In mid January 2007 I rode the Southwest Chief from Lamy to Chicago and the California Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento in an economy sleeper. Overall it was an excellent trip, due primarily to an attentive, congenial staff, excellent weather, interesting people, and with some exceptions, a timely schedule. Food ranged from very good to “needs improvement.”
California Zephyr at Donner Pass on January 20, 2007 photo by the author
On the plus side there is no method of travel that is as relaxing and stress free as the long distance train. This is enhanced by the fact that nearly all travelers at any one time on these long distance routes have the same “state of mind” about the pleasure of rail travel. And, sleepingÂ on the train is for me one of the great pleasures of train travel.
On the down side, travel on UP tracks, particularly in Nevada is frustrating due to “slowÂ orders” and what appears to be needless delays from slow moving freights. By contrast, delays on BNSF tracks used by the Southwest Chief were minimal with the exception of several signals that were not properly managed.
Food service on both the Chief and the Zephyr was very good. As for the food itself, a strong suggestion is to either increase the quality or lower the price. Generally entrÃ©e were good, but vegetables were poor. The angus burger was very good, but the pizza was cardboard.
Facilities were clean, although the toilet vacuum system failed in one of
the sleepers on the Chief. Attempts to repair it were unsuccessful.
Will I travel the long distance routes in the future? Yes, most definitely.
Trains are in integral part of American history.Â They link people to the
land and to regional history, and, as a result, help to maintain our unique culture. In this regard, subsidies should not be an issue.