A trip on the Chief

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Paul CHI

Service Attendant
Sep 6, 2008
I spent last weekend in San Diego.  I flew out on SWA from Chicago Midway airport - I like to think I'm managing the flight so grabbed a window seat.  There was lots of turbulence, so the seat bet sign was on 90% of the time, which meant that I spent 5 hours in that seat - could hardly move when we finally landed.  But the view from the window was good.  I hate it when people close the shades...

Because of Anderson's vendetta against long distance trains, I have been avoiding train travel, but decided to test the waters by taking the train back from San Diego via the SW Chief.  I picked up the Surfliner at Solana Beach.  I was booked as "Business Class" and was pleasantly surprised to receive a nice packet of snacks that helped me to survive until dinner on the SWC.  There appeared to be no difference in BC seating, 3x2.   I spent a couple of hours in the Metropolitan Lounge at LAX - good food, quiet, comfortable, parked my bags for a while.

Chief left right on time at 6PM, was 1.5 hrs late by the time we got to Gallup, arrived in Chicago on time - lots of padding in that printed schedule.  My roomette was clean, and the attendant helpful.  I don't find those chairs comfortable, and the lighting is marginal for reading with my deteriorating eyesight.  Dining car food and attendants were both just find.  I had a mix of table partners, some happy to talk ad nauseam, others shy, others interesting.  There were plenty of food options for a train, and preparation and taste were above reproach.

Despite it being winter virtually all the way, the train was warm and the hot shower enjoyable.  I love the scenery along that route, though once we got past Kansas City the midwest flat gray took over.

Night fell around Raton, so there wasn't much to see over the pass.  Trackage was pretty rough through Colorado and I gave up trying to read a bouncing book and just went to bed early.  There was decent wifi on the Surfliner, but none on the Chief.  I did have "usable" cell service for 90% of the trip.

Overall, I enjoyed the train ride, but can understand the argument that in this age a 40mph transit from LAX to CHI is hard to defend.  There were not many passengers, and many of the intermediate stops only involved 1 or 2 people.  I think that new equipment and better management would boos this, but probably not enough to justify the capital cost.



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Feb 23, 2014
This is the low season for most trains and most travel in general, of course.  But I saw near-full Southwest Chiefs in Jan & Feb a couple of years ago, before the management threats were made.

Intermediate ridership is usually solid at Kansas City and at Albuquerque.  It would *really* benefit from going via Wichita and Amarillo.


Lead Service Attendant
Feb 2, 2005
To be fair this is the lowest of the low season. I take the SWC 5 times a year on average and it can be packed at times. Glad you enjoyed your trip!