Thursday, June 5, 2014

When A Call from Amtrak Is Not Good News.

Uh-oh … comes today an email from Amtrak saying I must contact them about my forthcoming rail trip. I really hate it when this happens, because much of the time it means there's a "service interruption" … and that almost always means there's bus ride in your future.   
There was, for example, the time I was booked on the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. I forget the problem, but the net result was an eight-hour bus ride from Chicago to Minneapolis. Instead of a nice, relaxing dinner in the Builder's dining car, it was a cold boxed meal and a warm Sierra Mist.

Another time -- this was before Hurricane Katrina -- I was on the Sunset Limited heading east all the way to Orlando. Once there, I was going to rent a car and drive to Fort Myers for a visit with my parents. But somewhere in Louisiana came the dreaded phone call with the news that there was some kind of problem up ahead in Mississippi and we would be put on a bus in New Orleans for the ride to Orlando.  

I suggested to a conductor that it would be faster and more comfortable if I just rented a car in New Orleans and drove straight to Fort Myers. He looked at me pityingly. "Son", he said, "It's Mardi Gras in N'Awlins! The Lord God Jehovah Hisself couldn't find a rental car in that town tonight!"

He was right. That bus ride was eleven hours.

Todays email made reference to my upcoming trip which includes the California Zephyr from Sacramento to Chicago, where I'll connect with the Lake Shore Limited to Springfield, Mass.

It seems CSX is working on a stretch of track in Western Massachusetts but, to my unbounded relief, my bus ride will only be from Albany to Springfield and will take just about 90 minutes. That I can deal with.

But, for the record, I hate those damn buses!


Brian R said...

I had a similar email abouta week ago with same heart stopping feeling as I had 7 trips planned. Relieved when realised it was the bus from Emeryville into San Francisco but rang anyway to be told Financial district bus stop closed and I haveto get off at Embarcadero. No problems, hope nothing worse happens although am discovering Amtrak service is not what it was 15 years ago. Reached Denver last night. Scenery lovely but conditions in car deplorable and service to passengers abysmal. Of course scenery wonderful.

JIM LOOMIS said...

Glad to hear that's all it was. And I'm impressed that you would be notified on what is basically a very minor change in the schedule. Sorry about the problems. I'll be on the Zephyr in a couple of days and will take not. Don't hesitate to complain to Amtrak's Customer Service. Best rule I ever heard on that subject: For best results, be brief, be specific, be nice.

George Probert said...

With all the drama with the rails/route in NM/CO on the Southwest Chief, should I be concerned with booking a trip from LA to CHI for October?

JIM LOOMIS said...


No … any change of service - be it changing the routing or canceling the train - wouldn't happen until 2015 at the earliest.