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Amtrak Southwest Chief

Route Guide of travel on the Amtrak Southwest Chief.

Discover the startling beauty
of the desert Southwest on
an odyssey you'll never forget.

Chicago * Kansas City
Albuquerque * Flagstaff
Los Angeles


You are traveling on board the Southwest Chief, an Amtrak® Superliner® train, that follows the historic and scenic Sante Fe Trail between Chicago and Los Angeles. While on board, you will be experiencing the utmost comfort and service in train travel along with many of the same vistas first viewed by the early settlers.

All of us at Amtrak are proud to have you aboard today, and want to ensure your trip is everything you want it to be in travel. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask one of your friendly on-board service staff


There is a lot to see and do aboard the Southwest Chief, from relaxing, socializing with family and friends, or enjoying a wonderful meal. Please listen for announcements of the specific times and locations of activities, and most of all -- have fun!

Movies and other videos, in the Sightseer Lounge Car. During summer months, features for children will also be shown.

On-board Indian Country Tour Guides from the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Association of Gallup, New Mexico. Your guide will ride the train between Gallup and Albuquerque, pointing out scenic highlights and discussing regional history, culture and folklore. Please join us in the Lounge Car and learn about the fascinating country you are passing through.

The Chief's Round-Up will start your travel off right. We invite you to join fellow passengers in the Lounge Car for Southwest Chief's own chips and salsa or guacamole and other southwest specialties.

Games are also on the agenda in the Dining Car. Just listen for announcements and join in the fun.

Stretch your legs in Albuquerque. Take some time to shop the Indian trading posts in the nearby pueblos for unique crafts and souvenirs. Time is limited so be sure not to leave the platform area. Also, it is very important to return to the train when you hear the announcement to ensure a timely departure for the continuation of your trip.


The Conductor is in charge of all crew members aboard, and is responsible for the collection of tickets and the safe operation of the train. The Chief supervises the on-board service people, and is responsible for the service you receive while you are on the Southwest Chief.


Roomy Coach Seats with a Coach Attendant ensures that you are comfortable and well taken care of during your travels. Please keep in mind that seats are assigned for the duration of the trip. If you wish to change seats consult your Attendant first. Please do not re-seat yourself.

First Class Service is provided to you by your Sleeping Car Attendant. Your Attendant will prepare your room for daytime or nighttime travel, provide wake-up service and bring your morning paper and beverages to your room. Meals and other amenities are included with your First Class accommodations. Individual speakers bring you recorded music (Channels 2 and 3) and train announcements (Channels 1 and 2). The channel selector is located near the reading light in your room.

Private Sleeping Accommodations are available based on your needs. Deluxe Rooms can accommodate two adults and have a private restroom and shower. Family Rooms can accommodate up to two adults and three children, and also have a private restroom and shower. (Steve's note: This is not correct. The Family Room does not have its own private restroom and shower. However, don't be too concerned. There are 3 restrooms and a shower on the same level with the Family Room. I have never found all 3 restrooms in use at once and it isn't difficult for everyone to get their turn in the shower). Economy Rooms can accommodate one or two people. Ample public restrooms and showers are conveniently located in the lower level of the Sleeping Car. Sleeping Accommodations may be purchased on board from the Conductor (subject to availability).

Sightseer Lounge Car on the Southwest Chief allows you to view the spectacular scenery along the route through the panoramic windows on the upper level of the car. The lower level offers light dining where sandwiches, snacks and beverages, in addition to various sundry items, can be purchased. The Lounge Car also features first-run movies, a Hospitality Hour with specialty drinks, and complimentary snacks during the evening.


THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF will leave you with a lifetime of memories of the spectacular beauty and unique flair of the Southwest, from a route that was blazed by Native Americans and followed by conquistadors, fur trappers, settlers -- and now you.

There are marvelous sights throughout this journey: Los Angeles and the famous Cajon Pass (Steve's comment: Under the current schedule, the Southwest Chief goes through the Cajon Pass around midnight going west and around 5 A.M. going east, so it will probably be dark. I have as yet to see the Cajon Pass on my six trips through it! I think the Desert Wind goes through the Cajon Pass during daylight.); the fertile fields of Kansas, the great Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the famous Chicago skyline.

But it's dazzling landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico that will leave you absolutely astonished. You'll see pueblos hundreds of years old. Fantastic lava flows and geological formations. Breathtaking canyons -- some just a few feed wider than your train. Distant views of towering mountains, burning red in the southwestern sunlight.

This guide is written from west to east, noting how many minutes past the previous Amtrak® station you can expect to see a particular sight and whether you should look right or left. The first time reference tells you how far that point is from the station to the west, and the second time, how far it is to the Amtrak stop to the east.

LOS ANGELES The sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles began in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de la Reina de los Angeles. Today, the village's original site is marked by the historical park of Olvera Street, lined with brightly colored Mexican shops and old buildings.

Pasadena Known for its annual New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl football game. (Steve's comment: This Route Guide is brand new as of October 1996, but the Southwest Chief has not gone through Pasadena in well over a year! The map printed on the Route Guide correctly shows the Southwest Chief going through the Amtrak Fullerton station instead of the no longer existing Pasadena station.)

SAN BERNARDINO Just east of here, the train ascends Cajon Pass, the boundary formed by the San Andreas Fault between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. Here the train climbs 2,743 feet in 25 miles, twisting and turning to 3,811 feet above sea level.

Mojave Desert Once past the summit of the pass, we enter high desert country, following the route of the Mojave "River," filled in spots with quicksand. Joshua trees line the tracks.

Time change (12 Min./51 Min.) November through April, set your watch forward one hour if you are traveling eastward; back one hour if heading westward. May through October, Arizona is on the same time as California.

FLAGSTAFF Bus connections serve Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Railroad and Phoenix.

Canyon Diablo (32 Min./24 Min.) We begin our journey through the Navajo reservations. On your left are stone ruins and a trading post.

WINSLOW A major trading post for Navajo and Hopi Indians.

Holbrook (26 Min./71 Min.) On your right are magnificent striped sandstone outcroppings, just a hint of the beauty of the nearby Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. On your left is the restored Blevins House where Marshall Owens shot five outlaws.

Time change (80 Min./19 Min.) Arizona/New Mexico State Line. If you are traveling eastbound set your watch ahead one hour; back one hour if you are westbound.

GALLUP The best stop along the route for side trips to the Southern Colorado Mountains, Mesa Verde National Park, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, ancient cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto, and also Durango.

Red Cliffs of New Mexico For the next hour, the train follows these famous hills, noted for their changing colors. Legend has it that the rocks got their color from the blood of a wounded stag as it fled through the hills. Also in the Red Rocks are pre-pueblo Anasazi settlements, once centers of a prehistoric Indian trading network.

Anzac (59 Min./76 Min.) Note the exposed lava beds on your right.

McCartys (63 Min./72 Min.) On your right is the first of many Indian pueblos visible along the route.

Kneeling Nuns (84 Min./50 Min.) This rock formation, on your left and back, appears to be two nuns praying as the face left towards a rock "altar."

Rio Grande River (122 Min./10 Min.) Note the tamarisk trees (also called salt cedars), and lavender-topped bushes that require little water.

ALBUQUERQUE Site of the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival and service stop for the Southwest Chief. Here, stretch your legs or buy crafts from the Tiwa Indians on the platform.

Sandia Pueblo (25 Min./52 Min.) The best view of the 10,678-ft. high Sandia Crest, surrounded by Cibola National Forest.

LAMY The stop for Santa Fe with shuttle service for easy connections.

Apache Canyon (5 Min./10 Min.) The train weaves through a spectacular granite gorge, so narrow the rock is at times just one foot from the train.

Canoncito (13 Min./92 Min.) From Lamy to Glorieta, you ascend 1,000 feet in 10 miles through areas of bright red, dry, creek beds called the Glorieta Pass. On your left is the first look at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, meaning "blood of Christ" and commemorating the suffering of the early Spanish explorers who crossed them.

LAS VEGAS With the coming of the railroads came a rowdy New Town, attracting unsavory folks like Billy the Kid, until West Bank vigilantes cleaned it up and cleared it out.

RATON At the base of the Raton Pass which crosses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

TRINIDAD Fisher's Peak is to the right, a rocky promontory rising almost 10,000 feet. Back and to the left are the twin Spanish Peaks (called "Breasts of Mother Earth" by the Indians

LA JUNTA Junction of the Santa Fe Trail and the Cimarron Cut-Off. On a clear day, you can see Pike's Peak from here, 100 miles to the north on the left. Just east of the city is the most famous trading post of old Colorado, Bent's Old Fort, where scout Kit Carson once worked.

Coolidge (25 Min./50 Min.) Colorado/Kansas State Line. If you are traveling eastward, set your watch forward one hour; back one hour if traveling westward.

DODGE CITY This most famous of western cities was first a trading post, then a Civil War fort (Ft. Dodge), then a railroad boom town. Here, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Col. George Custer and Doc Holliday lived -- and notorious bad guys died, many sent to Boot Hill on your right. Hangman's Tree still stands, and Front Street, on the left, has been restored to look as it did in 1875 when the town was known as "the wickedest little city in America."

KANSAS CITY This was the starting point for the old Santa Fe Trail, the town where westerners like Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickock would buy last-minute provisions before heading west.

Sugar Creek (15 Min./85 Min.) Once the headquarters of Jesse James, killed in nearby St. Joseph.

MARCELINE Walt Disney spent part of his childhood here. The initials he carved into a school desk are still legible, as are the hand-cut charcoal drawings on the northwest wall of the home he lived in until age six. His star, Mickey Mouse, was in fact created while Disney traveled the route of the Southwest Chief on the Santa Fe Railway. Walt Disney Park is on your left, sporting steam engine #2435 of the old Santa Fe.

FT. MADISON The Southwest Chief travels only 20 miles in Iowa, and this is its only stop.

Mississippi River (5 Min./50 Min.) Cross the state line between Iowa and Illinois over the wide Mississippi River on a 3,347-ft. long steel bridge.

CHICAGO As you enter, you'll first see railyards, power plants, and refineries, all indications of a manufacturing giant. Then as you approach the station, the skyline of the city itself emerges on the right. Note the profile of the Sears Tower, 100 stories high and just two blocks east of Union Station. The station, marble-pillared with impressively high ceilings, is conveniently close to office centers in the Loop, wholesale markets at the Merchandise Mart, the Mercantile Exchange for commodities, and exciting shopping on Michigan Avenue.

Scenic Photo Tips

SCENIC SPOTS: Your train passes many beautiful and interesting sights. The "camera" symbol on your Route Guide Map marks the best spots, so have your camera ready!

OUTSIDE SHOTS: Medium-speed films (ASA 200 or higher) are recommended for shooting scenery through the train windows. If your shutter speed is adjustable and light conditions permit, set it at a higher speed (1/125 or 1/250 sec.) for the clearest results. Hold your lens close to the window to eliminate glare and reflections.

INSIDE SHOTS: Flash is recommended. To avoid glare and reflections, do not point the flash directly at the windows.

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