Questions regarding Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited

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AM_ROAD

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 24, 2020
Messages
31
Location
West Texas
I am looking at a West Coast baseball trip this spring (hopefully!) and I have some questions.

I live in the Midland/Odessa area of Texas. The nearest station to me is Alpine, but since I have to drive a few hours anyway my options are this:
1. Drive to Albuquerque or Lamy and take the Chief.
2. Drive to El Paso and take the Limited.

Here are my concerns:
1. On time performance. Almost had a trip ruined due to the Zephyr running 9 hours late once. I can look up a percentage of on time performance, but which train is known for being insanely late more frequently?
2. Parking. Which place is the safest to leave my truck for 3-4 days?

I might spend sometime in LA, or just immediately connect to San Diego at the start. In all honestly I'll probably fly and use Amtrak California between LA and San Diego, but if it makes sense I'd prefer a sleeper to and from the listed locations. Any recommendations? I do get a veteran discount but open to anything. This would be in late May.
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,401
Location
Spring Creek, NC
I am looking at a West Coast baseball trip this spring (hopefully!) and I have some questions.

I live in the Midland/Odessa area of Texas. The nearest station to me is Alpine, but since I have to drive a few hours anyway my options are this:
1. Drive to Albuquerque or Lamy and take the Chief.
2. Drive to El Paso and take the Limited.

Here are my concerns:
1. On time performance. Almost had a trip ruined due to the Zephyr running 9 hours late once. I can look up a percentage of on time performance, but which train is known for being insanely late more frequently?
2. Parking. Which place is the safest to leave my truck for 3-4 days?

I might spend sometime in LA, or just immediately connect to San Diego at the start. In all honestly I'll probably fly and use Amtrak California between LA and San Diego, but if it makes sense I'd prefer a sleeper to and from the listed locations. Any recommendations? I do get a veteran discount but open to anything. This would be in late May.

I'd add one more factor to you decision tree: Compare current pricing of sleeper accommodations on both trains for dates around late May. The cost can vary a LOT.
 

joelkfla

Engineer
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,211
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
I am looking at a West Coast baseball trip this spring (hopefully!) and I have some questions.

I live in the Midland/Odessa area of Texas. The nearest station to me is Alpine, but since I have to drive a few hours anyway my options are this:
1. Drive to Albuquerque or Lamy and take the Chief.
2. Drive to El Paso and take the Limited.

Here are my concerns:
1. On time performance. Almost had a trip ruined due to the Zephyr running 9 hours late once. I can look up a percentage of on time performance, but which train is known for being insanely late more frequently?
2. Parking. Which place is the safest to leave my truck for 3-4 days?

I might spend sometime in LA, or just immediately connect to San Diego at the start. In all honestly I'll probably fly and use Amtrak California between LA and San Diego, but if it makes sense I'd prefer a sleeper to and from the listed locations. Any recommendations? I do get a veteran discount but open to anything. This would be in late May.
Look at ASMAD - Amtrak Status Maps Archive Database - Home

You can view on-time performance for any train at any station over any 30-day period, sorted by length of delay if you wish. You can also generate charts.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,881
I would just drive to Alpine. I believe the parking there is free. Small towns generally are more helpful than big cities. I've called the city of Hinton, WV where I left my car last October for a two week trip. They told me I could park at the city waterpark because there was always lots of room and the police regularly patrolled it. When we left our car, I called the local police to let them know my information and plate number and how long I would be there so they wouldn't get suspicious. Note that I called in June when the waterpark was open as that was when we were going to travel initially. The waterpark is two blocks from the station and while walking from my car, I stopped to talk to a couple of locals. We had a 15 minute conversation and they told me that, in the future, I could park in front of their place. Small town friendliness.

I've done things like this in other smaller cities like Jessup, GA and Salisbury, NC. The police are generally friendly, especially if you give them a nice story.

Other things you can do would be to find a hotel near the station in El Paso or Albuquerque and call and ask them if you stayed the night, could you leave your car there (assuming they have free parking). I've done that also with success. I've also called a local church once and got permission to use their lot with the understanding that they would not be responsible for damage.
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
468
Location
upstate New York
The ASMAD site can give you real data on how these trains have been doing recently, but my gut feeling from watching over many years is that the Sunset Limited carries a somewhat higher risk of major delays. Both trains often do just fine, but either has the potential for the occasional calamitous run. The Chief normally runs every day -- it's currently five days a week because of Covid-related staffing issues, but daily service is supposed to resume at the end of March -- whereas the Sunset is always three departures per week, so offers less flexibility in terms of travel dates.

Lamy strikes me as an OK place to park, but it appears to be a much longer drive for you than Alpine.

Regarding pricing, when I looked just now, a roomette on the Chief from Lamy to LAX was $314 on every day I checked in late May. A roomette on the Sunset from Alpine was available for $323 on 5/26 but otherwise was either $387 or $445 on other dates.
 
Last edited:

Joe from PA

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2022
Messages
165
Location
Philadelphia
On the subject of the Sunset Limited...we had to get off at small station in Maricopa, AZ go get to Tempe/Phoenix. Because the 9:30 train was 3 hours late ...no taxies, no bus (left at 9;30), and no one answering a Uber call. So here we are at 12:30 am, screwed. Lucky for us, a group of 4 had pre-hired a van to pick them up. I paid enough to get the van driver to take us on. Be prepared!
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,898
Location
Denver
I would just drive to Alpine. I believe the parking there is free. Small towns generally are more helpful than big cities. I've called the city of Hinton, WV where I left my car last October for a two week trip. They told me I could park at the city waterpark because there was always lots of room and the police regularly patrolled it. When we left our car, I called the local police to let them know my information and plate number and how long I would be there so they wouldn't get suspicious. Note that I called in June when the waterpark was open as that was when we were going to travel initially. The waterpark is two blocks from the station and while walking from my car, I stopped to talk to a couple of locals. We had a 15 minute conversation and they told me that, in the future, I could park in front of their place. Small town friendliness.

I've done things like this in other smaller cities like Jessup, GA and Salisbury, NC. The police are generally friendly, especially if you give them a nice story.

Other things you can do would be to find a hotel near the station in El Paso or Albuquerque and call and ask them if you stayed the night, could you leave your car there (assuming they have free parking). I've done that also with success. I've also called a local church once and got permission to use their lot with the understanding that they would not be responsible for damage.
I agree on small-town courtesies. At Cut Bank we stayed overnight in a motel within walk distance of the station and were able to leave our car with Alberta plates there for over a week while we traveled Train 7 to 11 to 28 with stopovers. The manager said she'd tell the sheriff (her daughter).
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,881
On the subject of the Sunset Limited...we had to get off at small station in Maricopa, AZ go get to Tempe/Phoenix. Because the 9:30 train was 3 hours late ...no taxies, no bus (left at 9;30), and no one answering a Uber call. So here we are at 12:30 am, screwed. Lucky for us, a group of 4 had pre-hired a van to pick them up. I paid enough to get the van driver to take us on. Be prepared!
We've been thinking of going to Maricopa to visit her brother who lives north of Phoenix. After researching hotels, car rentals, convenience and the seemingly greater than ever train delays, we decided that if we go, it will be to Tucson then will rent a car or go to Flagstaff and do the same. Right now, with the Crescent schedule (not due to Covid but thanks to Amtrak totally giving in to NS) being as bad as it is between Atlanta and NOL, going via Chicago then on the Chief looks to be the only reasonable solution.
 
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