Amtrak Adventures California Zephyr and Lake Shore Limited
November 3-6, 2004
I departed Reno 83 minutes late on Nov 3rd, Because I was headed to Chicago, I was directed to the very last coach, we had on empty Express boxcar behind us. The coach was clean, seemed to be the bachelor end as the last 6 rows were men traveling alone. We arrived in Winnemucca 75 minutes down, but we lost 10 minutes there. Apparently, Amtrak has a short crew base that simply runs between Reno and Winnemucca. The train makes 2 stops in Winnemucca to facilitate this crew change. I was told the first stop is to facilitate the crew change (even level ground). We picked up an older blonde female conductor who was apparently suffering from PMS. We arrived at Elko 80 minutes down, I pissed off said blonde because I moved down to the bottom level to wave at my oldest who came by to wave at me as we passed by...the blonde was not pleased and snapped at me that I could not leave the train. I told her I wasn't, she told me I had no reason to be down there, I told her to take a Midol and returned to my seat. We arrived in SLC 30 minutes down (initially I was impressed that we were 30 minutes early until I remembered that we had crossed into the Mountain Time Zone)
We pretty much stayed 30-45 minutes down...it seems like every time we made up time we lost it at the next station so the smokers could have their smoke break. At Helper, we got a new crew, this conductor was pretty cool, he pointed out scenic spots (in southern Utah? No...that desert makes my Nevada Desert look like a lush green forest). But as we crossed into Colorado, he began referring to the Rio Grande River as the Rye-O Grande, not Ree-O Grande. At Grand Junction, the train was 15 minutes down, but the same conductor had been pushing this little goody store and fruit stand inside the depot for the previous 100 miles...it prompted a discussion in my area as to whether or not he got a kickback from this store. So we get to Grand Junction, and I tell the guy the correct way...he got offended and stated that real Rio Grande Railroaders call it his way because it was the correct way...I laughed at him and went to check out the gift shop. I was amused to find the on-board employees also buying sodas and stuff from this little store (cans of soda were .75 vs the 1.50 on the train).
As the trip continued, the Colorado scenery is unrivalled for any I have passed. My first trip through Moffet Tunnel was a disappointment...not sure what I expected...but it was still a mentioning point.
We pulled into Denver a few minutes late, but the plan was to be there for about 20 minutes...so a lot of us invaded the little sandwich shop in the station...save your money.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We arrived in Chicago 30 minutes early. I then had what was supposed to be a 4 hour layover...wound up being 5 as we were not allowed to board #48, the Lake Shore Limited until 2010, a half hour late because the crew was not rested.
Then as we boarded...guess what...Amtrak reservation agents booked three Amfleet coaches worth of passengers for the train...we only had 2 on the train. So now the cattle drive begins. The train leaves at 2030. half hour late. We make it to just a few miles east of Union Station and stop...thanks NS...a freight train died..so we sit for 30 minutes while NS does whatever they did to get that train moved.
We stayed an hour down. Everytime we made up time, we'd get a smoking conductor and lose said time so everyone could choke down their cigarettes. The result was we stayed down an hour the entire way to Albany where I transferred to Train #448 (also Lake Shore Limited - Boston Section). This was interesting...we pulled out of the station...backed into the station on another track, and pulled forward on the old Boston & Albany line and up around the hill...we stopped 4 times for grade crossings climbing up out of the Mohawk River Valley...seems they had to hand activate them.
I was not aware this line was the same one that had the twin rock tunnels, so that was neat, We pulled into Boston South still an hour down. The remainder of the trip was by bus to Portland ME...my bus was driven by Evil Knieval (deliberate spelling of the name)...but hey...we left Boston on time and arrived in Portland 17 minutes early.
Thoughts on the on-board food service...soda's and dining car are WAY WAY overpriced...but the sandwiches and stuff in the lounge car are not bad and reasonably priced...I highly recommend the Bratwurst for Lunch/Dinner. The French Toast and Sausage is not bad for Breakfast. Other than that...snacks and drinks...I'll bring my own next time