Jeremy Abbott's Amtrak and VIA Train Trip
With the North American Rail Pass
Around 10pm on Feb. 6, I called the Salt Lake Station, and was informed
#5 would arrive around 11:30pm (1 hr. early). One of my friends had
to give me a ride, so I told him we would leave around 11pm. It
5-10 min. drive to the station, but it had been snowing very
about 4 hours, and thew roads were a mess. We got to the station
11:20pm, in plenty of time to see #5 roll in at 11:30. Upon its
headed up the platform to the open coach. The coach attendant
friends to get on the train with me, since we would be in Salt
almost 2 hours. I showed my friends the coaches, smoking room,
and dining car. They were both very impressed, and their jealousy
skyrocketed. After I bid my friends farewell, I reboarded the train and
setteled in. We started rolling at 1:35am on Wednesday Feb. 7, 25
late. I don't know why we departed 25 min. late, especially since
arrived 1 h. EARLY. Sleep overcame me within 5 minutes of our
I woke up around 8:30am and made my way to the Diner for Breakfast. Most
my meals on board would be from the Lounge, but since it was the first
morning of my journey, the Diner seemed more fitting. Bad morning in the
Diner. The food tasted good, but the service could have been much better,
and the food more fresh. In spite of its good taste, the sausage was
and the biscuits were dry, in spite of the gravy. We arrived into
Nevada about 25 min. early. Sparks being a service stop we were
to step off of the train. Not many people got off of the train for
long because it was bitter cold in Sparks. In spite of the Snow in
Lake at Midnight, it was much warmer there than in Sparks at 9:30am,
it was sunny. Of interesting note, there was an Amtrak train parked in
the Sparks yard. Its consist was 2 F40's, 1 Dinette, 4 single level
cars, 2 UP private cars in the middle, a full length dome car, and
single level coaches. It was odd to see the 2 UP private cars in the
of an otherwise Amtrak consist. Nobody on board the Zephyr knew why
train was there. We departed Sparks at 10:15, and were quickly
the strip in Reno. About 2 miles after we left the Reno station,
came to a stop, and we lost power. After about 5 minutes, the
on and informed us we were having mechanical problems. After
minutes, the Chief announced the smoking car would close due to
of power, and that the power was lost because the engine had frozen
crossing the very cold Nevada desert. We finally got moving again
2 h. 30 min. late. The Sierra Nevada Mountains were as spectacular
usual, and the scenery seemed to calm those who had gotten upset over the
delay incurred outside Reno. We finally arrived into Sacramento around
5:45pm, about 1 h. 45 min. late. I went into the station to store my bags
while I went to the Downtown Plaza for a while. I found out from the ticket
agent that the train in Reno is a fun train that can be chartered from the
Bay Area or Sacramento to Reno.
After having dinner in the Downtown Plaza in Sacramento, I spend a few hours
in the shops in the Plaza. I then returned to the station to have a seat
and read my book while I awaited #14 to arrive. Back at the station I found
out that #14 was running about 1 hour late, due to a car which had broken
down on the tracks in a very isolated area.
DAY 2---Thurs. Feb. 8
Northbound Coast Starlight #14 arrived into Sacramento at 1am, 1 h. 15 min.
late. Upon getting on board, I immedeatly went to sleep.
I woke up as were passing through a tunnel. The Conductor was announcing
that after we departed the tunnel, we would enter another which would take
us into the State of Oregon. He announced that after departing that tunnel
we would arrive into Klamath Falls in 20 minutes, running about 1 hour late.
Since the Coast Starlight is a non-smoking train, a lot of people were
stepping off at Klamath for a cigarette, myself included. In the light
noticed that the train was very close to full, which I found as a suprise,
since it was February, which is usually the slowest travel month of the
year. The Zephyr had also been almost full. By the time we arrived into
Eugene we had lost time again and were back to 1 h. 15 min. late, but the
schedule padding helped out, and by the time we arrived into Portland, we
were 40 min. late. At Portland, about half of the people on board were
getting off. Many of those were making connections to #28, the Empire
Builder. Only about 20 got on in Portland, compared with about 100 getting
off. From Portland to Seattle, I spent about 1 hour having a political
discussion in the lounge car with a young lady who was a Political Science
major at the U. of Portland and an older gentlemen with an extremely cynical
view of government. It made for an interesting talk, since the young lady
was a die hard Republican and Bush supporter, and I am the anti-Bush. Our
arrival into Seattle was about 5 min. early. After getting my bag that
checked, I caught a cab to the U. of Washington, where I would be staying
the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter there. They were having a party, so I
very good time that night.
DAY 3---Friday Feb. 9
I woke up about 15 min. later than I planned, thus elimimating my chance
take shower. I called for a cab, and the cab took 20 minutes to get
I realized it was going to be a close call on catching #760, since
rush hour. I told the cab driver when the train left, so we were
off in a
hurry. As I got to the station, I heard them making the last
for the train. I was the last person to get on board before
rolling. The scenery along the Puget Sound is amazing, and
anyone who goes
to the pacific northwest should take that train to Vancouver.
I think it is
just as spectacular as the coastal routes in California.
Lots of eagles
were along the coast that day. We arrived 20 min. early
After passing through customs, I dropped off my bags in
storage, and it was
off to get lunch and spend the day in Vancouver. After
lunch, I lost $45
(canadian), so the only thing I could do was walk around
the city and look
at stuff. I headed back to the station at about 4pm,
since The Canadian was
scheduled to start boarding at 5:10pm.
The Via Rail segment of my trip will be in the next report, followed by
second half of my Amtrak journey, so stay tuned.
Day 3 (Cont. from 1st report)
Boarding for VIA #2, began for coach passengers at 5:10, as scheduled.
departed on-time from Vancouver. From my previous trip on the Canadian,
remembered that smoking was in one end of the lounge/dome car, and could
done at any time. On this trip, I discovered a change in that policy.
Smoking is now only allowed from 10am-Noon, 3-5pm, and 8pm-8am. However,
one of our attendants informed us smokers that the policy change is a step
towards the ultimate elimination of smoking on the Canadian. While I don't
want to start a smoking v. non-smoking debate, I find this to be a bad move.
After that comment, I was the only smoker out of about 20-25 onboard a
very empty Canadian who said that if smoking was banned they would still
take the train again. I heard only 1 passenger complain about the smoking,
and that was not until right before I got to Toronto, when the dome area
finally began to smell of the smoke. PLEASE DON'T USE MY COMMENTS
A SMOKING DEBATE! My trip on the Canadian would be split by a
detour on the
Hudson Bay to Churchill. Our 5:30pm departure time from
Vancouver does not
allow for any scenery viewing in the winter as we depart
Vancouver, so I
took a little nap, and woke up for the 8pm 12-hour smoke-a-thon,
to make friends. I went to sleep at about 10pm, so I could be
up early for
the incredible scenery of the Canadian rockies.
I woke up at about 8am, Pacific Time, and ten minutes later it was 9:10am,
because we had crossed into Mountain Time. We were running right on-time
still. The scenery through the Canadian Rockies is among the most
scenery I have seen from a train window. I met a Canadian
the morning, who is currently living in China, where he works
for the British
film industry there. We were expected to arrive into Jasper
about 15 min.
EARLY, and since it is already a long stop for the Canadian,
as they service
the train and clean its windows here, we planned to go to a
pub and get
some lunch and a beer. We actually arrived 25 min. EARLY at
us an extra ten minutes. We spent about an hour at the pub
drinking. We had just enough time to grab some postcards and
to the train. As we continued on, I saw a lot of wildlife,
Elk, Moose, Rams, and even a few Wolves, which are hard to spot
wild. The incredible scenery continued most of the day, until we
into the flatlands of Canada (also known as the great Canadian
for our arrival into Edmonton. We arrived into Edmonton about 30
EARLY. The temperature in Edmonton was a chilly -5 Farenheit. Of
that was the warmest weather I would see until I arrived into
over a week later. It was dusk by the time we departed, about 10
late, so I returned to the lounge for some food and conversation, and
to sleep at about 11pm.
We were scheduled into Winnipeg at 11:10am, however, when I woke up for
breakfast, we were running about 1 hour late, and were still in
After a good breakfast in the Dining car, I went back to my
seat and continued
reading my book "Hannibal" which is a sequel to the
Silence of the Lambs.
We arrived into Winnipeg about 15 minutes late.
After our arrival, I checked
one of my bags to Churchill, and went out to
get something to eat. After
lunch I walked around a bit in the bitter cold
of Winnipeg (about -15 Farenheit),
and looked around in some shops around
the downtown area. Not much was
open unfortunately, since it was a Sunday
morning. I returned to the station
because I was not feeling very good, and
rested up a bit. Unfortunately,
I was coming down with a pretty nasty cold
that would limit me for almost
Next report will be Winnipeg-Churchill-Montreal
Sorry this report is taking so long, but I have been very busy since my
return a few weeks ago.
Here is another piece of my trip report for my North American Rail Pass
trip. Sorry for the big delay on getting these out, but my life has been
hectic since I returned.
Day #5 (cont.)
As the day progressed I was getting more and more sick. At 8:30pm, they
called for boarding of #693, the Northbound Hudson Bay. Only about 15
people boarded in Winnipeg, and only 4 were going further than the The Pas,
where we would arrive the next morning. Of those 4, I was the only person
destined for Churchill. After my ticket was collected, I went to sleep.
I woke up as we were on the outskirts of The Pas. There were only 6 people
left in coach, plus the 2 people who had boarded the sleeper in Winnipeg.
Four people left the train at The Pas, but there was a large group getting
on. It was a junior hockey team heading to Churchill. There was about
people in that group, and they had the second coach to themselves.
additional 4 people got on in my coach. For most of the day we were
around 1 hour late. The scenery along this route is very different
other train I have been on. The further north, the shorter the
the further north we went, the slower the train went. At
times we were
averaging about 15 miles per hour, making the Kentucky Cardinal
Later in the day, we had to switch off of the mainline to head
We arrived into Thompson about 1 hour late. Departing Thompson
we had the
heaviest load I saw on the train. Not including the hockey
team, we had 25
passengers. We pulled out of Thompson about 20 min. late,
and despite the
still relatively early hour, I went to sleep, due to my
We arrived into Churchill 15 min. EARLY, at 8:15am. The temperature outside
was around -40 degrees (F). After grabbing my bag that was checked, a
gentleman offered me a ride to my hotel. I was staying at the Churchill
motel. I got a hot shower once I got into my room, and then took a nap.
woke up around 11:30am, and decided to explore the town a little bit.
Within 10 seconds of stepping outside, my breath was freezing to my face.
went to the Arctic Trading Co. as well as the Town Centre, where I grabbed
lunch at one of the two restaurants that serve lunch during the winter.
Since the food at the restaurants was so expensive, I stopped at a grocery
store to get some stuff to eat. I went back to my room out of exhaustion,
and watched some TV. There were about 20 channels, 4 of which were from
US. The shows on the Canadian channels were predominatly old shows
US, such as Alf and WKRP in Cincinnati. I ate some dinner after
a few hours
of TV, and then took another nap. I woke again around 9pm,
in time to view
the magnificence of the northern lights. This was the
only night they were
visible, so I am glad I woke up. After an hour or
so, I went back to sleep.
Still sick. After having a bit to eat, I walked around town some more,
found the liquor store. I got some rum to make rum and cokes, and
back to my room needing more rest. It was a good thing I was staying
Churchill the extra time, because I needed the rest. I spent the rest
the day watching TV and reading, with some naps thrown in for good measure.
Yep, still sick, but getting better. My last day in Churchill was spent
wondering one last time. It is a nice little town, but very cold. This
the warmest day, at a wopping -30 degrees (F). The nights were around
degrees. The lady at the motel alowed me to stay until close to the
departure. I headed to the station around 7:30pm, for a scheduled
departure. After boarding the train and having my ticket taken,
I went to
Just a little bit sick. We were running on time today as we arrived into
Thompson. I tried to order a Pizza, since it is a long stop, but the Pizza
Hut did not deliver until 3pm. The rest of the day was spent reading and
napping, not too much exciting.
I woke up as were coming into the suburbs of Winnipeg, and we were running
right on time. We came into a stop at the station about 10 min. Early.
went and got some breakfast after putting my bags in a locker. I also
walked around town a bit, and got back to the station to find out the train
was running about 1 hour late. About 45 minutes before the train was to
arrive, we found out it was actually running about 1 h. 30 min. late. A
minutes later that became 1 h. 45 min. late. Yet again about 45 minutes
before it delayed arrival was supposed to happen, we found out the train
just made it Portage la Prarie, about 1 hour away. So make that 2
late, or so we hoped. That day, the 1 hour trip from Portage took
1 h. 15
min. By the time the train arrived it was 2 h. 15 min. late.
Winnipeg is a long stop, so some time could be made up. Or not.
more time at Winnipeg, and finally departed just under 3 hours
late. As the
day progressed we just got later. By the time I went to
sleep we were 4
Woke up and we were running 5 hours late this morning. Luckily time can
made up, especially since I have only 3 hours from our SCHEDULED arrival
before my train departs for Montreal. As the day progressed we actually
started making up time (finally). By the time we got to our last stop
before Toronto, we were only 3 h. 45 min. late. We made up a little bit
more time, and arrived into Toronto right at 11:30pm, 3 hours late, and
scheduled departure for the Enterprise, the overnight train to Montreal.
was among about 15 people making that connection. I luckily found the
open seat in coach, since I hurried over to the train. The others
having to sit with other people, although somebody joined me early
morning. I was very dissapointed with this train from the start.
of it being an overnight train, the coach was a short haul coach,
for trying to sleep.
Day 13 ***WORST DAY OF MY TRIP
We arrived into Montreal a few minutes early, but I only got about 1 hour
sleep. Upon arrival I went to the Amtrak desk to attempt to leave on
Adirondack one day early. I ran into a big problem though. The CPR
train jump the tracks, during a time when they were already doing
construction, so the Adirondack was replaced by a bus to Albany. Since
were chartering a bus instead of the train, they would not allow me
change my reservation to leave a day early. She said they reserved the
for a certain number of people and they could not add any more. I
happy about this, but I got extremely ticked off when I saw that
half full. The following day I got even more ticked off when
I saw that
there was a seperate bus for those getting on or off prior to
Albany, so the
bus would not be filling up later. So, I had to convert
more money, and
find someplace to spend the night. Luckily there was a
youth hostel nearby,
so after some breakfast, it was off again. The lady
at the Hostel informed
me however, that the hostel was on a certain street.
It was not on that
street, so I spent almost 2 hours wandering trying to
find it, with all my
bags in tow. By the time I found it, I got to my
room and passed out until
early that evening. I headed out to get some
food and see a little bit of
Montreal. It is a beautiful city, full of
exceptionally rude people.
Luckily, this time, they were not nearly as
rude as they were on my previous
visit. I headed to bed around 10pm, since
I had only gotten 1 hour of sleep
the night before, even though I took
a 5 hour nap.
After waking up, I packed up and headed off for the train station. Once
the station I found out that I would be also having to ride the bus
as Albany, which was my destination on the Adirondack anyhow. There
quite a few ticked off passengers, and while I was one of them, I
take it out on anybody. I was especially ticked because I was
connect to Chicago from Toronto, but chose to go via Montreal
because of the scenery on the route of the Adirondack. I grabbed
breakfast and by then they were ready to board the bus. Everybody
one bus, which would make a stop at the first scheduled stop in
the US. At
that point, any passengers (which there were only 2) that were
going to any
stop before Albany, would get off and board another bus, which
all intermediate stops. The bus we boarded in Montreal would
then go to
Albany non-stop. Our bus got to Albany almost 2 hours ahead
(the other bus was late). I spent my time in Albany getting
reading, since the station is isolated in a residential neighborhood.
segment of the Lake Shore arrived into Albany early, but they were
problems because there were too many trains arriving at one time,
so we were
delayed about 10 minutes in leaving. After grabbing some dinner
lounge, I read a little bit more and then went to sleep.
We arrived into Chicago about 20 min. EARLY. I had about 3 hours to waste
before catching the South Shore train to Michigan City, IN where my sister
would pick me up. In Union Station there was a notice that the Heartland
Flyer was temporarily being replaced by a bus due to trackwork. I did not
want to ride any more buses, so I changed my reservation to skip out on
going Ft. Worth-Norman-Ft. Worth, and stay an extra day in Chicago, and
switch from Coach to Sleeper at Ft. Worth. So, I got some lunch in
station and looked around the area of Chicago around the station.
been to Chicago so many times, that sightseeing is rarely done by
when I am there. One interesting note, #8 was listed as running
late, but then it arrived 1 hour EARLY. The listing it as 3 hours
have been a mistake, because from Milwaukee-Chicago there is
not 4 hours of
padding. I went over to the Randolph St. rail station to
catch the South
Shore. The train was a few minutes late by the time of
our arrival in
Michigan City, but that's ok, my sister was late too.
I spent the day wandering around the quaint Indiana town of La Porte, where
my sister lives, nothing exciting, but I did see a few trains.
I was dropped off to catch the South Shore around 10am. Once in Chicago,
put my bags in my locker and wandered off to find a bookstore. It was
pouring rain, and not very warm, so I decided to stay inside after I got
back to the station. The Eagle departed on time, but had lost an hour by
the time we got to Springfield. We were still an hour late at St. Louis,
and that's where the fun began. We had to back way out of St. Louis to
switch tracks due to a freight derailment on the normal route of the Eagle
south of Missouri. We lost quite a bit of time in the process.
When I woke up, we were about 2 h. 30 min. late arriving into Little Rock.
The scenery was not that great through Arkansas and Texas. The train was
very full, especially the coach that was to be transferred to the Sunset
San Antonio. When we arrived into Ft. Worth (almost 3 hours late),
finally able to switch over for my first trip in a sleeper. The
room was a
Standard, and about the size I expected. My sleeping car attendant
polite. After getting set in my sleeping accomadations, some
of the people
sitting near me stopped by and said hello. I went to dinner,
which was very
delicious. I really like the Vegetarian Lasagne. The service
on the Eagle
was very good, in spite of our tardiness. We arrived into
San Antonio about
2 hours late, but that's okay, because I was sleeping,
and when I woke up we
were in west Texas and running right on time.
The service for breakfast in the diner on the Sunset Limited left a lot
be desired. The food was decent that morning, but nothing spectacular.
scenery across West Texas was actually pretty nice. It was slightly
which is more than I can say about it last time I was on the Sunset.
conductor as far as El Paso was kind to the smokers. We made every
including the flag stops, so the smokers could step off and have
cigarette. He did this even though nobody got on or off in Sanderson.
new conductor at El Paso was not nearly as kind. since all stops between
Paso and Tucson are flag stops, he was going to make us wait until Tucson.
Well, some smokers, myself NOT included made a run for the bathrooms after
while. After threatening to start tossing people off the train, one
attendants convinced him to stop in Lordsburg, NM and allow us to
did this reluctantly, but we still arrived into Tucson 15 min.
EARLY, so it
was not catastrophic to the trains timeliness. I went to
bed after we left
When I woke up we were arriving into Ontario, about 2 hours late. I believe
this is because we waited somewhere outside of Ontario, so as not to arrive
into Los Angeles 3 hours early. In the end, we arrived into Los Angeles
hour early, just after 7am.
After an early arrival into Los Angeles, I went to the Bagel Shop in Union
Station to grab some breakfast. I was catching the 8:30am train to San
Diego. The Pacific Surfliner train to San Diego began boarding about 15
minutes prior to departure. Right before the general boarding, a school
group boarded the train for a day trip to Disneyland. They had an entire
coach to themselves, as there were about 75 people in their group. There
was some track construction between LA and Fullerton, which resulted in
orders, and waiting for a northbound Pacific Surfliner to pass. Ultimately,
we would lose about 25 minutes, although arrival into San Diego was only
about 15 minutes late. The ride along the coast is one of my personal
favorites on Amtrak's route. I had not previously visited San Diego, but
had taken the train as far as Oceanside before. San Diego is a city well
worth a visit. I spent much of my time in a large outdoor/indoor shopping
complex about 6 or 7 blocks from the station. The station itself is very
large and beautiful architecture. While there were a few passing rain
storms, the weather was also very nice. I caught a late afternoon train
Fullerton. In Fullerton, I switched my departure day. I could tell
coming down with some illness (again), and could not reach the people
to stay with, so I decided to begin my return to Salt Lake a day
There were some problems with the computer system, as it kept telling
that my rail pass was expired, although it clearly was not. In the
they had to use the old hand written tickets, with pictures from the
the front. The ticket agents were very cooperative in the process.
Unfortunately, the nice folks at trainweb were gone by the time of my
into Fullerton, so I could not stop in and say hi. The Southwest
rolled into Fullerton 10 minutes late, due to the construction
earlier. Once on board, I had a cigarette, and settled into my
read my book for the remainder of the evening.
As I woke up we were crossing the great state of Arizona, running about
minutes behind schedule. I put in my Eagles CD, and fell back to sleep
after a quick breakfast in the Diner. I woke up as we pulled to a stop
Winslow, Arizona. As an odd coincednce, the song playing on my CD was
fact the song in which they sing "...standing on the corner in Winslow,
Arizona..." As we sped on into the state of New Mexico, we were informed
that we would be making up time, and should arrive into Albuquerque about
minutes early. Sure enough, right on the dot (according to the clock
bank in Alb.) we were 30 minutes early. They cleaned the windows,
serviced the train while the passengers enjoyed looking at all the
being sold alongside the train. We pulled out of Albuquerque 15
late (I don't know why), and proceeded to lose more time until
in La Junta, CO, 1 hour late. From there we made up time throughout
evening, and overnight hours. In the morning, we arrived into Kansas
on time. My destination on board the Chief was Galesburg, so I still
little while to go, so I grabbed some breakfast in the Diner and
book as Missouri and a few miles of Iowa passed by out my window.
arrived into Galesburg about 10 minutes early. I spent my afternoon
Galesburg touring the downtown shopping district, picking up some goodies
for myself and my friends at home. Then it was time to grab some dinner
head back to the station to catch the Ca. Zephyr back to Salt Lake.
Zephyr rolled in 15 minutes late, a condition that would only worsen
it got better.
I woke up as we left Ft. Morgan, CO, running about 1 h. 30 minutes late.
had some breakfast as we passed through the Colorado Prarie. We came
the outskirts of Denver fairly quickly, and it looked as though we
make up some time. We didn't. We pulled into Denver 1 h. 45 minutes
after dropping off a mail car, and picking up a few express cars.
another book while in the Denver Station, since I had only 5
pages left in
the one I was reading. We did get out of Denver a little
scheduled, knocking 15 minutes off of our tardiness. THE
We were now at the mercy of the Union Pacific. As we
moved into the
mountains, we did not take the siding once. We pushed up
and over the
continental divide, through the Moffat Tunnel and into our
next stop of
Winter Park-Fraser, CO. In one of Amtrak and UP's most impressive
we had managed to make up another half hour (something I have
done, going west out of Denver to Win. Park), putting us an
schedule. As we crossed the beautiful rocky mountains of Colorado,
able to make up another 30 minutes getting into Grand Junction,
Colorado/Utah border. For those who have not had the opportunity
the Zephyr across Colorado, much like in Albuquerque, the train
Grand Junction has a host of people show up with goodies for
arrival. Most of the goodies at Grand Junction are food, but
its nice to
have the opportunity to get fresh fruit, and other foods not
Amtrak, at this stop. As we left Grand Junction, we were
right alongside the interstate, but unlike the rest of
Colorado, we were
flying past the traffic. By the time we arrived into
our first stop in Utah
(Green River), we were only 15 minutes late, and
by Helper, UT (next stop)
we were actually about 10 minutes early, and
we had to sit and wait for our
departure time. I fell asleep as we left
Helper, after getting the
delicious Vegetarian Lasagna in the Dining Car
for dinner. I woke up as we
passed through Sandy, Utah, about 20 minutes
from downtown Salt Lake. We
pulled to a stop, bringing my 22 day journey
across North America to a
close. The time was 12:05AM, Amtrak brought
my journey to a pleasant close,
26 minutes early.