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Passenger Trains > Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver

Date: 01/21/23 02:14
Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: GenePoon

Continuation of the trip reported earlier on the mini-Capitol Limited:

My business partner and I continued our trip home to Colorado from Spencer, NC. We arrived CUS on the morning of the 17th on #29 from DC. I reported on that leg of the trip earlier.

We headed to the Metropolitan Lounge and took a break and a quick tour of the station. This was my first experience with the new lounge. Large, roomy and well lit, it was a pleasant surprise compared to the old lounge.

#5(17) departed CUS on time with a consist of 2 locomotives, a baggage car, transition dorm sleeper, 2 sleepers, lounge car, dining car and 2 coaches.  We had dinner reservations for 6 PM. The dinner for the evening included 3 courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. One alcoholic beverage is included with dinner is you so choose.

I started with the coconut crusted shrimp, had the ever popular Amtrak flat iron steak and finished with the cheesecake. To say that this was like the good 'ol Amtrak, would be an understatement. It was every bit as good as I have ever had on a LD train. The steak was done perfectly and tender. The meal overall was spot on and the way dining should be offered on any Amtrak train.  How Amtrak can serve that sorry excuse called Flexible Dining is beyond me.

The dining car staff would only add to our experience. Courteous, knowledgeable about the dishes and willing to help really topped off the dinner. I spoke with one of the staff members and asked when coach passengers were going to be served in the diner. The response was that when more staff is added and trained, coach passengers would be invited back. I know that this is what we have been hearing, but I believe I was speaking to someone who might have firsthand knowledge.

I was in the 32 car and Johnny was the attendant. My room was made up when I arrived back after dinner and I thanked him. As we chatted, I asked Johnny how long he had been with Amtrak. 40 years was the answer. He said he is planning on retiring sometime this spring. What a nice man and I will bet he is going to be missed.

We were down on the schedule about 45 minutes out of Ft Morgan, although we arrived into the Denver yard on time. However, due to a switch needing to be hand thrown, we arrived at the platform about 20 minutes late. It was snowing in Denver and there was about an inch accumulation on the platform. Although they were in the process of clearing snow, it was a bit sketchy stepping out of the car and onto the snow.

We proceeded to find seating inside the station to wait for our bus trip south. Due to the inclement weather, there was a fair amount of transient folks inside the depot as well. We were approached by one asking to use our phone charger. I don't know if this is a new scam or if the fellow really needed a charge. There is armed security inside the station and they were present. One chap was escorted out only to sneak in another door, only to be escorted out again.

The bus we were waiting for is called the Bustang. It is a bus system operated by the state of Colorado and criss crosses the state in a fairly large network. The buses are modern, clean, wifi equipped and on time. I would recommend this service and will use it again in the future. Overall, this trip was wonderful and is what I think Amtrak should strive for on all their trains. 

Date: 01/21/23 03:45
Re: Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: jp1822

Nice report! Your dining and sleeping car experience is nearly exact to what I have experienced on the Empire Builder - a train that I regularly seem to be on (practically monthly except this New Year's and February 2023 - perhaps March 2023 too). The "new" traditional dining menu that Amtrak has on a select Western LD Route trains is great! Hands down, no complaints from this rider. And the onboard staff - I commend and have a LOT of respect for. I've gotten to know a lot of the onboard staff over the years on the Empire Builder too. That just comes with frequent riding. No complaints, and their stories are amazing.

Sadly, the LD trains East of Chicago (especially Capitol Limited, which was always my preferred train over the Lake Shore) is sometimes a different story - food service and in sleeper. Shame to see that train, Texas Eagle and the Crescent become what they've become.....Anyway.....if you tip, and tip fairly, the onboard staff typically will go above and beyond. It's not expected, but a nice touch. The "rule book" for the LSA's operating the "Sleeper Lounge" (VIewliner II Diner) on say the Lake Shore Limited is actually pretty rigid. But I've always seen the LSA still come out from behind the galley and take orders at the tables and deliver the food. Technically, they don't have to do that. I see this as just another example of the disconnect between management - sitting in their offices just writing the operational rules - while the onboard staff working the front lines are just trying to do things a bit more efficient and customer facing/serving. 

Date: 01/21/23 05:37
Re: Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: Amtrak-P42

The cause and effect you created here isnt correct unfortunately. The station is full of homeless, rain or shine, hot or cold, year round. The weather has nothing do with it-the whole area is overrun.  

Date: 01/21/23 06:26
Re: Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: stuporchief

Thanks for the informative report, Gene. I'll be riding next week and I am cautiously optimitic that my experience will be like yours. Of course—as we all know—consistency is not a hallmark of Amtrak service!

Date: 01/21/23 06:33
Re: Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: ronald321

how were the track conditions on this route -- smooth or rough?

Just wondering if the BNSF is maintaining this X-CB&Q route properly.  It carries a lot less traffic than the busy 
X-Santa Fe trans con.

Date: 01/21/23 09:01
Re: Trip report, California Zephyr, Chicago-Denver
Author: dan

Where on the Bustang did you go.  there were planning on adding service to TRInidad but covid got in the way making it hard to catch the Chief.  M_F you can do it using Outrider/Bustang combo from the east, but # has to be fairly punctual for that to work.  Greyhound does have TRI service 5 days a week, but times are not really near bus times weds-sun at all.

The  chi-den line has always been rough, people say  i have only been in a loco on the western part Mc Cook -Den it seemed fine, but we were not doing 80

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