• 2022 Cross-Country Amtrak Trip; Thoughts?

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by NaugyRR
Hey Everyone,

My girlfriend and I are exploring the possibility of taking a cross-country Amtrak trip next year to see what's on the other side of the Hudson River. I've only flown as far west as Indiana once for a trip with the FFA, and she's gone way further east (Ireland, Austria, Germany, Italy, etc.), but never west. I just upgraded my Amtrak MasterCard to the World edition which includes two companion tickets each year.

The routing I'd like to take would be as follows...

Albany - Chicago via the Lake Shore Limited
Overnight stay in Chicago @ Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop (Will Uber from/to station)

Chicago - Seattle via the Empire Builder
Overnight stay in Seattle @ Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square (Walking distance from/to station)

Seattle - LA via the Coast Starlight
Overnight stay in LA @ DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown (Will Uber from/to station)

LA - Chicago via the Southwest Chief
Another overnight stay in Chicago @ Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop (Will Uber from/to station)

Chicago - Albany via the Lake Shore Limited

Has anyone taken this routing or similar before? Does anyone have any tips, suggestions, or otherwise? What would be the best way to save money on train tickets for this trip? I know ticket prices are cheapest the furthest out date-wise, and I plan on using my companion tickets for the two most expensive legs (which appear to be the Starlight and the SWC). I'm also hoping Amtrak will have a promotion for their fiftieth. We would be booking bedrooms on each leg; we think a roomette would be too small for the two of us.

So please, share your thoughts and past experiences. Neither of us have done an overnight train journey, but we have experimented with booking a bedroom on 449 BOS - ALB to see if we could manage it, and both of us are game.

Jesse :-D
  by Gilbert B Norman
Well, that sounds about like my first rail trip West made during May '62 (21yo).

It started from NY on the Century, North Coast Limited to Seattle, UP (no name) to Portland, Shasta Daylight to SF, Coast Daylight to LA, "down and back" to San Diego, Super to Chi, Broadway to NY.

While all rail was Sleeper or Parlor, hopefully any hotel at which I stayed has been razed. You wouldn't catch me near 'em today.

Amazing that trip can "more or less" can still be taken - 59 years later!

I realize the on-board experience - even if full service "Dining" is restored - will hardly equal mine. But it's what you got; so make the best of it.

And finally I hope it goes without saying - don't even THINK about making such a journey in Coach.
  by Greg Moore
Did similar for our honeymoon in 96.
LSL to Chicago, but no overnight stay.
Southwest Chief to Flagstaff, hiked the Grand Canyon and then back on to LA
Night there with friends.
Then Coat Starlight up to Oakland, another stay with friends
Then Zephyr to Chicago and then back on the LSL.
We mailed out thank you notes from some place out west since we had plenty of time on the train.
The Zephyr through the Rockies is incredible.
The Chief through New Mexico is amazing.
The plains states... after awhile just corn. Sorry folks.

Loved it, would do it again.

2 years ago did Coast Starlight again from LA up to Klamath Falls Or. Wonderful trip.
I have yet to do the Empire Builder, but on my list.
  by FatNoah
I did a similar trip in 2008, but took the Zephyr going west and the Texas Eagle coming east back to Chicago.

It was a great trip and I plan to do a future trip with a similar routing to yours, except I'd work the Cardinal in somewhere.

Highlight of my trip was having wine and cheese with Gene Shallit on the Eastbound LSL.
  by rohr turbo
I would recommend the Zephyr for one of your cross-Rockies directions. Also for variety maybe Capitol or Cardinal for Albany-NY-Chicago? WB LSL is all nighttime anyway. It should be a great trip and lucky that you have a gf who's a good sport.
  by STrRedWolf
My initial plans are to fly out to Seattle, hang out with a friend in Yakima, then pick up the Empire Builder to Chicago. Overnight in Chicago, then take the LSL to Boston. Stay for the MIT Flea Market and then take the Acela or Regional back home to Baltimore/BWI.

For a full round trip?
  • Regional or MARC to DC
  • Crecent to New Orleans
  • Overnight in New Orleans
  • Sunset Limited to LA
  • Overnight in LA
  • Coast Starlight to Seattle
  • Visit friend in Yakima for a day or two.
  • Grab the Empire Builder in Kennewick to Chicago
  • Overnight in Chicago.
  • LSL to Boston
  • Overnight in Boston, timed to the MIT flea market... maybe 2 day.
  • Acela down to Baltimore/BWI (MARC last step)
Around the bend. Granted, I'll want to do DC/Chicago for a convention, although I'm tempted to also just head up to Boston, meet up with a friend there, hit the MIT Flea Market, then come back down.
  by J.D. Lang
Go for it Jessie and your friend. My experiences and suggestions are as follows.

Back in the fall of 1976 I bought a 30 day USA Railpass that gave me unlimited coach travel. I started my trip in New Haven, went to DC, and changed trains to Southern Railways Crescent to New Orleans. From there I took the Sunset Limited to LA. In LA I took the Coast Starlight all the way to Seattle then the Builder back to Chicago. From there I took the San Francisco Zephyr to Denver and a bus to Scottsbluff NE. to spend time with a friend who just started to work for BN. After that I headed back east via the SFZ. Some sections I was able to upgrade to a sleeper so I didn’t have to go coach all of the way. Glad I did it back then as I was able to enjoy the dome cars, full dome lounge cars, and full dining service from the heritage era. Also the Southern’s Cresent was still their train and they ran a proud clean first class service.

As others have said if you can fit the CZ through the Rockies do it as I also rode that train from SLC to Denver in the mid 80’s. The scenery through Glenwood canyon, Byers and Gore canyons is spectacular. You will like the Builder and Coast Starlight for the Mountain scenery and the beach running on the CS.

One thing I want to point out about the bedroom on the LSL. If you are boarding the sleeper in Albany they may have ticketed you to be on the 449 section of 449/49 where the sleeper is right behind the engines. The NY sleepers are at the back of the combined train with the VII diner just ahead of it. Myself I wouldn’t want to hear the horns all night and when you want to go to the diner then you have to walk six or seven cars back to get to it. One way to tell is when you get your e-tickets check the car number. The NY sleepers are usually something like 4910 or 4911. If you don’t have those numbers and want to change them you can call the Amtrak 800 number early and they will change them. I did that last year to get an even number roomette so I could be on the river side going up the Hudson. Myself I’ve already booked a trip in mid June with roomettes on the LSL & SWC for a round trip from NYC to Albuquerque.

Best of luck on your future trip.
  by electricron
I would recommend on a journey with so many transfers between trains is to book a hotel room overnight where the transfers are made. Especially the earlier ones. If a train becomes so late that you miss the next one, there is no guarantee you will get the same accommodations on the following trains the rest of the trip. Riding coach overnight after booking sleeper is so much a disappointment that it will ruin the trip. I speak from experience. Does it happen every time, no. But it only has to take once to change your attitude about booking a hotel room overnight when transferring trains. I look at the overnight hotel room stays as breaks in the trip, an opportunity to actually experience the cities your a traveling through. A land cruise should be scheduled like a sea cruise with ports of calls along the way. Transfer cities make great port of calls, imho. Chicago, Los Angeles, and Portland or Seattle are great cities for an vacation in their own right, a one night stand in each would add to the vacation besides just riding all the trains.
Again, I repeat, think a land cruise and not just one long train trip. ;)
  by ExCon90
Second that about overnight hotel stops, which you're planning anyway. Even if you make a connection, the anxiety of running hours late for many miles and looking at your watch every time you feel the brakes come on really takes the edge off your enjoyment. It's not much better if the only way to protect a connection is to bus everyone from Spokane to Portland or someplace, for example. And harking back to Mr. Norman's experiences during the "last hurrah" of the intercity passenger train (similar to my own, and on many of the same trains), an hour was plenty of time to make a connection. At Chicago, having several hours to get from the New England States at La Salle St. to the Builder at Union Station would have seemed like a tiresome delay.
  by ExCon90
Another thought: On the Builder, on the last lap into Seattle there are beautiful views on the right of Puget Sound almost the whole way from Everett into Seattle. It's not the time for shaving or trying to close the suitcase; have all that done by the time you get to Everett -- time to sit back and enjoy.
  by David Benton
As others have said , but I would amplify , take plenty of off train breaks. Glacier national park worth a stop on the builder , Grand Canyon on the Chief.
  by jp1822
I did this near exact trip as well, but I reversed the middle section as it produced more scenic travel during daylight hours:

Lake Shore Limited, Albany to Chicago (as you have)
Southwest Chief, Chicago to LA
(Consider an overnight here at LA, but same day connection is possible to Coast Starlight)
Coast Starlight, LA to Portland
(Consider an overnight here at Portland, but same day connection is possible between Coast Starlight and Empire Builder!)
Empire Builder, Portland to Chicago
Lake Shore Limited OR Capitol Limited from Chicago back East.

- Southwest Chief has good viewing east or west, I don’t think you really lose or gain one way or the other.

- Coast Starlight northbound you are guaranteed daylight Ocean views in daylight, and then Klamath Falls through the Cascade Mountains in daylight all the way to Portland’s arrival.

- Empire Builder eastbound you get Columbus River at daylight and sunset - gorgeous - and then daylight viewing through all of Montana, including Glacier National Park and crossing the Rockies. WAKE UP early next morning after leaving Portland to take in great mountain, valley, and canyon viewing prior to arrival at 7:20 am in Whitefish, MT. You’ll be in Glacier Country all the way through breakfast that morning. Taking the westbound, you could miss out on the Marias Pass and Rocky Mountain crossing via Empire Builder. I always prefer the Empire Builder eastbound. Eastbound also you get daylight running from Twin Cities along Mississippi River all the way to Chicago.

DO THE TRIP! It’s awesome! I’d definitely try to breakup at some point - Portland would likely be your best overnight if having to limit. If you can swing a second night somewhere, consider LA. Can always take a quick trip down the Pacific Surfliner Corridor to San DIego too - nice ocean running there too, but Coast Starlight is top notch!!!