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    Adirondack boarding in Montreal, supper in Schenectady

    Next month Mrs. Ispolkom and I will be traveling from Montreal to Chicago on the Adirondack and Lake Shore Limited. 1. I imagine that the Adirondack is busy this time of year. Any advice on how early to arrive at Gare Centrale to make it likely to get a pair of seats on the left side? Is...
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    NEC Questions

    Living in Minnesota, I rarely ride trains in the NEC. Hence, I am clue free on certain issues for an upcoming trip to see the big pterosaur exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. 1) On regional trains, which car in the consist is the quiet one? 2) What's a good pizza place near...
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    SPG American Express

    Starwood has upped the new cardholder bonus on their American Express card to 30k points, 10k after first purchase, 20k after $5,000 charged in first three months. The $65 annual fee is waved the first year. They often make this offer in the summer. These points can be transfered 1:1 to AGR...
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    Mileage between Fargo and Minot on the KO subdivision

    Next week I finally get to ride the Surrey Cutoff, thanks to BNSF's directional running. Does anyone know what the mileage is on that route?
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    May rare varnish trip

    Here's a last minute announcement of a Friends of the 261 trip from St. Paul to Chicago. You go St. Paul-Chicago on May 15, return on May 18.
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    Light rail and street car on same tracks?

    St. Paul is planning a street car line on 7th Street. I have read suggestions that the line could eventually tie into or continue to Minneapolis Airport, which is already served by the Blue Line light rail. The idea of a street car continuing on a light rail line to the airport seems wrong to...
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    Obama at Saint Paul Union Depot

    President Obama will give a speech on transportation Wednesday at St. Paul Union Depot. Well, we know how he won't travel to the station. It seems an odd venue, since it might seem that a train station that so many hundreds of millions of dollars was spent on doesn't actually have train...
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    Customer Relations closed 1/3/14

    Customer Relations is closed today because of the storm, or so I was told when I called 1-800-USA-RAIL today.
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    Weekend turn on the Empire Builder

    Mrs. Ispolkom and I made a quick trip from St. Paul to Minot over the weekend. We were in sleeper 0730 roomette 2 on the way west, on Friday, December 27, and sleeper 0830 roomette 2 going east on Sunday, December 29. Our western trip confirmed why we prefer to ride Amtrak to other travel...
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    Super Dome to Washington

    The Friends of the 261 are doing a tour from St. Paul to Washington DC with several of their private cars. Given the Empire Builder's poor OTP, there is a two-night layover at the Palmer House in Chicago. I've always enjoyed my rides with the 261 group, but am too busy in April to even think...
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    $30 back on $150 Amtrak purchase

    The American Express Facebook Sync app is offering $30 back on $150 spent on Amtrak, through February 15, 2014. Naturally, it requires you to have a Facebook account and install the app, and probably gives AmEx access to all of your Facebook data. Since I don't use Facebook except for deals...
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    Miami Intermodal Center (f/k/a Miami Central Station)

    When is the new Amtrak Miami station opening? I've googled around and found older articles suggesting sometime early next year, but is there a firm date yet? Mrs. Ispolkom expressed an interest in flying to Miami and taking the train back next Memorial Day, and having the new station open...
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    Station to Station Art Train

    The Friends of the 261 are renting many of their cars to "Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening" It's appearing at several venues across the country. I'm not interested in the musicians or visual artists they feature, but am interested by the mention of "the Aitken designed train turned...
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    Amsnag fare watch saves me money!

    I was happy to find an e-mail from Amsnag this morning, telling me that the roomette price on a November trip has dropped almost $40. I called Amtrak, spent less than 10 seconds on hold, and the agent rebooked me in just a couple of minutes. Very good return on time invested, and I'm very...
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    Double points on Cascades, 7/17-8/31. Good only on Tuesday-Thursday,

    I just got e-mail for a double points promotion on Cascades trains, valid 7/17-8/31. I don't know if it's targeted, but I don't see anything on the AGR Web site yet. From the confirmation e-mail: "Earn double points on qualifying Amtrak Cascades travel from July 17, 2013 12:00:00am CT through...
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    Cantara Loop

    Looking at my new map of California railroads, I notice an inset map for the Cantara Loop, which is north of Dunsmuir and is where the railroad climbs out of the Sacramento River Valley. It seems in interesting engineering feat, but I've always slept through this part of the route. Should I set...
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    Business Class on Missouri River Runner/Lincoln Service

    At the end of the month, Mrs. Ispolkom and I are traveling Kansas City - St. Louis - Chicago on trains #316 and #304, spending the night at the old St. Louis Union Station, now a Doubletree. We've never been on an midwest corridor service except the Hiawatha. What's business class like on this...
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    Targeted: 1,000 bonus points for $500 spend, 4/1-6/30

    Mrs. Ispolkom and I each received an e-mail informing us that we'd earn an extra thousand AGR points if we charged $500 to our respective AGR cards between April 1 and June 30, 2013. That's a nice bonus, and we'll certainly take advantage of it. I just kind of wish that they (Chase, I think...
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    Another dope smuggler on the Empire Builder

    Guy arrested on the Empire Builder in Grand Forks with 7.5 lbs. of hydroponically grown marijuana. The interesting thing about this one (other than the careful identification by a North Dakota newspaper of the marijuana as "hydro"), is that the Border Patrol latched on to this guy at some...
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    Breathtaking Thanksgiving prices on the NEC

    I well understand that the day before Thanksgiving is Amtrak's biggest travel day, but I wasn't expecting high-bucket prices in February. Providence to Washington is $184 for a regional on November 27, while the same ticket is $67 a week earlier or later. Good for Amtrak if they can fill the...