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Worst Passenger Rail Experience Ever?

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Siegmund

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
223
Location
northwestern Montana
I've been lucky, and never had a train more than about 6 hours late - and that was the last leg of a trip and just got me some new scenery. If I don't have a connection, being very late on an overnight train isn't so bad (food and climate control permitting.)

My two worst onboard experiences were both, I'm happy to say, quite a long time ago.

One was on the San Diegan in 1986 with my parents going to Disneyland: we had come in on the Coast Starlight and transferred to the last San Diegan of the night. At Fullerton, all was well, doors opened on every car, conductor poking his head in and saying "everybody out for Fullerton," etc etc. At Anaheim we got up from our seats, moved to the vestibule, waited for the attendant to show up and open the door... nothing happened... about 30 seconds later we thought maybe we'd walk into the next car to see if its door was open, and the train started moving. We looked down the aisle of the car for a crew member and my dad was shouting "Stop the train!"... one person in a uniform at the other end of the car didn't give any visible reaction. Not wanting to sort it out at the next stop down the line on the last train of the day with no way back to Anaheim, my dad pulled the emergency brake. We were only going about 15 miles an hour, so it wasn't violent, but lots of screeching of wheels, and I remember being pushed gently backward against my dad standing behind me by the deceleration. The conductor suddenly materialized and took an interest in us: his opening line was "you're arrested, buddy!", waving his finger in my dad's face. (While standing in front of me and pointing over my head - the finger was about 6 inches above my forehead.)

Once they heard that we were tourists and not drunk idiots, and the door really had not been opened and there really had been no announcement what doors would open, nobody got arrested, they just opened the door, let us jump off the steps onto the ballast, and walk the hundred yard back to the platform and try to grab the last taxicab before it disappeared into the night.

The other unpleasant onboard experience was about an early-90s westbound Cardinal somewhere in Indiana. The crew was using one of the Amlounge booths as their office - and the conductor was smoking, with a "no smoking" sign about 2 feet above his head. Not being the shy type, I walked over and asked him to put out his cigarette; he didn't say a word, just glared at me; his assistant said "he makes the rules and can do what he likes." (The no smoking signs were behind little sliding metal panels, so they could change whether half of the car was a smoking zone or not - but this sign was still in the no-smoking position, and they didn't move it when called out.) I didn't see the conductor again between there and Chicago; asked our car attendant what the conductor's name was and didn't get an answer, and got weird looks from the crew every time one walked past. I sent a letter to headquarters about it but don't recall getting a response.

I was very happy to see the trains go all-non-smoking not too many years later. And I can't help but wonder if these two experiences are an extra factor in why I hate the very sight of Amfleet cars, not just the tiny windows and cramped (compared to Superliners or the 46-seat Heritage coaches) seats.
 

sttom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
625
I have 3 "fun" experiences with Amtrak over the years.

The first one was when a train left slightly early for once. My grandpa and I were taking a Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to the East Bay and the train we were going to take home left 2 minutes early by his watch. We were on the platform as the doors closed and the train pulled away.

The second fun time on the Capitol Corridor was when my grandpa and I were going to Sacramento. The train we were going to take was so late (it came from San Jose) was more late than the train out of Oakland that was scheduled to show up an hour later than the one from San Jose. The one from Oakland was also about 10 minutes late, and the train before it showed up 15 minutes after it.

My worst experience with Amtrak was when I was taking the Zephyr from Reno to the Bay Area and the train was at least 5 hours late, it might have been more. I just remember that we got on it at 1pm and it was supposed to have arrived in the morning at some time.

My 3 worst experiences on public transit were actually not on Amtrak. My worst experience flying was taking British Airways and getting a "lactose lite" meal which consisted of a salad, plain noodles with steamed bell peppers with bread that had butter on it and a brownie/cookie thing that was also made with butter. This was a 14 hour flight and I basically didn't have much to eat because they think a dairy intolerance exists on a spectrum that isn't unpleasant for me or the people around me.

My worst experience on a bus was taking Megabus from Reno to San Francisco. This was the second or third time using them instead of Amtrak to get to the East Bay. This trip started with the bus loading in Sparks at our departure time, which made us 20 minutes late at the start. We stopped in Reno and left almost an hour late. Got stuck in Sacramento rush hour traffic which made us over 2 hours late getting into Sacramento. We were so late that traffic on I80 actually had time to clear. The new driver managed to drive the rest of the way to get us into San Francisco 1 hour late, to the minute. Kudos to that guy for actually managing to make up time even though we were unacceptably late. I filed a complaint with Megabus, which they never followed up on. A year or two later, the service east of Sacramento was cancelled.

My third non rail related worst travel moment is traveling through any transit center that thought improving itself meant making itself into a mall. Looking right at the San Francisco Ferry Building, Denver Union Station, Denver International and Heathrow which I have found out later is one of the origin points of what would be my personal fifth ring of hell.
 

flitcraft

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
692
Once a good idea, travel insurance has grown progressively more porous over the years culminating in this past year's debacle where most insurers invoked a force majeure clause with regard to the pandemic. Events such as some of those described so far in this thread, e.g. mudslides, forest fires, have often been excluded under "Act of God" provisions.
Also, some of the providers insist that you have receipts for items in lost/damaged luggage. Yeah, right, I keep receipts for everything I ever buy and have them right to hand. :rolleyes: A fair number of credit cards already include insurance of some sort for lost luggage, trip delays, etc., though I think those are disappearing fast, too. Plus, travel insurance availability may be limited for residents of states with aggressive insurance commissioners--like mine! (Though, honestly, mainly they refuse to allow policies with so many exclusions and qualifications that the policies are pretty useless, so I suppose not being able to buy them in Washington is a feature, not a bug.) If you are paying upfront for a trip where you are worried that the provider may go bankrupt or have terrible reimbursement policies, such as a cruise or the Rocky Mountaineer;), I'd buy the trip cancellation insurance for sure.

The one kind of insurance I do buy, on an annual basis--except during Pandemica--is medical insurance, including medivac coverage. Many US health insurance plans don't pay for international health emergencies, and Medicare certainly doesn't. I broke my ankle very severely in Portugal, and luckily Lufthansa didn't know about its severity or they would have refused to fly me home--and Medivac back from Europe to Seattle would have run several hundred thousands of dollars. (Actually they would have medivac'ed me back to the East Coast, and then hospitalized me there for surgery--which my health plan might or might not have covered!) On arriving home, I had two surgeries and a nearly eight month recovery. But at least I hadn't been bankrupted in the process. (And I still have a bonus rod, two plates, and 13 screws holding my leg together as a souvenir!) So, medical travel insurance is worth the money, in my opinion.
 

AFS1970

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
67
I may have written about this in another thread but for me my worst trip would have been a trip to Canada a few years ago, maybe 2014. The train was my idea and my wife won't let me forget it. We live in CT so in order to get the early morning train out on NY Penn we took MNRR down and crossed over by Taxi. Got on the Train to Niagara Falls. The train was long and slow but this leg went off mostly without a hitch. Got off in Niagara Falls, quick customs check and off to our hotel. We were there for 3 days then heading to Toronto for a week.

So we arrive at the tiny Niagara Falls station, which is in a fairly desolate area to find that the N/B train is estimated 3 hours late and they are estimating an hour long customs stop after that. The Via Rail staff offer us three options. 1) Stay and wait for the Amtrak/VIA train that will be at least 4 hours late to Toronto. 2) Go across the street and take a bus to Toronto, I don't remember the line but it was described as a Greyhoud like line. We were told they would cross honor our tickets. 3) Also across the street, take a GO Commuter bus to some midpoint and transfer to a GO commuter train into Toronto. This would be longer than #2 but would also cross honor tickets and get us to the same train station we were due at.

About a dozen of us head across the street luggage in tow to take option #2. Get there, the agent tells us he has never heard of this deal and will only cross honor the tickets if the VIA staff from across the street come over personally and verify that all of us were offered this deal. Sine the single VIA staff member couldn't close the train station to take this walk that wouldn't work. About 6 of us ended up on the GO commuter bus. It was a double decker, long distance bus, somewhat comfortable but no place for luggage so the driver had us stuffing it on wheel humps and empty seats. This trip took a couple of hours with stops in rural commuter lots and a couple of mall parking lots. Then we got to the train station. I have to say the Go staff were phenomenal, the driver pointed out to all of us were to go and what track to head to. The conductor on the train had already been told about our troubles and got us all set on the train. We got to Toronto with no other trouble, ended up about an hour or so late.

Now the trip back to NYC. Early morning train out of Toronto, around 7am, We figured we could grab a quick breakfast at the station, but found out due to renovations there were no shops open. Asked on the train and was told Amtrak café couldn't operate in Canada but would open after Niagara Falls. We got there, had to get off for the customs stop, K9 found something and a family got taken off the train. That took close to an hour. Now we get back on, I ask about the café and get a very rude response from the Amtrak conductor that I should know better than to ask that, it takes them time to do inventory. The café finally opened up around Albany by this time it was after 1pm. So 5 hours without even a bottle of water. We got into NYC and headed home.

There have been other minor glitches over the years, but this was the most consistently bad train trip I have ever had.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,061
Location
Washington State
...Now the trip back to NYC. Early morning train out of Toronto, around 7am, We figured we could grab a quick breakfast at the station, but found out due to renovations there were no shops open. Asked on the train and was told Amtrak café couldn't operate in Canada but would open after Niagara Falls. We got there, had to get off for the customs stop, K9 found something and a family got taken off the train. That took close to an hour. Now we get back on, I ask about the café and get a very rude response from the Amtrak conductor that I should know better than to ask that, it takes them time to do inventory. The café finally opened up around Albany by this time it was after 1pm. So 5 hours without even a bottle of water. We got into NYC and headed home.

There have been other minor glitches over the years, but this was the most consistently bad train trip I have ever had.
I rode the Maple Leaf every year for about 3 years 2015-2018 and on every one of those trips VIA staffed and stocked the cafe car out of Toronto and it was open on departure from Toronto. The attendant stopped service sometime after Hamilton so he could pack up his VIA stock to take it off at Niagara Falls. The Amtrak cafe attendant boarded with Amtrak stock at Niagara Falls, but usually didn't reopen until we were near or beyond Buffalo Exchange Street. Albany is long, long after 1pm, btw. It is more like 7 pm. 1 pm is more like Buffalo and that is consistent with my experience with Amtrak reopening the cafe.

The last year I rode it in 2019, it was bustituted from Toronto to Niagara Falls, NY due to bridge work on the Whirlpool Bridge. Even then the VIA Service Manager, who rode with us on the bus, handed out free granola bars and bottled water to everyone.
 
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jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
2,300
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
I may have written about this in another thread but for me my worst trip would have been a trip to Canada a few years ago, maybe 2014. The train was my idea and my wife won't let me forget it. We live in CT so in order to get the early morning train out on NY Penn we took MNRR down and crossed over by Taxi. Got on the Train to Niagara Falls. The train was long and slow but this leg went off mostly without a hitch. Got off in Niagara Falls, quick customs check and off to our hotel. We were there for 3 days then heading to Toronto for a week.

So we arrive at the tiny Niagara Falls station, which is in a fairly desolate area to find that the N/B train is estimated 3 hours late and they are estimating an hour long customs stop after that. The Via Rail staff offer us three options. 1) Stay and wait for the Amtrak/VIA train that will be at least 4 hours late to Toronto. 2) Go across the street and take a bus to Toronto, I don't remember the line but it was described as a Greyhoud like line. We were told they would cross honor our tickets. 3) Also across the street, take a GO Commuter bus to some midpoint and transfer to a GO commuter train into Toronto. This would be longer than #2 but would also cross honor tickets and get us to the same train station we were due at.

About a dozen of us head across the street luggage in tow to take option #2. Get there, the agent tells us he has never heard of this deal and will only cross honor the tickets if the VIA staff from across the street come over personally and verify that all of us were offered this deal. Sine the single VIA staff member couldn't close the train station to take this walk that wouldn't work. About 6 of us ended up on the GO commuter bus. It was a double decker, long distance bus, somewhat comfortable but no place for luggage so the driver had us stuffing it on wheel humps and empty seats. This trip took a couple of hours with stops in rural commuter lots and a couple of mall parking lots. Then we got to the train station. I have to say the Go staff were phenomenal, the driver pointed out to all of us were to go and what track to head to. The conductor on the train had already been told about our troubles and got us all set on the train. We got to Toronto with no other trouble, ended up about an hour or so late.

Now the trip back to NYC. Early morning train out of Toronto, around 7am, We figured we could grab a quick breakfast at the station, but found out due to renovations there were no shops open. Asked on the train and was told Amtrak café couldn't operate in Canada but would open after Niagara Falls. We got there, had to get off for the customs stop, K9 found something and a family got taken off the train. That took close to an hour. Now we get back on, I ask about the café and get a very rude response from the Amtrak conductor that I should know better than to ask that, it takes them time to do inventory. The café finally opened up around Albany by this time it was after 1pm. So 5 hours without even a bottle of water. We got into NYC and headed home.

There have been other minor glitches over the years, but this was the most consistently bad train trip I have ever had.
This is a report that deserves more attention, given the mixed reviews regarding the Maple Leaf - the train you took from Toronto to NYC. Experiences seem to vary wildly on that train, and as a former frequent traveller on that route I have to say mine are very close to yours. Twice we have been herded into the one and only US-bound coach at Toronto, despite having business class tickets on one of those trips. The cafe was indeed closed until Niagara Falls, NY, a few times for no apparent reason - a 2-hour period - and one time that it was open passengers in the US coach were not permitted to leave to access it. Neither VIA nor Amtrak seem to want to accept responsibility for the services on this train. Add in a lengthy on-platform wait for customs processing (in freezing March weather) and I now avoid this train.
 

Willbridge

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
643
Location
Denver
Most of my bad experiences have been trivial for me but may have created severe problems for others. For example, due to slides in both the Rockies and the Sierras some of us were bus bridged DEN>SLC on Gray Line of Denver and then SLC>SAC on Lewis Brothers Stages. Even so there were some bright spots. The Gray Line driver knew mountain driving and lots of bus driver jokes and there were enough empty seats to permit singles to have two seats. An Amtrak staffer from the Bay Area turned up in SLC and was able to set me up for a nap in a RNO hotel room that they had booked. And two little boys from CHI woke us up when we stopped in Winnemucca sure that we were in Las Vegas! They had seen a casino!

Aside from the downgraded sleeping car passengers the worst impact was on the Capitol Corridor bus passengers who were left behind in RNO because Train 5 did not show up and the following bus overloaded.

My worst bus trip was through an ice storm in the Blue Mountains from PDX to DEN. The passengers applauded the driver for his skill when we arrived in BOI. However, the heat on the bus had failed and there was no spare at BOI. Eventually we proceeded on a chartered Northwestern Stages bus to SLC where the segment from there to DEN was annulled. I went over to Amtrak and booked Train 6 to DEN. It was marked up on time and then after I bought the coach seat it was re-marked up to be an hour late. Never mind, I slept well in the Superliner coach seat.

That bus schedule replicated the Portland Rose (two nights, one business day PDX<>DEN). It was discontinued before the pandemic. Since then they are down to one trip a day replicating the Pioneer (one night, two business days). When the Pioneer was axed in 1997 there were three GL trips a day on that route.

Breakfast in Baker City... and below, off to the mountains from DEN.

P1040063.JPG

Winter2004-05 015.jpg
 

fdaley

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
104
I've been on my share of bus substitutions and absurdly late trains (in one case, 23 hours tardy), but this one trip stands out in my memory as the most needlessly stressful:

In the holiday season of 2010, I booked a cross-country trip with my wife and son using USA rail passes. For the first leg of our trip from upstate New York, the only remaining sleeper rooms on the Lake Shore were at the highest bucket prices, but I found a bedroom on the Capitol Limited that was a comparative bargain. At the time, Amtrak listed in its timetable a connection to the Capitol leaving New York at 11:35 a.m., arriving in WAS at 3 p.m., so we booked three seats on that train. The routing through Washington added about 11 hours to our travel time, but we felt we effectively were saving a few hundred dollars in sleeper charges, and as it was the beginning of our trip, we thought we had a higher tolerance for adventure.

About two days before our departure, a storm dumped a foot of snow on New York City. Our train from Albany arrived at Penn Station exactly on time, but the train to Washington left New York late and got later as it headed south. Somewhere north of Baltimore, the conductor found us and told us not to worry -- that the Capitol would be held for our arrival, as there were at least 30 other passengers on our train who were making the same connection. We pulled into Union Station at 3:55 p.m., just 10 minutes before the Capitol's scheduled departure, and I could see it boarding several platforms over. A huge crowd of passengers swarmed both ends of our car and waited -- and waited -- because the stairs were jammed with snow and ice. (We had pulled in at one of the low-level platforms, which required opening the stairwells for the first time since we'd left New York.) By the time we and our luggage made it onto the platform, there were no red caps in sight, so we trundled our stuff into the station and along to the track where we'd been told the Capitol would be waiting -- only to find it gone.

We headed to the Amtrak station services office, where we encountered about 25 other grumpy people from our train who'd also been left behind by the Capitol. Eventually we were all advised that Amtrak would bus us to Pittsburgh to meet the train. I had a long talk with one of the Amtrak staff who assured me that our bedroom would be held open for us -- and who typed a lengthy note into the reservation system that he said would protect it for us. We were taken to a seating area in a remote corner of the station and told to wait there for the bus to be announced. We had saved our appetites for dinner in the dining car, but as it was now clear that wouldn't be happening, I thought of wandering into the station to find food. But I didn't want to have the bus arrive while I was gone, and no one seemed to be able to tell us even approximately when the bus would appear, and one of the Amtrak staff specifically warned me that the bus could leave without me if I wasn't there. Finally the bus showed up, just before 7 p.m. Amazingly, it delivered us to Pittsburgh ahead of the Capitol. As my wife pointed out more than once, the bus was nearly three hours faster than the train -- and it even had time to stop for 15 minutes at a highway rest area where we bought snacks from a vending machine in lieu of dinner. Kind of sad, but at least we'd soon be in our room and off to bed.

We'd been at the Pittsburgh station for 10 or 15 minutes when the Capitol was announced, and we made our way upstairs to our sleeping car and presented our tickets to the attendant, who said: "Bedroom E? Oh, we sold Bedroom E. I thought you were a no-show." I explained, I'm afraid rather testily, that I'd been promised that this wouldn't happen by the Amtrak station staff in Washington before they bused us to Pittsburgh.

To which the sleeping car attendant responded: "There was a bus?! There was a bus?! Jesus, why doesn't anyone tell us anything?"

As it was Christmastime, the train was heavily booked, and I had visions of us sitting up all night in the lounge car. But the family bedroom in the next sleeper hadn't sold, so the SCA made that up for us. And the next day, Amtrak refunded us the full cost of the room for that portion of our trip. But the next time we went west, we took the Lake Shore.
 
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brianpmcdonnell17

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2016
Messages
1,430
Location
Chicago, Illinois
My worst experience was in January 2018 at the end of my first cross-country trip. I had started in Orlando, with overnight stops in Denver, Glenwood Springs, San Francisco, Seattle, and Whitefish. The final segment was Whitefish to Tampa with transfers in Chicago and Washington. Almost everything was fine until the arrival in Washington.

However, there was one constantly drunk woman aboard who was seated near us and was traveling from Wisconsin Dells to Miami. She got in multiple arguments with the employees as she wanted to get out to smoke at every stop. Even after being given extra chances above the standard stops, the bathrooms had clearly been smoked in and the employees knew it was her. Despite this and her continuously obnoxious behavior, she somehow was not thrown off and was still aboard when I detrained in Tampa. She even met a boyfriend for the portion of the trip after Washington.

The entire way back from Whitefish occurred in much below normal temperatures. On the first morning, I woke up in Staples, Minnesota to a temperature of -21 degrees F, and the high in Chicago that day was around 10. The following day, I woke up in Pittsburgh to a temperature of 0, with the high in DC being about 20. While there was no snow in DC, the ground was covered in the Carolinas with there even being a trace in Savannah.

While in the station in DC, the fire alarm went off, forcing the entire station to immediate evacuate onto the street for an extended period of time. Around the same time, I found out the train had been delayed departing New York, apparently due to the doors freezing shut. The other LDs departing New York that day were also impacted, but the SS was the most delayed as it was scheduled out first. It was over 6 hours late departing NYP and maintained that lateness until I boarded in DC.

Shortly after exiting the tunnel leaving the station, there was apparently an electrical fire in one of the other coaches, and we came to a stop at the L'Enfant Plaza VRE station. The DC Fire Department had to be called to assist. We lost nearly 2 more hours with that incident, although we were allowed to get some fresh air on the platform during that time.

The train continued about 8 hours late through Virginia and North Carolina and I woke up around the South Carolina border. At this point, there was a mechanical issue which resulted in all of the coach bathrooms being unusable. Also around this time, everyone was given water and snacks, although the general mood was not good given the delays and bathroom situation. Both the stops at Columbia and Savannah had to be extended to over an hour to allow everyone off the train to use the bathrooms in the station. After that point, the issues were fixed so the bathrooms on the train were finally functioning again.

Normally during this part of the route it would be sunrise, but it was already getting dark. While it was interesting seeing the parts of the route that were usually traversed at night, especially with the extremely rare snowfall, it was hard to enjoy with all the chaos. I also struggled to sleep that night given that the coach was very hot, and I was exhausted having spent much of the past 3 weeks sleeping on the train in coach. Even today, I travel almost exclusively in coach, but that was 9 nights in coach over 16 total nights, and I had yet to do more than a single night so would have been tired even without the delays.

At Jacksonville, pizza was brought onto the train to give to everyone for dinner. We lost some additional time due to more typical delays in Florida, pushing the delay to around 11.5 hours. Rather than arriving in Tampa just after noon, we arrived just before midnight. As the bus we were planning on taking to Pinellas County had stopped running hours earlier, we had to arrange for an Uber, which I was unfamiliar with. Given the station was supposed to close in the early evening, we were essentially pushed onto the street as soon as we arrived. This left us wandering the parking lot trying to find the driver, who was clearly in a bad mood. We finally arrived home around 1 AM, about 90 hours after departing the hotel in Whitefish.

By the end, I actually found the experience more entertaining than anything else. I had to miss school the next day, but it was certainly a unique trip and I got a substantial voucher because of it. Although there were certainly many "never again" passengers, there were also others who seemed to find the trip to be an adventure as well.
 
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bms

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
263
Location
Cleveland
Great question. I'm trying to get to Springfield, Mass., at the station in Erie, PA, and the guy working at the station isn't authorized to sell tickets. I already had to prove to my credit card company who I am. I had to buy the ticket through an app that doesn't work. I have my credit card and ID and the guy working at the station can't sell me a ticket, I handed him my phone, credit card and ID and he couldn't make it work. I tried to get an Uber clear out to Buffalo to buy a ticket there. Uber didn't believe my story and won't take me that far. Let's hope and pray that I'll actually be on the train. I'm praying to God that I can get on it.

It's going to be easier at this point to open up my own railroad than to figure out the app, I'm not even 40. I'll work until the end of my life to get to Springfield if I have to open up my own railroad to do it. I need $80 million in funding so just waiting for the train.

Update, still waiting. I had to read all my credit card information out loud outside to buy a ticket over the phone and got criticized on the phone for not having a pen to take down my reservation number. Idk how any passenger here with less resources than me might get on the train. I'll post later either from my hotel or from my train, just so fed up with Amtrak nonsense.

Ok guys I got on the train somehow, I'll ttyl. I'm an experienced Senior Tax Analyst in Ohio and would sooner do everyone's taxes for free than have to explain to my credit card company why I'm going to Springfield. Had to pray to God to get on this train.
 

Devil's Advocate

Sarcastic Misanthrope
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,974
Location
Texas
The one kind of insurance I do buy, on an annual basis--except during Pandemica--is medical insurance, including medivac coverage. Many US health insurance plans don't pay for international health emergencies, and Medicare certainly doesn't. I broke my ankle very severely in Portugal, and luckily Lufthansa didn't know about its severity or they would have refused to fly me home--and Medivac back from Europe to Seattle would have run several hundred thousands of dollars.
I wouldn't want to be rushed back to the world's most expensive healthcare market for most medical care. My stingy health insurance would just bide their time before denying half my bills anyway. I would much rather use short term disability insurance to cover the loss of income while I get the expensive stuff done in another country and only come back when it's recovery time. That's not to say I disagree with travel insurance, just the emergency medivac part.
 
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flitcraft

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
692
wouldn't want to be rushed back to the world's most expensive healthcare market for most medical care.
Me neither. But luckily, my health care plan was Group Health Cooperative. As long as I stayed in-plan, I got all of my medical expenses covered for a $20 co-pay. So I paid $20 for the pre-surgery consultation that morning, another $20 co-pay for the surgery, and more $20 co-pays for post surgery visits and physical therapy. My monthly fees were higher than Blue Cross, and a lot of my co-workers opted for the cheaper coverage, but when you really need treatment, Group Health was by far the better option.

One problem with getting medical care abroad is if you don't speak the language--and my Portuguese would have been pretty limited. I recently had another medical incident--in China a year and a half ago. I got run down as a pedestrian by a motorbike and ended up with a fractured skull, concussion, and needed stitches to close a large cut over my eye. Although I have some basic Chinese language competence, it turned out that it was completely inadequate for dealing with the doctors there. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific refused to fly me home--I admit my face was severely bruised and bandaged, so I looked a sight! In the end, my Chinese doctors did a fine job of emergency care, but I would certainly have preferred to have been about the communicate with them and follow what was going on!
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,494
Me neither. But luckily, my health care plan was Group Health Cooperative. As long as I stayed in-plan, I got all of my medical expenses covered for a $20 co-pay. So I paid $20 for the pre-surgery consultation that morning, another $20 co-pay for the surgery, and more $20 co-pays for post surgery visits and physical therapy. My monthly fees were higher than Blue Cross, and a lot of my co-workers opted for the cheaper coverage, but when you really need treatment, Group Health was by far the better option.

One problem with getting medical care abroad is if you don't speak the language--and my Portuguese would have been pretty limited. I recently had another medical incident--in China a year and a half ago. I got run down as a pedestrian by a motorbike and ended up with a fractured skull, concussion, and needed stitches to close a large cut over my eye. Although I have some basic Chinese language competence, it turned out that it was completely inadequate for dealing with the doctors there. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific refused to fly me home--I admit my face was severely bruised and bandaged, so I looked a sight! In the end, my Chinese doctors did a fine job of emergency care, but I would certainly have preferred to have been about the communicate with them and follow what was going on!
Google translate?

Not having used it more than a minuscule amount, it might be like those product instructions used by Chinese companies too cheap to hire a real English speaking person to edit the translation. On the other hand, your Chinese doctors would likely be rolling on the floor laughing and you might be trying to put the pills in your nose that are meant to be taken by mouth for your nose after hearing or reading the translations.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,059
Location
Oregon Coast
Absolute worst of the worst Amtrak experience for me was when the EB arrived in CHI 12 hours late. The worst of the troubles happened after arrival. Upon entering the station there was chaos at the check in line for rescheduling and etc. and to get sleeping accommodations for the night.

They couldn't find me on the passenger manifest and told me to go to the back of the line... at 2:30am! I pulled out my ticket [H room accommodations all the way through... $2200 ticket.] Because I missed my connection in CHI all ongoing reservations had been cancelled and that's why my name had disappeared from the manifest!

They finally gave me a voucher for transfer and hotel and a box meal and told me to report to the reservations desk the next day. Didn't get to the hotel until 4:30am.

Upon arrival at the hotel I asked if I could have a late checkout. I was informed that after 11am I would be charged for an extra day... which was not on the Amtrak voucher. I was also informed that bottled water was advised; he gave me a bottle and demanded $5. I told him that I was a distressed passenger entitled to water. Then they said... "Ok, just this time only."

Arriving back at the station next day I went to the Metropolitan Lounge and was smart enough to call customer service. They were apologetic and rerouted me... I also worked with the hotels and they cancelled a missed res due to the delay. I learned that the using term 'distressed passenger' seems to work when help is needed... and I was indeed a distressed passenger!

Upon finally returning Amtrak sent an apology and a TCV for $750. Throughout the ordeal I remembered that at no time should one raise their voice or show disrespect. The agents didn't cause the problem... but they sure did help me!

BTW: traveling light with just a backpack sure 'lightened my load!":oops::rolleyes:;)

overbooking-walking-a-hotel-guest-1-1024x668.jpg
 

Devil's Advocate

Sarcastic Misanthrope
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So I paid $20 for the pre-surgery consultation that morning, another $20 co-pay for the surgery, and more $20 co-pays for post surgery visits and physical therapy.
That sounds amazingly good. I'm always on the broadest and most expensive plan my employer offers but I only get one "free" (copay) checkup visit per year. Any other visit starts at a few hundred dollars and goes up from there. After paying several grand out of pocket eventually some sort of benefit starts to kick in but I rarely see it. I don't know how these people sleep at night but I've never heard anyone complain about feelings of guilt or complicity.

I got run down as a pedestrian by a motorbike and ended up with a fractured skull, concussion, and needed stitches to close a large cut over my eye. Although I have some basic Chinese language competence, it turned out that it was completely inadequate for dealing with the doctors there.
I've never visited Portugal or China (other than HK) but communication didn't seem to be a problem. I would explain the issue in basic English, sometimes writing/drawing instead speaking, and they would respond in basic English. If it was a city hospital they usually had someone on staff who could serve as an interpreter and if it was a town clinic they would call someone to help translate over the phone. Even resorts in remote places often have access to an English speaking nurse. I suppose if it was something really nuanced that required a second or third opinion it would become untenable but by that point you'd probably be in a large city with some Western trained doctors and interpreters.
 

flitcraft

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
692
Apparently English speaking doctors are thin on the ground in Dalian, as I found to my surprise! I would guess that in cities or resorts with more Western visitors, that would likely be different, though.
 

sttom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
625
I personally would buy travel insurance when going outside the US on the off chance I have medical issues while outside the US. I sure did when I was in Poland. I didn't expect anything to happen, but you never know when you are going to get hit by a car or something. I nearly got run over by a guy on a bike my first day in Warsaw, nothing happened, but I did learn to stay of the red side of the sidewalk. But if something were to happen, I would want to have some coverage to pay the bills. Since my US insurance at the time would have laughed if I tried to claim something outside the US. Hell they barely liked paying for things in the US.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Apparently English speaking doctors are thin on the ground in Dalian, as I found to my surprise! I would guess that in cities or resorts with more Western visitors, that would likely be different, though.
Nearly everywhere I go seems to have English speakers in one capacity or another. Maybe not the rank and file, and I probably can't discuss anyone's thoughts on the Drake Equation or the Fermi Paradox, but for many things it's enough to get the job done. Even in relatively remote places like Khao Lak they had English speaking staff for medical needs. I was in the area a few days before the big tsunami, and that could have ended very badly for me, but they've since installed a warning system that should give enough time to reach safety. I asked about the warning and they said "It's very simple, if you hear a siren run that 👉 way. If you try to pack you'll join your luggage in the sea." :)

But if something were to happen, I would want to have some coverage to pay the bills. Since my US insurance at the time would have laughed if I tried to claim something outside the US. Hell they barely liked paying for things in the US.
I'm starting to get to the point where having foreign insurance is going to be more important and I'm wondering how to find reasonable terms for a service that doesn't try to disqualify me the moment I need actually something.
 
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me_little_me

Conductor
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Jul 16, 2010
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3,494
Golly, I didn't know that Amtrak went to all those foreign countries and so many of its passengers had such terrible medical injury problems on Amtrak trains there! :)
 

Barb Stout

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
611
Me neither. But luckily, my health care plan was Group Health Cooperative. As long as I stayed in-plan, I got all of my medical expenses covered for a $20 co-pay. So I paid $20 for the pre-surgery consultation that morning, another $20 co-pay for the surgery, and more $20 co-pays for post surgery visits and physical therapy. My monthly fees were higher than Blue Cross, and a lot of my co-workers opted for the cheaper coverage, but when you really need treatment, Group Health was by far the better option.

One problem with getting medical care abroad is if you don't speak the language--and my Portuguese would have been pretty limited. I recently had another medical incident--in China a year and a half ago. I got run down as a pedestrian by a motorbike and ended up with a fractured skull, concussion, and needed stitches to close a large cut over my eye. Although I have some basic Chinese language competence, it turned out that it was completely inadequate for dealing with the doctors there. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific refused to fly me home--I admit my face was severely bruised and bandaged, so I looked a sight! In the end, my Chinese doctors did a fine job of emergency care, but I would certainly have preferred to have been about the communicate with them and follow what was going on!
GHC was the best medical insurance I have ever had. I had it when I lived in Madison, WI.
 

AM_ROAD

Train Attendant
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Aug 24, 2020
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18
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West Texas
2009 Took the Zephyr from Denver to Chicago and a connection to Memphis on the City of new Orleans. Zephyr ran over 7 hours late and I was going to miss my connection. I was stressing the entire time, however luckily extreme cold in Chicago delayed the City for 4 hours. I made my train and the made up two hours by the time I made Memphis. Love CN vs. UP then.
 
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May 4, 2010
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My worst experience on Amtrak was in the spring of 1975. Amtrak wasn't at fault though so that should be known.

Trip started out in Houghton, MI (Upper Peninsula) when four (4) of us squeezed into a Volkswagen Beetle after completing classes and starting spring break. We embarked on an overnight drive to Buffalo, NY. Of course, that was no fun. No sleep. No leg room. The driver dropped two of us off at the old Amtrak Station in Buffalo at sunrise where we would catch the first train out to NYC.

The Empire Service train ride was uneventful and I was able to catch some shuteye, albeit briefly and intermittently. We arrived at GCT at rush hour of course and raced to catch a cab to get us to Penn Station. The cab seemed barely faster than walking and I was beginning to seriously doubt I'd catch my train to Philly. That was probably the most nerve wracking part of the entire journey.

My friend and I parted company at Penn Station because he was headed for the North Jersey shore. I boarded my train and actually got a seat. The coach was packed. Standing room only. The aisle was filled with people. IIRC, we left on time.

The trouble started when we were south of New Brunswick and north of Princeton Jct. We were running at very slow speed. Then we stopped. Stopped for quite awhile and then we'd move slowly. And then stop again. The cycle kept repeating Finally word came from the Conductor that there had been a large trackside warehouse fire in North Philadelphia and the fire was so hot that the catenary was sagging. In effect, the Northeast Corridor in Philly was shut down to all trains. There would be no arrival at 30th St. Station where I wanted off to change to a local to Paoli.

Once this information spread through the crowd, people started abandoning the train. I will never forget the sight of people in business clothes, some carrying suitcases, walking in lines along the NEC tracks, heading for the next station. It was even crazier when the train would start moving again and we'd pass all the former passengers, now pedestrians, walking south.

After many hours, the train reached Trenton and then the rare mileage event began. We were diverted on to the former PRR freight-only Trenton Cutoff. I distinctly remember the tracks being so bad in places that it sounded like ballast hitting the bottom of the coach. I was convinced we were derailing!

Eventually we reached Thorndale on the Harrisburg line and just sat there for the longest time. I think they had to uncouple the power and move it to the other end since we facing west. People got off the train and walked across the highway to get food and use pay phones. No cell phones in those days.

Once we started moving east toward Philly, I asked the Conductor if he would have the train stop at Paoli to let me off. By some miracle, he agreed and this long train halted at Paoli just long enough for me to jump off. The stop wasn't even announced to the rest of the passengers. I think some got off because they figured out what was happening and took advantage of it.

By the time I finally made it home, it was midnight the day after the trip started. Hardly any sleep. But being college aged helped!
 

Steve4031

Conductor
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Aug 27, 2002
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The worst trip is the one that I did not get to go on. Last spring I had a trip planned to go to San Francisco. I would fly out on Sunday, meet a friend, and we would spend Monday riding transit around San Francisco. Then take the California Zephyr back to Chicago. About a month before my trip I discovered that the Coast Starlight would be doing the Techapi detour on the Saturday before my buddy would get to San Francisco on Sunday. So I changed my flight to do the ride on the Starlight. Then Covid happened. Then all of this got canceled. Not going on this trip really messed with my mind for a month or so.
 
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