After this past weekend....

Brian Smith wrote:


From Midland, Michigan, to Brownsville, Texas, took us 3-1/2 days. On the road from about 6am to about 8pm every day. We took an extra day coming back, mostly poking around Missouri (lovely state), and were forced to take an extra day in Michigan on account of a snowstorm. (Late January). My niece in Midland hosted us going and coming.
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Sounds like it was an enjoyable jaunt for you.
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Brian Smith wrote:

It was. But I've said yes a few too many times since then, and have had too many volunteer commitments to do it again. Will be getting out of most of that this year, so expect to get to Brownsville January-February next year. Be a "winter Texan".
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Dale Carlson wrote:

Take a look on Amtrak's website. I think they have some dining car menus posted. This will give you an idea. But one can figure $10 for breakfast, maybe $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner eating in regular sit down restaurants pretty easily, if you include tax and tips. Off the train, prices will be similar in tourist areas.
If you go for fast food for any of the above, you can cut it in half, easily. Also note that in some more rural parts of the country, food can be a lot cheaper than in big cities. In most places, BBQ tends to be both better and cheaper at independent, run down looking places.
Even in a supermarket, a sandwich, beverage, bag of chips and a piece of fruit can easily be $7-8, but the deli sandwich might feed two.
Have fun, whatever you do!
Regards,
DAve
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Meals used to be included with sleeping accomodations. Not that these accomodations are cheap but, if you are travelling overnite for very many nites it's not that unreasonable.

Paul
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Thank you all for your replys

Meals are indeed included with sleeping accomodations , a one night stay is around $ 120,- I think, thats not bad for meals and sleeping. I'll probably do this several times but will also be staying at friends, hotels, but also spending nights in an overnight coach is possible, I don't dislike fast-food either. I was counting on spending around 100 euro ( 125 dollars ) a day including the trainpass ( 360 dollars ). Want to travel from NY to Washington to Texas then to San Diego up the coast then fron San Fransisco via north back to Chicago, then to Burrton, Newton, Winfield Kansas wich I am starting to model and then back to New York. All this in a 30 day time, am I to ambitious or is this doable in a normal way?
Greetz Jan
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NYC to Washington, DC by train is about 5-6 hrs. Acela Express.

WDC to San Antonio 27 hours Cresent.
San Antonio to LA 31 hours Sunset Limited or Texas Eagle.
LA to Emeryville about 12 hours Coast Starlight (Get off in San Jose and ride CalTrain to the city) (get back on and go to Emeryville, or Sacramento.                  You could use the Capitol Corridor)
Emeryville to Chicago 52 hours California Zephyr (gets you near Kansas)
Chicago to NY 19 hours. Lake Shore Limited
That's about 144 hours (~6 days) on the train, if it's roughly on schedule. Some delays to connect? Say 1 day per change, that's 5 days.
~11 days straight traveling, if you are lucky.
Plenty of time to do some sight seeing along the way.
Southwest Chief to Chicago to Newton 13 hours Southwest Chief to Newton to Chicago 13 hours
That leaves you 8-10 days in the Burrton, Newton, Winfield area. Should be easy modeling, Kansas is pretty flat. *8^)
Good luck and enjoy, Paul

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Paul Newhouse spake thus:

That's one way to do it (by the way, "the city" here is San Francisco). Another way, if you feel like taking another type of train, is to take the Coast Star-late all the way to Richmond, where there's an easy intermodal connection to BART. You can then take BART to SF. (Keep in mind that the Caltrain station is a bit south of downtown--7th & Townsend--so you'd either have to take a cab, or jump on the Muni N line to get downtown, assuming you're staying somewhere north of Market Street.)
Sacramento is very much worth visiting for 2 reasons: one, the official railroad museum within walking distance of the Amtrak station, and two, the unofficial tour you can take by tresspassing on what's left of the Sacramento Locomotive Works just across the tracks at the station. That's my preferred entertainment there. (Of course, I haven't been there for a few years and don't know how much of that once-great place is still left standing ...)
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Good point. I tend to be a bit San Jose centric.

Jan was asking about overall time so I didn't worry too much about how to negotiate the Bay Area.

Very worthwhile. Old Sacramento is an interesting place as well but, on your first visit one could easily spend two days in the museum.

A short walk under the freeway. A few hundred yards at most.

I believe there is some redevelopment plan in the works but, I don't know the details.
Paul
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writes:

Too bad Acela is not included in the Trainpass, i would have liked to go on the American equivalent of TGV

In some ways yes easier ( no mountains to make etc. ) but other things make it harder ( Frisco, MoPac and Santa Fe cross at several towns I want to model and its pretty hard hiding where the trains come from, as opposed to mountains where you have them coming from tunnels ). I want the Super Chief on my layout and I want some industries for switching . Seems to me I don't have much choice other then Kansas. I can't find much industry in other parts of the US where the Super Chief runs, or have I overlooked something.

Thank you , these replies have all gone into a file that I'll use next year.
Greetz Jan
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Jan(Bouli)Van Gerwen spake thus:

Well, at least what we *pretend* is the equivalent of TGV ...
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There's a conversation about that little issue going on in misc.transport.rail.americas right now. Something about "it would be nice if we could get the average speed above 70 mph"
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" snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com" skriver:

Some reading about acela http://www.railfaneurope.net/tgv/acela.html
Klaus
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...
Jan,
The smiley face was to indicate that I wasn't being particularly serious. Lived near Paola, KS for ~5 years. The old Frisco route nipped off a corner of the property. Driving to my place you would swear you were on a giant pool table. A quarter mile off the main highway and you were down in a broad ravine in some heavily wooded and hilly terrain. NOT what most folks expect in KS. You might find it easier than you think to disquise things. A little selective compression you could have Denver on one side and KC on the other and just past that the Appalachian range ... might work?

Good luck and enjoy, Paul
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Jan(Bouli)Van Gerwen wrote:

[...]
Check whether an upgrade charge will let you onto the Acela.
HTH
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writes:

*What?* Five or six hours by train between NYC and Wash., D.C.? By what, 4-4-0? LOL The current Amtrak Acela schedule on their website is under 3 hours...2hr 48m being a common time. Even the slower conventional trains are 3hr 15m. Boston to Washington is more like 5-6 hours...not NY to Washington.
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
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Ok, Jan you have an additional 2-3 hours you can spend somewhere else.
Enjoy, Paul
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Wow this is good news , now I don't have to cancel my appointment with President Bush :-))
Greetz Jan
Who will be asking a lot more questions next year. Thanks guys for your replies.
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Because Amtrak doesn't own the tracks they run on, except for certain corridors. The route the Lake Shore runs on - the "water level route" - was originally mostly the same route the famous 20th Century Limited ran on and it was built by the New York Central railroad. Those tracks then reverted to Conrail and are now owned (mostly) by CSX, as far as I know. CSX, obviously, has no real interest in hauling passengers, or making it easy on Amtrak to do so.
In fact, it's only because of the original agreement that formed Amtrak that freight companies have to deal with Amtrak at all. The federal government basically agreed to take the money-losing passenger trains off the now-freight companies' hands partially in exchange for permission to run them on their tracks. Those agreements have been amended a bunch of times over the years but basically a company like CSX probably can't see how it has any reason to even associate itself with Amtrak at this point - the days when the freight companies still saw Amtrak's trains almost as children who had left the nest to live on their own are long gone. That said, some freight companies do treat Amtrak better than others - BNSF, for example, still seems to give priority to the Empire Builder in my experience, and they maintain the tracks really well for a smooth ride. I was shocked by how rough the water level route had become last time I rode the Lake Shore Limited.
The basic thing when riding Amtrak is you have to just accept that timetables are more of a suggestion than anything. If you can do that, you'll still get a lot of enjoyment out of the experience. Amtrak really has very little control over their destiny; from priority given to freight trains to equipment breakdowns caused by a lack of money for maintenance, they have to rely on outside help for pretty much everything they do.
btw, I personally love Amtrak and I'm going to be modeling them pretty extensively when I finally start building my first real layout next week. The thing that makes them so interesting for me is just the sheer variety of equipment they own and have owned - I mean their original equipment roster was cobbled together from every other major passenger railroad, and they still mix and match all sorts of stuff even today. I like the old pre-Amtrak matched streamliners of the 30's-50's too, but I also love seeing how Amtrak mixes all these new and old parts together and how no two trains ever really look exactly the same.
- Jeff
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Are you considering not being a model railroader, or just not riding Amtrak any more? After all, this is a model railroading newsgroup. If you want opinions galore on Amtrak, you should also try posting to misc.transport.rail.americas, where they talk about Amtrak about 90% of the time.

Uh oh. Any train story that begins with the Lake Shore Limited never seems to end well. There's a reason why it's called the "Late Shore Limited" by those in the know. Someone actually made a graphic for it:
http://www.amtrek.net/extras/colorbld/latesho2.gif

I'm sure they can spell "timetable", they just can't do much about it. Nobody wants to be late. It's not like the crew gets paid overtime, so the sooner they get done, the sooner they can go home. The problem here is money, or lack thereof. As for communication, that's always been a problem going back to the 1800's. And it's not just an Amtrak problem or even a railroad problem. Airlines (see jetBlue) and commuter agencies (see MBTA) also have problems passing on information to rank & file employees and to customers.

Hey, Amtrak actually called you to tell you it was 2 hours late? That's pretty good. I don't think I've heard of that happening before. Usually, you just show up at the station on time and you end up waiting for an extra 2 hours. As for there being no train at the 2 hour mark, that's not so surprising. After all, you did say the weather was bad.

Ok, over 6 hours late is pretty bad at Cleveland, and 12 hours late into Boston is pretty awful. But...this was Wednesday, Feb. 14, right? With all the snow and ice? Some jetBlue customers sat on an airplane for 11 and a half hours, and didn't even leave the airport. They had to go back to the terminal. An exhange student group of 20 kids from Waltham, MA got screwed by Delta for over 12 hours in New York (with no food or water...you had to have a boarding pass to get that, and they wouldn't give them any), and they had to return to Boston (they still haven't got to Spain). So while 12 hours late is pretty frickin' bad, at least you got to where you were going. Hundreds of airline passengers still hadn't got to where they want to go even after 2 days because of flight cancellations (according to news reports).

As I said, talk to jetBlue customers...they had some 139 out of 600 total flights canceled yesterday...5 days after the storm. And 2 hours? That's actually a very good performance for that train.

You want to know why? It's called MONEY! Back in the golden days (1900-1950) of railroading, the railroads had money. They made lots of it. They may not have profited it all that much at times, but the income was always there. The railroads used to employ thousands of men, many of them were track maintence men and crews. These crews had a certain territory that they maintained, and they inspected it daily. When it snowed, they shoveled out switches. When it was real bad, they would call out the flangers and snow plows. Even smaller railroads like the New Haven still had over a half dozen large snow plows in 1953 and had over a dozen flangers...plus the 6 Jordan Spreaders they had. The philosophy back then was to keep the railroad open at all costs. Today, the railroads are like any modern industry in that the bottom line is all that matters, and you just do the bare bones minimal to keep the trains rolling . And CSX (which is the railroad that the Lake Shore runs on) is the king of this approach. The problem here is that when you run on a shoestring, you have very little room for error. And one frozen switch can mean long, long delays. For example, in the old days, if they had a switch freeze, the dispatcher would proabably notify the track maintenance foreman for that territory. He, in turn, would notify the work crew who had the responsibility for that switch, and they would go fix it. They would get to it quickly as they were waiting nearby in their wayside shanty, and the crew of 4 or 6 guys would thaw the switch relatively quickly. Today, there is probably one switch maintainer for over 100 miles of territory, and he'd have to drive there in his truck from wherever he currently is. And if there's two switches frozen, well, that second one would have to wait until the first is freed up (after all, he's one guy). Why doesn't the railroad have more maintenance men? Because they cost too much money. The railroads almost died 30-40 years ago, there was serious talk about nationalizing all of them (like a super Conrail). It was a near thing. And one of the prime reasons why they almost went under was high labor costs and over regulation. The gov't got off their backs with regulation, the RR's stopped hiring so many people...and now they can make enough money to actually be attractive to Wall St. again. But the result of all that is that railroads just aren't the "all weather" transportation service they used to be. To be on time, all the time, requires a lot of money. You have to have spare locos for emergencies, spare passenger cars in case one fails inspection, extra track to go around a broken down train, aux. routes to get around accidents, etc. The railroads used to have all this excess capacity that came in handy for emergencies, but was totally wasted on days when the railroad ran well. And when the railroad's in a deep financial hole (the New Haven, for example, was $55 million in the hole by 1969...back when a $1 million was real money), the excess gets cut first.

Why is it that people can get all get worked up about Amtrak being late, and start exclaiming that they will never ride the rails again, but when people get stuck on an airplane for half a day, you don't hear them exclaiming that they will never fly again?
Paul A. Cutler III ************* Weather Or No Go New Haven *************
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