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Amtrak travel in winter, govt shutdown

I'm planning an Amtrak trip and have problems finding answers that don't involve itineraries.

I will be traveling alone from the Seattle area, ending up in Texas. I've planned & not taken some trips, so I've looked at the Amtrak schedules, connections, and descriptions of the scenery. What I wonder about is the problems of winter, like lack of daylight - short days to take in the beauty of what's out the window, breakdowns. On booking specific dates, I have seen that some portions of a route will be closed, and covered by buses. I don't mind some delays, and the long evenings of travel are much more pleasant than driving.

Still, I would like someone's travel story with both the good and the - let's say problematic parts. Like, do people travel by train for four days and nights and love it? How would you find a travel pal to share a roomette? It seems like a wonderful way to cross the Rockies, enjoy hours of reading, meet new people in the dining car. Where's the reality I haven't been warned about? I don't think anyone's written this book, as I've looked.

Also, the shutdown? Airports are doing fine, right? I see that backstage, folks without paychecks are checking out or calling in sick. Does anyone know how Amtrak workers are doing or how services might be affected?

Posted by
1121 posts

Well, I find a couple of books: All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide by Jim Loomis and USA by Rail Plus Canada, 8th Edition by John Pitt. The author of Rail Ventures: The Comprehensive Guide to Train Travel in North America was a friend of mine. The last edition of that book was published in 1996, but used copies are available online. If you should decide to take a trip the latter book might be useful. Some of the Amtrak information is undoubtedly completely out of date, but the mile-by-mile descriptions of what you're seeing (which make up most of the book) might be fun.

Besides delays, one of the problems I see is trying to plan your trip so you're going through the scenic parts of the country during the day. This might require some overnight hotel stays somewhere.

Posted by
7702 posts

Here on the west coast, the trains between Portland and Seattle sometimes end up being served by buses if there is a track problem. It has never inconvienced us but we are infrequent train users in the U.S. Like so the airlines, their contract is to get you where you are going with no promises of comfort level nor schedule. We are contemplating a trip from Portland to Glacier on Amtrak, but a friend of mine had a bad experience with that route when they substituted a bus and she only found out be coincidence before the trip so she could get a refund. You can arrive at any station and find you are stuck with a bus transfer. Not my kind of fun.

OTOH, a 30 years ago we did an overnight from SanJose to Portland and loved it! Got a private cabin and all meals included, BUT the shower was broken in our compartment so unusable. They did give us a discount for that upon arrival in Portland.

Posted by
3973 posts

My daughter and I did the cross-country trip twice -- once Emeryville (SF area) to Hartford, CT to deposit her at college and four years later in the opposite direction to bring her and four years accumulated stuff home. Three days straight through, lots of time in the viewliner room meeting people. We obviously came as a pair so I can't comment on finding a travel partner; the sleeper is pretty small, so it's probably best to know your partner pretty well.
Love trains!