SWC and CZ: which is best east and which is best west?

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thully

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
567
Interesting that there’s so many air-rail passengers catching the CZ at DEN. I considered doing that, but found that taking the train all the way from ARB (and connecting in CHI) with a roomette to GSC wasn’t much more time/money than flying to DEN and taking the train since I’d have to get a hotel room overnight for the 8am departure (and to be safe on the return). And I have more flexibility to change in case UP decides to do track work on the Moffett Tunnel route and does a bustitution/Wyoming detour. Of course if you’re coming from overseas that isn’t an option.

A little-known fact is that Denver is in the same category as Seattle and Chicago for the percentage of air-rail passengers on Amtrak. This is in spite of passengers having to figure things out for themselves. Often I have met Europeans who flew into Denver and then caught up with the CZ westbound.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
315
Interesting that there’s so many air-rail passengers catching the CZ at DEN. I considered doing that, but found that taking the train all the way from ARB (and connecting in CHI) with a roomette to GSC wasn’t much more time/money than flying to DEN and taking the train since I’d have to get a hotel room overnight for the 8am departure (and to be safe on the return). And I have more flexibility to change in case UP decides to do track work on the Moffatt Tunnel route and does a bustitution/Wyoming detour. Of course if you’re coming from overseas that isn’t an option.
In your case you have a good point. I think from conversations that most of these flyers come from further away, or from places with say, tri-weekly service.
 

tomfuller

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
828
For the timing of the scenery I prefer the CZ eastbound to see Ruby Canyon, Grand Junction and the Glenwood Canyon in daylight. Ruby Canyon is often dark by the time the westbound train gets there.
Last month I took the Empire Builder eastbound and saw flooding along the Mississippi River. I have heard that it is continuing. I hope it is better by the time I travel through on May 16.
My return trip last month was on the SWC so that i had a short layover in Los Angeles before getting on the CS back home.
I have a trip scheduled on the CONO from CHI to NOL with a stopover in Memphis late this month.
I get the Sunset Limited to Houston renting a car to visit Fort Worth and then Houston to Los Angeles and taking the CS back home.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,357
I’ve always seen Ruby Canyon in the daylight in both directions. Once, the eastbound train was pretty dark for going through the Rockies, sun setting and fully set by the time we hit the big 10 curves.

As much as I like Ruby Canyon, id pick the rockies in full daylight over Ruby if I had to pick.
 

chakk

Conductor
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
2,553
I’ve always seen Ruby Canyon in the daylight in both directions. Once, the eastbound train was pretty dark for going through the Rockies, sun setting and fully set by the time we hit the big 10 curves.

As much as I like Ruby Canyon, id pick the rockies in full daylight over Ruby if I had to pick.
I solve that problem by traveling thru in BOTH directions over the course of a week or so, which seems fo ensure that I will see Ruby Canyon in daylight at least once during the week.
 

fredmcain

Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 20, 2017
Messages
140
I like the California Zephyr westbound versus eastbound. I do not have a preference for the Southwest Chief. I traveled on the SWC in December and did not notice a lot of bumping and jerking. I thought it was a very nice ride.
Yes, I have always thought that the stretch of road between Denver and Fraser was the high point of the whole cross-country trip. I prefer to view this westbound.

In the summer if the eastbound CZ is running a bit late it’s liable to get dark before you can see the whole thing and in the winter, it’s all dark eastbound. So westbound would be my vote.

But if a person feels like Soldier Summit is their favorite spot, then eastbound would be better because the westbound CZ usually traverses Soldier Summit in the dark.

So, in the end, I guess it’s mostly personal preference. I remember so well the first time I rode the CZ back in December of ’86, I think it was. I’d had never seen this before and was completely unaware and caught off guard by the incredible scenery west of Denver. It was an experience I never forgot.

So, westbound on the CZ and eastbound on the SWC gets my vote but either way, the scenery is not bad in either direction. In the summer months, the eastbound SWC will also give you a nice view of the ponderosa pine forest around Flagstaff IF you get up early enough!

Regards,
Fred M. Cain
 

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,206
Where is the location of Ruby Canyon on the CZ route?
Several ways of answering this question:
• Do a Google search for Ruby Canyon
• Do a Google search for the Route Guide of the California Zephyr
• Locate it by searching one of the topographic map sites such as this one: https://www.mytopo.com/maps/index.cfm?
• Use Google Earth to locate it
• Ask here hoping someone will take pity and provide a direct answer :D
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,357
The Ruby Canyon is just west of Grand Junction. It's really a neat part of the route because it's totally isolated, it's something you would never see unless you took the Zephyr.
 

Attachments

chakk

Conductor
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
2,553
The Ruby Canyon is just west of Grand Junction. It's really a neat part of the route because it's totally isolated, it's something you would never see unless you took the Zephyr.
you can also see Ruby Canyon if you are rafting on the Colorado River downstream of Mack, Colo. Be prepared for The Amtrak Salute from many rafters
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,357
I’ve never seen rafters south of grand junction. That certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but they don’t seem as common as further up.

And don’t get me started on the salute.... You can’t unsee that!!!!
 

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
93
I was a little kid when my father was stationed at Ft Carson. We lived on the very edge of Colorado Springs, directly below Austin Bluffs. I used to climb the bluffs sometimes - on the eastern edge I got a view of eastern Colorado. Lots of grassland, dotted here and there by a few farms and ranches.

Twenty years later I moved to Denver and I went down to CS to try to find the house I lived in. All the fields I'd had to cross on the way to school had been filled in by subdivisions. I found my way to the bluffs, climbing in a few minutes what had once taken me hours. But when I looked over the eastern edge, all I could see was subdivisions as far as the horizon. No grassland, no farms, no ranches. All I could think was 'Colorado what in the hell have you done??' I realize it's the same in most of the US. It makes me appreciate what California has done to try to preserve its scenery, even though I understand what that did to the cost of living and housing prices.

From the CZ several years ago, fairly far north of Colorado Springs, I saw that the approach to Denver still looked somewhat as I remembered the view from the bluffs; and the Western Slope is (was?) still pretty much like I remembered it. Grand Junction has grown along with its suburbs but they still have the small town feel.

Please, Coloradoans and would-be Coloradoans, don't let developers, politicians et al do what the Springs let them do... *very, very* beautiful state still, and I still dream about it sometimes.
I know this is close to 5 years after your post. But sadly no one heeded your request. I am on the north boundry line of Commerce City. Been here since 2006 and there have been at least 500+ homes built not to mention multiple gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores, etc all within 1/2 mile radius of me. Very sad!
 
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