Southwest Chief LAX-CHI 7/12-14/202

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Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
First a bit of background - I grew up loving trains and taking the Surfliner from time to time. More recently my wife and I took the Heartland Flyer from OKC to FTW and back just to try out a longer trip. I've always wanted to try out the LD trains so now I've got two booked this year, the SW Chief being the first. I'm taking it in a roomette on my own to kind of try out the experience and my wife will join me on the Coast Starlight later this year. I've seen lots of questions about recent changes so I figured I'd do a trip report of sorts. I'll keep an eye on this thread and update it as the trip continues so feel free and ask questions.

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LAX:
Arrival at union station was interesting but easy, only the front doors on the curb were unlocked (fire code violation much?) but it was not crowded and sufficiently signed to locate the counter and check my bag. The person I spoke with was helpful but I could hear the other being rather rude to a kid that was pretty obviously uncomfortable/unfamiliar with the process of purchasing a train ticket. I presented my e-ticket as the website made me think that is what the staff would need to see but all they wanted was my booking number. I was directed to the lounge where again they wanted my booking number. I was offered a snack pack that was rather nice, sodas were available in fridges along with an ice dispenser for your personal bottle. Coffee was available but they had to get it for you. About 35 min prior to departure we received an announcement providing the track number and how to get there.

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The train was backing in as I arrived and boarding commenced. The two sleeper cars were marked with the same number so that was a bit confusing but still a 50/50 shot lol. My roomette was exactly as expected with 2 water bottles and it looked/smelled nice and clean. I don't know amtrak equipment enough to say whether it's a superliner 1 or 2 but it's the one with the open hanging space rather than the enclosed closet (2?). The other sleeper is the other style.

After departure I stayed in my room for a bit and the SCA came by to introduce herself and see how I was doing. She came around a second time to take dinner orders and a third to deliver them. Apparently she's been an LSA for years but recently moved to this position (Covid?). She appears a bit frazzled so I'm giving her some grace since I see here constantly walking the car doing stuff rather than hiding.

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The common area at the top of the stairs has a case of bottled waters and a stack of menus but that's it. Coffee and ice can be requested from the SCA.

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Dinner arrived, I had the shrimp in lobster sauce after reading the flexible dining thread and it did taste good but was not enough, I supplemented with some delicious CA walnuts.

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After dinner I headed to the lounge car to try to give my SCA some time to make up the bed since I was in my compartment for dinner. The sunset was pretty and I was only 1 of 2 people in there so it was nice and quiet. I listened to some podcasts and headed back to my roomette. Unfortunately it had not been made up but my SCA arrived about 30 minutes later to do it. After relaxing for awhile and watching the world go by I fell asleep. I slept pretty well, it was bumpier than I had expected (more like sleeping in a car than sleeping on a ship) but it didn't seem to bother me. I woke up a couple times as I was a bit warm but I shoved my menu into the vent to direct the air down and that seemed to help (another tip I picked up here!).

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I woke up about 6am just east of Humbolt AZ. I opened my door and window just kind of hoping my SCA would happen by to take a breakfast order. Another guy walked by and mentioned that the dining car was open. I was glad, I wanted to take at least some of my meals in there just for a change of scenery! I headed over and had my continental breakfast with all the options mentioned elsewhere on this forum. The dining care appears to be a bit of a crew lounge, the conductor and others are set up at tables doing paperwork and the LSA or 2 tend to hang out in there. The LSAs are helpful and I haven't' detected a bad attitude as mentioned by others.

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After breakfast I went to the lounge car to again give my SCA an opportunity to put the bed away. After a bit I returned and it had not been made up. I saw her fly by around Gallup and later she came back and started making up the room across from me. I took this opportunity to go back to the lounge car and read hoping she would reset the room. When I returned she caught me in the hallway and asked if I wanted the room reset. I told her yes and nicely that she didn't need to wait on me to do it. She said she needed me to help and I held my pillows while she put the bed away. That didn't seem normal but whatever I'm flexible!

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At this point I got my cocoon set up to include the power strip I learned I'd need here. The power doesn't seem to be enough to charge my 3 devices at once (phone, laptop, battery pack) as my laptop is staying on but not registering a charge...weird. Anyways, the toilets in my car broke and I'm told those will be fixed in Albuquerque. Good thing we're running early!
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
Yeah not sure, I've seen her do it now so I can probably handle it from here out. Anyways we had our long stop at Albuquerque so I snagged some exterior photos.

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For anyone who cares, we're being pulled by P42DCs 179 and 170 followed by sleepers 32037 and 32085. As far as I can tell 37 is a superliner 1 and 85 is a 2 if I remember the differences in trucks correctly. Anyways, the rest of the consist is the diner, lounge and 3 coaches. I wonder where my checked bag is since there's not baggage care lol!

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Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
20,012
Yeah not sure, I've seen her do it now so I can probably handle it from here out. Anyways we had our long stop at Albuquerque so I snagged some exterior photos.

View attachment 18028

For anyone who cares, we're being pulled by P42DCs 179 and 170 followed by sleepers 32037 and 32085. As far as I can tell 37 is a superliner 1 and 85 is a 2 if I remember the differences in trucks correctly. Anyways, the rest of the consist is the diner, lounge and 3 coaches. I wonder where my checked bag is since there's not baggage care lol!

View attachment 18029
Your bags are in the Coach/Bag Car since theres no Bag Car!

And your Sleeper is a II, the I has the enclosed Small Closet.
 
Last edited:

PVD

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,624
Think of a coach, (# 31000-31047) where the lower level seating area is replaced by a baggage storage area. Question- ABQ used to have vendors on the platform, but another poster mentioned they may not be there as a covid precaution, just curious.....
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
That’s my thought as well, there weren’t any vendors at ABQ, but the platform was being washed down...maybe that’s why? Also I’ve noticed several applications of an aresol up and down the cars...smells good, I assume it’s a cleaner/fogger of some sort.
 

PVD

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,624
If the power strip is a USB strip (not a regular plug strip) very often, the USB ports will provide a limited amount of current, sometimes if there are a few ports, they may be 2 lower, and one higher, or 3 lower, or total not to exceed X. A laptop with a decnt size battery may not get enough wattage to run & charge simultaneously. Not sure if that is your situation, but it is a possibility.
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
Well it turns out the electrical system in my car went poop...the ac quit and I happened to notice sad numbers on the readout panel downstairs while attempting a short workout. There was much running about by the staff but they got us all moved over to the other sleeper and settled in. On the cleaning side it seems like they go through about every hour to spray/wipe stuff.
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
474
First a bit of background - I grew up loving trains and taking the Surfliner from time to time. More recently my wife and I took the Heartland Flyer from OKC to FTW and back just to try out a longer trip. I've always wanted to try out the LD trains so now I've got two booked this year, the SW Chief being the first. I'm taking it in a roomette on my own to kind of try out the experience and my wife will join me on the Coast Starlight later this year. I've seen lots of questions about recent changes so I figured I'd do a trip report of sorts. I'll keep an eye on this thread and update it as the trip continues so feel free and ask questions.

View attachment 18020
LAX:
Arrival at union station was interesting but easy, only the front doors on the curb were unlocked (fire code violation much?) but it was not crowded and sufficiently signed to locate the counter and check my bag. The person I spoke with was helpful but I could hear the other being rather rude to a kid that was pretty obviously uncomfortable/unfamiliar with the process of purchasing a train ticket. I presented my e-ticket as the website made me think that is what the staff would need to see but all they wanted was my booking number. I was directed to the lounge where again they wanted my booking number. I was offered a snack pack that was rather nice, sodas were available in fridges along with an ice dispenser for your personal bottle. Coffee was available but they had to get it for you. About 35 min prior to departure we received an announcement providing the track number and how to get there.

View attachment 18021
The train was backing in as I arrived and boarding commenced. The two sleeper cars were marked with the same number so that was a bit confusing but still a 50/50 shot lol. My roomette was exactly as expected with 2 water bottles and it looked/smelled nice and clean. I don't know amtrak equipment enough to say whether it's a superliner 1 or 2 but it's the one with the open hanging space rather than the enclosed closet (2?). The other sleeper is the other style.

After departure I stayed in my room for a bit and the SCA came by to introduce herself and see how I was doing. She came around a second time to take dinner orders and a third to deliver them. Apparently she's been an LSA for years but recently moved to this position (Covid?). She appears a bit frazzled so I'm giving her some grace since I see here constantly walking the car doing stuff rather than hiding.

View attachment 18023
The common area at the top of the stairs has a case of bottled waters and a stack of menus but that's it. Coffee and ice can be requested from the SCA.

View attachment 18022
Dinner arrived, I had the shrimp in lobster sauce after reading the flexible dining thread and it did taste good but was not enough, I supplemented with some delicious CA walnuts.

View attachment 18024
After dinner I headed to the lounge car to try to give my SCA some time to make up the bed since I was in my compartment for dinner. The sunset was pretty and I was only 1 of 2 people in there so it was nice and quiet. I listened to some podcasts and headed back to my roomette. Unfortunately it had not been made up but my SCA arrived about 30 minutes later to do it. After relaxing for awhile and watching the world go by I fell asleep. I slept pretty well, it was bumpier than I had expected (more like sleeping in a car than sleeping on a ship) but it didn't seem to bother me. I woke up a couple times as I was a bit warm but I shoved my menu into the vent to direct the air down and that seemed to help (another tip I picked up here!).

View attachment 18025
I woke up about 6am just east of Humbolt AZ. I opened my door and window just kind of hoping my SCA would happen by to take a breakfast order. Another guy walked by and mentioned that the dining car was open. I was glad, I wanted to take at least some of my meals in there just for a change of scenery! I headed over and had my continental breakfast with all the options mentioned elsewhere on this forum. The dining care appears to be a bit of a crew lounge, the conductor and others are set up at tables doing paperwork and the LSA or 2 tend to hang out in there. The LSAs are helpful and I haven't' detected a bad attitude as mentioned by others.

View attachment 18026
After breakfast I went to the lounge car to again give my SCA an opportunity to put the bed away. After a bit I returned and it had not been made up. I saw her fly by around Gallup and later she came back and started making up the room across from me. I took this opportunity to go back to the lounge car and read hoping she would reset the room. When I returned she caught me in the hallway and asked if I wanted the room reset. I told her yes and nicely that she didn't need to wait on me to do it. She said she needed me to help and I held my pillows while she put the bed away. That didn't seem normal but whatever I'm flexible!

View attachment 18027
At this point I got my cocoon set up to include the power strip I learned I'd need here. The power doesn't seem to be enough to charge my 3 devices at once (phone, laptop, battery pack) as my laptop is staying on but not registering a charge...weird. Anyways, the toilets in my car broke and I'm told those will be fixed in Albuquerque. Good thing we're running early!
Thank you for documenting your experience. The Chief runs on some really rough track but it kind-a lulls one to sleep. The food seems to be as poor and monotonous as I have previously experienced... and not the best SCA. But if you can travel on the train at low bucket cost doing the summer you're doing well! 🤠
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
474
Well it turns out the electrical system in my car went poop...the ac quit and I happened to notice sad numbers on the readout panel downstairs while attempting a short workout. There was much running about by the staff but they got us all moved over to the other sleeper and settled in. On the cleaning side it seems like they go through about every hour to spray/wipe stuff.
Yes and indeed this happens more often than not. The Superliners are old and poorly maintained. It's happened to me on almost all the cross country trips I've taken. Frequently too hot... electricity goes out... and when the plumbing goes as it does frequently, then the restrooms don't work.

When in an H room on the Starlight, that happened. The conductor said there was nothing he could do about it... so I called Amtrak customer service on my cell. Upon arrival in Emeryville, a crew was waiting to fix the problem. The crew told me that this happens all the time because the cars are old and poorly maintained. :mad:o_O:eek:
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
Ok update time:

Lunch yesterday (day 2) was the shrimp in lobster sauce (I realized I had the creole shrimp the night before) which was good, not awesome but no complaints. Again this was delivered to my room but I could have requested to have it in the dining car. Naturally I forgot to take a picture. We went over Raton pass in the afternoon and had some spotty cell signal. I wasn't sure what to expect but signal had been great up until then. I'd been able to not only stream videos on my phone but hot spot my laptop and get some work done!

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Dinner was pasta and meatballs, again no complaints but all these carbs are starting to make me feel sad lol. I pretty much eat meat, veggies and nuts normally but have had to eat my entire meals including the carbs to remain not hungry until the next meal. Not that I'm complaining about "having" to eat those blondies...those things are awesome! I brought a 1lb bag of walnuts with me and eat a cup or so with each meal for some healthy fat which has helped quite a bit.

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After dinner I hung out in the lounge car for awhile with about 8 other people and walked the train a bit at our stop in La Junta. I converted my own room and laid down to watch the lightning in the distance before heading off to sleep.

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I woke up about 7 in Topeka. Shortly thereafter an announcement advised us we were running about 2 hours late due to high wind advisories last night. Breakfast was again in the dining car but I did see my SCA bagging meals for the sleepers so that's definitely an option too.

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I had my coffee in the lounge car watching KC come into view. I've seen the yard and shop facilities from the overpasses but never this angle so that was kind of cool. I spent a day at the WW1 museum and union station a few months ago and enjoyed seeing those again from the tracks. Defiantly recommend both if you like history.
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
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When in an H room on the Starlight, that happened. The conductor said there was nothing he could do about it... so I called Amtrak customer service on my cell. Upon arrival in Emeryville, a crew was waiting to fix the problem. The crew told me that this happens all the time because the cars are old and poorly maintained. :mad:o_O:eek:
Haha good work! Fortunately there were enough rooms in the other sleeper for everyone, strangely 2 people didn't move...whatever. I feel for the crew, I've had to work with substandard equipment before. It's a wonder Amtrak gets the business they do with what they provide in equipment (cars, etc) and supplies (food). Good thing this country is so beautiful to watch go by!
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
474
Haha good work! Fortunately there were enough rooms in the other sleeper for everyone, strangely 2 people didn't move...whatever. I feel for the crew, I've had to work with substandard equipment before. It's a wonder Amtrak gets the business they do with what they provide in equipment (cars, etc) and supplies (food). Good thing this country is so beautiful to watch go by!
Yup!
 

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
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Jan 20, 2016
Messages
109
We are thoroughly enjoying this trip report. We had to cancel our July LA to Chicago trip due to COVID-19. Reading this report is giving us a good idea of what we would have experienced. We’re looking forward to the next installment!

Eric & Pat
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
114
How is the AC when it is working? What's the temperature? I like it around 70F, maximum 72F. I usually feel hot on Amtrak. I'm scheduled on this train next month but based on your report of AC failures, the unhealthy food, being asked to help with the housekeeping and the increase in Covid-19 in California I am likely to cancel.
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
474
How is the AC when it is working? What's the temperature? I like it around 70F, maximum 72F. I usually feel hot on Amtrak. I'm scheduled on this train next month but based on your report of AC failures, the unhealthy food, being asked to help with the housekeeping and the increase in Covid-19 in California I am likely to cancel.
From so many trips experiencing the intense heat coming out of the vents in the summer... air conditioning rarely works in the Superliners... am concerned about air circulation as well. Although the article below is old... I will never forget my upset when upon observing the opening of the control panel on the lower lever to adjust the heating problem, the words of caution stating ASBESTOS was all over the inside information panel. I called Amtrak to complain and they told me not to worry about it. Ok!

 

Sidney

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
18
With the points sale going on,low bucket on roomettes and the uncertainty of this pedemic and the possibility of tri weekly service I decided to book a Chi Lax trip heading out on the Texas Eagle and returning on the Chief. Always enjoy the extra night on the Eagle for the same price as the Chief. Going in September.

I've taken a couple of long trips the last three months and asides from the flexible dining,which is not a big deal and wearing a mask walking through the train,I ve had no problems. As many have stated traveling in a sleeper is one of the safest ways to travel.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
114
The SW Chief has been running very late lately. WHY?

ARRIVALS IN LOS ANGELES:

FRI 10 – 1 HR 33 MIN LATE

SAT 11 - 15 MIN EARLY

SUN 12 – 5 HOURS 46 MIN LATE

MON 13 - 4 HOURS 1 MINUTES LATE

TUE 14 – 1 HR 22 MIN LATE

WED 15 – 4 HRS 12 MIN LATE
 

amtkstn

OBS Chief
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
716
Storms, highs winds and high heat warnings slowing down train speed. Also failing old signals.
 

Sauve850

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
512
From so many trips experiencing the intense heat coming out of the vents in the summer... air conditioning rarely works in the Superliners... am concerned about air circulation as well. Although the article below is old... I will never forget my upset when upon observing the opening of the control panel on the lower lever to adjust the heating problem, the words of caution stating ASBESTOS was all over the inside information panel. I called Amtrak to complain and they told me not to worry about it. Ok!

Ive traveled in bedrooms cross country every year during late summer on Superliners for over 30 years. Ive not had any incident of a/c failure so to say air conditioning in Superliners rarely works is not accurate for me at least. I have however had a couple of failures riding the Star/Meteor in Viewliner bedrooms.
 

PVD

Conductor
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Messages
4,624
Asbestos insulation on wiring was not uncommon, and the SL cars were built right around the time it was being banned, generally, in the case of wiring, if you leave it alone, you don't have serious problems. You certainly don't want to disturb it. The really old oven/range in my kitchen has asbestos jacket wire in it in areas that are potentially exposed to high heat. Not a problem, but if anything goes bad, the coop will not open it up to work on it, they just give you a new one. Just before I retired, I worked on a project to replace all of the light fixtures in a school because the old magnetic ballast contained PCB's. First one that came down we saw asbestos wire (not uncommon in old NYC school buildings for fire safety) boom, each room had to be sealed and shut down for abatement before we could re-enter and hang the new lighting.
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2018
Messages
14
How is the AC when it is working? What's the temperature? I like it around 70F, maximum 72F. I usually feel hot on Amtrak. I'm scheduled on this train next month but based on your report of AC failures, the unhealthy food, being asked to help with the housekeeping and the increase in Covid-19 in California I am likely to cancel.
I was more than comfortable when the ac was working, the lounge car was even cool in the morning/evening. I typically have the thermostat set 68 at work and 72 at home (I sleep both places) and while my roomette was on the warm end I had no complaints. I didn't have a thermometer with me but I didn't wake up warm while using the provided sheet and blanket or find that I sweated at all at night.

As a side note, she only asked with help once and as the trip went on it became clear that my SCA was very new at the job or simply got frazzled easily. The other SCA on board was very helpful and did not ask for any assistance. I tipped both.
 

20th Century Rider

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
474
I was more than comfortable when the ac was working, the lounge car was even cool in the morning/evening. I typically have the thermostat set 68 at work and 72 at home (I sleep both places) and while my roomette was on the warm end I had no complaints. I didn't have a thermometer with me but I didn't wake up warm while using the provided sheet and blanket or find that I sweated at all at night.

As a side note, she only asked with help once and as the trip went on it became clear that my SCA was very new at the job or simply got frazzled easily. The other SCA on board was very helpful and did not ask for any assistance. I tipped both.
Personal experience with temperature on the Superliners has not been good... when it warms up one can get really hot and then they must 'override' the system. The downstairs rooms get the bulk of the heat for some reason... I have experienced temperatures in the 80's and with no window to open it becomes quite unpleasant. When the heater is on in any small enclosed space the heat tends to build up to beyond where it is comfortable. I have found time and again the temperature controls just don't work on the superliners. But, the temp controls on the viewliners do work and I find them much more comfortable.
 
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