Travel By Train

Discussion in 'Railways, Highways, Waterways' started by RB, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. RB

    RB Founding Member

    I am open to train travel even going as far as trying to work out routing. From my area (DFW) to say FLL it seems the only way is to Chicago, then east and down the coast.

    Do we have any experienced rail travelers among us yet? I could certainly use some pointers on how to plan a trip by rail, things to watch out for and such.

    Thanks.
     
  2. FetePerfection

    FetePerfection Founding Member Coach

    Although not experienced, I've specifically booked train travel to avoid security baloney. Only tip from me for a long journey you might book a roomette for a little nap and privacy. Generally all meals are included and I find it very relaxing to just kick back and leave the stress to someone else. Maybe I'll see you on the rails -
     
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    My wife & I have often used the trains in Europe. It's much more pleasant than air travel (counting castles on the Rhine beats "Do you want to fly today?" anytime) and the train stations are much more hospitable environments, usually microcosms of the communities & cities around them.
     
  4. RB

    RB Founding Member

    To get from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale is about a 3 or 4 day trip. Why there is not a direct route across the southern states is beyond me. I can drive it in 2 days (two 12 hour driving days) with an overnight at the Beau Rivage resort for a little fun. Also the train is not priced competitively unless I am not doing proper trip planning.

    So we have 2.5 hours by air plus the 90 minutes or so getting to the airport early and I live about an hour from DFW. (5 hours)

    Train 36 hours plus.

    Auto 22 to 24 hours with an overnight on the road.

    As Mike says in his post trains in Europe are the way to go. I have used trains, hydrofoils, and buses in the northern countries of Europe with ease.
     
  5. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Yeah, the train system here isn't so great. I've had the same problem, boggie dog, in that I'd have to go from Atlanta to Chicago to DC to get down to Florida.

    I believe there's a route from New Orleans to Orlando, don't know if it continues on to FLL, that for some reason doesn't show up. IOW it seems to get anywhere around the SE US you have to piecemeal an itinerary. I was going to do a little more research on that very thing in the next week or so, and I'll let you know what I find.

    I just hope we can keep T&A off the rails...:eek:
     
  6. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Amtrak service between New Orleans & Florida was discontinued after Hurricane Katrina due to track damage.

    The damaged tracks have been repaired for about five years now -- for whatever reasons the current obstacles are reported to be political.
     
  7. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Thanks, Mike. That's odd, though, because when I went to the Amtrak website it showed the route as active. Maybe that's why I'd have to dig to find it...
     
  8. RB

    RB Founding Member

    The Amtrak track atlas shows a track from New Orleans to Atlanta continuing north. Nothing across the southern states. Guess even if those tracks were repaired Amtrak does not use them for passenger traffic.
     
  9. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Thanks, boggie dog! I had no idea such a thing existed.

    For anyone's reference the direct link to the atlas is here. The parent page is here.

    FWIW that rout from New Orleans to Atlanta continues up to DC, where it appears is the first transfer point to head back south to FL. How disappointing.

    Nonetheless, perhaps the atlas can help others who wish to look more seriously at train travel. Looks as if those of us wishing to travel in, and around the South are out of luck.
     
  10. JoeBas

    JoeBas Original Member

    As I've stopped flying, Amtrak has gotten more and more of my business. I take fairly frequent trips to visit family in NJ from Texas, and will drive 5-6 hours to New Orleans and catch the overnight train from there rather than drive all the way or fly.

    Planning trips by rail on short notice is VERY difficult. AMTRAK uses a bucket fare system, like the airlines do, so it's like buying a short notice ticket. They do have a "frequent passenger" program (Amtrak Guest Rewards) though, and it's not all that hard to rack up free coach tickets to use on short notice fares. On long trips, small berth sleeper car rooms (Roomettes in AMTRAK parlance) can almost pay for themselves, though, since they include all meals.

    The biggest problem traveling AMTRAK is during the summer - there are NOT a lot of trains relative to the number of people in the country traveling, and since the TSA is driving them in droves out of the air they tend to fill up fast, especially in summer vacation/peak travel season. The sleeper cars especially tend to fill up months in advance, ESPECIALLY on the more "Touristy" routes like the Empire Builder. More trains would help alleviate this issue, but also bring more scrutiny I'm sure.

    As far as the trip itself, I'd say it's IDEALLY suited for leisure travel, not so much for short-term business travel, if timeliness is an issue. Trains often run down an hour or two, since they're technically renting space on the host railroad's property and the host railroad tends to look after its own business more than the "renter". However if you have the time, I can't recommend it enough - a couple of trips ago someone I was dining with in the dining car said it best - "When I fly, I don't feel like I'm on vacation until I arrive at the hotel and unpack. When I travel by train, I feel like the vacation starts as soon as I'm on board". There's just something refreshing about slowing down a little.
     
  11. JoeBas

    JoeBas Original Member

    Yes, I'll be on that train next week NOL-PHI, you have to go up to DC and then cut back to get to Florida, for now.

    The Sunset Limited used to go east from New Orleans to Florida, but when Hurricane Katrina came it destroyed the tracks in Mississippi that the train used, so service was suspended. Those tracks have LONG since been repaired, but under congressional pressure that trains turn a profit (or at least cover their Operating Expenses - wonder why we don't ask the same of highways?... but I digress) AMTRAK wants to charge the states the train would pass through a prorated charge to restore service, based on the number of stops the train would make in that state. MS and AL are on board, since they would only have 1-2 stops each, but FL's legislature steadfastly refuses to partake in any such scheme.

    As such, the route remains in a quasi-permanent "Active, but suspended" status, UFN.
     
  12. barbell

    barbell Coach Coach

    Thanks for the info, and welcome to Travel Underground, JoeBas!

    So, in your anecdotal experience, traffic on trains is up? Interesting. I know the runs are limited, but I don't recall hearing them cut capacity like I know airlines have been doing...
     
  13. JoeBas

    JoeBas Original Member

    Train traffic is up BIGtime, I've had to book way farther in advance than I used to in order to get lower bucket fares, or even a room at all.

    And it's not just anecdotal... published metrics is showing AMTRAK with record ridership... in THIS economy...

    Hmmm...
     
  14. the_happiness_store

    the_happiness_store Original Member

    I have always the considered the train stations a very good place to grab a bite if you were clueless. There was always going to be something that was very tasty.
     
  15. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    ha. you're seeing that too eh? On our routes, the fares have been going up substantially and you have to reserve a lot further in advance. Tons of people taking the train. also, when we first started with train and dumping air travel, the parlour car was not well popuulated--you could have a table to your two selves, but now, everyone is encouraged to "join together" even on the parlour cars.

    but to answer boggy dog' question, just make sure you pungle up for a room, and don't travel in coach, or whatever they call the general cars without separate rooms. makes a huge diff in enjoyment of the trip.
     
  16. RB

    RB Founding Member

    Until, the southern route is re-opened I won't be taking the train to Florida. It is faster to drive, cost much less and is still devoid of TSA (for a while) and I can bring a cooler full of beverages.
     
  17. RadioGirl

    RadioGirl Original Member

    Love train travel in Europe and in Australia. I've got a two week gap between meetings in Europe later this year and (since I refuse to fly in/out of the US) looked at flying to Canada and taking Amtrak to the DC area to see family. But 11 hours for Montreal to New York? Really? :(
     
  18. VH-RMD

    VH-RMD Original Member

    11 hours for 500 kms?!?!?!?
     
  19. exbayern

    exbayern Original Member

    On a Sunday or holiday usually train stations, airports, and gas stations are the only places open in Germany. Some of the larger rail stations are quite amazing for diversity of food, entertainment, and shopping.

    I use the train frequently around Europe and parts of Asia.

    I have also used Amtrak quite a bit, mostly in the Northeast corridor. That area of the country seems to be somewhat well covered, but as noted many other areas face challenges, and driving often seems faster (if not safer) than taking the train. Lack of stations, lack of frequent service, and lack of coverage are major issues in some part of the US, as is the amont of delays and lack of high speed rail.

    I see that VM-RHD and RadioGirl are a little stunned by the comparison... ;)
     
  20. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Some of our most notorious ICE "interventions" are on trains near the Canadian border in the northeast.
     

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