Train Vacation

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Illus, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Illus

    Illus Member

    The wife and I are discussing taking the train from the Detroit area down to Florida to see my parents (who are retired snowbirds). Anyone here take a cross country trip on the rails? Where did you go to purchase the tickets? Travel agent? Amtrak website? Any help would be welcome. Thanks
  2. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Just use the Amtrak web site. My family did one two years ago from Johnstown, Pa to New York City. We were lucky and had one of the newer coaches both ways. It was a great trip and was about as fast as driving. I would do it again no problem.

    My parents took Amtrak from Johnstown to Denver Co last year. They had to change trains one or twice, the red caps are a big help then. On the way out they did not upgrade however they made sure to get a sleeper car on the way back.

    The trip by train is fun interesting and different. Take some good snacks or food to each along with a good book.

    [FONT=&quot]I would do it again in a heartbeat and our children loved the trip and even liked the food.[/FONT]
  3. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    I always do it on the Amtrak web page since I don't have a nearby ticket agent.

    Fair warning if you want an all-rail route from Detroit you'll have to ride west to Chicago and then back east to D.C. or Charlottesville to connect with the Florida service. I'd suggest driving to Toledo and boarding the Capitol Limited for D.C. and then one of the Silver trains south from there. Otherwise it's going to be a mess or an itinerary.
  4. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    I took a trip down to florida some time ago when I was 5 I think. I remember on the way home I thought that the passinger train was going to be led by a steam locomotive when I heard it's whistlesign1 It was fun 'cause I went through a tunnel and we got caught-up in a frieghtyard mix up ans so I got to veiw a bunch of freight cars:D I remember that trip fondly and still have some souvineirs like the $2 headset and the coffe mug (which my mom reguraly uses to make here coffie) Now, if it was only the CNW instad....goldtoth1
  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I used the Amtrak web site for my short trip from Mpls/St. Paul to the wisconsin Dells a few years ago. Pretty easy.
  6. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Ya know, they should have trains that run certain lines painted in the colors of the old line that used to rin them (ex. CNW colors for the Twin Cities line) would make the lines alot more colorfull, like before I was born
  7. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    Except that Amtrak's current train on that route runs on former Milwaukee rails. I guess orange and gray should be in our future instead.

    And, for the record, there were at least four railroads with competing Chicago to Twin Cities service in the post-World War II era and probably a fifth earlier in the twentieth century.
  8. jefelectric

    jefelectric Member

    Use the Amtrak website, It is not the most user friendly site but it does work. One thing make sure everything is the way you want it before you purchase. In the last 5 years we have done E-town, PA to St. Louis, to Grand Junction, CO, to Gallup, NM, to NYC, to PHila many times & to DC. Love to ride the trains. The trip to Phila costs half of what it would cost to park the car for four days.
  9. hiscopilot

    hiscopilot Member

    We were trying to use the Amtrak site to plan a vacation from Nashville to Grand Canyon and the closest it will get us is like Chicago to Phoenix or something... if anyone else figures out the secret to their site let me know... I would love to know what it would take time and money wise for the 6 of us to travel cross country!
  10. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    Probably because they don't serve Nashville or the Grand Canyon. Your closest stops to each should be Memphis and Williams. You'd need to change trains in Chicago to do that.
  11. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    The only train I ever got to ride was the old steamer at the Old Thresher's Reunion held in Mt. PLeasant, IA. It runs through most of the grounds and it's about a 1/2 and hour to 45 minutes round trip.

    My mom took Amtrack out to Colorado once and she said it was the coolest trip she ever went on.
  12. Illus

    Illus Member

    So far I have heard alot of good stuff about traveling by train, except the price. If we wanted to sit in chairs for the 2 day trip, it would cost $500 round trip for the 2 of us, but with upgrades to roomettes (2 beds, barely enough room for us and the baby) it is going to cost $1400. Not too bad, considering that the train ride is a major part of the vacation, as far as far as we are concerned. Everybody we have told keeps saying "you could fly for 1/2 that and get there faster..." Well, I don't want to get there faster, I want to ride a train...
  13. chapmro

    chapmro New Member

    One other piece of advice -- lower your expectations in advance; you'll be a lot happier if you view it as a pleasant surprise if you get there on time, the stations are safe and clean, and everything on the train works, rather than having that as your expected outcome. I don't mean for this to be a dump-on-Amtrak post; I really do want them to succeed. The on-time rate for long-distance Amtrak trains hovers a bit below 50%, and the delays can be spectacular (as in a whole day late, or more). Just be ready for that. I would advise taking at least some of your own food, and whatever supplies you need to amuse yourselves for a long while if needed.

    You might try a short trip first to see if it is for you: on-time rates go up to about 75% for short routes. I did recently have an experience on the Amtrak Piedmont in North Carolina that was very nice, but then again that train is supported by an extra high-pressure hose of cash from the state government since it operates entirely within NC, and it _still_ managed to be an hour and a half late each way. But, the train was clean and relatively new, super-comfortable, personnel helpful as could be, a nice ride.
  14. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Don't you hate it when people try to argue with simple logic? ;) :D
  15. hiscopilot

    hiscopilot Member

    Right I knew it didnt o point o point, but since it listed those cities on the site I thought the service would be intelligent enough to get me to the 2 closest points... oh well....:cry:

  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I can't tell you about the Tennessee end of your trip, but Amtrac's closest destination for the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff, which is about 30 miles or so East of Williams. Amtrac uses busses to take passengers from Flagstaff to Williams. If you have AAA, you can book everything through them. The owner of the Grand Canyon Railway also owns the old Harvey House in Williams which has been restored and converted to a large hotel, as well as a restaurant accross the parking lot from the hotel. They have put together some nice packages that include your hotel stay and meals at the company restaurant, as well as round trip tickets on the Grand Canyon Railway to the South rim of the canyon and a lunch at the Grand Canyon and 3 hour bus tour with guide to 3 or 4 overlooks on the South Rim. The package we used through AAA a couple of years ago was for first class accomodations on the train and was very nice. The only problem was that I wasn't told that for $20.00 extra per person my wife and I could have ridden in the Dome in stead of downstairs in the dome car. If you have extra time in Az, be sure to rent a car in Flag and take the drive down to Sedona. About 30 miles or so South of Sedona in Clarkstown (Clarkston?) is the Verde Canyon Railroad. A three hour ride on the train through the Verde Canyon is well worth the trip. If you are there in the winter between the middle of November and April, the Verde Canyon is full of Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles wintering from Alaska.
  17. jefelectric

    jefelectric Member

    As I mentioned a few posts back, it is not exactly user friendly. You need to have a map handy & refer to the list of stations on the site often, to get to the nearest one. One other problem you will find is that rarely do the amtrack stations have car rental agencies. Most times you have to rent a car from the airport agency. In Grand Junction, CO, we were fortunate to have a very nice agent who picked us up at the trainstation with the car & took us to the agency at the airport, to drop him off & on the return trip we did it in reverse. That is rare. Most times you will have to take a cab (that is another story) to the air port to get your car. The other story is the smaller stations do not have cabs waiting, you will have to call one and wait for it to arrive. At Gallup, NM, the Holliday Inn picked me up and dropped me off at the station. They would have also arranged for a rental but my daughter picked me up there the next day.

    If you want to ride trains today, you have to be a little creative. The major city stations like DC, Phila, NYC & Chicago have cab stands outside the door. When you get away from these it is iffy.

    One more thing & then I will shut up. Since on any trip west of Chicago you will have to change trains there, it is a perfect time to take a tour to the top of the Sears Tower which is now the tallest building in the US. It is just across the street from the station. Most times there is a scheduled 4 to 6 hour layover so if you are lucky and your first leg train isn't late there is plenty of time to do it.

    If you don't want to fight the site, just call them, usually they are quite helpful.
  18. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    When they tell you flying is cheaper, divide the trip cost by the number of hours.
  19. Dick Elmore

    Dick Elmore Member

    :thumb: Dom, if you have ever been in military service, tell them when you check on the tickets. They used to give quite a good discount for Veterans.

    Texas Chief
  20. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    The next time someone tells you they are going on a sea cruise, ask them why they don't fly instead!

    Quite frankly, very few people *need* to take trains instead of planes for long distance travel. The point, in my mind, of train travel is enjoying the trip, the scenery, and the train itself. I have met people on Amtrak who were literally going nowhere: they started in Seattle, took the Empire Builder to Chicago, then the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, and the Coast Starlight back up to Seattle.

    A "plus" of getting a sleeper is that meals are included. One hint: Travel during the off-season, both the ticket and the sleeper are cheaper. Hint number two: Don't book the sleeper until shortly before you depart--just buy the seats and then upgrade later. If you do this in the busy season you risk running out of sleepers, but in off-season periods you can often get discounts: sometimes Amtrak will call people on the reservation list and offer them smokin' deals. I once got a discounted Coast Starlight sleeper that cost less than the cost of meals that we ate in the diner on the trip!

    Bring LOTS of film. I assume you're on this site because you love trains, and you will see LOTS of things you'll want to capture. I blame Amtrak largely for my return to model railroading after 15 years of being out of the hobby, because I'd see so many things on Amtrak that looked straight out of the Walthers catalog!

    Be prepared to talk to strangers. Amtrak's diners are set up with four-seat tables, and unless you are traveling with a foursome you will often end up sitting with other passengers. Amtrak passengers tend to be adventurous traveler types, tourists from other countries, and rail buffs, and if you're gregarious you can make lots of new friends (often of the long-distance sort) on the trip.

    Things to bring: Inflatable pillow and a small blanket (if you're traveling coach,) non-perishable snacks, earplugs if you're a light sleeper, slippers, FILM FILM FILM, a notebook and a couple of railroad-related books (best trip ever was when we were routed through Wyoming and I happened to have a book on the construction of the UP, with photos--lots of great on-the-spot comparisons of then and now!) and some cash in case you forget blanket, snacks or film.

Share This Page