Discussing a trip around the Western Rail Loop of the US.

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Joined
Aug 4, 2022
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Fort Worth, TX
My mother wants to ride some rails with me around October/November. Logically, when she does something, she does it big, so we are discussing buying two USA RAIL passes.

Logically, our trip starts in Gainesville, TX where she lives, going to Fort Worth and taking the Texas Eagle to Chicago for two days. From there, we plan to take the Empire Builder to Seattle and spending 5 days in Seattle (mainly because I want to visit a friend of mine that I haven't met before). Our return trip would take us to Los Angeles via the Coast Starlight where we hop on the Texas Eagle back to Fort Worth and Gainesville.

Overall, the trip is about 15 days, with 6 connections (by my count).

Good idea for someone who has yet to get their feet wet in rail travel?
 
Joined
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Lubec, ME
As I understand it USA rail passes are just for coach travel which means overnight in coach seats and no access to the dining car, just cafe car or whatever you bring with you. I would be tempted to splurge on a roomette especially for the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight segments where you have traditional dining.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Fort Worth, TX
As I understand it USA rail passes are just for coach travel which means overnight in coach seats and no access to the dining car, just cafe car or whatever you bring with you. I would be tempted to splurge on a roomette especially for the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight segments where you have traditional dining.
Understandable. But I would be looking at a price increase for each of the 4 segments that offer roomette service, no? If so, then how much?
 
Joined
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Understandable. But I would be looking at a price increase for each of the 4 segments that offer roomette service, no? If so, then how much?
You could make a test booking to see what the prices would be. They change all the time depending on demand and tend to increase as you get closer to the travel date.
 
Joined
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Location
Fort Worth, TX
You could make a test booking to see what the prices would be. They change all the time depending on demand and tend to increase as you get closer to the travel date.
Did a test booking for the predicted dates of travel (From October 6th). For one it is $3,087 if I ask for roomettes along every leg of the journey.
 

niemi24s

Engineer
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Feb 11, 2015
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Be very careful about making plans based on test bookings if they're done one leg at a time. F'rinstance:

• For the first leg of this trip from FTW to CHI, the Texas Eagle get to CHI too late to catch the Emp[ire Builder which means you're either have to spend the night of 7 Oct in CHI.

• The third leg of the trip from SEA to LAX on the Coast Starlight arrives in LAX too late to catch the Texas Eagle back to FTW - if the TE was running on Mo, 17 Oct (when I estimate you'd get to LAX)! But the TE departs LAX only on We, Fr and Su so it looks like you'd need to get to LAX on either SA, 15 Oct or on Tu, 18 Oct and stay overnight to catch the TE back to FTW on 16 or 19 Oct.

Anyhoo, unless I goofed badly, looks like this trip for two adults in one Roomette would have a train fare of either $3842 or $3526. The fare for two adults in two Roomettes would either be $6122 or $5802. There's also the added cost of hotels in CHI and LAX.
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2022
Messages
6
Location
Fort Worth, TX
Be very careful about making plans based on test bookings if they're done one leg at a time. F'rinstance:

• For the first leg of this trip from FTW to CHI, the Texas Eagle get to CHI too late to catch the Emp[ire Builder which means you're either have to spend the night of 7 Oct in CHI.

• The third leg of the trip from SEA to LAX on the Coast Starlight arrives in LAX too late to catch the Texas Eagle back to FTW - if the TE was running on Mo, 17 Oct (when I estimate you'd get to LAX)! But the TE departs LAX only on We, Fr and Su so it looks like you'd need to get to LAX on either SA, 15 Oct or on Tu, 18 Oct and stay overnight to catch the TE back to FTW on 16 or 19 Oct.

Anyhoo, unless I goofed badly, looks like this trip for two adults in one Roomette would have a train fare of either $3842 or $3526. The fare for two adults in two Roomettes would either be $6122 or $5802. There's also the added cost of hotels in CHI and LAX.
Here is my itenary:

October 6:
Depart Gainesville
Arrive/Depart Fort Worth

October 7:
Arrive in Chicago (Spend the 8th and 9th there)

October 10th:
Depart Chicago

October 12th:
Arrive in Seattle (spend until the 18th in there)

October 18th:
Depart Seattle

October 19th:
Arrive/Depart Los Angeles

October 21st:
Arrive/Depart Fort Worth
Arrive Gainesville
 

joelkfla

Engineer
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12 miles from Walt Disney World
I would suggest packing with an eye to either riding the train or flying. By the time you get to Seattle or LA, the 2 of you may decide that you've had enough of sleeping in coach, and that it's worth springing for airfare home.

I'm not saying that will happen. It seems like some people are perfectly fine overnighting in Amtrak coach seats. But for many others, a couple of nights is their limit of endurance.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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Welcome to AU, great to see another Texan here. ( I live in Austin) I had a great trip last year on the Eagle/Heartland Flyer to Oklahoma City for a Get-Away trip.

As niemi24 said, connecting Same Day from the Starlight to the Sunset Ltd/Texas Eagle is iffy, especially with the Starlight running Late into LA most nights and with the 3 days a week Schedule of the Sunset/Eagle.

Suggestion: Take the Starlight from.Seatlle to Sacramemto, then catch a San Juoaquin Train to Bakersfield/Transfer to an Amtrak Thruway Bus to LAX ,which gets you into LA early enough to easily make your connection to the Sunset/Eagle.

Other alternatives are to spend 1 night in LA which also ensures your connection, and you still get to see the great scenery South of Oakland on the way to LAX.

Another thought is 6 days in Seattle are alot, even though it's a nice town, but you could ride the Starlight to Emeryville,( Oakland) spend a couple of nights there and visit San Francisco, then take Business Class on the Starlight to LAx which will save you some $$$ to spend on your trip.
 
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As niemi24 said, connecting Same Day from the Starlight to the Sunset Ltd/Texas Eagle is iffy, especially with the Starlight running Late into LA most nights and with the 3 days a week Schedule of the Sunset/Eagle.

Suggestion: Take the Starlight from.Seatlle to Sacramemto, then catch a San Juoaquin Train to Bakersfield/Transfer to an Amtrak Thruway Bus to LAX ,which gets you into LA early enough to easily make your connection to the Sunset/Eagle.

Other alternatives are to spend 1 night in LA which also ensures your connection, and you still get to see the great scenery South of Oakland on the way to LAX.

Another thought is 6 days in Seattle are alot, even though it's a nice town, but you could ride the Starlight to Emeryville,( Oakland) spend a couple of nights there and visit San Francisco, then take Business Class on the Starlight to LAx which will save you some $$$ to spend on your trip.
Forgive my ignorance, but is there any third-party website that does keep track of delays?

EDIT to add: The only reason for the 6 days in Seattle is because I am visiting a friend that I have maintained a professional relationship with for nearly 10 years. I personally think that going to Tacoma is a better option to see this friend, but I honestly don't know which station he will be closest to so that I can be picked up at the station. I could really do what you suggest and spend one night in LA which ensures the Texas Eagle connection.
 
Last edited:

joelkfla

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Forgive my ignorance, but is there any third-party website that does keep track of delays?

EDIT to add: The only reason for the 6 days in Seattle is because I am visiting a friend that I have maintained a professional relationship with for nearly 10 years. I personally think that going to Tacoma is a better option to see this friend, but I honestly don't know which station he will be closest to so that I can be picked up at the station. I could really do what you suggest and spend one night in LA which ensures the Texas Eagle connection.
This:

In addition to delay history, there's an option to search how many times a connection between 2 specific trains would have been missed.
 
Joined
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Th
Forgive my ignorance, but is there any third-party website that does keep track of delays?

EDIT to add: The only reason for the 6 days in Seattle is because I am visiting a friend that I have maintained a professional relationship with for nearly 10 years. I personally think that going to Tacoma is a better option to see this friend, but I honestly don't know which station he will be closest to so that I can be picked up at the station. I could really do what you suggest and spend one night in LA which ensures the Texas Eagle connection.
Theres a light rail from Seattle to Tacoma. Getting between the two is the easiest part of your trip. Staying in Tacoma is a lot cheaper than Seattle.
 
Joined
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Cedar Creek, Texas
I, as a rule, almost always schedule an overnight between trains. Even a 7-hour layover can evaporate. I took a chance last year and went to NYC from Texas and did a same day in Chicago to the Lake Shore Limited, but my train was two hours late getting in, one hour of it sitting south of Joliot. Just a week or so before that, the Texas Eagle was 11 hours late through a concatenation of delays, ranging from freight interference, to morons trying to beat the train, and a bad switch near Alton, IL. Had that been my train, I'd've likely been sitting up in Business Class to NYC. Yuk. In July 2020 I did take the chance returning the "other way" from Sandpoint, Idaho, via Portland, Sacramento, Galesburg, and Springfield, but that was special due to low freight activity in the early days of the Endemic.
In LA, there is a decently priced hotel right across from the station (not sure if I'm allowed to name names), and there is decent food near the hotel. Chinatown, after all!
 
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Theres a light rail from Seattle to Tacoma. Getting between the two is the easiest part of your trip. Staying in Tacoma is a lot cheaper than Seattle.
No, it isn't finished yet. The light rail now exists between Seattle and Angle Lake. The Tacoma light rail is not yet connected to parts north, and won't be for a year or two. The section from Angle Lake to Federal Way is currently under construction. The alternatives are 1: take any one of the Amtrak Cascades or the Coast starlight south from Seattle to Tacoma, or 2: take Sound Transit's Sounder commuter train south to Tacoma, but it only runs Mon - Fri. www.soundtransit.org. And, yes, it will be expensive to stay in Seattle. Hope this helps!
 

Devil's Advocate

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Overall, the trip is about 15 days, with 6 connections (by my count).

Good idea for someone who has yet to get their feet wet in rail travel?
That depends. Was your first bus ride three states long? Was your first boat ride a trip to Europe? Was your first flight to China? If so, then yes. Otherwise maybe start with something a little shorter.
 
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No, it isn't finished yet. The light rail now exists between Seattle and Angle Lake. The Tacoma light rail is not yet connected to parts north, and won't be for a year or two. The section from Angle Lake to Federal Way is currently under construction. The alternatives are 1: take any one of the Amtrak Cascades or the Coast starlight south from Seattle to Tacoma, or 2: take Sound Transit's Sounder commuter train south to Tacoma, but it only runs Mon - Fri. www.soundtransit.org. And, yes, it will be expensive to stay in Seattle. Hope this helps!
My bad, I was thinking SeaTac was a bit closer to Tacoma.
 
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Did a test booking for the predicted dates of travel (From October 6th). For one it is $3,087 if I ask for roomettes along every leg of the journey.
For the itinerary involving so many sleeper trains... all the meals, and the accommodations that price of $3,087 looks pretty good. You can make the actual reservation and they will hold it for several days while you check out other components of your trip. But if you did see it and didn't hold it the space at that price may be gone.

Also beware of 'dummy bookings' showing sleeper space... but when you pull it up some of the LD sectors are in coach only. It is a real bummer to try to get anything booked between now and the end of the year... and expensive too!
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
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Jul 12, 2020
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874
I have a circle trip coming up next week. NYP-CHI Coach Cardinal,CHi-LAX Eagle/Sunset Roomette,LAX-PDX, Starlight,BC,PDX-CHI Empire Builder,roomette,CHI-NYP Lake Shore Coach. Under $1700. I do have bid ups for the Cardinal and Lake Shore for roomettes. Cannot justify the outrageous roomette prices on the Cardinal,Coast Starlight and the Lake Shore for one overnight.
 
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