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A Rail Treat

by DJ on July 19th, 2013 at 12:37pm

So, as I mentioned, I just returned from a month-long trip, and on the way back, I ended up taking Amtrak, because it was half the price of any airfare I could get (I was trying to book my travel less than 6 days in advance).

I’ve been on short train jaunts before — the Empire Builder between MN & WI, and whatever that train is which goes from LA to Long Beach — but this was my first experience traveling the rails for an extended distance. The train I was on is called a “SuperLiner”, and on this route, this particular train is known as the Southwest Chief.

Overall, it’s a great way to travel. Pros include: Much wider seats and tons of legroom (akin to first class on an airline); the ability to get up and move around whenever you want; numerous bathrooms so you usually don’t have to wait very long, like you often do on a plane; a lounge car which has plenty of room to view the scenery, and tables to sit and visit with friends or play games on; a diner car which serves breakfast, lunch & dinner; a snack car which offers cheaper and quicker alternatives for about 15 hours every day; and occasional stops where you can depart the train for a few minutes to stretch, run around, enjoy the sun, smoke, or whatever. Cons: While the seats are comfortable to sit in (and this is coming from a large man), they’re still not very comfy to sleep in — they don’t recline far enough (only slightly more than a typical airplane seat) for that; while there are various rooms (sleeper cars) available, they’re cost-prohibitive —for my trip, the most expensive room would have added over $1100 to my bill; the train actually averages a fairly slow speed —I think top speed on the Southwest Chief is somewhere around 80 mph, and there were many times we were going very slow, or when we just stopped for extended periods; also, trains lurch around a fair amount, so you have to brace yourself when walking around — although it’s still preferable to airplane turbulence, in my opinion.

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