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chicago to los angeles

sheffield england
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chicago to los angeles

planning a rail journey from chicago to la next year, have done a similar journey before in coach, now we're getting older think a roomette may be better. trouble there are 4 of us and the roomettes only accommodate 2 during the day. as we want to spend time together during the day wonder what is available to accommodation passengers. we have used the observation car before in coach but gets very crowded and one someone gets a seat they don't give it up. i know on canadian rail anyone with sleeping accommodation has an observation car just for them, is this the case on amtrak. have done several journeys on amtrak before but never had sleeping accommodation before. all information and tips re this kind of seating is welcome. i know all food is included which is nice.

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: chicago to los angeles

The VIArail equipment is 1950 Budd Streamliner cars which Amtrak abandoned in the 1980s. The Canadian also has 18 sleeper cars and 3 chair cars (and two dining cars to handle the crowded condition) for it's 4 day run across the continent. And passengers keep their seats all day in Canada too. Don't kid yourself, the dome cars on VIA are even more crowded (seat 24) than the Observation Car on Amtrak which seats 98 people and has floor to roof windows along its 80 foot length. The two level cross country Superliner Equipment on Amtrak is a new (late 1970s) design. What you have already experienced is what you get. The observation car is an accommodation for the entire train, as is the dining car.

There are two solutions that I can think of: two roomettes across from each other - even and odd cabin numbers (1/2, 3/4 7/8 etc) Roomettes 1-10 are upstairs and those are the most desirable. Roomettes 11-14 are downstairs and are best saved for handicapped passengers. The other alternative is to book two Deluxe bedrooms - the b/c or d/e combinations - and have the attendent open the door in between during the day and close it when he/she makes up the rooms for sleeping.

The rule that you must remember is that there is no saving seats in the public cars (lounge). If you find a book or purse left on a chair to "save" it, take the chair and turn the left--behind personal belongings in to the Cafe attendent downstairs. If you have a further problem, speak to the conductor.

Edited: 11:37 am, November 22, 2012
sheffield england
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560 posts
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2. Re: chicago to los angeles

I guess the train we went on must have been pretty full as we found it impossible to get a seat in the observation lounge. it wasn't that people were saving seats as such, they must have got up very early, skipped breakfast and then stayed there all day. it was a particularly scenic journey so naturally everybody wanted to sit up there. as we had coach seats it wasn't such a problem as we had seats next to each other so were able to chat etc. coach is ok actually but only for one night at a time, wouldn't want to do it more than that.

Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: chicago to los angeles

What time of the year are you planning on travelling? It makes a difference. During the summer the Southwest Chief and the California Zephyr are usually sold out, as is VIAs the Canadian. Amtrak is running at full capacity these two weeks around Thanksgiving and they will again for the Christmas Holiday. They will be empty one week later for the New Years holiday.... go figure. The best months to travel with 2/3 capacity is Sept-Nov and Feb - April (full trains again at Easter). TSA at airports has made people rediscover the train.

sheffield england
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4. Re: chicago to los angeles

We are planning to travel towards late september/early october - possibly this should be a good time? having said that, we have never travelled peak times before, the train we were on where the observation car was continually full was travelling through the rockies - beautiful scenery so clearly space at a premium. this journey will probably be the texas eagle

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: chicago to los angeles

People take the California Zephyr for the scenery. It's the most scenic of the Western Routes so naturally the View Lounge is going to attract everyone else on the train the same as it attracts you, and for the same reason. You're not thinking as two or four members of a 400 person traveling group. Try to get seats during lunch-time. Make an early or late reservation for yourself so you can get the vacated seats of people going into lunch. Have breakfast before Denver or have your sleeping car attendant bring you breakfast in your room early so you can eat whilst getting ready and get to the lounge car early. Grab your seat in Denver when people are off the train for a 20 minute service stop. Then you can hog the seat all day.

Rethink the Texas Eagle. Please. No scenery and it takes an extra day. It meanders one whole day through Texas. The "best" scenery is at El Paso across the Rio Grande into the slums of Mexico. The Eagle combines with the Sunset Limited at San Antonio TX so if you think that one train consist is over crowded this is two train-sets put together. An Amtrak long distance train is usually 11 cars The combined Texas Eagle/Sunset is 15 cars full of passengers with only one View Lounge and Diner.

Of our four Chicago to the West Coast routes, in terms of the best scenery they are 1) The California Zephyr; 2) the Southwest Chief; 3) The Empire Builder; 4) The Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited.

I would rather take the Empire Builder to Seattle and the Coast Starlight from there to LA than the Texas Eagle.

September/October are perfect months to travel. Early October should give you fall colors. Kids are back in school so families aren't traveling.

What you want to do is choose the most scenic route, the best service and the shortest route point to point. Also consider the stop-offs enroute. The Sunset has the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff AZ and/or Williams Junction and, of course, Albuquerque/Santa Fe NM.

I think that you are anticipating a problem that may not manifest itself. You really won't know the conditions on the train until you're on it and moving. Then you must take matters in your own hands.

sheffield england
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6. Re: chicago to los angeles

that's quite a lot to think about. we already did the empire builder so don't especially want to do it again. not that it wasn't a wonderful journey but if we're doing it again would like to do a different one. back to the drawing board i think. not doing it until next september/october so have time to plan.

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: chicago to los angeles

Sorry - misinformation. You had me thinking of the Sunset Limited. The SOUTHWEST CHIEF has the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque New Mexico

8. Re: chicago to los angeles

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