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Questions about January 2021 trip CHI-SAC-PDX-CHI

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boxcar479

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So I booked a circuitous trip from CHI to CHI. Due to the 3 day week schedule and the connect from theTE to CZ is not a guaranteed connx i will be fly to and from LIT. On 1/2/21 i will depart on CZ to SAC then board the CS to PDX w a very short layover, but a guaranteed connx to the EB back to Chicago. I feel fortunate to be able to go on this trip, my snow trip if you will. I love seeing tons of snowy scenery from my comfy warm cabin. I am worried about delays on the west coast especially up north in the Cascades(?) A bus would bust my bubble as I have taken the trip from EUG to SPK on the bus. I am hoping to start the New Year off right by taking some of my favorite trains! I just wish I had the time to throw the Card and CL into the mix. I walked around the barn to ask this question, does anyone know if these stations are safe from the madness going on right now. What is the best way to get from ORD to Union Station, I know there's a subway(?) that goes between but I think you have to drag your bags up and down stairs? and not sure about the safety of that route. Should I stay at airport or downtown hotel
 

Dakota 400

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What is the best way to get from ORD to Union Station, I know there's a subway(?) that goes between but I think you have to drag your bags up and down stairs? and not sure about the safety of that route. Should I stay at airport or downtown hotel
I have made the Union Station to ORD previously. For me, it was easier to use a taxi (but expensive) than any other mode of transportation, I stayed at a hotel that had a free shuttle service to ORD. Much less expensive than a downtown hotel, but dining choices were more limited than staying downtown.
 

Saddleshoes

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ORD to Union Station via Subway (The "L" in Chicago.) is easy!

The blue line starts at ORD. Get on the Blue Line and travel 16 stops to the Clinton St. Stop and you are at Union Station.
 

niemi24s

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How about the orange line from MDW?

I think it's a little bit closer, but there may be other factors involved. As far as hotels, I use nothing but TripAdvisor whenever and wherever I go someplace - much to the annoyance of some board members.

Hope our fairy godmother gets us back to the normal, daily schedules. That'll open up other possibilities and avoid the necessity of starting off your trip by flying.
 
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flitcraft

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If you take the Blue Line from ORD, the Clinton stop is indeed the closest to Union Station, but there is no elevator there. The nearest Blue Line stop with an elevator to Union Station is Jackson. If you go that route, you won't have to drag your bags up and down stairs.
 

niemi24s

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At present, it looks the only way to avoid starting off by flying is to take the TE from LRK to LAX on any day, then the CS to either SAC or PDX and then either the CZ or EB back to CHI.

To avoid flying back from CHI you could spend the night in MKE and then take the Hiawatha (which has checked baggage) from MKE to CHI and then the TE form CHI to LRK.

If not mistaken, no airplanes and an overnight in MKE (and maybe in SAC if taking the CZ back to CHI). But it looks like there's no way to avoid an airplane ride if you want both the CZ and EB on this trip. I think. But it's late and I didn't get my afternoon nap, so I might be all wrong.
 

jiml

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Go Airport Express (airportexpress.com) has frequent shuttles from ORD to downtown, including Union Station. Since we lost our train to Chicago many years ago I've had to get creative and Toronto-Chicago is an easy one-hour flight, usually cheap on frequent flyer miles. My last use featured an early morning arrival, so would have faced rush hour on transit with luggage. The shuttle was fine and fairly inexpensive.
 
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niemi24s

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A new day dawns and I found a possibility that totally avoids flying:

• Somehow get from Mena to Memphis without leaving a car there - so you don't have go there on the way back to retrieve your car.
• Catch the Northbound CONO from MEM on Fr or Su arriving at Union Station in CHI at 0915 on Sa or Mo
• Take the CZ departing CHI at 1400 on Sa or Mo
• Arrive SAC at 1413 on Mo or We
• Depart SAC at 2359 on Mo or We
• Arrive PDX at 1532 on Tu or Th
• Depart PDX at 1645 on Tu or Th
• Arrive MKE at 1407 on Th or Sa
• Spend night in MKE
• Depart MKE at 0805 on Fr or SU on Hiawatha (checked baggage) arriving CHI at 0934
• Depart CHI on Fr or Su at 1345 on the TE arriving LRK at 0310 the next morning.

This gives you almost 24 more hours of train time, no airport security bazanga and one less night in a hotel.

[edit] If you start and end your train trip in MEM you can go counter-clockwise MEM - CHI - PDX - SAC - CHI - MEM with no flying and no overnights in a hotel. Plus you might get more Sun along the Columbia River Gorge. I went East up the Gorge a few years ago in November and it got dark as soon as I got on the train in Portland. Darker'n the inside of a cow!
 
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boxcar479

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How about the orange line from MDW?

I think it's a little bit closer, but there may be other factors involved. As far as hotels, I use nothing but TripAdvisor whenever and wherever I go someplace - much to the annoyance of some board members.

Hope our fairy godmother gets us back to the normal, daily schedules. That'll open up other possibilities and avoid the necessity of starting off your trip by flying.
A new day dawns and I found a possibility that totally avoids flying:

• Somehow get from Mena to Memphis without leaving a car there - so you don't have go there on the way back to retrieve your car.
• Catch the Northbound CONO from MEM on Fr or Su arriving at Union Station in CHI at 0915 on Sa or Mo
• Take the CZ departing CHI at 1400 on Sa or Mo
• Arrive SAC at 1413 on Mo or We
• Depart SAC at 2359 on Mo or We
• Arrive PDX at 1532 on Tu or Th
• Depart PDX at 1645 on Tu or Th
• Arrive MKE at 1407 on Th or Sa
• Spend night in MKE
• Depart MKE at 0805 on Fr or SU on Hiawatha (checked baggage) arriving CHI at 0934
• Depart CHI on Fr or Su at 1345 on the TE arriving LRK at 0310 the next morning.

This gives you almost 24 more hours of train time, no airport security bazanga and one less night in a hotel.

[edit] If you start and end your train trip in MEM you can go counter-clockwise MEM - CHI - PDX - SAC - CHI - MEM with no flying and no overnights in a hotel. Plus you might get more Sun along the Columbia River Gorge. I went East up the Gorge a few years ago in November and it got dark as soon as I got on the train in Portland. Darker'n the inside of a cow!
Sounds great thanks for the hard work you put in finding my best route and keeping me out of planes and into trains, but if you reread my post, your see I've already booked. Next trip I'll give you details b4 I book you're great at routing. Thanks for the hard work.
 

niemi24s

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Thanks for the kind words. I kind of enjoy doing that sort of thing especially since I only get to take the train every few years. When really bored I'll find an interesting cruise, plan how to get to the cruise port by train, what hotels to stay in, the cost for everything and a little calendar showing dates, times, etc..

If you'd really prefer to take one of those other routings, perhaps you could modify your present reservation by talking to an agent. Others here will know better if that's possible and if it's best to call an AGR agent.
 
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niemi24s

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As things work out, both the clockwise and the counter-clockwise trips can begin in CHI on 2 Jan. Here's the calendar for the clockwise trip mentioned in Post #6 - most of which you've already booked:
Boxcar's Trips CW.jpg
As it appears you're already booked on the CZ, CS and EB on the dates shown above, all you need do is:
• Book the CONO from MEM to CHI on 1 Jan
Modify the EB portion to get off in MKE instead of CHI (no sweat doing that)
• Get tickets for the Hiawatha (MKE to CHI) and TE (CHI to LRK) on 8 Jan
• Find a hotel in MKE
• Cancel your flights.

Here's one for the counter-clockwise trip mentioned in the last paragraph of Post #8 - opposite your already booked direction:
Boxcar's Trips CCW.jpg
However, if you try for this you may need a sympathetic Amtrak agent to pull it off without cancellation fees because this one is actually totally different from what you've already booked. But it won't cost anything to try - at least I don't think it will. As luck would have it, Roomettes are all at low bucket on the EB, CS and CZ for this counter-clockwise trip as of a few minutes ago.
 
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bratkinson

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Do the trip counter-clockwise because of the tight connection time at PDX from #14 to #28.

In the late '70s and early '80s, I made that connection 10 or more times without fear, because at that time (I think it was about 2 hours back then), the railroads had to give Amtrak #1 priority. That ended in '96 at the expiration of the 25 year agreement at the beginning of Amtrak.

I think it was 3 years ago, I wanted to make that connection and checked the 'success rate' online of that connection. It was less than 50% as I recall, so I booked an overnight stay in PDX. As it turned out, I would have missed the connection that day by about 90 minutes. But the day before and day after, it was 'made' no problem according to what I could find online. So, to save yourself a missed connection and the possibility of no available rooms 2 or 3 days later on #28, do the trip clockwise. I haven't checked lately, but I recall a high percentage of the time the connection from #27 to #11 was easily made.
 

niemi24s

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Do the trip counter-clockwise because of the tight connection time at PDX from #14 to #28.
Tight connection or not (1hr 13m) it's a guaranteed connection when booked clockwise on the same ticket, as shown below:
SAC - MKE Gtd Conn.jpg
Some say they'll even hold the departure of the EB in PDX should the CS be reasonably late. ASMAD shows their connection in PDX was missed only 13% of the time (had an 87% success rate) in the last year. I, personally, would have no qualms about going clockwise as the OP originally planned. But that's just me.

P.S.: Look on the bright side. Of the five different places where connections are made on these trips, I can't think of a better place to miss one than Portland.
 
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niemi24s

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In case you decide to change your original reservation, here are the low bucket Roomette fares for one adult:
• MEM - CHI $235 ($89 Coach)
• CHI - SAC $555
• SAC - PDX $293
• PDX - MKE $527
• PDX - CHI $529
• MKE - CHI $25 (Coach)
• CHI - LRK $242 ($83 Coach)

If the fare you paid was any higher for any leg, keep checking every few days. If you see the fare drop, you can call Amtrak and have that booking MODIFIED to the lower fare.

Another consideration (other than a missed connection) are the ramifications of the EB being late entering the scenic Columbia River Gorge in January:
• Going CW, the later the departure from PDX in the evening the less that can be seen along The Gorge. If one hour late departing PDX it will be about 30 minutes after the end of civil twilight. However,
• Going CCW, the later the departure from PSC in the morning the more that can be seen along The Gorge. If one hour late departing PSC it will be about 30 minutes before the start of civil twilight.
 
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Willbridge

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Tight connection or not (1hr 13m) it's a guaranteed connection when booked clockwise on the same ticket, as shown below:
View attachment 19478
Some say they'll even hold the departure of the EB in PDX should the CS be reasonably late. ASMAD shows their connection in PDX was missed only 13% of the time (had an 87% success rate) in the last year. I, personally, would have no qualms about going clockwise as the OP originally planned. But that's just me.

P.S.: Look on the bright side. Of the five different places where connections are made on these trips, I can't think of a better place to miss one than Portland.
On multiple occasions I've seen a cross-platform transfer in Portland from Train 14 to Train 28, including Train 28 being held for a few minutes. But it is correct that the longer layover westbound is less chancy and the scenery in the Gorge better. However, clockwise the scenery in the Cascades is better. The only really good solution is to eventually make the trip in both
directions!

Klamath Lake bird refuge in daylight only clockwise on Train 14. Columbia fading into sunset clockwise on Train 28.

P1050082 (2).JPG

columbia33.jpg
 
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niemi24s

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Actually, I think the very best way to see The Gorge is the way my Sons and I did it some years ago - by rental car. Up the Oregon side from Portland in broad daylight one day, overnight in Pasco and then down the Washington side back to Portland the next day in broad daylight. Stopping along the way each day to do the customary tourist things. We were already in Seattle for a wedding so took the train to and from Portland.

Years later my only train ride along The Gorge was Eastbound from PDX and saw little but lights: car headlights; porch lights; street lights; gas station lights; lights at the dams <yawn>.
 

Willbridge

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Actually, I think the very best way to see The Gorge is the way my Sons and I did it some years ago - by rental car. Up the Oregon side from Portland in broad daylight one day, overnight in Pasco and then down the Washington side back to Portland the next day in broad daylight. Stopping along the way each day to do the customary tourist things. We were already in Seattle for a wedding so took the train to and from Portland.

Years later my only train ride along The Gorge was Eastbound from PDX and saw little but lights: car headlights; porch lights; street lights; gas station lights; lights at the dams <yawn>.
For about seven months of the year Train 28 has some great scenery in the Gorge. I've posted photos of Mt. Hood seen from the Sightseer Lounge before. The other five months or so it's dark. Enjoy conversation in the lounge.
 

niemi24s

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This handy website lets you find when the best viewing times for any day of the year at any location: timeanddate.com For Wishram, at about half way along The Gorge, it says
• Best viewing (Summer Solstice) with Civil Twilight starting at 0447 and ending at 2117
• Worst viewing (Winter Solstice) with Civil Twilight starting at 0704 and ending at 1702

The Moon's no help for the OP's travel up The Gorge either as it seems Moonrise will occur just before the train gets to SPK at around midnight.
 

Willbridge

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This handy website lets you find when the best viewing times for any day of the year at any location: timeanddate.com For Wishram, at about half way along The Gorge, it says
• Best viewing (Summer Solstice) with Civil Twilight starting at 0447 and ending at 2117
• Worst viewing (Winter Solstice) with Civil Twilight starting at 0704 and ending at 1702

The Moon's no help for the OP's travel up The Gorge either as it seems Moonrise will occur just before the train gets to SPK at around midnight.
Now you're reminding me of my age. When I figured out things like this in the 1970's and 80's I had to work it out from an almanac. ;)
 

boxcar479

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Mena,Ar.
Thanks for your excellent itinerary skills neimi24 and Willbridge and all others for your advice and experience. My trip moved into mid February. All reservations made.(memphis not included lol) 2/14 fly LIT to Chi willeither blue line or shared ride into town. 2/15 depart CZ to sac and CS to pdx then the EB(fingers crossed i make the connx) to CHI. Arrive 2/20 head to ORD hotel to fly back to LRK. Reservations made using Marriott Bonvoy and HHonors awards points. Booked flights at a very low bucket of $85.each way. I usually do a summer trip in June that lines up with the summer solstice and full June moon. I may do the counterclockwise trip as suggested only take CS to EMY and a surfliner(?) Down to San and stay a couple of days then fly home:) Thanks for all the help, and hope to see you on the train.!
 

niemi24s

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After fiddling with fares for partial routes, got bored, wondered how CZ fares varied with distance and came up with this:
graphb.png
GSC is half way down the line but the fare to there is 52% greater than half the fare for the whole route. Seems to agree with whatever train this was done for some years ago. FWIW, half the route is 1219 miles, HAS to ELK is exactly the same distance and the fare between those two points is within $6 (about 1%) of the fare for the first half of the route (CHI to GSC).
 

WWW

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Plan carefully if using the EB Trains 7 & 8 (28) one day they are close to on time maybe a few minutes late and then
the next 1 - 2 and sometimes 3 - 4 hours late.
Train 7 leaves Chicago punctually on time as well as Train 8 leaving Seattle (28 Portland) but by the time these get
to Montana and North Dakota BNSF has pulled the welcoming mat from under the rails.
Track repairs - upgrading and lots of intermodular freights with high priority fabulous Chinese consumer goods !
Only in rare cases do they make up some time,
Train 8 when it is more than 3 hours late throws a mexican left handed speed wrench into any potential connection
at Chicago.
In one case a while ago #8 was so late the train consist could not be cleaned timely for the next day turn around as
#7 resulting in #7 departing late - my ill fortune to be on that consist with private 261 cars - what is late when traveling
in private varnish but for the Amtrak paying customers a lot ruined plans.
I'll have two drinks and let me know when - are we there yet !
 

niemi24s

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GSC is half way down the line but the fare to there is 52% greater than half the fare for the whole route.
After wondering how this 52% increase (fare bumped up above half the fare for the whole route) for travel to the station half way down the line compared to other trains, killed that cat for all the other routes and found:

• CZ had largest bump of 52%
• Average of all bumps is 34%
• TE had smallest bump of 15%

Fare Bumpsa.jpg

No idea why the bumps have such a large spread, but it might be due to frimmin' on the jim jam.
 
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