My wife and I are thinking about going to our grand daughter's graduation in June by train (then fly home). Have any of you taken the Cresent to New Orleans, then the Sunset Limited to the West? I know one thing, based on our trip to Florida last year, we will each have our own roomette (we are in our mid-70s, and were glad we avoided climbing into bunk beds). One question is what to do between trains from 7:30 pm to 9 am. (assuming the Cresent is on time). Any comments or suggestions appreciated. 

Original Post

Mrs RJR & I went DC to LA 2 years ago, on Capitoll Limited & SW Chief, and thought food was excellent & the bedrooms also.  Unfortunately, CapLtd no longer has a diner.  We were ytreate duch better than any airline has ever treated us.

Hot Water posted:
david1 posted:

Just fly Joe, it is easier and a heck of a lot faster. 

Dave

Not to mention all the negative reports of meals and accommodation issues on long distance Amtrak trains.

As I said, we took the Silver Meteor from Phila to Ft. Lauderdale. The red caps, sleeping car porter, and waiters in the dining car, could not have been nicer. Food was good, as well. The train was only 45 minutes late, which can be expected due to freight train priorities. 

 

juniata guy posted:

What to do in New Orleans during an overnight layover?  Joe; surely you jest!  😉

Curt

Since I usually go to bed around 10 (and up at 6), and the fact that I gave up drinking 17 years ago, I don't think spending the entire night in a bar would be an ideal solution. I was hoping that someone familiar with the New Orleans train station could give some advice.

I was there some years ago and unless things have changed, believe me, the Union Passenger Terminal is no place to be in the middle of the night...unless you like sitting in round-bottom hard plastic chairs for 10 1/2 hours, that is. Not to mention the need to keep your eyes on your luggage every second.  Heed the advise in post #3.


In no particular order; Aviation (Pilot), Golf, Amateur Astronomy & Cycling (when it's nice out) and Trains (when it's not).

Joe, Mrs RJR & I also are too creaky to climb into an upper berth.  I suggest that instead of 2 roomettes, you look into a bedroom (Not the family bedroom on lower deck).  Mrs. RJR & I are quite comfortable sharing the lower bed in the double-decker upstairs bedrooms.  You also get a private restroom with shower.  On the double deckers, Bedroom A is the least desirable, as it has a slightly different and more cumbersome layout.

An alternative route for you, especially if you like scenery, would be the Cardinal to Chicago and the SW Chief from there.  The Chicago layover is during the day.  A downside would be that the Cardinal historically runs late.

ANother alterntive would be to take the NE Corridor (schlepping your own baggage, to NYC or DC, and then take the Lake Shore or the Caoitol Limited to Chicago.

Note both the Cardinal and the Crescent are single deckers.  I personally did not like the Viewliner roomettes, with the toilet under the seat.

david1 posted:

Just fly Joe, it is easier and a heck of a lot faster. 

Dave

Unfortunately, for us train lovers, Dave is right.  Many times I have tried to find a reasonable fare using Amtrak.  In each case, flying or driving if close enough, was far less expensive.  

In 2011 we went to Europe.  We took an overnight train from Paris to Padova, Italy.  It was more expensive than flying, but I was determined and SWMBO gave in.  Long story short, the train was somewhat disappointing.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Hey Joe sounds like a good trip. Sine you really don't have much time there, and the neighborhood sounds less than ideal, I would just find a hotel that would pick you up and then take you back in the morning. I've done that b4 worked out great.

Dan Padova posted:
david1 posted:

Just fly Joe, it is easier and a heck of a lot faster. 

Dave

In 2011 we went to Europe.  We took an overnight train from Paris to Padova, Italy.

Why did you go to Padova?

Oh wait...

MikeH

I have had better luck with trains in Europe than that...getting from Bergen across Norway and Denmark down to Frankfurt, as well as using them in GB, Sweden and around Switzerland.  Only ridden steam tourist trains here, though. (If AMTRAK offers steam runs, lemme know)

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

Joe Hohmann posted:
juniata guy posted:

What to do in New Orleans during an overnight layover?  Joe; surely you jest!  😉

Curt

Since I usually go to bed around 10 (and up at 6), and the fact that I gave up drinking 17 years ago, I don't think spending the entire night in a bar would be an ideal solution. I was hoping that someone familiar with the New Orleans train station could give some advice.

Joe:

I’m up at 4AM on weekdays so I can be at work by 6AM.  You’re preaching to the choir about being early to bed.  

Neither am I much of a drinker anymore myself but; you can still visit a jazz club or two and drink soft drinks.  There are countless good restaurants in New Orleans and you should also take advantage of that as well.

And I will second the suggestion to get a hotel room.  As mentioned above; the New Orleans station is not a place one spends a night unless they are homeless.

Curt

You have to love going long distance by rail or you will hate it. I have taken my daughter around the country 5 times in the past 3 years all 1st class long distance trains. She didn't like it at first, but now she loves it. Now she can't wait to get on the Meteor to Florida in February.

Eddie G

clem k posted:

Hey Joe sounds like a good trip. Sine you really don't have much time there, and the neighborhood sounds less than ideal, I would just find a hotel that would pick you up and then take you back in the morning. I've done that b4 worked out great.

Thanks to all of you that gave me some useful information. I think we will book the night in a nearby hotel, even if we use it for only a few hours. Heck, the trip is costing almost $2,500. What's another $150.? 

There are lots of great things to do in New Orleans.  Unless you enjoy a good party or unless you like good food and the train is on time you probably won't be able to do them on your timetable.  Plus making your morning train will likely mean staying in an expensive hotel.   I agree with others who suggested you explore alternate train routes.

beachhead2 posted:
Dan Padova posted:
david1 posted:

Just fly Joe, it is easier and a heck of a lot faster. 

Dave

In 2011 we went to Europe.  We took an overnight train from Paris to Padova, Italy.

Why did you go to Padova?

Oh wait...

  It took me until I was in my sixties to get there.  It is a nice city.  Not too big.  There's a memorial to 911 there.  My daughter's friend, who is from Padova, pointed it out to us.  It came as a nice surprise.  I really don't want to hijack this thread.  But since you asked.....  

100_5971Padova 3Padova 4Padova 6Padova

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

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Joe Hohmann posted:

Thanks to all of you that gave me some useful information. I think we will book the night in a nearby hotel, even if we use it for only a few hours. Heck, the trip is costing almost $2,500. What's another $150.? 

Don't know the train schedules,  but why not stay a day or two in N'awlins and enjoy what the Crescent City has to offer?

Mitch

It's crackers to give a rozzer the dropsy in snide!

 

Remember, SCROUNGE!

If you've never traveled by train before it's worth doing it at least once.  Keep your tolerance level high and your expectations somewhat low and you may be pleasantly surprised.  My son and I did the SW Chief to Flagstaff to see the Grand Canyon and we had an interesting experience, to say the least.  The food was good and the staff was great.  However, we flew home.  If you're a member of AAA their travel department or a decent travel agency can get you the discount fares on Amtrak and made putting the trip together much easier.  

As a couple that travels exclusively by train, I can tell you that its a comfortable relaxing way to travel.  We are not part of the anxious "got to be there instantly" folks that travel by plane as we consider air travel stressful, dirty, unhealthy without privacy.  We also refuse to be lowered to the level of an animal by going through airport security that is similar to what they use at prisons. Having said we always travel in a bedroom accommodations and we look forward to the layovers between trains. It provides an opportunity to see another city.  New Orleans Union Station has a lounge reserved for sleeper passengers call the Magnolia room but its not good for waiting overnight. I would suggest getting a hotel room for the evening. Cab service is available and the trolley stops not far from Union Station. The overnight stay would also give you a few hours to see the French Quarter. 

Builder of the Hill Lines ( New Delta Lines). Recreating history for the model RR community.

Dennis, you are a man after my own heart.  I refuse to join the cattle class and the degradation of flying.  I like to experience the fun of getting there.

One of the greatest pleasures on a long train trip is siting in the dining car for 3 meals a day, dining with and conversing with persons from all over the world. 

TedsGG1 posted:

If you've never traveled by train before it's worth doing it at least once.  Keep your tolerance level high and your expectations somewhat low and you may be pleasantly surprised. 

Last March we took the Silver Meteor from Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was actually better than expected, so we are doing it again this March. However, we fly home. The one thing you can expect is long distance trains running 1 to 3 hours late, due to freights often having the right-of-way.

We are fed-up with flying coach, so for the past 3 years we have been flying first class. This is a sanity-saver, but pricey, especially on flights to Europe. 

RJR posted:

 

One of the greatest pleasures on a long train trip is siting in the dining car for 3 meals a day, dining with and conversing with persons from all over the world. 

I agree. We had dinner in the dining car with a very interesting couple from Canada. If this appeals to you, you would be in heaven with a 1-2 week Viking river or sea cruise. We have taken 5 so far, and one of our favorite aspects of these trips is having the option of sitting with different people at every meal, thanks to no "table assignments". All aboard a given cruise you would be on are English speaking, yet they may live in different countries.

Book a room at the historic Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street. It’s in the Quarter but only a few blocks off Canal so you’re not in the thick of the madness. Eddie suggested Antoine’s for dinner. Certainly a good choice but the list of great dining in NOLA is endless. I’d go to Commander’s Place which is a quick cab ride from the hotel.

TCA, LCCA

eddie g posted:

If i knew where you are going in Az, I might be able to give you more suggestions. 

We are staying at my daughters house in Tempe. The main purpose of this visit is our grand daughter's college graduation. We have been to AZ about 6 times over the past 25 years, mainly the Scottsdale area.

Joe, Check this one out, Go to NY city Penn station & take the Lakeshore ltd it leaves NY at 3:40pm to Chicago. It gets in to Chicago at 9:50 am. You have a 6 hr layover. The Southwest Chief leaves Chicago 2:50pm. Chicago is a great city to sight see in. The SW Chief 1 night from Chicago, stops in Flagstaff at 8:30 the next evening,  144 miles from Pheonix little over 2 hr drive.  I'm playing around with idea's....Joe, in case you are not aware of it, the roomettes on the Meteor are way better than the roomettes on the SW Chief and Sunset ltd. I hate the roomettes on the long distance trains. There is no room in them, & they don't have a toilet or sink. That's why we always take a bedroom, much more money but worth it.

Eddie G

eddie g posted:

Joe, in case you are not aware of it, the roomettes on the Meteor are way better than the roomettes on the SW Chief and Sunset ltd. I hate the roomettes on the long distance trains. There is no room in them, & they don't have a toilet or sink. That's why we always take a bedroom, much more money but worth it.

I understand that the roomettes on the first leg have a toilet (like the Meteor), and that on the second leg, no toilet or sink is in the roomette. While the bedroom has a toilet, it still gives me a top bunk to contend with, where as each of us having our own roomett gives my wife and I a room to ourselves, and use of a bottom bunk. Cost aside, I think the 2 roomettes are best for us. On top of that, the bedroom on the Sunset adds $559. to the price of the trip, compared with 2 roomettes for the entire trip.

Although the Chicago route is an alternative, adding a third train to the mix, then traveling north before we head to the south starts to make flying sound not so bad, after all. 

In any event, I appreciate the help from many of you. 

Hmm . . . well, this thread has offered a number of suggestions.  My wife and I take long distance trips on Amtrak, and I would agree with those who suggested a hotel.  Staying in the station at NOL is misdirected frugality.  I can guarantee that it will be a miserable night.  A good restaurant for supper and a good hotel are worth the expense.

Since you have chosen to ride west via the Sunset Limited, I assume that you are intending to attend your granddaughter's graduation at Tucson (University of Arizona) or Tempe (Arizona State University).  University of Arizona is on-line for the Sunset, and ASU is a short (by southwestern standards) drive from the station stop at Maricopa.  If she is graduating from Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, the Southwest Chief is the train to ride.

Since you are going to change trains at New Orleans:

  • The station is late construction (1954) for a Union Station.
  • The track is ballasted with sea shells, which, at one time, was not uncommon in the South.
  • The engine facility is on the right side of the train immediately after departure.
  • You'll rock and bounce along, on the New Orleans Public Belt Railway until you have crossed the Huey P. Long bridge.
  • Be sure to be at a window when the train crosses the Huey P. Long bridge not long after departure.
  • Do not expect the Sunset to arrive on time at Tucson.
  • I personally recommend a bedroom instead of two roomettes on the Sunset.  The extra room, the private toilet and shower are definite advantages.  We find Superliner roomettes confining by comparison, with almost no closet space and very little room to change into and out of night clothes.  Mejor que nada, as they say in San Antonio.  While getting into and out of a roomette upper berth requires dexterity, you have a clear shot at climbing the ladder to the upper berth in a bedroom.  But, if you are sure you want nothing to do with an upper, then the lower in the bedroom will accommodate two adults,  very snugly, as long as they are not overweight  The two roomettes are probably the answer for those who don't sleep right next to each other, or who snore, or are of generous girth.
  • Traveling on a long distance Amtrak train is a great way to fondly remember your mother, who instructed you in good posture, keeping shoes off of furniture, using decent language, dressing decently, never wearing shirts with suggestive or vulgar art or wording imprinted on them, and many other things that the mothers of a growing number of chair car passengers neglected to instill.  As a sleeping car passenger, you will likely encounter these individuals if you choose to use the Sightseer Lounge.  When you have enjoyed enough of their company, the private quarters of the sleeping car can be a pleasant refuge.
  • Every dining car is different because every dining car crew is different.  There are some superb chefs, and some merely adequate ones.  Some servers make the dining car delightful, while others make you wonder why Amtrak still employs them.  In my experience there are more good ones than poor ones.

Amtrak no longer puts a route guide in each sleeping car compartment, and they do not seem to be available to print from the Amtrak website.  Maybe somebody else knows where to find them on the web.

 

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Again, thank you for showing the 2 alternative routes to me. Not sure, at this point, what one we will take.

Phila-New Orleans- AZ: Involves 2 trains. Layover involves all night in a crappy station, or book hotel room (a must). Drawback: the Crescent has a poor on-time record, arriving in New Orleans often 3-4 hours late. This would cramp "hotel time". Plus: Crescent roomettes have a toilet. Another consideration: the book "Amazing Train Journeys" features The Sunset Limited as "The ultimate American railroad ride, east to west".

Phila-DC-Chicago-AZ: Involves 3 trains (a negative). Positive is a daylight 6 hour wait in Chicago. Also, the on-time record of the Capital limited seems better (but in this case, who cares). Minus: Capital Limited roomettes  do not have a toilet.

A "given" for both trips: 2 roomettes rather than 1 bedroom, since the bedroom also has upper/lower bunks. My wife and I loved having 2 roomettes (she goes to bed late, I go early) on the Meteor, but will have to use the common restroom on this trip from New Orleans (Chicago route is "no toilet" all the way). BTW, the one bedroom is a $500+. premium over two roomettes.

Man, I am with the poster who hates air travel!  Me too!

I am a retired Airbus captain with lifetime free travel bennies on American and I have a "KTN" for which I paid $85 useless dollars.  I am, and was while in uniform with all those silver stripes, treated like a known terrorist by TSA.  Last I knew, the only folks not treated with suspicion were the fuelers and caterers.

I vote for Amtrak, dining cars, and decent connections.  That, or a Piper Cub, or an automobile.  No thank you on the connecting bus lines or box lunches.

bob2 posted:

Man, I am with the poster who hates air travel!  Me too!

 treated like a known terrorist by TSA.  Last I knew, the only folks not treated with suspicion were the fuelers and caterers.

  That, or a Piper Cub,

I have to admit I've been lucky with TSA. The clowns at Heathrow were another matter. They were overstaffed, and needed to look busy, so they set aside every third suitcase and inspected every item in it.

Enjoyable flying was when I was able to be aboard one of our corporate planes. When you were ready to go, it was ready. I loved sitting in the jump seat during landings.

Number 90 posted:

Hmm . . . well, this thread has offered a number of suggestions.  My wife and I take long distance trips on Amtrak, and I would agree with those who suggested a hotel.  Staying in the station at NOL is misdirected frugality.  I can guarantee that it will be a miserable night.  A good restaurant for supper and a good hotel are worth the expense.

Since you have chosen to ride west via the Sunset Limited, I assume that you are intending to attend your granddaughter's graduation at Tucson (University of Arizona) or Tempe (Arizona State University).  University of Arizona is on-line for the Sunset, and ASU is a short (by southwestern standards) drive from the station stop at Maricopa.  If she is graduating from Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, the Southwest Chief is the train to ride.

Since you are going to change trains at New Orleans:

  • The station is late construction (1954) for a Union Station.
  • The track is ballasted with sea shells, which, at one time, was not uncommon in the South.
  • The engine facility is on the right side of the train immediately after departure.
  • You'll rock and bounce along, on the New Orleans Public Belt Railway until you have crossed the Huey P. Long bridge.
  • Be sure to be at a window when the train crosses the Huey P. Long bridge not long after departure.
  • Do not expect the Sunset to arrive on time at Tucson.
  • I personally recommend a bedroom instead of two roomettes on the Sunset.  The extra room, the private toilet and shower are definite advantages.  We find Superliner roomettes confining by comparison, with almost no closet space and very little room to change into and out of night clothes.  Mejor que nada, as they say in San Antonio.  While getting into and out of a roomette upper berth requires dexterity, you have a clear shot at climbing the ladder to the upper berth in a bedroom.  But, if you are sure you want nothing to do with an upper, then the lower in the bedroom will accommodate two adults,  very snugly, as long as they are not overweight  The two roomettes are probably the answer for those who don't sleep right next to each other, or who snore, or are of generous girth.
  • Traveling on a long distance Amtrak train is a great way to fondly remember your mother, who instructed you in good posture, keeping shoes off of furniture, using decent language, dressing decently, never wearing shirts with suggestive or vulgar art or wording imprinted on them, and many other things that the mothers of a growing number of chair car passengers neglected to instill.  As a sleeping car passenger, you will likely encounter these individuals if you choose to use the Sightseer Lounge.  When you have enjoyed enough of their company, the private quarters of the sleeping car can be a pleasant refuge.
  • Every dining car is different because every dining car crew is different.  There are some superb chefs, and some merely adequate ones.  Some servers make the dining car delightful, while others make you wonder why Amtrak still employs them.  In my experience there are more good ones than poor ones.

Amtrak no longer puts a route guide in each sleeping car compartment, and they do not seem to be available to print from the Amtrak website.  Maybe somebody else knows where to find them on the web.

 

Thanks Tom, that's the best explanation of Amtrak service I have ever read.  Every time we think about travel within the states, I suggest we take the train.  And every time I try to find fares on Amtrak's site, it becomes a frustrating experience.  

One example is when we were thinking of visiting Charlston, SC, a few years ago.  We would board in Philly at 30th Street.  I cannot recollect the price at the moment but it was considerably more than flying.  I try to explain to SWMBO that taking the train is much easier because it takes us from city center to city center.  No need to worry about long drives to and from airports or getting to the station two or three hours before departure.  

My best experience and I should point out my only experience on a long distance Amtrak train was way back in 1989.  We took the kids to Disneyworld.  The Silver Star I believe it was.  We opted for slumber coach which kept the fare lower.  Besides, we were younger and could hack it.  The crew was outstanding.  The diner was also very good but not the fine linens and such that some trains may have.   

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I add another suggestion: avoid the family bedroom on the lower level.  Windows too small.

Neither Mrs R nor I are petite (don't tell her I said that), but neither of us snore, so we have no problem sharing the lower in a bedroom.  We once took a grandson on the Auto-Train and he loved the upper while we used the lower.

The sightseer lounger or mid-train observation car is a great place to see the sights.

Joe Hohmann posted:

 

Phila-New Orleans- AZ: Involves 2 trains. Layover involves all night in a crappy station, or book hotel room (a must). Drawback: the Crescent has a poor on-time record, arriving in New Orleans often 3-4 hours late. This would cramp "hotel time".

The obvious answer to the overnight problem is to leave on the Crescent one day early (Friday), spend 2 nights (in a hotel) and one day in New Orleans, then board the Sunset Limited Monday morning at 9. The Crescent runs every day, the Sunset on Mon., Wed., Sat.. 

We rode the Cardinal & Southwest Chief from DC-AZ many years ago.  Late getting into Chicago so we crammed in a lot of activity into 4 hours.  And really, really late getting into Flagstaff in the wee hours of the morning. 

It's all part of the adventure of train travel.  We've rarely been on time taking a plane and airport delays are no fun at all!

Promote Responsible Railfanning 

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