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Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326315 Mon Sep 16 2019 02:50 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 2,888
J
Shop Shark
Do it soon. The stretch for about an hour south of Tacoma and into our fair city is breathtaking. Right on the water. In a couple of months they're switching to new tracks right beside boring old I-5.

Last edited by Jim Bow; Mon Sep 16 2019 02:50 AM.

"Happiness equals reality minus expectations" - Tom Magliozzi
Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326501 Tue Sep 17 2019 11:21 AM
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 841
I
Shop Shark
Jim,, you are so right ,,years ago my wife and two kids took the train from Longview Wa to Seattle .. we seen what you are talking about ,,beautiful site seeing from the train .. we landed at the depot where the old Kings Dome used to be and took in the Space Needle ,,down town under the city tour and also to the square where we seen how the gold seekers geared uo for the Alaska Gold Rush ,,and Pikes fish market,,it was a nice trip even though the wife got a little train sick,, and that was becasue she sit in the backwards seat I believe










Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326522 Tue Sep 17 2019 02:50 PM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,042
M
Shop Shark
Well, after a considerable amount of work on my end. I just canceled the trip. We had a fairly ambitious plan as mentioned in the thread title. The trip was based on two 15 day 8 leg passes (one for me, one for the wife) with a bedroom car on the three longest stretches of the trip. Plan was to stay one night in West Glacier at the McDonald Lodge. We admired the Lodge when we visited Glacier in '13 via Amtrak from Williston Nd where I was doing a pipeline project. We'd also planned to enjoy Seattle for a minimum of two nights, then on down to Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park. We wanted to take the Coast StarLight Train from Seattle to LA just to enjoy the scenery.

Yesterday I booked the trip...twice. 1st time was thought Amtrak ( I thought) by calling a phone number from the vacation portion of the Amtrak site. Well the price was over 6k and not the expected high 2k number we'd been given just a week ago by a Amtrak agent. When I asked if the price was based on two 15 day passes as requested I was told in no uncertain terms it was "not" since you couldn't reserve a bedroom car while traveling on a 15 day pass. Agent actually got a bit argumentative when I stated the site said you could. Well, left that conversation with a "I'll get back to you". In reviewing the email with the confirmation letter with trip legs and prices it was obvious that even-though I'd gone through Amtrak, I'd been passed off to a outside travel agency. Boston Custom Vacations. It appears both on the Amtrak's website and the email that you're dealing with Amtrak, but not the case. They were not willing to build the trip we wanted since it cost around 4k less.

I then called again and requested a Amtrak agent, was transferred to one. After a total phone time of 1 hour and 20 minutes I thought the deal was done. Credit card charged and reservation numbers in hand. Oddly, Amtrak doesn't provide a email with a detailed itinerary. The agent said she had no way to provide one. Ok.

After the call ended I attempted to do a search of the reservation numbers so I could print whatever I found, couldn't make the wife's reservation number work. As if it didn't exist. Huge red-light. All during the call with the Amtrak booking person we were put on hold for extended periods of time as though they didn't know how to complete the task and needed help. In almost every instance when I questioned what was entered, it was wrong. Example, we wanted to spend one night in West Glacier, clerk entered two. This type issue was the case in 5 out of 7 instances. Of course when you make any change the ripple effect affects everything downstream, sorta like starting from scratch.

The final straw was this morning when I called about not being able to access the wife's booking and finding out it was not the same as mine. This final complication caused me to finally say "Cancel the trip" I'll regroup and we'll do this later. We were given a full refund. Should hit our card tomorrow. The agent said there should have been a 25 percent cancellation change but he voided it.

My takeaway from this experience is; 1. Let a travel agency handle the legwork or be prepared to spend a lot of time studying train schedules. 2. Make sure you're talking to a Amtrak employee (if that's your intention). 3. Don't try to cram too much into a two week trip. Sometimes less is more.

One potential Plan now is to take a scaled down trip from Little Rock to Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. Then on to LA and north on the Coast StarLight Train to Sacramento Ca, then east to St. Louis, hit the zoo, see the Budweiser Clydesdale's and spend a little time seeing the local sights. If timing works out catch a Cardinals game then home.

Or we may just load the Buick PA and head East, never been to Charleston and always wanted to see the fall colors in the NE part of the country. Times running short and it's time to get on the road or rail.

Thanks all for the suggestions and advise.

RonR

Last edited by moparguy; Tue Sep 17 2019 05:30 PM.

1951 3600 with Clark flatbed, T5, 4.10 rear
1970 340 Duster
1990 5.0 V8 Miata (1990 Mustang Gt Drivetrain)
1951 Farmall Super A



Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326556 Tue Sep 17 2019 07:55 PM
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 933
T
Shop Shark
Saint Louis you are in Don King territory he knows the sights to see


57 3200 pickup 265 V8 with service tray
Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326579 Tue Sep 17 2019 11:24 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 4,388
2
Shop Shark
Tim is right, I grew up in St. Louis!
Let me know when you will be there and I just may meet you.
The Hill, Soulard, Dog Town, Bevo, and south Broadway.
I ran them all years ago.

Actually need to make a trip there to pick up some rims for John.
Meet up with and old friend at Hodak's for lunch.
So let me know if you head that way, I may just hook up with you.

Lake of the Ozarks tomorrow, floating on a raft and drinking cold ones!
Don


Of all the things I've lost in my life, I miss my mind the most!

1967 GMC 9500 Fire Ladder Truck
"The Flag Pole"
In the Stovebolt Gallery [stovebolt.com]
More pix on Photobucket [s893.photobucket.com]
'46 2-Ton grain truck
'48 3/4-ton grain truck
'50 2-ton flatbed
'54 Pontiac Straight Eight
'70 American LaFrance pumper fire truck.
Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326756 Thu Sep 19 2019 01:08 AM
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 387
Stovebolt Photo Moderator
Amtrak Trip

Hello Ron, as you can see from my Stovebolt handle I have a railroad alliance. I have a 20+ year railroad career behind me at Amtrak as the Deputy Chief Engineer of Capital Construction. As you traverse our great nation any new platform you see - I built. (One of my favorites you will pass is Whitefish MT, fully heated, over 1000 feet long with a snow-melt system.) I was headquartered out of Philadelphia. My territory was small - Seattle to Miami, Maine to San Diego. When I retired in 2016, the Amtrak system had about 525 stations. I visited 521 of them. (Hurricane Katrina took care of the other 4)

The route you describe between LR and Chicago will be the first leg of your journey. Good plan to detrain in Chicago and do a little sightseeing. From there you will board 7/27, the Empire Builder. I recall a departure somewhere around 2 PM. One of my favorite routes. For the most part you’ll run the high plains across MN, ND into MT. The scenery becomes spectacular as you depart Browning on the Native American reservation heading west to East Glacier and beyond. Sadly, I demolished the Browning Station. It was an eyesore and structurally deficient. We used to say the only thing holding it together was the termites holding hands. This time of year (and if you’re on time) you’ll have a bit of daylight heading into to W. Glacier. My advice would be to detrain in East Glacier as there are more places to stay and eat. Make a few days of it and board a westbound right where you got off. Just behind the station is a big hotel where you will see the famous (restored) White tour buses. If you don’t ride one. Make it a point of getting under the hood of one. Their color combo looks a lot like our Stovebolt editors beloved Charlie.

The “Builder” splits into 2 sections at Spokane. I’ve ridden both many times and my favorite winds down to be the leg between Spokane and Portland. The scenery and railroad heritage along the Columbia river is a sight to behold. More often than not I would exercise my head end privilege and sit with the engineer in a hot, uncomfortable jump seat on a P-42. (4200 HP of rumbling magic). I can go on and on about the route and heritage of the “Builder”. Your journey will take you across the BNSF - Burlington Northern - Santa Fe. Originally the CB&Q or Chicago Burlington and Quincy, the Atchinson Topeka and Santa Fe, and Northern Pacific among the major railroads that formed the BNSF merger. I feel like I’ve hijacked your thread. There are so many great stops along that route I couldn’t pick where to stay. The Glacier stops, Sandpoint, Whitefish, Shelby, Essex (Izaak Walton Inn - small heated platform). If anyone has an interest I could post some of my photos of some of my trips to stimulate the juices. Good luck, Best, Joe


In this world there are givers and takers. The takers eat well, the givers sleep well......

A link to a few photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rwnBAvAWFckJTErs2

1947 - 3800 dually known as "Deadwrench"

Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326789 Thu Sep 19 2019 10:30 AM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,042
M
Shop Shark
Joe, I'd love to see photos! Sad to say the trip isn't happening this time. A small window of opportunity developed for the trip and the "go" decision wasn't made until almost the last minute. When you have livestock along with elderly neighbors that require frequent help, travel is always a challenge. That and a bit of bad luck with our reservations caused a postponement. However I fully intend to regroup and with better planning and more lead time make it work in the not too distant future.

"I feel like I’ve hijacked your thread." No Sir, I truly appreciate the added dimension you brought to the table. Your work history is one of those epic stories I never tire of hearing, I mean it only covered the entire country. I Will definitely take advantage of your great advice.

"Thank You" and Best
RonR

Last edited by moparguy; Thu Sep 19 2019 10:34 AM.

1951 3600 with Clark flatbed, T5, 4.10 rear
1970 340 Duster
1990 5.0 V8 Miata (1990 Mustang Gt Drivetrain)
1951 Farmall Super A



Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326790 Thu Sep 19 2019 11:00 AM
Joined: Nov 1995
Posts: 4,636
J
Unrepentant VW Lover
Ron,

You've tapped into a real resource now ... I had the pleasure of riding with Joe to Kansas City and back a few years ago.Every time we'd pass a piece of RR infrastructure (bridge, station, section of track), I got a lot of education. And every time we saw a train (passenger or freight), Joe would immediately look at his watch (train man ...) and tell me what train it was, details about the engine(s), where it had originated, where it was going and if it was on time or not. If it wasn't on time, he could tell me how far behind or ahead of schedule it was. He probably knew the engineer's name, all of his kids' names, their birthdays, food allergies, what color socks they were wearing that day and when the last time was he had washed his car.

smile


John
"There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes..."


'49 Chevrolet 3804

Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326793 Thu Sep 19 2019 11:53 AM
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 387
Stovebolt Photo Moderator
Ahhh - the trip of a lifetime Mr. Editor. Pumpkin seeds, earplugs, vacuum wipers and a long trailer. An experience I will take to my grave.

Ron - when you are ready to make an Amtrak trip send me a PM. I'll connect you with a real agent behind an Amtrak computer. Amtrak outsourced agents about a year ago and from what I know every experience parallels yours. Sadly.

Here's a sample of engineer chatter between an engineer and control in San Antonio on the Builder between Spokane and Portland:

"headend 27- highball west, two to go - No "d's. give me clear targets. Making some noise in the gorge - send the bucks and does swimming. Lots of skin yesterday on 28, hoping for the same. - Over"

Translation: "I am the engineer of train 27 westbound to Portland. Please give me permission to depart. I will sound my horn twice as indication of forward movement per the book of rules. I have no form "d's (speed restrictions). Line the railroad with clear signals and I will make the run on time. Along the Columbia River gorge I will be sounding my horn with frequent blasts because its mating season and livestock tend to fornicate in the middle of the tracks. Yesterday on my eastbound run there were many young ladies paddling the river in bikinis. I hope for the same today."

So went a railroad career. Over, Joe


In this world there are givers and takers. The takers eat well, the givers sleep well......

A link to a few photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rwnBAvAWFckJTErs2

1947 - 3800 dually known as "Deadwrench"

Re: Amtrak: Little Rock to Chicago to Settle to San Francisco To Tucson to LR
moparguy #1326818 Thu Sep 19 2019 05:00 PM
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,042
M
Shop Shark
LOL, Joe that's priceless. I have a good friend who just turned 75 that retired from Cotton Belt/Union Pacific. His history included conductor, ending as a engineer. He's tried to school me on the various hand and body signals they used before radio's and phones took over. I retain some, most is too fast and over my head.

And I will definitely take you up on your gracious offer of agent help.

Out,

RonR


1951 3600 with Clark flatbed, T5, 4.10 rear
1970 340 Duster
1990 5.0 V8 Miata (1990 Mustang Gt Drivetrain)
1951 Farmall Super A



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