September 30, 2005
On the Road: Amtrak—the downside
There were many features of Amtrak that were appealing and delightful: seeing the back country, the wonderful service of the Amtrak staff, great food, being rocked to sleep by the motion of a train. We consider it a great adventure.
However, one feature makes us pause before signing up for another trip. Amtrak is a quasi-government service, but it runs on private railroad lines. In our case, we went from Denver to Sacramento on Union Pacific tracks. From Sacramento to Seattle, we were on the old Southern Pacific (bought by Santa Fe and now Burlington Northern-Santa Fe). The “real” railroads consider Amtrak a poor step-child, to be shunted to a siding any time a real train (that is, a freight train that makes real money) needs the right-of-way. So we spent a good bit of time poking along or moldering on a siding.
We got into Sacramento three hours late. Our connecting train out of Los Angeles was due at midnight, but didn’t arrive until 3:30 a.m. We had a reservation for the evening at a hotel in Seattle near the train station, where the train was scheduled to arrive at 8:15 p.m. When we “de-trained,” as they say, it was nearly 4:00 a.m.
The bright side? We have airline tickets for the ride home.
(* Thanks again, Gary, for sharing a few vignettes from your cross county trip. lgp)