Some of my best childhood memories with my brother are riding the rails. Our parents would put us onto the Milwaukee Road or the Burlington Nothern, then later, it was Amtrak. And we would ride down to see Grandma Grandpa. When I got older and I started to travel, whenever I came into a town that had an excursion train or a train museum I was there! I wanted to see what they had, I wanted to ride the rails. I’ve always wanted to. I love it.
Sometime in 2020, my plan is to ride The Southwestern Cheif, from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles California. The idea of just sitting back and watching some of the most beautiful scenery pass you by seems to sound like a really good idea right now!
A while back, a train review on my TripAdvisor account popped up. It was from a man called Greg D from Indiana who had done just that. He and his wife jumped on the train in their town of Indianapolis, rode to Chicago then on to LA. ending their train journey in San Diego. He left a really well-detailed post on it. So I hooked up with him on an old YouTube channel I had and we talked about the trip and his review.
Here is an edited Q&A from the video posted above
What was the Train Trip for?
We had never taken a train anywhere and we spend a lot of time in the summer at Lake Michigan and there’s a lot of Amtrak trains coming through there on the way to Chicago in and out of Chicago so we see him all the time and we were pretty impressed at their speed and what they look like.
The train left Inidanoplis on Christmas morning and we headed to Chicago and Chicago that afternoon we left and headed to LA and then La we took the Pacific liner down to San Diego.
How long was the trip?
Two and a half days. We left home on Christmas morning. 6 am, We arrived up in Chicago around 10:30, and then we left Chicago at 3:30 and then arrived a day and a half later in LA. We waited a couple of hours and jumped on the train to San Diego.
Why The TripAdvisor Review?
Along the course, they have the Wi-Fi on the train and so I was posting some pictures and putting some things up on my Facebook page and I had never had so many comments and questions and things coming into me about what this was like what the whole thing was about or why we did it and what it was like. So I was pretty amazed at how many of my friends and family had a big interest in that so. I figured that would write on wait I wanted to know if I were taking a train trip. Answered a lot of the questions about what makes them happy and what makes me upset.
What was your feeling from start to finish
It started in Indianapolis in a Greyhound Bus Station at 5 in the morning. It’s maybe not the most desirable place in some cities that you want to be at that hour. We got on the train on the train it was right on time. I was impressed with that. I had no idea what to do with my luggage when I got there. I asked the lady who was said we can put it there and the next time you see it, it will be in San Diego. We look at each other and we looked around and we thought a couple of times and we decided “let’s just do it”. We had coach seats to Chicago. Very comfortable and nice sized seats.
We get to Chicago, I’d purchased a roomette for us to have between Chicago and LA. Not knowing what traveling on a train is about and looking at the types of rooms they had, I chose a room that had a bathroom at the end of the hallway. In part, it was a little more economical but also if you have ever been in the back of an airplane or you sat in the back of the bus, you really don’t like the smell of a chemical toilet, to be around you. My thinking was that that I’m not so sure we might be in for a day and a half in a room that has a chemical toilet. The bathroom was down the hall or downstairs when we had to take a shower
We were impressed with how it ran. We were spot on time. We had this preconception about what would happen on the train. We had an issue somewhere I think in Kansas City that they had a little delayed away for something but only put us like 10 or 15 minutes behind. For a one-time train traveler, I was incredibly impressed by how on time they were.
What about the People?
The staff and the people on the train were incredible. They were all incredibly friendly. We did not meet one person who was associated with Amtrak, that did not want to be there. The people around us were wonderful. The couple across from usOne couple were very experienced train travelers. So they helped us out in telling us what was happing as we were going along.
The food was incredible. Not Five Star, but it was good. Everybody has their opinion of what’s good food. It wasn’t bad for me. I was really impressed. The food was included with your room which was kind of a surprise to me and you just have to leave a tip if you get good service and we did. The people in the dining room were excellent that we made some great friends nice friends we have made some great friendships.
It’s Like Taking a Cruise?
Compared to a crystal cruise or another cruise, I would say that you’re getting on and off easier and secondly, it’s a bathroom facility for the shower if it’s there anything people that listen that have never taken the train, I would compare the size of the shower to what you would have on a cruise ship.
At the beginning of the trip, the steward asked that we take care to considerate of your cabinmates around you. When you go to the restroom just kind of tidying up before you leave it and I never went in one time where it wasn’t clean. Coffee at the end of the hallway for you, that was a nice little touch. Like a cruise, the whole interaction, seating with people who become friends.
In Chicago, there’s like a lounge for people that have sleeper cars. They have computers with the internet for you to use and leather chairs. They had snacks and soda machines with juices and chips and they had some fruits and bananas. They also had some random bars or granola bars and things like that. It was a nice place to wait for your train and then when your train came to the station, instead of walking out the hallway and standing out in a concourse, they have like a private area they would just call you if this is your train. You line up over here and then they took you a back way through to the train in that was kind of a nice touch that I completely didn’t expect to happen.
Who Not To Do the Train?
Fortunately, we had parents who are very conscious of the other people around us and I thought the kids were wonderful. The rules I think are that if you have children with you under the age of 12 you need to accompany them. If you’re up an elderly person and you require any kind of assistance you want to have an escort with you because you know when you’re moving up and down the aisle news around a little bit
Scenery and Speed
I was sitting there relaxing with my wife and out of curiosity I checked an app on my phone and it said 94 miles per hour! Not that that was the real speed the entire trip. It does make a lot of stops, so that was not always the speed. Even at that speed, it was pretty comfortable. I would say that I noticed a couple times where I was kind of slammed up against the window I thought you know I thought maybe we were heading off the tracks. But it was definitely a surprise.
The scenery is beautiful. We went through a desert, we went through Colorado, You get into parts in New Mexico and give you a different perspective of America on the train. They have the observation cars that tend to fill up quickly. It’s just gorgeous. You can go in there and you can see everywhere. At night time, they have the lights on inside the car so basically you’re sitting there looking at your own reflection!
There many stops long enough for you to get off the train. We didn’t get off in the Albuquerque, now we wished we had. When we got off in LA, the Union Station there is beautiful;. We had three hours to kill so we wandered outside. There is a Mexican Village right outside the train station. They have weddings and things they hold weddings there and you’re right in Downtown LA!
We went up there and found a nice little Mexican restaurant at a wonderful breakfast. It was awesome and it was a beautiful day in LA and the palm trees and the sun was out and you sitting there eating a wonderful Mexican breakfast.
Would You Do it Again?
After it was all over it’s like one of those things that you do when you say at the end and then you think about it, M wife’s already said to me that we need to look and see when we can plan another trip!
For the time to relax, the views, the food and the people you meet, it makes it worth the money.