Thoughts on The Zephyr in January...

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chickpea

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 5, 2022
Messages
66
Location
East Coast
1. Do I tip the steward that takes care of my roomette? How much?
...
9. Any decent hotels in Emeryville that someone could reccomend, or someoplace near there? I MAY go to SF but I was there 30 years ago and thought it was mostly congested and dirty. Not sure if it's changed. Convince me if I'm wrong, like I said, it's been 30 years.
As an SF native this pains me... it is certainly dirty and yucky in places like many big cities but if you know where to go and/or get good advice you can see spectacular parts of the City. :)

Edit to answer Q1: I tip $20/night if the service is good AND I am dining in my room not the dining car = more work for the SCA. Otherwise $10. FWIW. With cuts in train service I think they can use it?
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
818
Always a great moment. In Denver on the Zephyr in the Sightseer Car waiting for the most spectacular ride Amtrak offers,especially the first two hours on the way to Winter Park/Frasier. The food is excellent,as would be expected.

With sunshine all day the ride through Colorado will be terrific. Done this many times. Never gets old. Heading to Reno for an overnight,then Sacramento,San Jose and San Luis Obispo.From there to LA to connect with the Sunset/Eagle back to Chicago. Only downside is returning to flex food on the Eagle.
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
Did you enjoy your trip?

My trip was crazy. I don't know how else to describe it. I would never do it again.

To begin: I left Detroit exactly on-time at 6:26 am on Thursday, January 20th. The trip in coach to Chicago was beautiful and flawless and actully arrived a few muntes early, at 10:20 am. It all came crashing down after that!!!!!!!!!!!

I was happy to read the forum and learn about the Metropolitan Lounge. I found it easily and waited there for my 2pm California Zephyr departure. AND BOY... Did I wait!

"Supposedly" there was a problem with one engine. Then they discovered a problem with the other engine. Finally they called us to board at 5pm. At 5:20pm they said they found a problem with the brakes on the Site-Seeing Car and had to take the train back to the yard and change it out. BUT, no passengers are allowed in the yard so they had us get back off. Seriously, I was in my rooomette for 20 minutes. Back to the Metropolitan Lounge. At 7pm they said we would not be getting our dinner or free alcoholic beverage on the train but they instead got us the most god-awful, dry ham sandwiches and we ate them in the Metropolitan Lounge. Ugh! They finally called us to reboard at 10:30 pm and left at 11pm, 9 HOURS LATE!!!! WITHOUT THE SITE-SEEING CAR!

We are cruising along and my OLD sleeper car is freezing! I do go to sleep and wake up several times because I am so cold and also to find we are NOT MOVING and sitting in the middle of southern Illinois....FOR 7 HOURS!!!! The crew reached it's max time and they had to find another crew and get them to the middle of no where. The bathrooms in the adjacent car were also not working so two car loads of people were all using our car's bathrooms. Ugh!!! As the conductor told me, "This train should have never left Chicago." Jeez, ya' think???? In total. 16 hours late at this point.

We were suppose to arrive at 7:35am into Denver. Instead, we arrived at 10:30pm. I had had enough and got off in Denver and stayed acrross the street at the Hilton. My whole point was to see the Rockies IN THE DAYLIGHT. They did get me on the next days #5 which got to Denver about 2.5 hours late. Instead of leaving Denver at 8 am, we left at 11, but I was OK with that because at least I could see the Rockies during the day. The rest of the trip to Emeryville was long, but fine and without incident.

I am sitting in a god-awful hotel in Berkley not knowing where to stay around here. I just can't believe how crowded and dirty everything is. I see much has changed since my last being here 30 years ago. I'm BLOWN away at all the homelessness and the encampments I saw along the way while on the train. I bought a plane ticket for tomorrow and can't WAIT TO GET BACK TO MICHIGAN!!!!

Bottom line....never again. I would reccomend Denver to Grand Junction and then, find something else to do. I thought Reno would look a tad prettier also, Just another barren place with a gazillion broke down vehicles, travel trailers and homeless encampments along the way. I can't see anything atractive, from I saw, from Roseville California to here. Just one series of homeless encampments after another.

Ok, that's enough. I think you get it. I really, really appreciate where I live after seeing Nevada and parts of California. God Bless the Great Lakes!
 

chickpea

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 5, 2022
Messages
66
Location
East Coast
My trip was crazy. I don't know how else to describe it. I would never do it again.
...

Ok, that's enough. I think you get it. I really, really appreciate where I live after seeing Nevada and parts of California. God Bless the Great Lakes!
Wow.
That is, first of all, some really bad luck. I imagine of everyone on the forum who has ridden the CZ, the percentage of awful journeys like yours is pretty small. My three times on the CZ were 100% great. :-/

I'm sorry you are in the wrong part of Berkeley. I grew up there and there are certainly nicer areas and less nice areas. But you didn't want to go to SF I think, which has some gorgeous places (and you don't have to stumble over the homeless etc if you get good advice on where to go). But everyone has different agendas etc. Really sorry you had such bad luck and I hope you maybe get at least a partial refund from Amtrak, if that's possible.
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
Wow.
That is, first of all, some really bad luck. I imagine of everyone on the forum who has ridden the CZ, the percentage of awful journeys like yours is pretty small. My three times on the CZ were 100% great. :-/

I'm sorry you are in the wrong part of Berkeley. I grew up there and there are certainly nicer areas and less nice areas. But you didn't want to go to SF I think, which has some gorgeous places (and you don't have to stumble over the homeless etc if you get good advice on where to go). But everyone has different agendas etc. Really sorry you had such bad luck and I hope you maybe get at least a partial refund from Amtrak, if that's possible.
On the phone with Amtrak now.....👍 There is no way I should pay full price for that part between Chicago and Denver. 16 hours late, no heat, no first dinner, no site-seeing car (not that we needed it then, but still, you're paying for that amenity)..... horrrible!
 
Joined
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Messages
1,626
Oof sorry to hear you ended up on that one. I had hoped you were on Jan 18 or 19 which did well OTP wise. Hopefully you can get a refund. Long train rides aren’t for everyone. Would you say even if it hadn’t been for the snafu you didn’t like it regardless?
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
Oof sorry to hear you ended up on that one. I had hoped you were on Jan 18 or 19 which did well OTP wise. Hopefully you can get a refund. Long train rides aren’t for everyone. Would you say even if it hadn’t been for the snafu you didn’t like it regardless?
Good question, hard to answer.

I was bored between Chicago and Denver. Denver to Grand Junction was great! Grand Junction to Reno was, meh! As soon as we left Reno, like 20 minutes later, I loved when we crossed into California. I was surpsrised how much prettier it got like 20 minutes after Reno.

Roseville, Califorbia looks like one long line of homeless shelters. I can't say that anything after Roseville to Emeryville was worth looking at. Even Sacramento was kind of trashy. See the attached picture. I have driven to California but I guess I just never saw the homeless encampments from the highway. You certainly do from the train! And now I am in my hotel in Berkley, Ca. Crowded, dirty, more homeless and meth heads EVERYWHERE. Like I said, I am staying one more night over by the SF airport but I am more than happy to fly home tomorrow.
 

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jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
Oh, on a good note. I just got off the phone and Amtrak said they have been FLOODED with complaints for the #5 for that day. I was fair and said that my Detroit to Chicago was perfect. My Denver to EMY was fine, albeit I spent $150 on a hotel and had to change to the followiing days train. I was just asking for a refund for the Chicago to Denver portion. Instead, they gave me all my money back for the entire trip!!! VERY HAPPY that they stand behind the product they are selling.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Good question, hard to answer.

I was bored between Chicago and Denver. Denver to Grand Junction was great! Grand Junction to Reno was, meh! As soon as we left Reno, like 20 minutes later, I loved when we crossed into California. I was surpsrised how much prettier it got like 20 minutes after Reno.

Roseville, Califorbia looks like one long line of homeless shelters. I can't say that anything after Roseville to Emeryville was worth looking at. Even Sacramento was kind of trashy. See the attached picture. I have driven to California but I guess I just never saw the homeless encampments from the highway. You certainly do from the train! And now I am in my hotel in Berkley, Ca. Crowded, dirty, more homeless and meth heads EVERYWHERE. Like I said, I am staying one more night over by the SF airport but I am more than happy to fly home tomorrow.
Normally on the zephyr (if you had left when you were supposed to) a large chunk of Chicago to Denver you are sleeping.
I must also say I was also somewhat shocked myself at the homeless situation in California. Thankfully we were staying in rural areas well outside the city. Glad you at least got to switch to the next train and see the Rockys and Donner.


you are normally awake for the Mississippi crossing and dinner and then most of boring Nebraska is at night. it’s timed so that the interesting portions (Denver to grand and reno to colfax) are in daylight. The more interesting part of Chicago to Denver is right after leaving Chicago - I enjoy all the rural scenery in Illinois to the Mississippi crossing (which you probably slept thru if you left when you said)
 
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Joined
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1,626
Oh, on a good note. I just got off the phone and Amtrak said they have been FLOODED with complaints for the #5 for that day. I was fair and said that my Detroit to Chicago was perfect. My Denver to EMY was fine, albeit I spent $150 on a hotel and had to change to the followiing days train. I was just asking for a refund for the Chicago to Denver portion. Instead, they gave me all my money back for the entire trip!!! VERY HAPPY that they stand behind the product they are selling.
Good to hear they did right by you there.
 

tgstubbs1

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
645
It sucks to be that late, but can you imagine if they left CHI on time then got stuck for hours in the middle of ...
Nebraska, or someplace with no amenities?

It seems like train tracks travel along places with businesses "back yards."
Sometimes not very scenic, but still part of America.

It looks like you have a decent way to get to Chicago with the Wolverine. There are lots of different trains to take from Chicago.
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
It sucks to be that late, but can you imagine if they left CHI on time then got stuck for hours in the middle of ...
Nebraska, or someplace with no amenities?

It seems like train tracks travel along places with businesses "back yards."
Sometimes not very scenic, but still part of America.

It looks like you have a decent way to get to Chicago with the Wolverine. There are lots of different trains to take from Chicago.

You must have missed the part in my diatribe where I explained THAT DID HAPPEN. We left Chicago 9 hours late then stopped and sat in the middle of no where and added 7 more hours! We had to wait for a new crew. So at that point, we were 16 hours behind! By Emeryville, they shaved it down to 13 hours behind because my steward on my new#5 out of Denver was texting his friend the steward on my original train. It was a mess for everyone, crew also.
 

Lonnie

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 1, 2010
Messages
80
Location
Western Massachusetts
...25 cubic-foot container (roomette), that's probably going to be cold, clunky, crowded, and semi-dirty. LOL.... I lived in Colordo and so I know the mountains, but I have never seen them on a train. I just don't to spend all this money and get bored (and uncomfortable)...
Hubby and I went Massachusetts to Oakland and back a few months ago. We shared a Viewliner roomette for the first night on the Lake Shore Limited, and a roomette for two nights in the Superliner of the California Zephyr. The rooms were immaculate, the seats very comfortable, everything worked, temperature was plenty warm even at the end of November coming home. There was nothing crowded about it since we had our own room and they weren't seating you with strangers in the dining cars, which were really nice, by the way. On the Superliner, white tablecloths and fresh flowers even! The rest rooms were kept clean, the shower was delightful (bring water shoes). Honestly, we felt like we were getting a first class experience. Don't forget you can spend lots of time in the dome car on the Superliner, everyone masked of course. (They do make it clear that if you become a "problem child" they *will* put you off the train.) Does the train rock and roll? Yes. It's a train. Might you hear the whistle going at all hours of the night? More on the LSL than on the CZ, but that's part of the whole experience. So what if you don't sleep as well as you'd like at night? You can stretch out on your own bed, in your own completely private curtained room, any time you want to nap. Download books and music onto your phone and you'll never get bored. Why, one can even sit, meditate, think, dream. We so rarely get long stretches of time for that. It's the most beautiful, luxurious retreat you'll ever do. Will the train be late? Count on it, and when it's not, you'll be so happy. Our CZ arrived in Chicago a record 17 minutes early. 😁
 

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,797
Location
Socal
Hubby and I went Massachusetts to Oakland and back a few months ago. We shared a Viewliner roomette for the first night on the Lake Shore Limited, and a roomette for two nights in the Superliner of the California Zephyr. The rooms were immaculate, the seats very comfortable, everything worked, temperature was plenty warm even at the end of November coming home. There was nothing crowded about it since we had our own room and they weren't seating you with strangers in the dining cars, which were really nice, by the way. On the Superliner, white tablecloths and fresh flowers even! The rest rooms were kept clean, the shower was delightful (bring water shoes). Honestly, we felt like we were getting a first class experience. Don't forget you can spend lots of time in the dome car on the Superliner, everyone masked of course. (They do make it clear that if you become a "problem child" they *will* put you off the train.) Does the train rock and roll? Yes. It's a train. Might you hear the whistle going at all hours of the night? More on the LSL than on the CZ, but that's part of the whole experience. So what if you don't sleep as well as you'd like at night? You can stretch out on your own bed, in your own completely private curtained room, any time you want to nap. Download books and music onto your phone and you'll never get bored. Why, one can even sit, meditate, think, dream. We so rarely get long stretches of time for that. It's the most beautiful, luxurious retreat you'll ever do. Will the train be late? Count on it, and when it's not, you'll be so happy. Our CZ arrived in Chicago a record 17 minutes early. 😁
Goes to show how strikingly different experiences can be.

@jha6 I'm glad you tried, and I hope you try again whenever you're ready. If Amtrak isn't for you, there are also quite a bit of tourist railroads which have refined their experience. There's also the Rocky Mountaineer which runs mostly up in Canada, but has a route along the most scenic portions of the CZ route in Colorado. Their experience is great from what I've heard, but expensive. However all of their routes are very scenic.
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
Goes to show how strikingly different experiences can be.

@jha6 I'm glad you tried, and I hope you try again whenever you're ready. If Amtrak isn't for you, there are also quite a bit of tourist railroads which have refined their experience. There's also the Rocky Mountaineer which runs mostly up in Canada, but has a route along the most scenic portions of the CZ route in Colorado. Their experience is great from what I've heard, but expensive. However all of their routes are very scenic.

I'll definitely try again. They just gave me all my money back through a credit. I'm not just going to let in evaporate. I did take her into breaking the voucher into threes. The reason: it's a one time use, non transferable brochure. Trains from Detroit to Chicago are $40. I'd hate to have a $600 voucher and just give them $560 bucks back. So I'll have to go somewhere to use it up.
 

basketmaker

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
333
Location
Brighton, CO (DEN but FMG-Preferred)
My trip was crazy. I don't know how else to describe it. I would never do it again.

To begin: I left Detroit exactly on-time at 6:26 am on Thursday, January 20th. The trip in coach to Chicago was beautiful and flawless and actully arrived a few muntes early, at 10:20 am. It all came crashing down after that!!!!!!!!!!!

I was happy to read the forum and learn about the Metropolitan Lounge. I found it easily and waited there for my 2pm California Zephyr departure. AND BOY... Did I wait!

"Supposedly" there was a problem with one engine. Then they discovered a problem with the other engine. Finally they called us to board at 5pm. At 5:20pm they said they found a problem with the brakes on the Site-Seeing Car and had to take the train back to the yard and change it out. BUT, no passengers are allowed in the yard so they had us get back off. Seriously, I was in my rooomette for 20 minutes. Back to the Metropolitan Lounge. At 7pm they said we would not be getting our dinner or free alcoholic beverage on the train but they instead got us the most god-awful, dry ham sandwiches and we ate them in the Metropolitan Lounge. Ugh! They finally called us to reboard at 10:30 pm and left at 11pm, 9 HOURS LATE!!!! WITHOUT THE SITE-SEEING CAR!

We are cruising along and my OLD sleeper car is freezing! I do go to sleep and wake up several times because I am so cold and also to find we are NOT MOVING and sitting in the middle of southern Illinois....FOR 7 HOURS!!!! The crew reached it's max time and they had to find another crew and get them to the middle of no where. The bathrooms in the adjacent car were also not working so two car loads of people were all using our car's bathrooms. Ugh!!! As the conductor told me, "This train should have never left Chicago." Jeez, ya' think???? In total. 16 hours late at this point.

We were suppose to arrive at 7:35am into Denver. Instead, we arrived at 10:30pm. I had had enough and got off in Denver and stayed acrross the street at the Hilton. My whole point was to see the Rockies IN THE DAYLIGHT. They did get me on the next days #5 which got to Denver about 2.5 hours late. Instead of leaving Denver at 8 am, we left at 11, but I was OK with that because at least I could see the Rockies during the day. The rest of the trip to Emeryville was long, but fine and without incident.

I am sitting in a god-awful hotel in Berkley not knowing where to stay around here. I just can't believe how crowded and dirty everything is. I see much has changed since my last being here 30 years ago. I'm BLOWN away at all the homelessness and the encampments I saw along the way while on the train. I bought a plane ticket for tomorrow and can't WAIT TO GET BACK TO MICHIGAN!!!!

Bottom line....never again. I would reccomend Denver to Grand Junction and then, find something else to do. I thought Reno would look a tad prettier also, Just another barren place with a gazillion broke down vehicles, travel trailers and homeless encampments along the way. I can't see anything atractive, from I saw, from Roseville California to here. Just one series of homeless encampments after another.

Ok, that's enough. I think you get it. I really, really appreciate where I live after seeing Nevada and parts of California. God Bless the Great Lakes!
Sounds like you were a guest at the Imperial Inn on West MacArthur Blvd.. Since the Hyatt across the walk-over at EMY (arriving on #5) was booked and way more expensive I decided on the Imperial YIKES! It was only for the night to catch #6 back to FMG. Same on-board crew and all were great. This was well before CA became a campground and Covid. The next two rides I stayed at the Hyatt once and an Extended Stay close to EMY. Both were nice.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I'm BLOWN away at all the homelessness and the encampments I saw along the way while on the train.
Roseville, Califorbia looks like one long line of homeless shelters.
I just never saw the homeless encampments from the highway. You certainly do from the train!
Crowded, dirty, more homeless and meth heads EVERYWHERE.
I bought a plane ticket for tomorrow and can't WAIT TO GET BACK TO MICHIGAN!!!!
It sounds like you saw a part of the country you never knew existed. Compared to pressurized aircraft and walled freeways the train shows America as it really is, warts and all, rather than what we imagine it to be.
 
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Unfortunately California and some of the other west coast states have a major housing problem - hence the homeless which is a very sad situation. They have allowed gentrification to proceed in an out of control manner and the housing market is outrageously expensive - and they have not done enough to ensure there is affordable housing. It says something if it takes the situation affecting their tourism in order for them to act and address the issue.
 

jha6

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 14, 2022
Messages
26
Location
Detroit, MI
It sounds like you saw a part of the country you never knew existed. Compared to pressurized aircraft and walled freeways the train shows America as it really is, warts and all, rather than what we imagine it to be.
I knew it existed. I don't live under a rock. I just have never seen wholesale compounds taking over streets and sidewalks this degree. You see it in some places but what amazed me is how I saw it EVERYWHERE in California. One local I met from LA was telling me that there are over 200 homeless even living in LAX and Union Station in LA. Just shocked it's so tolerated.
 

Michigan Mom

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Happy you got a refund and a chance for a "do-over."
Thanks for the picture, btw - it's both fascinating and sad that people have to live like this.

Wolverine service has undergone sea changes in the last 20 or so years. Reliability is much better and faster speeds in western Michigan. It's always a bit of a mixed bag, though, there's so much variance in experience. It's still my preferred mode of travel between Michigan and Chicago.
As you explore other trips, if the website/app doesn't build a connection for you out of Chicago, book a separate ticket on the early departure and build your own trip. There is some risk though with it not being guaranteed by Amtrak as a connection, but with that early trip you may have other options for getting to Chicago if something happens to the early train - which is the most reliable in my experience. An overnight "buffer" in Chicago is extra insurance, and I like breaking up a trip that way, including for flying out of O'Hare. Anecdotally - strictly my speculation - there seem to be more engine problems in the subfreezing temps. so I'm a bit more wary planning winter trips now.
 

PaulM

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Joined
Jun 27, 2008
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Quincy, IL
you are normally awake for the Mississippi crossing and dinner and then most of boring Nebraska is at night. it’s timed so that the interesting portions (Denver to grand and reno to colfax) are in daylight. The more interesting part of Chicago to Denver is right after leaving Chicago - I enjoy all the rural scenery in Illinois to the Mississippi crossing (which you probably slept thru if you left when you said)
If you find Illinois farm land interesting, I can't see why you would find Nebraska boring. And I live in Illinois.
 
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