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As a graduation (grad school) present to myself, I'm planning on going to Glacier National Park (WGL) from BOS. The twist is that I also want to go to New Orleans, so I'm planning on taking NERegional to Crescent to City of New Orleans to Empire Builder. Of course, I'd stop in NOL for a couple days, enjoy the city, eat beignets, etc, so it's really more like "NERegional/Crescent" and "City of New Orleans/Empire Builder". I've read some of the amazingly informative posts on here and still have a couple questions:

1) Am I insane? To tell the truth, I have a kind of a hankering to go down from Seattle (finishing the Empire Builder line) to SAC and head back to Chicago on the Zephyr and return to Boston on the LSL. To make 4 connections- is that pushing my luck way too far, even if they're all a few (sometimes many) hours apart? I'm primarily concerned with SAC and CHI here, as while they're fine cities, they're only transfer points on this trip.

2) Has anyone recently used a USA Rail Pass on similar trips (long, multi-connection)? Do you know if it will cover late trains and missed connections, especially since it requires you to have made reservations for each leg beforehand? Since I'd like to visit these other cities and these other lines, I think the Rail Pass is the most effective use of my money instead of paying a total of 500+ without it.

Thank you so much in advance!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2011 04:51 am (UTC)
Well, I've done a similar trip to that, but I had multi-day or at least overnight stopovers at every connecting point except Chicago. In my case the trip was OTM-CHI-NYP-ORL-LAX-EMY-OTM. I did use a pass on that route, but owing to my overall schedule there was never a need to seek accommodation due to a missed connection.

I'd say you might want to look at Amtrak's on-time performance for each route and make decisions accordingly, noting that even a route with good performance can have a severe delay the day you're riding due to circumstances beyond Amtrak's (or even the host railroad's) control. My personal record for delays was 18.5 hours, but most have been six or less.
Aug. 24th, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
Along that line, Empire Builder has had some major troubles with being late through North Dakota, even in good times. Lately with the flooding they had to suspend service for a couple of weeks, and starting it up was on again, off again. It usually *leaves* on time from each terminus, ie, Seattle or Chicago. But the in-between stops can be difficult to pin down sometimes.

But it's a great route. Have fun!
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
One thing that may help for the restfulness is that sleeper accommodations on City of New Orleans tend to be quite affordable, and much more relaxing than coach trips. It's not unusual to find roomettes in the ballpark of $100. You'll probably need to talk to the representatives on the phone to book the room, but you can use the website to plan a hypothetical trip on the same train to see what the prices are for that day. Coach is fun and inexpensive, but amount of actual sleep you can get in them is pretty limited unless you're a REALLY sound sleeper.

End point arrivals *tend to be* more timely than mid-route arrivals. There's padding built into the schedule there, and often the last couple of stops are drop-off only so they are either very quick or may even be skipped altogether, if there's no one getting off. Your SAC stop is the one to worry about and allow extra time for. Six hours is *probably* okay, but the Zephyr is almost guaranteed to be on time at that point, and the Coaster is mid-trip and might not be. If you can find a reason to spend a night or two in the Bay area, that'll fix having much to worry about, and it'll be a nice break. You wanted to see Alcatraz anyway, right? (;
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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