One hour layover with checked bags. Is that enough time?

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My wife and I are planning a 2 week trip next year using mostly Amtrak. This will be our first time travelling by rail! I've done tons of research on the Amtrak website and even the first time traveler section right here on the forum!

The plan is to fly up from Corpus Christi, TX to Chicago and visit for a few days. From there we will be in a roomette and board the California Zephyr to Emeryville, CA and visit San Francisco for a few days. Then we will ride coach (only a 12 hour ride) on the Coast Starlight and transfer in Los Angeles. Finally we will be in another roomette on the Sunset limited to Houston and fly home from Houston. We will each have a checked bag and an overnight bag to take on board.

Here is the concern I have: the transfer in Los Angeles is a one hour layover. I'm worried about our train running late for one, but I'm also worried that we will not get our checked bag off Coast Starlight and onto Sunset Limited in time. I'm not sure how checked bags work on trains. Is there a baggage claim area you have to go to like an airport, or do you wait by the baggage car for your bag and head to the baggage car on the other train?

Is my concern about the train running late reasonable? And is one hour enough time to transfer checked bags?
 

zephyr17

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Check it through. The Coast Starlight to Sunset is a longstanding connection and usually works. If the Starlight is running really late, they'll do a bus transfer from somewhere like Oxnard to Pomona, Ontario or Palm Springs, checked bags included.

Short checking to LA is a VERY bad idea. The pickup in LA is like an airport, down in the station on a carousel. The transfer bags to the Starlight will be the first off to be loaded onto the outgoing Sunset. After that, the LA bags will be unloaded, transferred to the upper baggage dock, and put on the chute to the conveyor. Checking to LA is a GREAT recipe for missing the Sunset. You have to get off the train, go down to the tunnel, walk down to the station proper, hang a right, go to the baggage room, wait and collect your bags, then schlep them back down the tunnel, up to the platform, and find a place for them in your room. You won't be able to check them on the Sunset because by the time you get them, it will be less than 45 minutes before the Sunset's departure and baggage checking will be closed. You'll be lucky to even make the train.

Check them through to Houston at Emeryville.
 
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Check it through. The Coast Starlight to Sunset is a longstanding connection and usually works. If the Starlight is running really late, they'll do a bus transfer from somewhere like Oxnard to Pomona, Ontario or Palm Springs, checked bags included.

Short checking to LA is a VERY bad idea. The pickup in LA is like an airport, down in the station on a carousel. The transfer bags to the Starlight will be the first off to be loaded onto the outgoing Sunset. After that, the LA bags will be unloaded, transferred to the upper baggage dock, and put on the chute to the conveyor. Checking to LA is a GREAT recipe for missing the Sunset. You have to get off the train, go down to the tunnel, walk down to the station proper, hang a right, go to the baggage room, wait and collect your bags, then schlep them back down the tunnel, up to the platform, and find a place for them in your room. You won't be able to check them on the Sunset because by the time you get them, it will be less than 45 minutes before the Sunset's departure and baggage checking will be closed. You'll be lucky to even make the train.

Check them through to Houston at Emeryville.
THANK YOU. I was worried about that. So if I'm riding coach on Starlight, what do you suggest I do instead of checking our bags? For reference they're Osprey Shuttle 100 and 30 inches long. Is there a place to store is overhead in coach or near our seat? Or would that be too big?

Edit: Sorry I just saw you mention to check them through to Houston. That makes a lot more sense. Thanks again!
 

John Bobinyec

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Should the O.P. also put the CSL and Sunset trips on one reservation so that Amtrak is aware that there are passengers who must make the connection?

jb
 

Cal

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THANK YOU. I was worried about that. So if I'm riding coach on Starlight, what do you suggest I do instead of checking our bags? For reference they're Osprey Shuttle 100 and 30 inches long. Is there a place to store is overhead in coach or near our seat? Or would that be too big?
There should be very large baggage racks downstairs where you can put all large bags. There are luggage racks above all seats, but they are smaller, not sure if they could accommodate your bag.
 

jebr

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Checked luggage is generally checked through to the final destination on the ticket, and can usually be through checked across tickets if needed. Thus, when you check your bag in Emeryville for the final two trains, they'll be able to check it all the way to Houston, and Amtrak handles the logistics of getting the luggage between trains.

It is extremely unlikely that you would make the connection but your luggage wouldn't. However, it's not impossible, and I'm not sure how Amtrak would handle late luggage if someone is unable to get to the final destination to pick up their late luggage (if they'd ship it to you, who would pay, etc.) Thus, I'd probably lean towards carrying it on - it's extremely rare for someone to strictly check carry-on sizes when boarding the train so long as you can handle it yourself, and then you can be sure that it makes all connections. There's large luggage racks at the bottom of each Superliner coach car and standard sleeper car, which luggage that size would definitely fit in. I wouldn't leave anything especially valuable in bags down there, but it's generally safe, especially if you just have clothes and such in your bag.
 

me_little_me

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Checked luggage is generally checked through to the final destination on the ticket, and can usually be through checked across tickets if needed. Thus, when you check your bag in Emeryville for the final two trains, they'll be able to check it all the way to Houston, and Amtrak handles the logistics of getting the luggage between trains.

It is extremely unlikely that you would make the connection but your luggage wouldn't. However, it's not impossible, and I'm not sure how Amtrak would handle late luggage if someone is unable to get to the final destination to pick up their late luggage (if they'd ship it to you, who would pay, etc.) Thus, I'd probably lean towards carrying it on - it's extremely rare for someone to strictly check carry-on sizes when boarding the train so long as you can handle it yourself, and then you can be sure that it makes all connections. There's large luggage racks at the bottom of each Superliner coach car and standard sleeper car, which luggage that size would definitely fit in. I wouldn't leave anything especially valuable in bags down there, but it's generally safe, especially if you just have clothes and such in your bag.
Although I check bags when I can, I am still not sure what Amtrak's policy is on lost or delayed bags.

What if you get off in a city and your bags are not there?

In Wilmington, they brought them to our hotel later that night after they had to be put on a return train because they had never taken them off as they should have. What if we hadn't been so late as we were planning to rent a car and drive to Ocean City, NJ? Because the train was late, we couldn't pick up a car so stayed a night in Wilmington. Would they have gotten them to Ocean City?

When going from Portland, Or to Albuquerque, the agent had put an ALB instead of ABQ tag on the bags, On arrival in ABQ, we complained that our bag was not there. The agent ran out and got to the train just before it left and retrieved them. What if they didn't? Where and when would we get them and who would pay?

When going from a daily western train to the Cardinal, if they get mislaid (or not taken off early if we do on a late train), what would they do since the Cardinal runs only 3X/week even w/o Covid and we live 4 hours from the closest station on that route? Now, of course, that station no longer has baggage service but when it did, would I have to pay to have it shipped from the station to my house two days later or would they route it to the station 45 minutes away (which also no longer has baggage either) but which would require it be transferred in Washington to the Crescent?

In the old days, the airlines would get it to your actual destination even if it meant putting it on a competitor's flight which they did not interline with (UA to SWA in my case) and then send it by courier to my house but who knows what they do now. But airports are far more numerous than train stations and all support baggage service.
 

zephyr17

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If the agent at Portland had mistagged them for Albany, NY, you were lucky they were even on the train at Albuquerque.

I have several times checked bags through when I wasn't going via the direct route and the bags went directly and I didn't. For example, I checked a bag from NY to Seattle. I was going NYP-CHI-LAX-SEA. My bag went NYP-CHI-SEA. It arrived in Seattle's baggage room aboard 7 the day before I arrived on 14.

A bag tagged at PDX for ALB I would have expected to be dispatched on 28 with a connection to 48, giving Albuquerque a clean miss on the order of 1000 miles.

You lucked out.

Corrollary: check the tags before you let the bags go. Also know that Amtrak's baggage system is wholly manual.
 
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bratkinson

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There should be very large baggage racks downstairs where you can put all large bags. There are luggage racks above all seats, but they are smaller, not sure if they could accommodate your bag.
I'd be VERY nervous about checked luggage making a 60 minute connection, IF we were on time. Checking it through will get it through to Houston, but it may arrive there 3 days after YOU do.

40 years ago, when I regularly flew 'out' on business and took Amtrak back home, I learned the hard way to never check my big garment bag. Thereafter, if I couldn't take it onboard, it went via UPS a couple days earlier. In the past 15 years or so, when train riding for 10-14 days at a time, my goal is 'pack light' and use a hotel coin-op laundry one of the nights I'm stationary. I also make sure my 'big' case will fit underneath the seats in roomettes. It's a standard 'airline' size carry one rolling bag.

All of your Amtrak segments are on Superliner equipment. They all have large luggage racks on the lower level by the doors. I've seen the biggest, baddest, monster rolling suitcases there along with maybe 20 or more 'good sized' suitcases on full Superliner sleepers. Even a motorized wheel chair a couple years ago. In the sleepers, the attendant may move things around to make everything fit as well. I'm sure the coach you'll be in on the Starlight will have lots of space available as well...just be one of the first to board at EMY. If your suitcases are of the extra large variety, you may have to move one or two others to make space. Turning them on edge works well.
 

jebr

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In the old days, the airlines would get it to your actual destination even if it meant putting it on a competitor's flight which they did not interline with (UA to SWA in my case) and then send it by courier to my house but who knows what they do now. But airports are far more numerous than train stations and all support baggage service.
Just to speak on this point - at least on Southwest they will ship your bags to your final destination at no cost to you if a checked bag is delayed (not just airport, but actual home/hotel/etc.) They also offered a $100 travel voucher if you came back to the airport when it arrived and picked it up, which is what I did when I had a bag misconnect (I was just happy I made the connection!)

As for Amtrak - I would be surprised if they refused to redirect a bag to another Amtrak station with baggage service if the bag was delayed and another station was closer. I would hope that they would ship it to your final destination, but I'm not sure if they actually would (or if they even have the infrastructure in place to do that at many stations.)
 

Dustyroad

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How about ditching the large bag and using two smaller bags? This way you can take them on the train with you and know they are not going to get lost some where along the way.
 

MARC Rider

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They will sell tickets for shorter layovers if you're connecting to/from a Northeast Regional. My layover in Philadelphia from NER to the Pennsylvania was 40 minutes; they offered my a 50 minute layover from the Capitol to the Northeast Regional in Washington, but I opted for the next train. Of course, there's no checked baggage on the Northeast Regional, and they're rarely more than a half hour late, so such tight connections are more viable.
 

MARC Rider

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In general, I only check bags if I really have extra bulky stuff, like ski equipment. I also check them a couple of days ahead of time so that I'll be sure they are waiting when I get to my final destination. On the way home, I don't care as much, as I can come down to the station and pick them up at my leisure if they're delayed. The invention of roller bags combined with the presence of redcaps means that even as I'm getting older, I can still take my bags on the train.
 

jpakala

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Just be aware that all Superliner rooms have lower ceilings than Viewliner and there is less space for luggage in the roomettes anyway.
 
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zephyr17

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Just be aware that all Superliner rooms have lower ceilings than Viewliner and there is less space for luggage in the roomettes anyway.
It's kind of a trade off, the Superliners have the downstairs racks and no in room storage cubby. The Viewliners have no public racks, but a good sized storage cubby above the wash stand that extends out over the aisle.

I carry the same luggage on both. In Superliners my larger bag goes on the downstairs rack, in Viewliners it goes in the cubby.

Pro tip: the middle detent on the Viewliner upper berth lines up on the same level as the cubby. To easily get luggage into the cubby, lower the upper berth, put your bag on it, raise it to the middle stop and slide your bag from the berth into the cubby.
 

me_little_me

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If the agent at Portland had mistagged them for Albany, NY, you were lucky they were even on the train at Albuquerque.
He had put a Los Angeles tag on it to force routing on that train before going to Albuquerque, He just never paid attention to his city codes. Part of my problem was that he did everything so quickly and stuffed the baggage checks in a folder that I didn't notice it and didn't check myself. So much for leaving it to the professionals who know what they are doing.
 

zephyr17

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He had put a Los Angeles tag on it to force routing on that train before going to Albuquerque, He just never paid attention to his city codes. Part of my problem was that he did everything so quickly and stuffed the baggage checks in a folder that I didn't notice it and didn't check myself. So much for leaving it to the professionals who know what they are doing.
Good thing he did, although going via LA would be the direct routing PDX-ABQ. Had he used the correct ABQ tag, an LAX tag would have been superfluous.

It does sound like he was careless. Personally, I verify the tag going physically on the bag, both at airports and on Amtrak. I almost always check a bag when I fly, so verification is second nature. I don't check bags nearly as often on Amtrak.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Good thing he did, although going via LA would be the direct routing PDX-ABQ. Had he used the correct ABQ tag, an LAX tag would have been superfluous.

It does sound like he was careless. Personally, I verify the tag going physically on the bag, both at airports and on Amtrak. I almost always check a bag when I fly, so verification is second nature. I don't check bags nearly as often on Amtrak.
It's typical for the transfer point to be tagged even if it's the most direct routing. The employees handling the baggage aren't necessarily going to know every station code in the system and what transfers are required to get there, so it makes it easier for them if there is a tag for the connection point.
 

zephyr17

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I don't check bags all that often. I know that in the fairly recent past I checked an item to Seattle at New York, the baggage guy at NYP just put an SEA tag on it.

My actual itinerary was via Los Angeles, but I didn't care that the bag follow the same itinerary I did. It didn't, arriving in Seattle a day before I did.
 
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