From: Carol Stuard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Millennium Trip on Amtrak and ViaRail 12/26/99 - 1/7/00
My husband and I left Ft Worth Texas on December 26,1999 on the Texas
It was on time coming and arrived in Chicago pretty much on time. We were
greeted by Charles (Charlie) who had to be the very best way to start
long train voyage! We knew immediately that we were in great shape. We
economy room 2 right across from where the supplies are kept so we saw
of Charlie! 1st of all - after getting the luggage settled it was fresh
coffee ALL THE WAY to Chicago. He also brought us bottled water, Slice,
Pepsi, and had a basket of candy and gum which he kept refilling! Charlie
was just plain NICE. One thing that I had never noticed before was that
vacumed every compartment as soon as he made them up. Never any trash
Charlie's car! We had the 7:00 seating and opted for prime rib (with
wine). All the salads are fresh and crisp on Amtrak plus veggie and choices
for dessert. I had to pass, but I husband had the turtle pie which he
enjoyed. We had a good night's sleep. In the morning Charlie has brought
around a newspaper which we enjoyed after breakfast. We watched a movie
the lounge car and ate lunch down there as the dining room didn't serve
In Chicago we walked around a bit and boarded the Lake Shore Limited about
30 minutes before departure. The Met lounge in Chicago is a nice place
wait, but during that time of the year, it was always crowded.
The Lake shore Limited was the only train on the whole journey that was
significantly late (around 2 hours); however the people we talked to that
were regulars said that it was referred to as the Late Shore Limited!
matter of fact, the Lake Shore Limited was our only (slightly) disappointing
part of the whole train trip! We had the economy sleeper(Viewliner) which
was the most expensive by at least two times than the other sleepers
(Superliner) we had in the US and Canada. (5 nights) We paid $250 for
night economy (after the senior discount!) Of course that is upgrading
the rail ticket which was separate. The little compartment is fine, and
have an LCD screen on which 2 separate videos are replayed. Also there
luggage storage up overhead which was nice There is a toilet and a sink
the room and one of the seats is smaller to allow that configuration.
room attendant (also a Charles) was pleasant and kept the coffee going
hot water was available too, (I'm a tea drinker, so I appreciated that).
dining car was a disaster! The whole crew in the dining car was unfriendly
-bordering on rudeness. I always smile and am polite - no matter what!
(sometimes I have to grit my teeth) but this was too bad. It seemed to
from the head guy down, he was disagreeable and in a bad mood - never
smile - and all of the employees were hostile too. For one meal we sat
to the "kitchen" area and could hear the employees yelling at each other!
The waitresses were barely civil to the passengers. One sat a a table
her head down on it until passengers were seated. An old lady asked her
something and she literally yelled at her. All the meals were served on
McDonald plastic - no I think it was more flimsy that that actually -
first night I cut through the salad bowl cutting my tomato and broke the
light weight plastic fork putting butter on my potato! The dishwasher
broken so we had the plastic for all meals and thin paper napkins! That
a first for me - it was the only train I have ever been on that didn't
nice silverware and cloth napkins. But that's not such a big deal, the
unhappy servers do tend to set a different mood. The food was ok, but
nothing like the prime rib I had just had on the Texas Eagle with smiling
and pleasant employees (that I tipped very well!) Only one choice of desert,
it was cheesecake or cheesecake!
We slept well that night also - the upper berth seemed roomier than the
on the Superliner.
French toast and OJ for breakfast which we enjoyed watching the snow around
Buffalo! We rarely see snow so that is one reason we chose this winter
vacation. I had a corned beef on rye for lunch; husband had a cheeseburger.
We stayed right across the street at Hotel Pennsylvania for nostalgia
convenience! It was the most expensive lodging of our trip and we would
stay there again! About a 2 star at best. But they still have that
world-renowned telephone number Penn 6 5000!
We had to be at the station early to catch the Adirondack because of the
security check right before New Year's! After they checked our passport,
waited in the Met Lounge but probably shouldn't have been allowed to since
we were leaving on a single class train.
We sat on the right side and enjoyed the views along the Hudson River
also Lake Champlain. We saw some fisherman fishing through the ice! A
sat with me who had lived in that NYC and pointed out many things as we
passed. We did sit at customs for a long time as the custom people boarded
the train and checked ID and asked questions. We were to make connections
with VIA Rail at St. Lambert, Canada and that was the only iffy connecting
on our trip! We had barely 2 hours to make the connection, but I didn't
to spend the night, and we had decided to take the chance. Neither Amtrak
Via will guarantee that connection! We arrived in plenty of time and waited
about an hour for the Ocean to arrive from Montreal.
It was a very long train with 3 locomotives and (I think)21 cars. That
included 2 dome cars but only 1 dining car (buffet now). We were in a
sleeper and had to walk all the way to the end to that dome car which
reserved for the 1st class passengers (anyone with sleeper accomodations)
There were sandwiches for sale and complimentary tea and coffee and egg
(!) because of the season I guess.
The coach passengers also had a dome car which was located next to the
dining car. Both coach and 1st class passengers could use the dining room.
We did have some gorgeous winter weather with some snow (finally) as we
into Nova Scotia - we got off the train and had someone take our pictures
with snow falling on us! The lounge/dome car was great and people were
friendly and very surprised that we had come all the way from Texas for
Years without knowing a soul!
We got in about 45 min late and were met at the station by a lady who
managed the Inn where we would stay for 3 nights. After a WONDERFUL stay
the inn, we were taken back to the station and reboarded the Ocean for
trip back to Montreal.
Coming back, I checked twice on the consist and it was 3 locomotives,
ELEVEN! sleeping cars, 1 baggage car, 2 dome cars, 1 dining car and the
were coach. for a total of 23 units. It was the longest train I had ever
been on! They needed another dining car to say the least. At dinner the
extended between 15-25 people - enough to discourage us and buy some
sandwiches in the lounge/dome car.
By the way, coming back (Jan 2/3) there had been a freight train derailment
at Montreal, so they detoured us on freight tracks (7 hr detour) that
crew (who I asked) said they had never been on before. It was in Quebec
some of the best scenery and beautiful snow scenes on our trip!
We missed our VIA 1 Rail connection from Montreal to Toronto (along with
others!) so they had another train together for us which left about 40
minutes after arriving in Toronto. That was not so much fun; we were
supposed to have gourmet food with wine served at our seats in Via 1 and
to settle for a tuna fish sandwich!!! But when we arrived in Toronto we
hotel reservations right across the street at the Royal York so we were
in our room for a 2 night break. I would recommend staying there by all
means! It was a great room, great food, and we splurged with room service
couple of times. My husband had picked up a bad cold/fever/aches so that
a great place to break our trip and get him back on his feet again.
We took the International from Toronto to Battle Creek MIchigan. Again
sat on the train for a long time as the US customs people checked us all
over. When they looked at my passport, I had stuck a stub there from a
flight to Paris about 8 years ago. He asked me questions about that -
it had a date (Nov) but not a year! He had already noted that we were
England this last November. I guess he decided we were legit as he finally
Here comes a gripe!
Some clown from the States had a bunch of Cuban cigars he was trying to
smuggle in. So they took him and his wife off the train and kept them
an hour; at that time, they let them reboard and we finally continued.
didn't they just keep the smugglers (!) and let the train go on? I didn't
get that. But we were less than an hour late getting into Battle Creek
we spent another night and visited briefly with relatives.
We took the Lake Cities from BC to Chicago, where we connected with the
Texas Eagle for our trip back home to Ft Worth. This time we lucked out
Darryl - another gem of an attendant. We were not happy with our 9:00
reservation that was our only choice and lo and behold, about 7:00 our
was called and we were invited to the dining car! What a nice way to
remember our last night on the train. Darryl made that happen! Great dining
car personnel - boy the LSL could sure learn something from the Eagle!
were made to feel welcome and special when we were in that dining car!
Another great trip arriving ON TIME! Way to go, Eagle!
Had a funny thing happen!! As we were sitting in our sleeper car, we noticed
an aroma creeping over the car. Someone was smoking and it sure wasn't
regular cigarettes! Soon the announcement came over the speaker reminding
everyone that smoking was not permitted in the sleeper and what they were
smoking was not permitted anywhere and the next stop could be their last!
Soon some air freshener was evident and that was the end of that matter.
knew who they were. They were both drunk and complaining when boarding
train and spent most of their time in the lounge or the smoking car up
the middle of the train.
We tipped our room attendants well - they did an excellent job - we did
tip that rude dining room staff on LSL at all while the other dining room
people were left between $2 and $4. We have fixed upon what works for
about tipping. If the employee tries *at all* to do a good job, we tip
If they don't - we don't. Actually that's about what we do off the train
too. I really think that rude wait people might get the idea if they were
Hints that work for us:
I also packed packages of homemade carmel corn and "trash" and candy and
pistachios in individual plastic bags. Since it was right after Christmas
and some of the staff hadn't been home yet, I wanted to spread a little
holiday cheer. We also start our trip with about 6 paperbacks and as
read them, we leave them on the train with the attendant. The attendants
seem to be well read and know which books are worth reading.