First time on California Zephyr in Roomettes in Transition Car: Questions

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May 24, 2022
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California
Hi there. I'm new here. I will travel with my family on the California Zephyr from Emeryville to Glenwood Springs in early June. We have two kids, ages 9 and 6. We were assigned the following roomettes:
Car 640 - Room 22
Car 640 - Room 24
I'm wondering whether I should call to try to get roomettes in the regular sleeper car or just stick with what we have. I'm pretty sure our roomettes are in the transition/staff car, right? I've read that some people don't like these cars and I'm wondering why. I know we will be far from the dining and lounge cars but that doesn't bother me because the kids will want to walk around to get rid of some kid energy. I'm assuming it's pretty easy to move from car to car-- I've been on many Amtrak trains, just not a sleeper car. We seem to be over the bathrooms on the lower level. Will this be noisy? Will we be able to step out at the "fresh air" stops in Sacramento, Reno, etc or should we plan to hang out somewhere closer to the door? Will these rooms face North? I like a lot of warm sun so I'm hoping they face south but maybe North facing is better?

After a quick stay in Glenwood Springs we will travel in coach to Denver. On a Monday in early June should we expect to get seats together in coach from Glenwood Springs to Denver?

Thanks in advance for any advice. This will be a first for our family and I want it to be special and fun. We're packing lots of card games, along with snacks and audiobooks. Everyone is excited!
 

slasher-fun

Service Attendant
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Yes, that's in the transition sleeper. People tell that you get less service from the car attendants, but this was never an issue for me, and I always liked being among the first to reserve my spot for lunch/dinner :)
Also since you're at the very end of the train, you'll have less people passing in front of your room during the trip.
 

Cal

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We seem to be over the bathrooms on the lower level. Will this be noisy?
I've never experienced a problem with this in superliners.
Will we be able to step out at the "fresh air" stops in Sacramento, Reno, etc or should we plan to hang out somewhere closer to the door?
You might not be able to step out from your car (depends if you have an SCA for this car or if the SCA is to handle two cars), but you can always walk to the next sleeper and get off there. I don't know what you mean by hanging out close to the door... do you mean by getting fresh air by opening the window? Opening the window is strictly prohibited.
Will these rooms face North? I like a lot of warm sun so I'm hoping they face south but maybe North facing is better?
Rooms 22 and 24 are on the right side of the train so you should be facing south. I am unfamiliar with Zephyr scenery, so I don't know which side is better. You can always go to the sightseer lounge to see the other side.
 

zephyr17

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You are in the transdorm.

Left side is better for Glenwood Canyon and the descent down the Front Range into Denver. Right is better for Gore Canyon. Overall I'd say left side is better for Donner, but the train switches sides of ridges so that can be a bit of a wash. At least you know which side you are on, which is only knowable in the transdorms.

I, too, wonder about the door remark. You should not open the window in the door, ever. Doing so would be a pretty good way to get more familiar than you would want with some small town in Nevada, Utah or Colorado, and perhaps be introduced to a Sheriff's Deputy.

You can step off at a "fresh air"/smoking stop, but since you are in the transdorm, you might have to move to the adjacent car to do so..

Personally, I don't like the transdorm and the reason is the few times I've ridden one, it didn't have a dedicated SCA and I was largely forgotten by the SCA that was supposed to handle the car. Also, the crews are often very territorial about "their" space in the car, so you may not be allowed downstairs at all in that car at all. The transdorms do have a shower and restroom on the upper level on the "revenue" end. Some people like them, primarily because there is a lot less traffic in the aisle. Being further from the diner and lounge isn't an issue for me. My beef is lack of an attendant.
 

Bob Dylan

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Nice trip, yall will Love it!( and Glenwood Springs couldn't be a better spot to do a Layover)😎

I think yall lucked out being in the Transdorm, it's quieter, usually kept Cleaner ( it's the Crews Home while they're on the Road) and all the Revenue Roomettes aren't usually Sold, so it's sort of like having a Private Car!

It's not that far to the Diner and Sightseer Lounge, only 1 or 2 Car ( the Regular Revenue Sleeper(s) are behind the Transdorm)

I would suggest you talk to the Diner LSA that takes Reservations from Sleeper Passengers since without your own Attendant ( as was said the Sleeping Car attendant next door usually handles the Transdorm also) they might forget to come by, and the Sightseer Lounge is always the Last Place they take Reservations.( this Train, when Busy, often requires Reservations for Lunch and Dinner).
 

oregon pioneer

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I wasn't in the transdorm on my last trip west, but I got well-acquainted with it because the toilets went out in the regular sleeper I was in. The order from front to back last winter was: transdorm, 2 revenue sleepers, diner, Sightseer lounge, coaches.

My comments on the transdorm: the roomettes seem just the same. The restrooms were an older design that I haven't seen elsewhere, very worn but quite clean and everything worked. Staff did not mind us using the downstairs restrooms, possibly because everyone from my car was going one car forward or back to use the restrooms, so the upstairs ones in the revenue end were occasionally both occupied.

As far as "hanging out near the door" if you mean when you step outside for a fresh air break, don't worry too much about it. I always take brisk walks on the platform at the breaks, and I walk wide to steer clear of the smokers. If I am a distance from my own car, I have been known to hop into the nearest open door (I never get TOO far from those!). When it's time to go, the conductor yells "All aboard!" and then the attendants (who ARE hanging out by the open doors) watch for the sprinters, LOL. It's perfectly all right to re-board any car, and walk back through the train to get to your accommodation. Just to make sure there isn't an issue, it's a good idea to have a printout or device with an image of your ticket on your person at all times when you leave the train.

Here's an image from the Denver station, transdorm looking forward (baggage, engines). The windows in front of the door are for the conductor's office. That room contains the lower level door through to the single level baggage car (why it's call a TRANSITION dorm car, it transitions the passage from upper to lower level).
newengld22_wb8a.jpg
 
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When I am traveling alone I usually don't prefer the transdorm because I find it too quiet and lonely. However in your case travelling with a family I think it would be great. It would be like having your own (more) private space especially if some of the other rooms are unsold.

As others have said, try to spend as much time as you can in the sightseer lounge car to take advantage of the scenery. Hope you have a great trip and will post a report on your trip.
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
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Mar 28, 2019
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Zephyr views. I would like to know from anyone who has ridden the California Zephyr on both the upper level and lower level---- does it really matter? I love the spacious Family bedroom, the windows on both sides, the closeness to the larger bathrooms (and shower) and the closeness to the exit. BUT -- this time I am taking the Zephyr just for the scenery. It's the only reason. Usually I would take the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles where the scenery isn't 100% of my trip planning. Can anyone offer their personal thoughts?
 

WWW

No real RR Job
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Hint - clue - look for the square window at the end of the car - only the transdorm (transition sleeper) cars have it and it is usually
mated to the baggage car as there is a stairway at the end of the car to descend from the upper level to the
baggage car being only on one level.

For reference:

1653471485214.jpeg 1628390959045.png AMTRAK R.jpg




Amtrak Car Description​


Superliner Equipment​

Cars with two levels used primarily on Western US trains

Transition Sleeper​

This car has both sleeper rooms for passengers on the upper level and sleeper rooms for the crew. There are at least two other variations of this car, but they are all similar.

Sleeper​

This car is for sleeper passengers only. It has bedrooms (A-E) on the upper level, roomettes (1-14) on both levels and a family room (15) and a hadicap room (H) on the lower level.

Deluxe Sleeper​

Sleeper used only on the Auto Train. It has only bedrooms (A-E, J-N) on the upper level, roomettes (11-14), a family room (15) and a hadicap room (H) on the lower level.

Dining Car​

Upstairs is for dining and the kitchen is on the lower level.

Sightseer Lounge​

Huge windows on the top floor. The cafe is on the lower level.

Coach​

Car for coach passengers. Main seating is upstairs. Many coaches have lower level seating as well. Some have no lower level seating and instead have a baggage area (coach-baggage car).

Pacific Palour Car​

This car is found only on the Coast Starlight. This lounge is for sleeping car passengers only. These cars were inherited from the Santa Fe railroad in 1971 when Amtrak took over passenger service. Technically, it is not a Superliner, it is considered Heritage equipment. Santa Fe called them Hi-Levels.

Single Level Equipment​

Single level trains are primarily used on the East coast

Viewliner Sleeper​

Sleepers used on Eastern overnight trains.

Dining Car​

Dining cars used on single level long distance trains. These cars were inherited from other railroads in 1971 when Amtrak took over passenger service.

Amfleet/Horizon Cafe & Lounge Car​

Lounge and cafe cars use on single level trains.

Amfleet II Coach​

Primarily used on long distance overnight trains.

Amfleet I Coach​

Primarily used on non-overnight trains.

Surfliner Equipment​

Two level cars used only in California service

Business Class Car​

Business class is by reservation only.

Coach​

Coach tickets are good on any Surfliner train.

Cafe Car​

This car has coach seating upstairs and a cafe downstairs.
Site is not affiliated with Amtrak Maintained by CraigMashburn.com
 
Joined
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Those diagrams are helpful but they do not include a diagram of the transition sleeper. There are diagrams of transition sleepers online but they require a bit of searching. I don't have a link handy but maybe someone does as it might be helpful to the OP.

Just found the link:

Note that in the transition sleeper, roomettes 1-8 are normally reserved for the crew and the lounge at the lower level (shown with the four chairs) is the crew lounge and is not available to passengers. Corrections would be welcome.
 
Last edited:

trimetbusfan

Train Attendant
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Nov 27, 2021
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Portland
Those diagrams are helpful but they do not include a diagram of the transition sleeper. There are diagrams of transition sleepers online but they require a bit of searching. I don't have a link handy but maybe someone does as it might be helpful to the OP.

Just found the link:

Note that in the transition sleeper, roomettes 1-8 are normally reserved for the crew and the lounge at the lower level (shown with the four chairs) is the crew lounge and is not available to passengers. Corrections would be welcome.

1653496580429.jpeg
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
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Mar 28, 2019
Messages
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Could you please tell me how you find this kind of information and these diagrams? Is it located somewhere in the Amtrak website?
 
Joined
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Location
Rhode Island and Philadelphia
Zephyr views. I would like to know from anyone who has ridden the California Zephyr on both the upper level and lower level---- does it really matter? I love the spacious Family bedroom, the windows on both sides, the closeness to the larger bathrooms (and shower) and the closeness to the exit. BUT -- this time I am taking the Zephyr just for the scenery. It's the only reason. Usually I would take the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles where the scenery isn't 100% of my trip planning. Can anyone offer their personal thoughts?

We rode the Zephyr eastbound once, upper level Super Bedroom, but I spent some time on the lower level vestibule to exercise (good bars for push-ups). Definitely better views from upper level, and best from Observation car. My goal on any train is to be able to see out both sides, which means: Bedroom with window across aisle, keep door open; or two facing roomettes; or spend most of the time in the Observation car/dome, or on the NEC, spend most of the time in the Cafe car, longer side (if staff are not hogging all the booths). Sounds like your Family bedroom is great for windows on both sides, but I think I'd feel too close to the ground. The higher you can get, the better the vista, if only to see above the bushes.
 
Joined
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Could you please tell me how you find this kind of information and these diagrams? Is it located somewhere in the Amtrak website?
There is a link to some car diagrams, including the transition sleeper, at CraigMashburn.com

I do not believe that some of these diagrams are up to date. For instance, there is no Viewliner II sleeper diagram or a diagram of the new Viewliner dining cars (but that may not matter much since most of them are in storage.) There is a diagram of the Pacific Palour car which is no longer in service.
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
92
We rode the Zephyr eastbound once, upper level Super Bedroom, but I spent some time on the lower level vestibule to exercise (good bars for push-ups). Definitely better views from upper level, and best from Observation car. My goal on any train is to be able to see out both sides, which means: Bedroom with window across aisle, keep door open; or two facing roomettes; or spend most of the time in the Observation car/dome, or on the NEC, spend most of the time in the Cafe car, longer side (if staff are not hogging all the booths). Sounds like your Family bedroom is great for windows on both sides, but I think I'd feel too close to the ground. The higher you can get, the better the vista, if only to see above the bushes.
Thank you. This is exactly the information I was hoping to find. When you spoke about the bushes--- I was 100% convinced.
 

WWW

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We rode the Zephyr eastbound once, upper level Super Bedroom, but I spent some time on the lower level vestibule to exercise (good bars for push-ups). Definitely better views from upper level, and best from Observation car. My goal on any train is to be able to see out both sides, which means: Bedroom with window across aisle, keep door open; or two facing roomettes; or spend most of the time in the Observation car/dome, or on the NEC, spend most of the time in the Cafe car, longer side (if staff are not hogging all the booths). Sounds like your Family bedroom is great for windows on both sides, but I think I'd feel too close to the ground. The higher you can get, the better the vista, if only to see above the bushes.
And when passing a train either on a siding or double track be able to maybe see over it - - -
If on a lower level you will be blanked out !
Consolation the sidings are not usually in the scenic vistas - double track well that too.
 

jpakala

Service Attendant
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Jul 13, 2014
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No I would say, except on the single-level Viewliners serving trains that go to NYC. Those roomettes' upper berths have considerably more headroom and even windows, owing to the height of the ceiling. There also is baggage space up there in a niche that extends over the ceiling of the car's aisle. In the Superliners it's really cramped, so my wife and I got two roomettes for our Alton (IL) to Tucson trip in March. No roomettes in Superliners have sinks as they do in Viewliners (or toilets as well in the older Viewliners).
 

zephyr17

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Are the sleepers big enough to share with a roommate? I am riding CZ6 from Davis-Chicago on 6/29.
They are designed for two, but I would be very wary unless it was both someone I knew well and who was fully aware of what they were getting themselves into.

A roomette is a 3' x 6' closet. The upper berth in a Superliner has little headroom, not enough to sit up. It has no window. Many people familiar with it call it "the coffin" which is a damned good description of it.

I always recommend two adults unfamiliar with it get two roomettes.
 
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Are the sleepers big enough to share with a roommate? I am riding CZ6 from Davis-Chicago on 6/29.
you and your roommates size and compatibility are key. Two six footers may tangle legs while sitting.
I‘ve been in a right side upper roomette traveling east, a lot of scenery is blocked by bluffs and vegetation in otherwise scenic locations through the Rockies.
 

WWW

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Factor in that coffin upper berth sleeping chamber - the agility of the person to get into the elevated horizontal mode and
perhaps the frequency of trips to the rest room - this is just simply a diabolical arrangement suitable only for kids and then I wonder !
Unchecked luggage presents another challenge of available floor or other storage space - View liners may have a partial answer
with the space over the aisle - BUT hoisting 50# luggage into that chamber is a workout - if it will fit at all.

Roomettes - a mop and broom closet for slim folks with little or no baggage - best used solo !
 

oregon pioneer

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The upper berth in a Superliner has little headroom, not enough to sit up. It has no window. Many people familiar with it call it "the coffin" which is a damned good description of it.

Ha, ha, I called it the "time-out room." I am 5'2" and agile, so no problem getting up there, but there is a total lack of information and stimulus once you are aloft. Some people are OK with that, but I was always asking "Where are we?" when we stopped (if I knew Hubby was awake).

Well, Hubby took it personally that I joked to others about the lack of stimulus. I think he thought it made him look bad, He swore he was going to sleep up there every single time we traveled, from now on. I don't feel guilty about him doing his part - we have already traveled together enough that he will never be up there as much as I have been. But I also can't impress upon him that I really didn't mind that much, because I know how hard it is to get a 6' tall body up there and inserted into the space. I do feel guilty about how stiff he looked in the morning.

I'd recommend one roomette per person for a simple reason: if you get both an even and an odd numbered roomette, they will be on opposite sides of the train, and you can both sit in one of them for whatever scenery is best on that side.

I also understand budget constraints. If that's the case, a roomette is perfectly serviceable for two people that are good friends. And for scenery on the other side of the train, there is always the Sightseer Lounge or even the hallway by the coffee station.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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Austin Texas
And for scenery on the other side of the train, there is always the Sightseer Lounge or even the hallway by the coffee station.
Except on the Texas Eagle and Cap Ltd. which don't have Sightseer Lounges and where most of the Crews won't let Sleeper Passengers hang out in the CCC.🤬
 
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