Lake Shore Limited to Empire Builder connections

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Joined
Aug 7, 2022
Messages
56
Location
Scarborough, Maine
I have a couple of questions that maybe some of you can answer. We are doing our 4th annual around the country trip this coming September. Our first two long distance trains are the Lake Shore Limited and the Empire Builder. We have always scheduled a hotel to layover between long distance trains. The Lake Shore is scheduled to arrive at 1012 and the Empire Builder to leave at 1505. Since 10/23/23 the Lake Shore has had a cancellation one day in December and then a weather related four days stretch in January of a cancellation, two days of over five hours late and another cancellation. Other than that everything else is doable for connections except one day that would arrive at 1451 and another at 1431.

Our questions are, will the conductor on the Lake Shore find out what track the Empire Builder will be on and if we were to check our suit cases in Albany (departing from Boston), will Amtrak get the bags to the Builder in 14 minutes?

On a side note I have been watching the prices (we paid for all our trains in November). The Coast Starlight was consistently at 864.00 except for a drop for two days to 624.00 then back up to 675.00 and the Crescent has been at or about 689.00 except for five days in mid December where it dropped to 452.00 and then went right back up. What triggers these drops in price that only last a few days?

Thanks for your help!
 
Same day transfer is always a bit risky.
I had good luck, and once had the next train cancelled with short notice.

Is 14 minutes long enough for your baggage to make a connection, not likely. However not much baggage is traveling in the baggage car. So maybe.

Price fluctuations are works of the ghosts who work behind the scenes. So no reason or rhythm, just boredom.

Ok price are buckets or bracket. If you see a random fluctuation it maybe because someone cancelled a ticket causing the system to switched buckets based on that ticket.

Enjoy your trip.
 
If your LS is on time there is more than ample time to connect with the EB and
perhaps use the Metropolitan Lounge for a spell.
The LS would arrive on one of the South tracks -
The EB departs on track 19 the North track -
The EB #7 generally departs on time - if the EB #8 from the previous day arrives near schedule
and has adequate time to be serviced cleaned and turned in the Chicago yard for the #7 next day.
It generally does even if #8 is late (usually) a few hours.
Amtrak may substitute another train set to operate #7 on time.

That comfort cushion of 4-5 hours is great - but when less than an hour woe be caution thrown
to the winds of outrageous fortune especially with luggage in tow or checked.

Your early autumn trip should not have any weather issues - sleet snow ice gloom doom unless
global warming raises it's ugly head and disagrees with the status quo.

Good Luck Mr. Trucker72 - enjoy your planned trip !
 
Looks like there is a corridor that runs between the North and South tracks. Is that okay to use for passengers? Looks like it would take close to the same time to navigate that as it takes to go from the lounge to either set of tracks. If we have 15 minutes and our SCA stages us as first off, that should be enough time I hope!

If your LS is on time there is more than ample time to connect with the EB and
perhaps use the Metropolitan Lounge for a spell.
The LS would arrive on one of the South tracks -
The EB departs on track 19 the North track -
The EB #7 generally departs on time - if the EB #8 from the previous day arrives near schedule
and has adequate time to be serviced cleaned and turned in the Chicago yard for the #7 next day.
It generally does even if #8 is late (usually) a few hours.
Amtrak may substitute another train set to operate #7 on time.

That comfort cushion of 4-5 hours is great - but when less than an hour woe be caution thrown
to the winds of outrageous fortune especially with luggage in tow or checked.

Your early autumn trip should not have any weather issues - sleet snow ice gloom doom unless
global warming raises it's ugly head and disagrees with the status quo.

Good Luck Mr. Trucker72 - enjoy your planned trip !
Thanks for the track numbers! Do they ever change those?
 
Looks like there is a corridor that runs between the North and South tracks. Is that okay to use for passengers? Looks like it would take close to the same time to navigate that as it takes to go from the lounge to either set of tracks. If we have 15 minutes and our SCA stages us as first off, that should be enough time I hope!
Yes there is a pedestrian corridor between the South and North tracks -
However it is usually used with escorted red cap service or other agent assist.
Normal transit from the south to north is thru the waiting/boarding lobby -
The Metro Lounge is a bit of a distance away and would be suitable for connection times of greater than
a couple of hours.

Thanks for the track numbers! Do they ever change those?
I don't know the track used by the LS (a little help here from our readers ?)
The EB usually uses track #19 the last track and the thru track from the yard.
There is a degree of danger when this happens - runs adjacent to the corridor between the north & south.
Pretty tight quarters - used by baggage tug tractors and mobility carts
The #7 is brought over from the yard about a half hour or so from the yard before scheduled departure.
There have been times when the EB is backed into Track 17 - - -
The last cars (Portland section) are commonly visible from the waiting/boarding area -
therefore the Seattle section is way forward some 4 cars and a walk.
If in the Metro Lounge a red cap or other agent may escort you directly to your appropriate car.

I have rode private cars at the end of the EB and when this happens boarding of these cars is in
the tight confines of that corridor between the N & S tracks.
 
Looks like there is a corridor that runs between the North and South tracks. Is that okay to use for passengers? Looks like it would take close to the same time to navigate that as it takes to go from the lounge to either set of tracks. If we have 15 minutes and our SCA stages us as first off, that should be enough time I hope!
The first time I made this connection, the LSL was very late and the connecting passengers had to basically sprint past the station to board the EB.. I think they held it for a few minutes for us. Some people rode the golf carts driven by the Red Caps (mostly people with lots of luggage and people who couldn't walk fast.) As we approached Chicago, the SCAs (and the coach attendants as well, I'm sure) made sure we knew what was going on and arranged so connecting passengers could get off the LSL first. They also warned us not to go into the station but to head straight to the EB's platform. They knew who was connecting and I think it would have been hard to miss the connection as we didn't have time to wander off. If we had arrived 15 minutes earlier, some people might have attempted to go into Union Station and buy a snack or a drink, which would have greatly increased the likelihood of missing the EB!

The other times I've connected from the LSL, we were on time or no more than an hour late and we had plenty of time to hang out in the lounge or go down the street for lunch. In September, unless a once in a decade hurricane hits the northeast, you shouldn't have any problem. I wouldn't worry about it, unless I absolutely had to reach my ultimate destination by a particular date. It is a guaranteed connection, so worst case, Amtrak will put you up in a hotel overnight and get you on the next day's Empire Builder. If you absolutely have to get to your destination on time, then book the trip a day or two early. Or be prepared to fly from Chicago to your destination.
 
The first time I made this connection, the LSL was very late and the connecting passengers had to basically sprint past the station to board the EB.. I think they held it for a few minutes for us. Some people rode the golf carts driven by the Red Caps (mostly people with lots of luggage and people who couldn't walk fast.) As we approached Chicago, the SCAs (and the coach attendants as well, I'm sure) made sure we knew what was going on and arranged so connecting passengers could get off the LSL first. They also warned us not to go into the station but to head straight to the EB's platform. They knew who was connecting and I think it would have been hard to miss the connection as we didn't have time to wander off. If we had arrived 15 minutes earlier, some people might have attempted to go into Union Station and buy a snack or a drink, which would have greatly increased the likelihood of missing the EB!

The other times I've connected from the LSL, we were on time or no more than an hour late and we had plenty of time to hang out in the lounge or go down the street for lunch. In September, unless a once in a decade hurricane hits the northeast, you shouldn't have any problem. I wouldn't worry about it, unless I absolutely had to reach my ultimate destination by a particular date. It is a guaranteed connection, so worst case, Amtrak will put you up in a hotel overnight and get you on the next day's Empire Builder. If you absolutely have to get to your destination on time, then book the trip a day or two early. Or be prepared to fly from Chicago to your destination.
We are overnight in Seattle and then to LAX for another overnight and on to San Diego. If we miss the EB we can go the next day and cut back our SD time a day or stay in CHI for a day or two and switch to the SWC. Not sure how much of a bath we would take fare wise if we switched to the Chief. We love SD so we'd prefer not to cut that stay back. :)
 
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The only CUS north side tracks Amtrak normally uses are 17 and 19. 1 through 15 (odd numbers) are Metra and at rush-hours their use is pretty tightly choreographed. 17 is a stub and 19 is a run-through so 19 is preferred for the EB with the Hiawathas turning on 17.

The only time it might be different is if track work is going on and then things get interesting. I've seen Hiawathas on 1 and when I was commuting, a couple of days had my 5:05pm Metra train departing on 17 while the 5:08pm Hiawatha was loading across the platform on 19 (that had the Amtrak gate dragons going crazy since they couldn't check tickets at the gate with a Metra train loading across the platform but did have to make sure Hiawatha customers knew their train was on the opposite side of the platform from normal). Also had my morning train arrive on 19 a couple of times including pulling into the run-through area between the north and south concourses. There's also 21 and 23 but they are essentially emergency use only since only a single door can be on the platform - I've seen 21 used by Metra during track work but it was "messy."

Anyway, about 99% of the time, the EB will be on 19.
 
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