California Zephyr Ottumwa - Denver - Ottumwa

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Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 13, 2007
My wife and I went to Colorado last week.

December 27: Ottumwa to Denver in Coach
Amtrak has reassigned a station attendant to Ottumwa. The conductor scanned tickets in the station and the coach attendant had written out seat assignments and handed them out as we boarded the train. The crew reminded people about wearing masks at each stop and during the announcements from the diner and lounge. They reminded a few people to wear their masks. Everyone seemed to comply. We had turkey sandwiches, cranberry relish, and apple pie for dinner. And lemon poppyseed bread and fruit for breakfast. Coffee and hot water for tea came from the lounge. The train was completely full with lots of people getting off or on in Omaha and Lincoln. We were early to every stop after Omaha and arrived an hour and 15 minutes early into Denver. The coach seats were the upgraded ones and very comfortable. My wife slept from shortly after we left Osceola, IA until just outside Denver, and I slept from Lincoln to Ft. Morgan. The train was completely full with lots of people getting off or on in Omaha and Lincoln. The passengers in the coaches were divers. Lots of families with young children; several young, middle aged, and older couples with no kids; and many people of a variety of ages traveling alone.

Denver to Ottumwa in the Family Bedroom
The train was 2:45 minutes late into Denver. Th conductor explained that there were a few delays due to freight traffic in Nevada and some problems with signals in Utah and Colorado. There was an additional delay of an hour because of engine problems and we left Denver around 11 p.m. We made up some time and were about 3.5 hours late into Ottumwa. This was our first trip in the family bedroom. It was nice having the additional room and to be able to use the two seats r maybe an hour before going to bed. The daytime configuration was fine. We were in a car that had been upgraded but our room looked pretty run down. Lots of scuff marks on the walls, a few stains, etc. Our sleeper attendant was very helpful. She stopped by to introduce herself. She checked in on us, made up the room when we requested and was busy the whole trip. The dining was kind of a mess. They had run out of many items in part because of the very quick turn around of a late train into Emeryville. The crew was nice, they worked fast in an almost full diner. Breakfast was ok. My wife ordered the continental breakfast with a side of bacon and was given a huge amount of food. I had the omlet which was average. Lunch was much better with the chili and a salad.

General comments
1. I've made this trip almost 20 times over the past 15 years. As always I was impressed with the number of people boarding at intermediate stops between Chicago and Denver. This is true year-round and is an indicator of a market that Amtrak could exploit if they had the interest, resources, etc.
2. Overnight travel in coach was comfortable and a good value. It meets the needs of a. number of travelers. We found a good deal on the family bedroom which was less than a roomette but have been fine with coach both ways. Business class or something like a slumbercoach might do really well on Chicago - Denver.
3. We waited in line for 40 minutes, outside in 20 degree weather, to board in Denver. The conductors checked in coach passengers first because the sleepers were being prepared for folks boarding in Denver. Before Union Station was renovated the conductors did their ticket checks and seat assigning inside the station. It would be great if they could start that practice again, although I'm guessing that there isn't enough space allocated to Amtrak to handle inside check-in. It would be even better if Amtrak could figure out how to do online seat assignments.
4. As other AU posts have reported there are significant numbers of homeless people that use the station. There were three security guards in the station who spent most of the evening chasing out homeless people or preventing them from using the restrooms. The stationfeels safe and most of the homeless folks are doing nothing more than sitting in chairs for a few minutes to get warm. A friend mentioned that the city moving people from large open space near the Civic Center has meant that there are more folks now in and around Union Station.
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