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Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by David Cole
Greetings, all....

First of all, this is my first post here, but some of you may remember me from the old SubTalk days on www.nycsubway.org.

I have a $220 Amtrak travel voucher due to a trip this past winter that I never took, so I'm hoping to redeem it sometime this summer, possibly in mid-September.

I'm thinking about taking the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, the Coast Starlight from SF to Seattle, and then the Empire Builder from Seattle back to Chicago. From what I can tell, this should be a very scenic trip.

I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions as to wether I should take this trip in the order described above, or go in the reverse order (taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle first)? My main priority is to be able to see the best mountain views during the daytime.

I've also read the guides on Amtrak's website which mention some of the highlights of these train rides, but I'm also eager to know if anybody else has ridden these routes, and what some of the highlights are in your opinions?

  by Amtrak31
I'd take the California Zephyr. I've never been on it before, but have always wanted to. Cool signature, BTW. :-)

  by David Cole
Well, I'd be taking the California Zephyr no matter what. It's just a question of which direction offers the best views of the mountains during the daytime (assuming it doesn't get re-routed through Wyoming, which I'm hoping to avoid). Same applies to the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder segments of the trip.

  by taoyue
You have the right order for mountain scenery, it's pretty much dusk by the time the westbound Empire Builder hits the mountains. The Builder has an hour or so of shoreline running right alongside Puget Sound, but most of the trip will be flat prairie.

On the other hand, you should consider that starting with the Zephyr will leave you boarding the Starlight after midnight, since it will be 2-8 hours late by the time it hits Emeryville.

  by David Cole
I should have mentioned that I plan on spending a day or two in both SF and Seattle along the way, so making the connections shouldn't be a big issue.
  by bill haithcoat
The CZ scenery is safest going westbound. Coming east, you do not have to be running very late to miss the best scenery in the dark. So go east. Your schedued times in Denver help tip you off to this, as the Rocky Mountain scenery begins very soon just west of Denver.

  by EastCleveland
If you slightly alter your itinerary, you can also sample one of Amtrak's Talgo trains.

Take the northbound Coast Starlight overnight to Portland, spend a day or two there, and then continue north to Seattle aboard the Cascades.

  by David Cole
I lived in Eugene for a while and visited Portland fairly regularly, so I can probably live without spending a couple days there. (Nice little city, though.)