New member, soon to be first time traveler via rail

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Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
Hello everyone, I'm glad there is a forum dedicated to Amtrak travel because my wife (33) and I will (32) be going on our first tour next year! We love travelling but we've only traveled by road, air, or cruise line. Now we want to mix it up again and have been eyeballing a two week venture to visit Chicago (I grew up there) and San Francisco via rail service. I've been on many trains before, but never more than a few hours so overnight will be epic! Anyway, I have a few questions, but I will post those in the corresponding sections. Thanks for having me!
 

Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
Welcome. Make sure you tell us your train(trains) dates and when you are planning to take you adventure. Ask away :)
I just saw your detailed trip plan. It sounds like a great trip.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
Plans are California Zephyr from Chicago, IL to Emeryville, CA 05/20/22-05/22/22. Emeryville, CA to Los Angeles, CA on Coast Starlight 05/27/22. Los Angeles, CA to Houston, TX on Sunset Limited 05/27/22-05/29/22. That's due to change since they only book 11 months out and I haven't seen the dates yet, but I have a fairly good idea. I posted my questions here. Thanks!
 

Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
Welcome. Make sure you tell us your train(trains) dates and when you are planning to take you adventure. Ask away :)
I just saw your detailed trip plan. It sounds like a great trip.
I wish I could help you with your 1hr layover with your luggage. I am not in-the-know on that subject. Is there some way you can transfer you bag into a carry-on instead or you can put the suitcase in the storage area downstairs when you board the train and not check it at all. This is just a thought. ;)
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
I wish I could help you with your 1hr layover with your luggage. I am not in-the-know on that subject. Is there some way you can transfer you bag into a carry-on instead or you can put the suitcase in the storage area downstairs when you board the train and not check it at all. This is just a thought. ;)
Our suitcases are Osprey Shuttle 100 bags so they're kind of long and I wouldn't think those would be acceptable to put in the lower luggage area. I don't know the constraints on what is allowed there and I couldn't find a clear answer. It seemed like a gray area. Have you every stuck a 30 inch long suitcase down there? haha
 
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Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
Our suitcases are Osprey Shuttle 100 bags so they're kind of long and I wouldn't think those would be acceptable to put in the lower luggage area. I don't know the constraints on what is allowed there and I couldn't find a clear answer. It seemed like a gray area. Have you every stuck a 30 inch long suitcase down there? haha
Go to the Amtrak site. Under Amtrak click on experience. It will give you info on baggage. You might be able to find out the measurements for carry on luggage. Good luck.
 

Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
Go to the Amtrak site. Under Amtrak click on experience. It will give you info on baggage. You might be able to find out the measurements for carry on luggage. Good luck.
I found this for you on the Amtrak site-
CARRY ON LUGGAGE
Each passenger may bring two personal items, 25 lbs. (12 kg) and 14 x 11 x 7 inches each, and two carry-on items, 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each, onboard. Make sure you have a tag with your name and address on the outside of all your bags. Hope this helps.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
I found this for you on the Amtrak site-
CARRY ON LUGGAGE
Each passenger may bring two personal items, 25 lbs. (12 kg) and 14 x 11 x 7 inches each, and two carry-on items, 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each, onboard. Make sure you have a tag with your name and address on the outside of all your bags. Hope this helps.
Thanks, that does. Our bags are too big. However, another member on my other post mentioned that I can check them through from Emeryville to Houston so I don't have to wait for them in LA. That's one less thing to worry about!
 

lizpackslight

Train Attendant
Joined
May 9, 2021
Messages
16
Location
Alabama
We very carefully adhered to the carry-on luggage guidelines, only to find that people carry on massive luggage and put it in the downstairs rack. So far there has still been plenty of room, unlike in England where your bag is likely to be buried under bags stacked four high when you get to your stop.
 

Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
Thanks, that does. Our bags are too big. However, another member on my other post mentioned that I can check them through from Emeryville to Houston so I don't have to wait for them in LA. That's one less thing to worry about!
If you haven't read all ready you will be able to go into the Metropolitan Lounge by the Great Hall in Chicago. It is really nice. And you will get priority boarding. Plus a shower if you want one. There is a secure place to store you bags in there so you can wander around the station.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
If you haven't read all ready you will be able to go into the Metropolitan Lounge by the Great Hall in Chicago. It is really nice. And you will get priority boarding. Plus a shower if you want one. There is a secure place to store you bags in there so you can wander around the station.
I did read that! I'm going to feel super fancy! 😂
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
9,607
Location
Palm Beach County
Unless you're hauling a steamer trunk, the common practice in the field as far as carry on luggage is concerned is if you can haul it by yourself, you can have it.

But, like most things Amtrak, YMMV.
Agreed. Unlike the overhead enclosed bins on airliner's, the Amtrak Superliner downstairs racks are very roomy, and actually could hold a trunk. And a train has no weight restriction's like a plane does, so as zephyr17 has stated, as long as you can handle it yourself, no one is likely to stop you.
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
8,309
Location
Ithaca, NY
So since nobody else has said it I'll give the usual warning:

Amtrak runs late. A lot. This is mostly the fault of the "freight railroads" who own the track, but sometimes Amtrak's fault. Efforts are being made in Congress to change this.
 

Dustyroad

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
99
I'm trying to find the percentage rate of how often the Coast Starlight is late getting into Portland and then back to Sacramento. No luck so far. If it is on the Amtrak site I am missing it.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2021
Messages
14
Location
Richmond, VA
I’ve been on several different trains that arrived late and I’ve always made my connections. A few times the train I was connecting to was held back waiting for our train to arrive. On my trip from Seattle to Chicago we were very late and we were literally sprinting from our train to the connection that was going to Washington DC. I have always checked my bags and they’ve always been on all the trains, including the connections.
 

Barb Stout

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
793
I didn't see if you're riding in coach or a sleeper, but if you're traveling in coach, bring long sleeves and something to cover your legs as the air conditioning can make it quite cold at night. The first time I traveled on a train, I took the SWC in late May like you. Since it's warm to hot both where I was coming from and going to, I hadn't brought long sleeves tops with me. The solar gain is so high in the southwest (not many to no clouds that time of year) that Amtrak has to have the AC on pretty high and then when the sun goes down, I guess they can't change the AC setting and so it gets cold at night. If you're in a sleeper, then it doesn't matter as much as there are blankets on the beds that do the trick.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Corpus Christi, TX
I didn't see if you're riding in coach or a sleeper, but if you're traveling in coach, bring long sleeves and something to cover your legs as the air conditioning can make it quite cold at night. The first time I traveled on a train, I took the SWC in late May like you. Since it's warm to hot both where I was coming from and going to, I hadn't brought long sleeves tops with me. The solar gain is so high in the southwest (not many to no clouds that time of year) that Amtrak has to have the AC on pretty high and then when the sun goes down, I guess they can't change the AC setting and so it gets cold at night. If you're in a sleeper, then it doesn't matter as much as there are blankets on the beds that do the trick.
Sleeper on the long rides. Coach on the Coast Starlight since that is only 12 hours. Thanks for the advice!
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,200
Location
South Carolina
The California Zephyr tends to do well Westbound at least as far as Salt Lake City. BNSF does a very good job at moving it out over the road, and there is a lot of dwell in Denver that can be used to make up time. As far as the line over Moffet there is very little freight out over it.

The Coast Starlight south of the Bay Area also is in the same situation there really isn't that much freight left on the Coast Line your main traffic conflicts will be Pacific Surfliners.
 
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