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  #1  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:01 PM
Podkayne Podkayne is offline
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How comfortable is Amtrak coach?

We're considering a trip to visit family in the spring, and checking out the Amtrak option. Looks like one leg of the jouney would be 13 hours overnight.

Would this be survivable in a coach seat?
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  #2  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:17 PM
Neurotik Neurotik is offline
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Could you do 13 hours in an airplane? That's about the equivalent. There's more leg room on the train, but there's also no handrest dividing the seats. It's also easier to walk around, you can walk to the cafe car or something if you need to stretch your legs.

But the basic comparison is an airplane seat.
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  #3  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:18 PM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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Doable, certainly better than overnight on a bus, but not spectacularly comfortable. I made numerous overnight trips in coach back in the '70s and '80s and didn't suffer too badly, but although the seats recline pretty far they don't lay out flat. It also depends on the coach type. Amfleet (single-deckers with rounded sides) are mainly for short-distance services and are less comfortable and quiet than the double-deck Superliners used mostly on western long-distance runs. I've never ridden in the most recent single-deck cars used in the East so can't comment on those.
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  #4  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:19 PM
Neurotik Neurotik is offline
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Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I think you're nuts to want to do it. Six hours is about my limit. If possible, it would most likely be cheaper and faster to fly to wherever you're going.
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  #5  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:19 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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The cabins are actually pretty decent, though. You even get a shower!
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  #6  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:27 PM
Podkayne Podkayne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurotik
If possible, it would most likely be cheaper and faster to fly to wherever you're going.
Actually, going coach by train is considerably cheaper than flying (barring a fare war between now and then). It's kind of a pathological trip by plane, because we have to go from our regional airport to a hub to another hub to another regional. We basically have to spend the whole day, from wee hours of the morning to late at night, either in a plane or in an airport on a layover. By train, we depart in the evening for a long trip overnight, then take another shorter leg the next day, arriving in early afternoon. Depending on how comfortable the train is, it could be a much nicer experience.
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  #7  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:41 PM
Neurotik Neurotik is offline
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I see. Well, I'd rather do 13 hours in an Amtrak coach than 13 hours in an airline coach.
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  #8  
Old 01-11-2005, 09:44 PM
saramamalana saramamalana is offline
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Actually I just did 10 hours coach to Montreal, not overnight though. The seats were pretty comfortable and there's good legroom. And yeah, as opposed to the plane you can get up and move around. The seats reclined enough to get a good nap in, too.
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  #9  
Old 01-11-2005, 10:58 PM
hocow hocow is offline
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Every summer m best fried ad take Amtrak from Harrisburg to Hammond, IN. The trip is about 15-16 hours and usually overnight one way or the other. !3 hours is certainly doable, ad I find the train ride relaxing.
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  #10  
Old 01-11-2005, 11:01 PM
hocow hocow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Krys92gp
Every summer m best fried ad take Amtrak from Harrisburg to Hammond, IN. The trip is about 15-16 hours and usually overnight one way or the other. !3 hours is certainly doable, ad I find the train ride relaxing.
Oh my. *mental note: Preview*

That should say:

Every summer my best friend and I take Amtrak from Harrisburg to Hammond, IN. The trip is about 15-16 hours and usually overnight one way or the other. 13 hours is certainly doable, and I find the train ride relaxing.
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  #11  
Old 01-11-2005, 11:33 PM
koeeoaddi koeeoaddi is offline
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Depends on the train.

Chicago to Denver overnight in coach on the California Zephyr was nice and I'd do it again. The seats had foot rests and were relatively comfortable, the train was clean and the food was surprisingly decent.

Or maybe the Zephyr just seemed pleasant compared to the first leg of our trip -- Philadelphia to Chicago on the Lucifer Limited. Filthy, crowded and late, the only thing worse than the stopped up bathrooms, interpassenger discord and broken seats was the thermostat stuck on 102. Wild horses couldn't get me back on that thing. Even for an hour.
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  #12  
Old 01-11-2005, 11:47 PM
E. Thorp E. Thorp is offline
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In 1993 I rode Amtrak from Seattle to Harrisburg, 3 days in coach. Boy, am I glad that's over.
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  #13  
Old 01-12-2005, 12:08 AM
dangermom dangermom is offline
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We took a trip on the Zephyr in November, and it was, mostly, pretty great. Question: do you have kids?

The coach was comfy, I thought much better than an airplane. The seat is wider and there's much more legroom. We never had a problem snagging an extra seat--in our train, lots of people were sleeping with two seats to themselves. You can get up and stretch your legs and it's actually pleasant. The bathrooms are airplane-like.

However, the train was quite late for both trips, so it was a good thing we checked before leaving for the station. We arrived hours late both times, since we had slow trips as well as late starts. If there's some delay on the track, there's nothing to do but sit and wait.

But even a 5-hour+ trip on the train, over the Sierra Nevadas, was preferable to the car ride in our opinion. It was so relaxing, and the kids (4 and 1.5) enjoyed it a lot, and we could read and color and watch things on the laptop instead of just giving them toys and hoping they'd behave the whole way.

So, if you have the time and the hankering, I'd say go for it. Just try not to get impatient.
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  #14  
Old 01-12-2005, 02:11 AM
even sven even sven is offline
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I took went across the country (something like a four day trip) in coach and it was great- although the Chicago to New York portion was less enjoyable than my time on the Zephyr. It only cost a hundred bucks to go cross-country (less than any airline ticket I could get with two days notice) and coach is about one eight to one fifth the price of the cabins. Who pays eight hundred bucks to go cross country? I'd rather save the money and have seven hundred more bucks to spend when I get where I'm going.

There is a lot of legroom...probably three and a half feet or something rediculous. I'm a small person and I could fit all my luggage and still have a lot of legroom left. The seats are also fairly wide. It's in no way comperable to coach on an airplane- more like business class. There was always an empty seat next to me and the footrests come up to horizontal so I had rather decent amount of space to sleep. It wasn't the best sleep I've ever had, but it worked. If you get cold though, bring warm stuff to sleep in because they keep it pretty cool.

The bathrooms arn't all the pleasant, and washing up takes some creativity, but for a one night ride that shouldn't be an issue.

I met a lot of interesting people- everything from actors going to audition on Broadway to Amish families on vacation. I still keep in touch with some of the people I met. And nothing beats the view- mountains, deserts, fields, small towns, big cities- I've seen it all.

Don't count on it being on time. Amtrak has the last priority on the tracks, and delays are pretty common. You can expect to be about a couple hours late.

Pack food. The dining car and snack cars are overpriced and not that great. They have hot water availble for making tea/oatmeal/coffee in the morning and nobody will frown on you breaking out a nice picinic.

Ohhhh...I wish I was going on Amtrak again!
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  #15  
Old 01-12-2005, 06:57 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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I have taken many shorter trips in Amtrak coach, mainly 2h each. My experence has been:

No comparison to airplane coach, wider seats, more then enough leg room for even b-ball stars, not clohstrphobic (seems very open), you can get up and walk around any time, switch seats, and usually get both seats to yourself. You can walk up to the snack car (longer trips have a dinning car).

I didn't see much advantage to the upgrade to business class except free (n-a) drinks and being away from the rif-raf in coach.

For a longer trip I would consider it but plan to bring something to do. You usually have access to 120V outlets, so no special adapters are needed.
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  #16  
Old 01-12-2005, 07:23 AM
35340 35340 is offline
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coolness

Thanks for this, folks. I've got a 1.5 year old and have thought about taking a train trip with him sometime soon - sounds like its best to wait until he's a smidge older and can do the laptop-DVD option.
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  #17  
Old 01-12-2005, 07:25 AM
35340 35340 is offline
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coolness

Thanks for this, folks. I've got a 1.5 year old and have thought about taking a train trip with him sometime soon - sounds like its best to wait until he's a smidge older and can do the laptop-DVD option. He's still a huge wanderer, so that would be a lot of walking yet.

Also good to know about the hot water. I pack food for 2 hour plane rides - this sounds like a good idea for the train too.

Anyone know if they do cabin upgrades last minute cheap if they are available?

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  #18  
Old 01-12-2005, 10:43 AM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saramamalana
Actually I just did 10 hours coach to Montreal, not overnight though.
And you didn't tell me??!!

Yeah, I took Amtrak to and from New York before. Going, I was bombastically late (engine trouble; they went through, like, two locomotives). Coming back, we were exactly on time, despite the customs stop.
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  #19  
Old 01-12-2005, 10:51 AM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mynn
Anyone know if they do cabin upgrades last minute cheap if they are available?
I upgraded once for a trip from Durham, MC to Baltimore, MD (about 6-7 hours). There was an announcement at the Durham station about 10 minutes before the train was due, offering an upgrade from Coach to Business Class for, IIRC, $16. I decided to take the plunge. I guess it was worth it; the seats really weren't much (if any) more comfortable, but there was free soda and there were also TV screens playing movies.

I love the train, except it tends to be really expensive here in the north-east corridor. My partner is currently in the Boston area on a research trip, and it was considerably cheaper for her to fly from BWI to Boston than it would have been to take the train. And much faster, too—an 80 minute flight compared to a train journey of close to 8 hours (unless you take the Acela, which is even more expensive).

I echo the people who say that it's far preferable to spend 13 hours in a coach train seat than in a coach plane seat. Much more room.
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  #20  
Old 01-12-2005, 10:54 AM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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I also reiterate what others have said about the possibilty of being late.

The train from Florida to New York goes through Baltimore, and when i'm at Baltimore's Penn Station it's not uncommon to look up at the board and see that this train is running four or five hours late. Once it was ten hours. My heart went out to the people stuck on that train.
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  #21  
Old 01-12-2005, 11:13 AM
Derleth Derleth is online now
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I did an overnight from Seattle to Havre, MT in a Superliner coach and it was pretty good, if you don't get hung up on how much slower it is than flying and how much time the train seems to spend stopped in the middle of nowhere. If you bring a good book, you can expect to get some serious reading done. I devoured most of a Sherlock Holmes anthology and Schott's Original Miscellany.

On the plus side, that train takes a scenic route through Glacier. That alone made up for the sins it committed.

Yes, the food is expensive and not that good. It isn't, however, bad food, and nobody cares if you bring your own. The seats don't lie flat, but they do recline quite a ways, and if you have a couple seats to yourself you can get downright comfortable. However, I was always able to sleep most anywhere.

Once you get used to the gentle swaying of the train in motion, you can walk around with freedom, modulo the fact that the only paths are the narrow aisles between seats. It's a lot better than being trapped in an airline or car seat, especially if you have medical problems that necessitate occasional walks.

And, of course, you can listen to your radio (be polite, bring headphones) if you want. How much of an advantage that is depends on the route, but it can be nice if you go through or near a lot of large towns.

I prefer aircraft for trips of any length, but the train is nice enough if you prepare for a long stretch of sitting in one spot.
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  #22  
Old 01-12-2005, 12:55 PM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Oh just to add, some trains have the rear as dedicated quite cars. The main lights will be off, and it is for you to turn off any noise making device (read cellphones), and also turn off your cell phone, and just enjoy a quite trip (because, if I didn't mention everyone in that car has turned off their cellphones).
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  #23  
Old 01-12-2005, 01:00 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Podkayne
Actually, going coach by train is considerably cheaper than flying (barring a fare war between now and then). .
Usually, though, if you add on meals, and a private room, which is your only option if you want to be able to lie flat, the cost of train travel becomes stratospheric. Elsewhere, I described a proposed trip across country by train with full accommodations that we were planning to take. It seemed wonderful at the time--something to be done as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, research on Expedia and Orbitz revealed that if we dropped the train idea and flew, we could have both the tickets and the hotel stay for about the same money as just the rail fare with accommodations would have been.

Still, if for some reason I couldn't or wouldn't fly, I would consider Amtrak for the OP's journey even if I did have to sit in coach, as I really dislike long car trips. Unless, of course, I was going to be terribly inconvenienced by not having my car at the destination.
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  #24  
Old 01-12-2005, 01:20 PM
chefjef chefjef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Usually, though, if you add on meals, and a private room, which is your only option if you want to be able to lie flat, the cost of train travel becomes stratospheric. Elsewhere, I described a proposed trip across country by train with full accommodations that we were planning to take. It seemed wonderful at the time--something to be done as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, research on Expedia and Orbitz revealed that if we dropped the train idea and flew, we could have both the tickets and the hotel stay for about the same money as just the rail fare with accommodations would have been.

Still, if for some reason I couldn't or wouldn't fly, I would consider Amtrak for the OP's journey even if I did have to sit in coach, as I really dislike long car trips. Unless, of course, I was going to be terribly inconvenienced by not having my car at the destination.
I love trains so I'm always a fan no matter what. But - that being said -- Amtrak is not as cheap as one may think. I never get a sleeper car -- I always travel coach on their "regional" (code for slow) train but remain pretty happy and comfortable. Just get on the train in time to get a good seat and you're set!
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  #25  
Old 01-12-2005, 02:33 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Seems from the above comments as though regional service is better in the Northeast, long-haul and sleeper service better in the West.

I too recommend the NY-Montreal run. I'm not far from Croton, NY and time enroute is 9 1/2 hours. Pack a lunch, bring a laptop, some crossword puzzles and a neck pillow. When not using these, enjoy great views of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. You come into Montreal about dinnertime - Central Station in the heart of downtown.

Waiting for the train back, you can learn the words to "O Canada" from the friezes in the station. English on the one side, French on the other.
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  #26  
Old 01-12-2005, 03:26 PM
Barbarian Barbarian is offline
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To be honest, I'd rather fly between Mtl and NYC than take the train. The train ride is nice, but it gets long. Having an outlet at your seat is nice though.
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  #27  
Old 01-12-2005, 04:02 PM
saramamalana saramamalana is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_mcl
And you didn't tell me??!!
Sorry love! I did mention it in the "what are you doing for New Year's?" thread, though. I stayed at the Quality Inn on Crescent Street, if that gives you a point of reference. I do plan on coming back now that my friend's boyfriend up there has become her fiancee, and especially since the barback at Vocalz was cute and thought I was, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beware of Doug
Pack a lunch, bring a laptop, some crossword puzzles and a neck pillow.
Just have to say wow because that's exactly what we did. Also a deck of cards, travel Connect 4, travel Scrabble, an Uno deck, vacation madlibs, dvds for the laptop, lots of snacks, and I brought a book and my mp3 player. We were fully entertained.
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  #28  
Old 01-13-2005, 01:35 AM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beware of Doug
Waiting for the train back, you can learn the words to "O Canada" from the friezes in the station. English on the one side, French on the other.
Take warning, though; the English lyrics are the old ones.
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  #29  
Old 01-13-2005, 04:53 PM
Podkayne Podkayne is offline
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Thanks very much to everyone for the info. I think we're going to give it a whirl!

No kids, dangermom, but the hubby and I are pretty immature, if that counts.

We'll pack the standard travel kit: some samwiches and fruit and the cribbage board, and heck, if there are outlets, I can bring my laptop and some DVDs!
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  #30  
Old 01-13-2005, 05:23 PM
dangermom dangermom is offline
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There were electrical outlets in our Zephyr car. Have fun!
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  #31  
Old 01-14-2005, 12:40 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Have fun!! Definitely pack snacks at least. You'll feel pretty trashed the next day, as you won't sleep all that well - so plan your next day's activities (or lack) accordingly.

I wouldn't try it with young kids - last year, we took the Auto Train to Florida and I saw families in coach, with young kids.... I cringe at how their night and morning must have been (we splurged on sleeper accommodations). Since it's just you and your spouse, that's less of an issue.

Bring a blanket or something (your coat might do fine) in case the car is too cool for you to snooze comfortably.

The sleeper accommodations are cute but rather overpriced. I didn't sleep especially well, but certainly better than I would have had we been in coach.
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  #32  
Old 01-14-2005, 01:24 PM
35340 35340 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_mcl
Take warning, though; the English lyrics are the old ones.
When <I>did</i> they change it to "O, Canada! Except, of course, Quebec?
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  #33  
Old 02-08-2005, 10:34 AM
35340 35340 is offline
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speaking of the train -

I was pricing out tickets to leave from Major Metro Area to go to Other Major Metro Area, and they were *cheaper* than leaving from Minor Metro Area 12 miles along.

That is:

Major MA - at zero mile
Minor MA - at 12th mile
Other MMA - destination

it was cheaper to go from Major MA to OMMA than from Minor MA to OMMA - even though the distance was shorter and the train would stop there anyway. WTP? Anyone ever experienced this?
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  #34  
Old 02-08-2005, 03:08 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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I think each station gets an allottment of tickets, so that people never find a situation where they just can't get tickets from their city because all the tickets were used up from big city traffic. It may be that the major metro area had a lot more tickets assigned to them than the could handle, whereas the minor metro area was tight on tickets.
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