a stop over mid-route. Is weird-ass mormon Salt Lake City worth a day ? Is there anything worth seeing in Denver ? I only know that Dynasty was set there. :D
    firky likes this.
  2. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    Did it a long time ago mid 1980's but the trains haven't changed :).

    Overnight NYC to Chicago in a "roomette" having had a very sociable evening in the club car. Changed at Chicago and had a seat overnight to Denver. Again - very sociable. Loads of room and slept pretty OK. Broke the journey at Denver and had a short stay.

    Best bit really - daytime Denver to Salt Lake City , seat overnight to San Francisco (Oakland) - outstanding run across the gorges , the desert and the Sierras.


    • Very sociable at all levels - all ages and backgrounds. UK is seen (or was) as an interest
    • Food was decent enough - good all American breakfast and the "signature Amtrak steak"
    • Club car open virtually 24/7 !
    • Amazing scenery - apart from the first couple of hundred miles out of Chicago.
    gaijingirl and Reno like this.
  3. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    We were delayed 2 hours NYC to Albany as the train hit 2 joggers running down the track (shame) - but the connection was made at Chicago with no effort.

    The staff were superb and friendly - I regard it as one of the best (solo) trips of my life/Just do it -(watch Ludovic Kennedy's "Great Railway Journeys of the World" which is on Youtube - it made my decision to do it all those years ago)

    Nothing beats "coast to coast" by train - the American success of the 19thC , which can still be done. Apparently Washington to Chicago - then the Zephyr is a good run which I fancy doing.
    Reno likes this.
  4. Reno

    Reno The In Kraut

    Thanks, sounds fantastic. I will check out the documentary.

    Delays are part and parcel of US trains. My main worry is that I read a few reports about cancelled trains and then I'm screwed. It means that then I would have to get an expensive flight at short notice to the other end of the country and the main purpose of what is an expensive holiday would be lost.
  5. petee

    petee i'm spartacus

    Reno likes this.
  6. editor

    editor hiraethified

    *makes note of this thread for future reference
  7. pogofish

    pogofish Testicle Hairstyle

    There are a a couple of other US long distance train threads in here that are also worth reading and I must say I'm seriously tempted by doing something like this if I'm delayed any longer for my foot surgery. I can't walk any distance just now and I like the idea of a trip like this much better than being sat on my arse on an all-inclusive somewhere,

    The other plus point is that I have now saved-up enough to treat myself to a very nice cabin if I want to as I've not had a holiday for over two years because of this bloody foot! :)
  8. gaijingirl

    gaijingirl Well-Known Member

    I would absolutely love love love to do this. We have talked for years about a coast to coast USA trip... car? camper? train? Left to my own devices it would be train but with 2 kids I don't know.... maybe one for when the kids are older.
  9. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    I suppose the delays are more of an issue if you were picking up at some intermediate spot in the boondocks - but not a problem say in Denver, where there re options.The timetables have some padding in them , so lost time can be made up. Once on the train , lateness just means another beer or whatever.

    A friend did the overnight NYC - Florida train , which was very sociable indeed.
  10. Firky

    Firky The first of the gang Banned

    I'd love to do it by train and car.
  11. cesare

    cesare don't mourn, organise!

    My parents did the Amtrak train trip from SF to New Orleans a few years ago, sounds amazing.
  12. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    I have a half plan to do this too, though I want to go on the midnight limited across georgia and alabama all the way to la, then get the san francisco to new york train that includes the rockies (with a train in between, of course). It' much cheaper than the plane and you'd see loads of the country.

    Kids' tickets are really cheap on us trains though, and they can walk around and stuff rather than just watching dvds in the back of a car.
    gaijingirl likes this.
  13. gaijingirl

    gaijingirl Well-Known Member

    yes - that's a good point... I think when they're a bit older it could be fun.
  14. boing!

    boing! hairy cheese eater

    I'm doing this next summer - getting the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago, couple of days in Chicago then California Zephyr to San Francisco. It's our honeymoon so we're poshing it in roomette/ bedroom. Very excited!
    Miss-Shelf and Reno like this.
  15. trabuquera

    trabuquera Modesty Bag

    No experience of your proposed route but I amtrak'd from NY to Tampa once, more than a decade ago, and it was fab - so much more interesting and comfy than I ever expected. Massive massive seats and just gazing out of the windows is fascinating ... somehow the way the lines are laid out means you see many more sides of America than you ever would just by car, and are saved all the navigating ... Everything from millionaires' villas to proper urban decay just rolls by, it's an extraordinary history lesson. DO IT!

    (the distances are massive, though, and I suspect some of the midwest is flat and uninteresting for hours on end. but at least on a train you can read when the prairie palls...)
    davesgcr likes this.
  16. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    In 1987 I got the train from Chicago to New Orleans, then across to El Paso - we then got a bus down to Mexico city - it was wonderful on the train - sitting in the Observation carriage :)
  17. belboid

    belboid TUC Off Your Knees

    A couple of mates have jus got back from a month in the US, and both said the Zephyr trip was the lighlight of the whole time. They did it all in one go, dozing overnight in perfectly comfortable seats. Sounded pretty fucking fantastic. The only way not to be screwed over by lateness is to give yourself plenty of time at any stop tho, so you may well not be able to make as many as you'd really want to.
  18. petee

    petee i'm spartacus

    quite true, you'll go through out-of-the-way places that sometimes have no other, or difficult, forms of access.
    not a destination in itself, unless you're a civil war nut, but this e.g. is visible only from amtrak:
    so lots of things like that
  19. fractionMan

    fractionMan Custom Title

    The nearest train station to mobile (where I'm off to) is 100 miles.

  20. davesgcr

    davesgcr Reading books

    The whole AMTRAK network was "made" in 1971 by a cynical government that thought it would have dissapeared by 1980 , it's survival through political fiddling and cynical cutbacks / lack of investment is amazing. It is a sparse "national" coverage , but still there and much appreciated.

    My first ever trip was NYC - Washington in 1984 , my most recent was 2008 - exactly the same rolling stock with no change or refurbishment. Still a national treasure to me , at least.
  21. scifisam

    scifisam feck! arse! girls! drink!

    I did that same trip last year and, if the train was forty years old, it's doing incredibly well. WiFi and all. And really cheap and quick.
  22. porno thieving gypsy

    porno thieving gypsy Bustin' out R.I.P.

    very tempted to do this too now... just watched the youtube video and it looks amazing
  23. Hollis

    Hollis Bloody furious

    Definetly.. stayed there afew days in,err, 1990. Its weird enough to be interesting..dunno about Denver
  24. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    The East Coast Amtrak is pretty well maintained IME, as it does actually get used a lot - at least it was a few years ago. I used to take it up and down between Philly and Baltimore, and occasionally to NYC or DC, and it gets a lot of business use, particularly on a Friday afternoon where everyone is hanging around the bar. You can work while on it much more effectively than in a car.

    Coast-to-coast, though, I never did. I did stay in a hotel in Arizona (La Posada, in Winslow) which had a back bar that looked out onto an east-west train line, which sounds awful but was actually fantastic. It was 100m or so from the actual line, with a nice wide veranda and garden, and there weren't many trains, so when one did go by it was an event, and everyone could look up from their cocktails and drunkenly lament the passing of the age of steam pioneers.
  25. twistedAM

    twistedAM Left Of The Dial

    Farthest I ever did was Omaha to Seattle. It was long. Loads of sex going on in the bathrooms at night.
  26. Reno

    Reno The In Kraut

  27. petee

    petee i'm spartacus

    it gets used a ton, is the only profitable part of amtrak, i've heard many times, which the rightwingers like to use to argue that it should be hived off and the rest defunded. (NOTE: get the quiet car, the one behind the first class car.) years ago the airlines instituted their "Shuttle" services, NY - BOS, at loss-leader prices ($19 one way iirc) to pull people away from the train, and it didn't work. (NOTE 2: the Acela NY - DC is very fast but isn't so much faster than the usual express to be worth the money. but the seats are wonderful. plans to build a dedicated track for even faster service from BOS to DC are prohibitively expensive and will never happen.)
  28. bi0boy

    bi0boy Power User

    I did Boston to NY and found it rather slow, certainly slower than intercity trains in the UK.
  29. Reno

    Reno The In Kraut

    I used live and work in California, commuting every day from San Francisco to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley. The trip took over an hour, yet the distance covered was one any European train would have managed in half that time.
  30. Hollis

    Hollis Bloody furious

    Err, is the general idea you do the 52 hours in one go, or take say a week or two over the route. :confused:

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