First time LD rider-Mom and child-questions!

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Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
2
Location
Ohio
Hi,
I decided to change it up for my return trip home from Phoenix-Cleveland after the holidays and take Amtrak. I'm fairly well traveled for the average American(probably not so much by business traveler standards), but have never done a long distance/overnight train trip; add to this that my 4 y/o DS is obsessed with trains, and it seemed like an opportune time to try it,

I am taking the Texas Eagle from Maricopa in a roomette and getting off in St Louis to visit friends, and then will pick it back up 36 hours later, riding coach to Chicago, and transferring to Lake Shore Limited to Cleveland in another roomette. I've read some blogs, watched some vlogs and read some of these forums, but have some questions b/c I'm a planning freak!;)

Has anyone traveled long distance with a young child? This was the main reason I chose the roomette, to give him a place(and yes I know its small) to be a touch less cooped up. I plan to bring his tablet, some books and I am sure he will have a few small toys from Santa. Is there just one outlet in these areas?

I've heard conflicting details on the dining experience. Do they have a full sit down meal in the dining car on this train or are meals still served in your room d/t Covid? Does anyone have a current menu for these trains(or a link)? Are there kid friendly options or should I plan to bring PBJs in a lunchbox? Is there still a cafe car too? Do they serve adult drinks(for when he's sleeping, of course)?

Regarding the "smoke stops", how long are these breaks? Is there enough time to run into a store(convenience or otherwise)? Are there any nearby the stops? I'd like to get off and take a pic or something if I could but if it's only a few minutes, I won't bother.

Do any of these trains still have the sightseeing car?

I will have larger baggage stored-are these usually safe in the car or should i try to bring it into my roomette? If they are ok, will a carryon size bag be ok in there(if I store it on top bunk)? I know that I can't check it in Maricopa, but does anyone know if I would be able to check it in St Louis ahead of time for my continuing train? Will it automatically get transferred in Chicago to the LSL or do i need to transfer it?

Finally, my train from St Louis is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 into Chicago and my connecting train leaves at like, 9:10. I know that trains can run late but this stretch seems to be timely. Do I have this connection too close, and if so, does Amtrak refund the ticket, place you on next day train,put you up for the night,etc if they miss the connection?

TIA!
Stacey
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
8,969
Location
Ithaca, NY
Hi,
I decided to change it up for my return trip home from Phoenix-Cleveland after the holidays and take Amtrak. I'm fairly well traveled for the average American(probably not so much by business traveler standards), but have never done a long distance/overnight train trip; add to this that my 4 y/o DS is obsessed with trains, and it seemed like an opportune time to try it,

I am taking the Texas Eagle from Maricopa in a roomette and getting off in St Louis to visit friends, and then will pick it back up 36 hours later,
I'm going to clarify this below: you're ticketed on the Lincoln Service from St. Louis to Chicago.

riding coach to Chicago, and transferring to Lake Shore Limited to Cleveland in another roomette. I've read some blogs, watched some vlogs and read some of these forums, but have some questions b/c I'm a planning freak!;)
I think your kid will love it!

Has anyone traveled long distance with a young child? This was the main reason I chose the roomette, to give him a place(and yes I know its small) to be a touch less cooped up. I plan to bring his tablet, some books and I am sure he will have a few small toys from Santa. Is there just one outlet in these areas?
There's a pair of outlets right next to each other, usually in a slightly recessed outlet. It's good to bring something you can plug into the recessed outlet which you can plug everything else into; an extension cord with USB plugs is a good idea.

I've heard conflicting details on the dining experience. Do they have a full sit down meal in the dining car on this train or are meals still served in your room d/t Covid?
You always have the option of meals delivered to your room. Eating in the dining car has been restored as an option.

Unfortunately, the high-quality "full service meals" are only going to be available from Maricopa to San Antonio -- after that, it goes back to rubbery, much lower quality and worse selection "flex meals" from San Antonio to St Louis. You don't get any meals from Chicago to Cleveland due to the schedule. Your St. Louis to Chicago trip will only have the cafe car.

Does anyone have a current menu for these trains(or a link)?
They are online; someone will give you a link. They DO NOT have ingredients lists, so if you or the kid are allergic to anything, you pretty much can't eat anything.

Are there kid friendly options or should I plan to bring PBJs in a lunchbox?
Depends what your kid likes.

Is there still a cafe car too?
Yes. Very poor selection, but it exists. Someone will give you a link to the online menu, though they're often out of date.

Do they serve adult drinks(for when he's sleeping, of course)?
Yes. Not a great selection. In a roomette, you are allowed to bring your own and drink it in the roomette (not in coach).

Regarding the "smoke stops", how long are these breaks?
It varies. San Antonio is quite long but it's in the middle of the night and everything is closed. Most are under 5 minutes.

Is there enough time to run into a store(convenience or otherwise)?
No. There are a couple of stations on the Amtrak network where that's possible because the store is right on the platform, but not any of the stations on your route.

Are there any nearby the stops? I'd like to get off and take a pic or something if I could but if it's only a few minutes, I won't bother.
I usually do jump off and take photos if it's daytime. Usually the only thing to photograph is the train station building itself but that can be interesting.

Do any of these trains still have the sightseeing car?
The Lake Shore Limited never did. It has a cafe car with tables and windows; but it'll be dark for the whole trip anyway and the windows are better in your roomette.

The Texas Eagle is combined with the Sunset Limited from Maricopa to San Antonio. This has the sightseeing car. The train splits into two pieces at San Antonio (make sure you're in your room when that happens!) and the Texas Eagle part does not have a sightseeing car at the moment, though people are campaigning to bring it back.

I will have larger baggage stored-are these usually safe in the car or should i try to bring it into my roomette?
On the Texas Eagle, it goes in the racks in the lower level; do not try to bring it into your roomette. Bring a small carry-on size bag containing all your valuables into your roomette. It's quite cramped.

The Lake Shore Limited has totally different cars and the roomettes are larger (including an upper bunk with its own window). The roomette has a "secret compartment" for baggage which is actually above the hallway, and you put your carryon bags up there. It does not have a lower level or racks.

On the Lincoln Service in coach, it'll go in overhead racks.

If they are ok, will a carryon size bag be ok in there(if I store it on top bunk)?
You don't want the top bunk down on the Texas Eagle unless you're using it, which you won't.

I know that I can't check it in Maricopa, but does anyone know if I would be able to check it in St Louis ahead of time for my continuing train? Will it automatically get transferred in Chicago to the LSL or do i need to transfer it?
You are currently scheduled on Lincoln Service from St Louis to Chicago, which does not have checked baggage at all.

The 7:55AM departure from St. Louis to Chicago (Texas Eagle) is the only one with checked baggage. It's also the only one with a dining car.

If you don't need your bag in St. Louis, you can ask at St. Louis to see whether you can check your bag as soon as you arrive at St. Louis; it will then be transferred at Chicago and arrive at Cleveland probably at the same time as you, but possibly a day early. (You might have ask the Cleveland staff to get it out of the back room.) If you do need your bag in St. Louis, you will need to carry your bag on board.

Finally, my train from St Louis is scheduled to arrive at 8:30 into Chicago and my connecting train leaves at like, 9:10. I know that trains can run late but this stretch seems to be timely. Do I have this connection too close, and if so, does Amtrak refund the ticket, place you on next day train,put you up for the night,etc if they miss the connection?
They are supposed to put you on the next day's train and put you up for the night. Sometimes they are kind of slow and obnoxious about it, so you could have a very tired, cranky kid. The fact is that the Lake Shore Limited often departs late though, so I wouldn't worry about the connection myself.

Warning: that 3 PM - 8:30PM Lincoln Service train from St Louis to Chicago does NOT have a dining car. The cafe car selection is very thin. In St Louis, you will want to pack your own dinner for yourself and your kid to carry with you and eat on that train.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Messages
5
Location
Maplewood, MN
neroden provided some great answers for you! My wife and I have done two sleeper trips with our toddler. I think using a sleeper (if you can afford it) is the way to go with little kids since it keeps them a bit more contained and you don't have to worry about them bothering other folks.

I only have two things to add:
  • That connection would make me quite nervous, personally. My understanding was that Amtrak doesn't guarantee connections less than 90 minutes. It might be worth calling to see if it is guaranteed or not. Maybe taking the Texas Eagle the next day and enjoying some time in Chicago would be better, though I know that would cut your St. Louis visit a bit shorter.
  • The Superliner roomettes don't have much space for bags. If you pack one backpack with a change of clothes and all the toys for the kiddo it makes life a lot easier cause you can keep all your other bags in storage.
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
2
Location
Ohio
I'm going to clarify this below: you're ticketed on the Lincoln Service from St. Louis to Chicago.
Thank you SO MUCH for this detailed reply!!! I think you hit on everything that I was wondering!!

Yes I will double check the connection time- I had arranged it as to have longer time in St Louis but may need to change.

I will also search for the menus, but he will basically eat typical kid food- pasta, PBJ, chicken tenders, fruit.
 

joelkfla

Conductor
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
1,056
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Menus are here: Amtrak Onboard Dining
  • Click on Traditional then scroll down and select Texas Eagle for menu west of San Antonio.
  • Click on Flex then select Texas Eagle for east of San Antonio.
  • Click on Cafe then select National Menu for cafe menu.
Traditional offers a Kids menu; Flex has spaghetti with tomato sauce & meatballs (might want to ignore the meatballs), Cafe has a mac-n-cheese "skillet" or hot dog.

Amtrak is known to run out of items on the menu, so you might want to pack a sandwich or some hearty snacks just in case.
 

Barb Stout

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
967
Location
Albuquerque, NM
About connection times in Chicago...Last week I tried 2 fake booking where one would have had a connection time just barely shy of 2 hours and the other was 2 hours and 15 minutes. Amtrak (on the Trip Planner page) allowed me to book the latter, but not the former, so I assumed that meant Amtrak wouldn't guarantee a connection with a less than 2-hour layover. (Actually, the Trip Planner never showed me the option of the former, but I knew that it was available.) But it definitely wasn't with Lincoln services, so maybe it's different with Lincoln services. But if you made the reservations with each segment as a separate segment rather than using, for example, Amtrak's Trip Planner, you might want to double-check if Amtrak would honor any missed connections with such a short layover. Personally, I would never book a 40-minute layover.
 
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