WOR to Grand Canyon and Silverton return on CZ

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AmtrakMaineiac

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Days 1 and 2: Left Worcester MA Monday 9/13 on 449 wife and I in a roomette. Mark our SCA was very helpful. Train on time until Albany then left 1 hrs 15 min late due to a switch problem. In the meantime we had dinner, we both had the enchiladas which were OK. Ended up sitting with the lady from the roomette across from us who was returning from a visit to Boston getting off at her home in Erie PA at Oh Dark Thirty did not envy her. Had a nice wide ranging talk on everything from birds to the state of the country.

Back to the room and Mark made up our beds quickly and we settled in for the night. A Viewliner roomette is a bit snug for 2 but we managed. Train managed to make up some time so by the time we went to breakfast we were only 35 min down. They cut the dwell at Toledo and we arrived at CUS only 10 min late which is on time for all practical purposes. By the way breakfast was the omelette and potatoes which was OK, coffee was good. Dining car crew was great for both meals.
At Chicago Union Station I tried to find the taxi rank but was unsuccessful. Could use some signage there. We decided to walk as it was a nice day and our hotel was only 10 blocks or so on Wabash in the Loop. A friendly cop directed us to the exit on Canal st. and of course there were the taxis. We walked anyway. Our hotel was the Silversmith which is a little pricey but very nice and convenient to Millenium Park and the L. We had stayed there on a previous visit. They had only just reopened the week before due to the pandemic. Restaurant open for continental breakfast and dinner only with a limited menu. But that is fine with us. Checked in early and collapsed in room, rest up for tomorrow's leg, the Southwest Chief to Flagstaff AZ. Stay tuned.
 

PVD

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Nice. I've done the LSL many times to Chicago, but usually from NYP (once from ALB, once from BUF as well). I like Flagstaff. If you have time before you head to the Canyon, be sure to visit Lowell Observatory (especially an evening tour) and many of the National Historic sites in the area.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Second leg of the trip completed. We had overnighted in Chicago which is one of my favorite places to visit, Millenium Park, the architecture, the Art Institute, walking along the lake front, the river boat tours, etc. We had some time before the SWC left and the weather was nice so we elected to walk through Millenium Park to the lake front with the obligatory picture at the Bean. When we were last there in 2016 it was jammed but this day only a couple dozen people. We then checked out and left for CUS again walking since the weather was good. We got lunch at the food court then hung out at the Metropolitan Lounge.

Around 2:30 the train was called and we lined up for boarding. It was fairly efficient, we found our car 330 and our SCA Julio was there to welcome us aboard. We had roomette 3 on the upper level. We initially were going to stow our carry ons under the seats but they wouldn't fit so we ended up taking out what we needed and stowing the bags downstairs.

The SWC left on time and stayed on schedule through the afternoon and evening, actually all the way to Albuquerque. We had the 6:15 dinner reservation. I had the steak came out pretty good maybe a tiny bit underdone for medium but I would prefer that to overdone. My wife had the Tortellini. I have to say the service and food were pretty good, on a par with meals we had had on the Canadian in the 1980s. She had the flourless chocolate torte for desert and said it was as good as anything she ever had in a fine restaurant. I had the carrot cake which was excellent also.

Now for the sleeping. Mine was fine in the lower bunk but my wife found the superliner upper to be more confining than the viewliner. She also did not like the lack of a window, not that there us much to see going through Iowa and Kansas in the middle of the night.

Breakfast was good. Back to the room with the beds put up and time to observe the scenery as it got drier as we crossed into Colorado then starting to get into the more mountainous areas. You definitely notice the change as you move off the BNSF Transcon and onto the Raton Sub which is only used by Amtrak. Most of the track is jointed rail. But the scenery makes up for it. For a railfan like me I was fascinated that there were still some semaphore signals on the route and they were still using the old open wire telegraph type lines in places.

We had our long stop in Albuquerque and left on time but then ran into our first delay as we got stuck behind a tardy rail runner commuter and ended up losing a half hour. I have to say that in general BNSF kept us on schedule in spite of the massive number of freights on the transcon, a constant flow one after the other. We got to Flagstaff around 9 pm then walked to our hotel the Marriot Residence Inn which is only 2 blocks up the main drag from the station. Collapsed into bed. The hotel is very comfortable. It is now the next morning we will have breakfast then get our rental car for the next phase of the trip.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Zephyr17, funny my wife came up with that term on her own after a night in the upper berth on the SWC.

To continue my report, the next morning at Flagstaff we checked out of the Residence Inn (very nice and only 2 blocks from the station) and were picked up by Enterprise which took us to the office to get our rental car. I have used Enterprise a few times and always had good service from them. We were both a little tired so had a relaxing day mostly at the Arboretum in Flagstaff which is just a few miles out of town. We then drove to Williams and checked in to the Grand Canyon Railways hotel there. The next day we were talking the train to the Canyon.

The hotel was OK although they were not providing any room service during the stay supposedly dur to staffing shortages. Not good given the prices they were charging. Also the much touted Fred Harvey restaurant turned out to be a glorified cafeteria. We ended up just using it for breakfast and going into town for dinner. We ended up at the Red Raven for both nights which is a great place. Reservations recommended as it fills up.

The next day we took the train to the Canyon. It started out steam hauled but they only got a short distance out of the station when they started having problems with the fuel system on the locomotive. They had to abort and go back and replace the steamer with the usual 2 Diesel locks which resulted in an hours delay. Hey stuff happens when you have a 100+ year old locomotive. The rest of the trip went fine and they delayed departure from the Canyon so we had the full 3 hours there.

The Canyon of course is indescribably beautiful, one of those things you just have to experience in person. Unfortunately for us the time at the rim was cut short by rain and we ended up at the gift shops and riding the buses until it was time to return. The NPS has a great and free bus system which makes it easy to get around. I forgot to mention we rode both ways on one of the luxury dome cars and the service by the car host was great. They served complimentary snacks and non alcoholic beverages plus you could buy adult beverages if you were so inclined. They also provided a running commentary on the terrain we were going through plus info on the Canyon for when we arrived.

Anyway in spite of the rain it was a fun experience. The following day we checked out of the hotel and began our 5 hour drive to our next destination Durango Colorado for you guessed it another train ride, which will be in my next report.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Drive to Durango was interesting, going through a very dry area most of it part of the Navajo Reservation. We had to stop off at Four Corners being just off the road so we could go stand at the intersection of 4 states. There was a Navajo lady there selling some nice jewelry and my wife could not resist partaking of it. Back in the car and on to Durango. We arrived there and checked in to the Rochester which is downtown only a few blocks from the RR station. The hotel is in an old building and had lots of charm. No restaurant on site but there were lots of them nearby including a great Mediterranean the Dandelion that was across the street. Unfortunately they closed for good on the last day we were there.

The hotel did provide excellent coffee and some baked goods in the morning which fortified us for our trip up to Silverton on the narrow gauge D&SNGRR. We had tickets in one of the parlor cars the "Yankee Girl" with a little table and 2 comfortable chairs across from each other. Our car host Toby was great and very entertaining. He was very helpful at pointing out where to take pictures as we wound our way up along the Animas River.
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The scenery again is indescribable and has to be experienced in person. Once in Silverton you have about 2 hours to look around, get a bite to eat, and buy souvenirs. There was a fellow offering stagecoach rides which only took about 15 minutes but gave us a good overview of the little town. Afterwards we had lunch and looked around then returned to the train for the trip back. I forgot to mention our train had 2 steam locomotives for the trip up but just one to go back which is mostly downhill, Silverton being about 3000 feet higher than Durango. There is a second train pulled by a Diesel that runs about an hour earlier than the steam train.

Once we got back to Durango we had dinner at the Dandelion which was bittersweet as it was their last night. I wish all the staff well as they will now have to find new jobs there. The next day we checked out and began the next leg of the trip, a drive to Grand Junction Colorado.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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The drive to Grand Junction was interesting to say the least. I think my wife had her eyes closed for the entire section between Silverton and Ouray where there are numerous hairpin turns along the sides of mountains with a steep drop and no guard rails. We had one delay where route 550 was closed due to construction but reopening at Noon so we had to sit for about a half hour until the road opened. Didn't mind too much sitting in a pretty valley between mountains covered with Aspens beginning to turn yellow. Eventually got to Ouray a little town nestled in the mountains where we stopped for lunch. Back on the road reached Montrose ond of the bigger towns with all the amenities and where the scenery starts to flatten out a bit and go back to a drier climate.

Our destination was actually Palisade a small town East of GJ along the Colorado River and like a green oasis among the dry mesas surrounding it. We stayed at the Wine Country Inn which is a beautiful hotel surrounded by grape vines. The hotel has an excellent restaurant Caroline's where we are dinner during our 2 night stay. The hotel also provides a free buffet breakfast in the morning. The next day we hadn't planned anything specific but we found out about a wine tasting tour by an outfit called JR Carriage. This was a 4 hour tour to a couple of wineries and was a lot of fun. The couple leading the tour were a lady and her granddaughter who actually drove the carriage and were very interesting to talk to about the area.

The next day we checked out and drove to Grand Junction where we dropped off the car and walked the 4 blocks to the train station. Our train the California Zephyr was again a typical Superliner consist and we had an upper level roomette. As on the SWC the crew were great especially in the diner. The menu was the same as the SWC. For dinner we both tried the salmon which was very good not overcooked as happens in some restaurants. The sceneryveas spectacular especially from Glenwood going through the canyons. We had a little delay at Winter Park waiting force freight to clear the Moffat Tunnel. We also had a couple of sudden emergency stops due to s problem with the locomotives PTC equipment which I'd a new system the government has required the railroads to implement after a fatal crash in Chatsworth CA where an engineer ran a red signal. This put us a little late into Denver but we did depart more or less on time. However we immediately came to a stop outside the station. Turns out there was a bridge whose track needed to be inspected. I suspect this was a bridge strike by a truck. This took over an hour then we finally were on our way. We had more of the PTC induced emergency stops during the night and by morning were about 2 hours down. We might have made up time but then were delayed again by single tracking just before the Chicago suburbs which required us to wait about 20 min for 2 trains to clear. We made it to Union Station 2 hours late overall. Walked to the Silversmith Hotel where we checked in. That night we elected to have dinner at the Remington a steakhouse on Michigan Ave only a block from the hotel. It was very good.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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As I write this we are on the last leg, the Lake Shore Limited somewhere between Rochester and Syracuse. We both slept well. We find the Viewliner so much more comfortable than the Superliner, especially my wife who was glad to get out of the "coffin". Amazingly we are on time so far. Only downside is the "flexible dining". Had some cereal and the breakfast sandwich this morning and we will probably skip lunch and dinner and go out to dinner when we get to Worcester.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Forgot to mention yesterday we had some time before the 9:30 pm departure of the LSL. We had to check out of the hotel by 1 pm but the hotel agreed to hold our bags for us. We decided to spend part of the afternoon having a long leisurely lunch and found a good place to do it, the Elephant and Castle off of I think Lake St. near Wabash. I had bangers and mash and my wife the potato and leek pie, both were very good. Since I come from England it is nice to get something like the old country even if not totally authentic.

Afterward we sat in Millenium Park and people watched for a while. We are Catholic and knew we would be on the train all day Sunday so we went to Mass at a beautiful church on Madison, St. Peter's which is run by the Franciscans.

Afterward we headed back to the hotel and retrieved our bags. We had plenty of time and weather was good so we elected to walk to the station again rather than taxi. Although these bags seem to get heavier each time we did this!. At CUS we headed for the Metropolitan lounge. Note: if you are taking one of the late trains i.e. the CONO or the LSL they lock the main doors to the lounge and you have to use the side entrance across from the Amtrak ticket counter. I only found this out from a helpful cleaning lady.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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My final report. We arrived in Worcester MA 10 minutes early but MBTA was occupying the platform so we had to do a backup move and platform at the old low level platform East of the station. According to our SCA this happens all the time and sometimes they end up waiting for the 7pm departure thus adding a 20 min delay. Unfortunately this is typical of some recent station configuration where the bare minimum of facilities are put in to save money with no thought of the future. This will be even more of an issue if more service is added such as Boston - Springfield or the Inland Route to New York. Worcester really needs a second platform. Well enough of my rant. It was great that both of our trips on the LSL were on time, maybe the "late for sure limited" label doesn't always apply? Overall we were pretty satisfied with Amtrak, the crews especially OBS were great. Only downsides were the superliner roomette upper berth and that the "flexible dining" really has to go.
 

denmarks

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I call the upper bunk in the roomette a cat scan. I will be splurging next April and will take a bedroom.
 
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