Question about handling of connections by Amtrak

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danasgoodstuff

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I have a long trip by rail starting tomorrow. I booked it in pieces with no tight connections. But because of the consolidation of the Silvers, I have a very tight (1:01 hr.) Silver to Cap Limited connection on the first leg of my return trip (I didn't book it that way, Amtrak changed it to this). Since this is all on one reservation, it should be guaranteed, but it will be a mess if I miss it, even if they take care of me since I'm going Silver to Cap to Zephyr to Coast Starlight. Should I just cross my fingers, or what?
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
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Crescent Oregon (17 miles from Chemult)
Booking on one reservation was a smart move. It has been my experience (several times) that if the train that you are connecting to has already left by the time your arriving train gets to the station, they will bus you to catch up with the train that you missed. In other cases, they will hold the departing train for up to an hour if there quite a few people that will be transferring. I remember doing a cross platform transfer to the train I was connecting to.
Enjoy your few hours in Chicago before getting on the Zephyr. The Willis (former Sears) tower is within walking distance of Chicago Union Station.
The Zephyr arrives in Sacramento mid afternoon so you will have a stay in a hotel-motel before you get on the Coast Starlight the next morning. Staying in Sacramento or Emeryville or someplace in between? If you chose Sacramento you could visit the California Railroad Museum for an hour or two before it closes for the day. There are several good places to eat in Old Town Sacramento near the museum.
 

zephyr17

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Washington State
While the connections are "guaranteed" the way they are protected varies based on how late the incoming train is, how many people are making a given connection, and alternative transport availablity.

Best: train makes it and Amtrak personnel hustle you from one platform to the other.

Better: incoming train is only about 30 minutes or less late, and a lot of people are making the connection. They hold the outbound train for connecting passengers.

Okay: bus bridge to catch up with outbound train. Example, busing Starlight to Sunset connecting passengers from Oxnard to Palm Springs. Note depends on ability to charter a bus at relatively the last minute.

Okay: Alternative Amtrak service. Example, Late SW Chief or Sunset passengers to NorCal and points north missing the Starlight are put on the San Joaquin/Bakersfield Thruway bus connection to their destinations or to catch up with the Starlight at Sacramento, Martinez or Emeryville. Passengers to points further south are put on Surfliners and its bus connections.

Not so great. They put you up in a hotel and modify your reservation to the next day's train. Note if you have sleeper reservations and sleepers are sold out on the next day's train, you will be put in coach and your sleeper accommodation charge refunded. Note this is an special danger for you because if the Washington, DC connection is missed, they will rebook everything, Capitol, Zephyr and Starlight (assuming you built in no layovers). This time of year if you had sleepers, your chance of losing them on at least some if not all segments is quite high.

Worst: they can't accommodate you, refund your fare and you are on your own. This does happen, but not often. It happened to me back in 90s when the Builder missed a three day a week connection to Indianapolis. They gave me money in Chicago and sent me on my way. That is unlikely in your case.

I have been laid over overnight several times.

Finally, note that Amtrak has been having much more difficulty than it used to arranging last minute bus charters, probably due to the "great resignation" and capacity in bus companies having been reduced during COVID. Also, in comparing the north and southbound schedule there appears to be only about 10 minutes of pad between Richmond and Washington.

If I were you, I would be concerned about that DC connection. My own semi-educated guess is if that connection is missed by more than they'll hold the Capitol for, they'll lay you over, they won't bus you. You should probably look up the connection history on ASMAD.

The good news is I wouldn't worry too much about the Chicago and Sacramento connections. The danger point is DC.
 
Last edited:

danasgoodstuff

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Jun 23, 2021
Messages
356
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PDX
While the connections are "guaranteed" the way they are protected varies based on how late the incoming train is, how many people are making a given connection, and alternative transport availablity.

Best: train makes it and Amtrak personnel hustle you from one platform to the other.

Better: incoming train is only about 30 minutes or less late, and a lot of people are making the connection. They hold the outbound train for connecting passengers.

Okay: bus bridge to catch up with outbound train. Example, busing Starlight to Sunset connecting passengers from Oxnard to Palm Springs. Note depends on ability to charter a bus at relatively the last minute.

Okay: Alternative Amtrak service. Example, Late SW Chief or Sunset passengers to NorCal and points north missing the Starlight are put on the San Joaquin/Bakersfield Thruway bus connection to their destinations or to catch up with the Starlight at Sacramento, Martinez or Emeryville. Passengers to points further south are put on Surfliners and its bus connections.

Not so great. They put you up in a hotel and modify your reservation to the next day's train. Note if you have sleeper reservations and sleepers are sold out on the next day's train, you will be put in coach and your sleeper accommodation charge refunded. Note this is an special danger for you because if the Washington, DC connection is missed, they will rebook everything, Capitol, Zephyr and Starlight (assuming you built in no layovers). This time of year if you had sleepers, your chance of losing them on at least some if not all segments is quite high.

Worst: they can't accommodate you, refund your fare and you are on your own. This does happen, but not often. It happened to me back in 90s when the Builder missed a three day a week connection to Indianapolis. They gave me money in Chicago and sent me on my way. That is unlikely in your case.

I have been laid over overnight several times.

Finally, note that Amtrak has been having much more difficulty than it used to arranging last minute bus charters, probably due to the "great resignation" and capacity in bus companies having been reduced during COVID. Also, in comparing the north and southbound schedule there appears to be only about 10 minutes of pad between Richmond and Washington.

If I were you, I would be concerned about that DC connection. My own semi-educated guess is if that connection is missed by more than they'll hold the Capitol for, they'll lay you over, they won't bus you. You should probably look up the connection history on ASMAD.

The good news is I wouldn't worry too much about the Chicago and Sacramento connections. The danger point is DC.
I'm actually ok with any of these - "It's an adventure"
 

zephyr17

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I'm actually ok with any of these - "It's an adventure"
Good for you. Personally, I am very protective of my sleepers, so typically build in an overnight at critical points (eastbound at Chicago if traveling to the East Coast, and these days at LA if connecting from the Chief to the Starlight, which is not as reliable as it used to be).

Had I been in your shoes, I would have been on the phone to Amtrak to build in an overnight at WAS as soon as I got notified that my Meteor reservation had been switched to the Star.
 
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Crescent Oregon (17 miles from Chemult)
Northbound
In that case, you have time to see the Railroad Museum, get a good meal in Old Town and see a movie at the multi screen theater before walking back to the Sacramento station. Do try to get back to the station by 10:30PM for your personal safety. Sometimes the northbound train is hours late but you are much safer inside the SAC station. You can check your bag in the station for a few hours for a small fee.
 

zephyr17

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jis

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With it the only way to get from Florida to Chicago on Amtrak, I think they would have had at least some.
Interestingly, Amtrak won't let you book that connection on your own.

Fortunately one hour late in Florida does not mean much about what will happen by Washington DC. There is scads of padding all along the route. So keep fingers crossed.
 
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zephyr17

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Interestingly, Amtrak won;t let you book that connection on your own.

Fortunately one hour late in Florida does not mean much about what will happen by Washington DC. There is scads of padding all along the route. So keep fingers crossed.
Hmm, that is interesting. I assumed it was bookable, and you are correct, it is not (I tried ORL-CHI). In ordinary circumstances that would lead me to believe it was an "illegal" connection forced through multi-city and the guarantee would not apply. But since Amtrak did the rebooking off the Meteor, I assume they'll honor the guarantee.

Yeah, there's enough pad between Florida and Washington to make it up, but, personally, it would have me on pins and needles right from the start of the trip.
 
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Best of luck on your adventure, I will be following on as I am looking to do something similar in the future. Would amtrak really bus you? Surely, the traffic would mean that there is now way you could catch up?!
 

railiner

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Best of luck on your adventure, I will be following on as I am looking to do something similar in the future. Would amtrak really bus you? Surely, the traffic would mean that there is now way you could catch up?!
That would depend on where they would bus you. Crossing the mountains (say Washington to Piittsburgh), takes much less driving than train time. Not so for the NEC….
 

AmtrakBlue

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Running 2 hours late, but Amtrak is optimistic that you'll only be 28 mins late into WAS. Let's hope you do make up enough of the time to catch 29 ....and not lose more time.
 

Sidney

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In that case, you have time to see the Railroad Museum, get a good meal in Old Town and see a movie at the multi screen theater before walking back to the Sacramento station. Do try to get back to the station by 10:30PM for your personal safety. Sometimes the northbound train is hours late but you are much safer inside the SAC station. You can check your bag in the station for a few hours for a small fee.
If 5 is on time and you are connecting to 14 you have a nine hour layover. I ve gone to Emeryville and caught 14 there. Much less wait time.
 
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