Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

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Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby RandomRailfan » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:11 am

You have four weeks, and a group of wealthy, international tourists, anxious to see all the US to offer from coast to coast, north to south, and whom hate flying and switching hotels. They want to step off their plane, set themselves up in a nice room/roomette where they will stay for four weeks disembarking for various time periods in various interesting US cities.

What kind of an itinerary would you come up with for giving them a tour of all of the continental US via rail?
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby electricron » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:22 am

All of it in 4 weeks, not a difficult task with unlimited funds.
Day 0 Fly to New York City (probably JFK from Europe) Day 0 or Day 1 depends upon how early a flight you can catch to arrive at JFK before noon? A Friday flight from Europe should get you to New York easily in time for a Saturday train departure on the first train of your train trip, or a Monday departure if you wish to spend some extra nights in New York City.
Day 1 (Saturday-Monday-Thursday only) {See Day 3 for reasons why}
Catch the Crescent to New Orleans which departs New York at 2:15 pm Eastern Time
Day 2
Crescent arrives in New Orleans at 7:32 pm Central Time. You will have to rest overnight in a hotel. Maybe a great chance to visit a jazz bar?
Day 3
Catch the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles which departs New Orleans at 9:00 am Central Time on three days only (Monday-Wednesday-Saturday only)
Day 5
Sunset Limited arrives in Los Angeles at 5:35 am Pacific Time
Catch the Coast Starlight to Portland which departs Los Angeles at 10:10 am Pacific Time. You will have an overnight stay in LA later.
Day 6
Coast Starlight arrives in Portland at 3:32 pm Pacific Time
Catch the Empire Builder to Chicago which departs Portland at 4:45 pm Pacific Time
This in only an one hour transfer - it might be safer to overnight in Portland, are you a gambler or not - if you are subtract one day from the rest of the trip.
Day 7
Catch the Empire Builder to Chicago which departs Portland at 4:45 pm Pacific Time
Day 9
Empire Builder arrives in Chicago at 3:55 pm Central Time. You will have to overnight in a hotel. Enjoy the Windy City.
Day 10
Catch the California Zephyr to Emeryville which departs Chicago at 2:00 pm Central Time
Day 12
California Zephyr arrives in Emeryville at 4:10 pm Pacific Time. You will have to overnight in a hotel. Enjoy the Bay Area.
Day 13
Catch the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles which departs Emeryville at 8:20 am Pacific Time
Coast Starlight arrives in Los Angeles at 9:00 pm Pacific Time. You will have to overnight in a hotel. Enjoy LA.
Day 14
Catch the Southwest Chief to Chicago which departs Los Angeles 6:00 pm Pacific Time
Day 16
Southwest Chief arrives in Chicago at 2:50 pm Central Time
Catch the Lake Shore Limited to New York City which departs Chicago at 9:30 pm Central Time
Day 17
Lake Shore Limited arrives in New York City at 6:23 pm Eastern Time
Do you want to go to Florida or not, or will you be ready to fly back home to Europe?
Day 18
There are two Amtrak trains to Florida from New York City, Silver Star and Silver Meteor. Meteor has dining car services, the Star does not. Since you stated you had money to burn, lets take the Silver Meteor.
Catch the Silver Meteor to Miami which departs New York City at 3:15 pm Eastern Time
Day 19
Silver Meteor arrives in Miami at 6:39 pm Eastern Time. You will have to overnight in a hotel. Enjoy Miami Beach.
Day 20
Catch the Silver Meteor to New York City which departs Miami at 8:10 am Eastern Time
Day 21
Silver Meteor arrives in New York City at 7:23 pm Eastern Time.

The only large sections of track you saw twice were in opposite directions, (1) LA to Emeryville, and NYC to Miami. The only large section of track you saw three times was the NEC between NYC and D.C.

We still have a week of your month left which could have been spend anywhere along the way. You even have time to take the Cardinal west of New York City to Chicago and the City of New Orleans south of Chicago to New Orleans, and the Crescent north of New Orleans back to New York City. But the Cardinal is another three day a week train like the Sunset Limited, so if you wish to continue on lets start using letters for additional days.
Day A (Sunday-Wednesday-Friday)
Catch the Cardinal to Chicago which departs New York City at 6:45 am Eastern Time
Day B
Cardinal arrives in Chicago at 10:00 am Central Time
Catch the City of New Orleans to New Orleans which departs Chicago at 8:05 pm Central Time
Day C
City of New Orleans arrives in New Orleans at 3:47 pm Central Time. Enjoy another overnight in New Orleans.
Day D
Catch the Crescent to New York City which departs New Orleans at 7:00 am Central Time
Day E
Crescent arrives in New York City at 1:46 pm Eastern Time

That's an additional 5 days to the 21 days earlier on the train - totaling 26 days.
But the three days a week schedules of the Cardinal could add up to three more days to that total - depending upon the day of the week you started your trip.

Additionally, if you are not a gambler, and did not wish the one hour transfer in Portland, you could have taken the Coast Starlight all the way north to Seattle and caught the Empire Builder there the next day. You would have seen Puget Sound instead of the Columbia River Valley, and still arrived in Chicago on the same day. I still recommend the scenery of the Columbia River Valley over Puget Sound - because you see it for far much longer a time. Of course, visiting the Space Needle in Seattle while you overnight there might change your opinion. I recommended what I would do as you asked.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Bob Roberts » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:05 pm

^ an excellent itinerary. I'll add a few of my own thoughts:

Personally I would _never_ bet a weeks long trip on Amtrak's ability to make a one hour connection from an LD train

I would suggest adding a full day (probably two nights but I didn't check the schedule) for Glacier National Park (off the Builder) and the Grand Canyon (SW Chief). But this will depend on what type of tourist you are.

I would skip the Florida out and back. Its not exciting scenery and won't look much different than the Crescent. If Florida is a must, then I would recommend flying into South Florida to start the trip (and get the dullest train ride out of the way at the start). Having said that, two trips on the Emeryville-LA leg of the Coast Starlight is the correct number.

I know you specified US, but a proper cruise itinerary would include the Canadian to / from Vancouver. It will certainly be much more luxurious than anything Amtrak has to offer and (from what I hear) has better scenery than every other train in the West. I would put it at the end of the trip: Vancouver - Toronto -- Via business class to Montreal (best seated rail travel in North America!) and then the Adirondack along Lake Champlain back to NYP.

My initial thoughts on this were that I would want a couple of days in places like Chicago, San Francisco and possibly Seattle. But a little math shows that those extra days quickly blow through your 30 day budget. I love trains as much as anybody, but I am not sure I would want to hop off one LD onto another without a break.
Last edited by Bob Roberts on Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:01 pm

Another question for you: where are these folks from, and do they want to see where their countrymen (were) moved? I’m imagining that Irish tourists would want to see Boston and Chicago, French would like to see Montreal, Quebec and New Orleans, Germans would enjoy Amish country and Milwaukee, Chinese visitors would particularly like to see California and the Sierra Nevada, people from west Africa would want to see locations throughout the South, and people of Hispanic descent would want to visit the entire Southwest. (Among the usual tourist traps like New York, Walt Disney World, and Los Angeles.)
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby RandomRailfan » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:13 am

It would be a general group of well off tourists, who have a month off and want to see as much of the US as possible, not as interested in seeing where their countrymen ended up, more folks anxious to try new things that they can't try at home.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:45 am

I'm going to cross-post this in Amtrak, as really any US rail cruise is going to involve them.

My 2c is if money is not an object, and although Amtrak's handling of PV's has become, um, problematic, would be to charter cars, so that you have a permanent home during the trip:

http://www.aaprco.com/travel/travel-opportunities/
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:00 am

In my mind, day 0 should start in Boston, with another day for sightseeing.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:01 am

Jeff Smith wrote:I'm going to cross-post this in Amtrak, as really any US rail cruise is going to involve them.

My 2c is if money is not an object, and although Amtrak's handling of PV's has become, um, problematic, would be to charter cars, so that you have a permanent home during the trip:

http://www.aaprco.com/travel/travel-opportunities/


That was my first thought, as well.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby RandomRailfan » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:21 am

My 2c is if money is not an object, and although Amtrak's handling of PV's has become, um, problematic, would be to charter cars, so that you have a permanent home during the trip:


What kinds of cars would you charter for maximum passenger comfort? What kind of a dining hall/regional catering for days "at rail," perhaps some live, onboard entertainment would be nice?

If pulling into a city like NYC or DC for a few days where would be a good place to keep the rail cars where passengers can come and go?
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:41 am

Dome cars would be verboten for New York City and the NEC; they can't fit thru the tunnels or under the wire safely, I believe. You could always add one along the way after that, though.

I would hire a lounge observation sleeper and a sleeper lounge. For many private cars, the chef comes with the car and is included in the price.

I believe layover in NYC is Sunnyside Yard. Don't know about DC. There is at least one private car owner on here, and I'm sure if he sees this thread, he'll give good, accurate info.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Jeff Smith » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:51 am

Chicago and DC stations seem to be good places for starting a venture. Amtrak only allows cars to be added at certain stops. Many trips start there. There are also PV's that are stored along the Cardinal route in WV, and in Savannah, GA.

I've ridden a couple of cars, all are nice. You obviously want something with sleepers; some sleepers are also observation cars. You can charter them, and they usually come with an attendant who also prepares meals enroute.

Check the link I provided; they provide contact information. Also check this link: viewtopic.php?f=46&t=1528 the first post provides several links. There are a couple of PV owners in there who can provide information.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Philly Amtrak Fan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 5:21 pm

For sake of argument, start and end in New York.

Take Acela up to Boston.

Take Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo, then Maple Leaf or Empire to Niagara Falls.

Take Lake Shore Limited to Chicago (if into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, stop in Cleveland but graveyard shift departure might not make it worthwhile)

Take California Zephyr to Denver

Take California Zephyr to Salt Lake City (late times so might want to skip)

Take California Zephyr to Emeryville/Thruway to San Francisco

Take Coast Starlight to Los Angeles

Take Pacific Surfliner round trip to San Diego

Take Southwest Chief back to Chicago

Take City of New Orleans to ... New Orleans

Take Crescent to Washington DC

Take Silver Star or Silver Meteor to Orlando

Take Silver Meteor to Miami

Take Silver Star or Silver Meteor to Philadelphia

Take Acela back to New York

Cities visited: New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, Orlando, Miami, Philadelphia
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby CarterB » Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:13 pm

If I was going to be aboard a train for most of four weeks, I would most definitely opt for private varnish. (and make sure at least two showers per car) Group up to 8 office car or obs/sleeper. Add another sleeper lounge for group/s larger. Trying to do four weeks on Amtrak equip would be a tad tedious IMO unless you booked bedroom/s as a suite.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby ExCon90 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:35 pm

Plus, with a PV you know everything's working--and if something needs attention en route a technician, and very likely the owner, is right there on board.
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Re: Four Week US "Rail Cruise"

Postby Bob Roberts » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:20 pm

The more I think about this trip the more I think that food is going to be the biggest limiting factor (if you spend most of your time on Amtrak)
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