Anyone ever travel by rail?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Eric_L, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I am considering traveling from Orlando to Toronto with my family (three cildren 8,6 and 3) via Amtrak with a stopover in DC and New York for sightseeing. The cost is comparable to airline with my AAA discount.

    I am curious if anyone has ever taken an extended rail trip and, if so, how the experience went.
     
  2. Joe Spratley

    Joe Spratley Stunt Coordinator

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    I went from Chicago to Portland, Oregon a few years back. Great experience. The train was delayed a few hours in Chicago due to a freight train derailing. It wasn't Amtrak's fault but nevertheless they fed us in the lobby while we waited. That night they also gave everyone a free steak dinner in the dining car. The delay was only 2 or 3 hours. Compare this to airlines that will delay you for hours and not even give you a bag of peanuts. Anyway the train wasn't crowded and I had the seats next to me open so I could spread out. I brought my laptop and GPS and plugged it in so I always knew where we were. You can get up and walk around anytime so your not cramped up like a plane or bus. I spent a lot of time in the lounge car. It's mostly windows and you can watch the scenery go by. You can also get food and snacks here. The dining car was also very nice, like going to a nice restaurant and looking out the window and seeing scenery go by. Sleeping was ok. I had the entire row to myself so I could spread out. It wasn't real comfortable but doable. They do have cars where you can have your own room but the price is much higher. All in all a great experience and one that I would like to do again. The Orlando to Toronto train might be slightly different so ask them if they have a lounge car and dining car.
     
  3. Alex S

    Alex S Second Unit

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    Eric,

    We have taken the Auto-Train from Lorton, Va to Sanford, FL many times. We like it a lot. We have 2 kids so we always get a room. You have to with kids. It's very relaxing. You can watch the scenery in the observation cars, get a drink or snack in the lounge car or watch a movie at night.

    The rooms are expensive but worth it especially if you have kids.
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Never anything of that distance, but we do usually travel by train for trips to Toronto using Canada's Via Rail. It takes about the same amount of time as driving, I do not have to deal with driving around in Toronto, and we avoid any possible bad winter road conditions on Highway 401 if it's a winter trip.
     
  5. David Brown Eyes

    David Brown Eyes Second Unit

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    Travel by rail is great if you keep one thing in mind.

    It is not fast and it is rarely if ever on time.

    Trains are insanely comfortable, the passengers are generaly well behaved. Small children with a low tollerance for boredom may have difficulty. There will be a dining car for meals, there may even be observation and movie cars as well, that depends on the train.

    if speed is your goal a train is not the way, but for a nice relaxing trip, there is nothing better.
     
  6. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I took an overnighter to San Francisco several years ago. If I were to do it again I would get a sleeper cabin. I had a rough night trying to sleep, but other than that I enjoyed it. I recently took a two hour train ride just because it had been awhile. It was perfect, though the prices had gone up since the last time.
     
  7. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    I attempted to travel by train from Montpelier, Vermont, to NYC once. I will never travel by rail again, ever.

    First, the train broke down, so we had to take a bus from Montpelier to Springfield, MA. That made us insanely late already. Then, around New Haven, CT, the train had to sit parked for nearly an hour for some other malfunction.

    What should have been a 6-7 hour trip ended up taking over 15 hours. It was miserable.

    I can't wait until Amtrak goes belly-up. They've gotta be the most F-ed up organization I've ever seen.
     
  8. andrew markworthy

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    Clearly none of you has ever travelled by train in the UK.

    A small illustrative tale to show you how lucky you guys are. Every month or so I have to take the train to London (you drive in London only if you've lost the will to live and want to hand over your entire lottery winnings to pay to park) from Cardiff. A trip (in theory) of 2 hours. If I buy my ticket a month in advance it costs me about £50. If I pay on the day, it's about £100. This is for standard class (aka cattle class). If I wanted first class it would cost double. If I'm lucky, I get a seat. Certainly by halfway through, it will be standing room only because the rail companies seem incapable of understanding that putting on extra carriages is a good idea. A good journey is counted as one where you are under half an hour late. There is, however, plenty of in-house entertainment, largely from morons having loud conversations on their phones.

    Anyone who has travelled on trains in the UK would recognise this as a typical journey. To get a refund or any sort of compensation, you'd have to be something like 10 hours late. And no, they don't serve steak dinners in the dining car. In fact, unless you're travelling first class, you're not allowed to use most dining cars, and have to be content with a sandwich (this should only cost you about £2.50).

    And yes, I realise that what I've described is a short journey. Long journeys are the same, only multiply the problems by the distance travelled. Basically, we don't have many 'long distance' trains. You usually travel on trains that also serve for shorter routes - you just stay on the train for more stops, that's all.
     
  9. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    [​IMG] never took a train in the UK, just the tube and it wasn't so bad unless it was quitting time.

    A friend of mine travelled by train to Portland OR from North Dakota and had a terrible experience. It's 24 hours straight on the train, of sitting there. The food was really expensive and wasn't very good, and had she bought tickets for a sleeper, it would have been cheaper to fly.
    Oh, and stopping in every little town got old.
     
  10. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    I've travelled rail all my life. Andrew covered what to expect as far as moron factor.



    Yeah, and the occassional fool testing you. Overall though I love it. My experiences are related to short travel also.

    Amtrak, has always been a much milder experience for me. You should be fine.
     
  11. DonRoeber

    DonRoeber Screenwriter

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    I ride Amtrak's NE corridor at least once a year, it seems. The new Accella Express is very nice, but expensive. Of course,when work pays...

    From Philadelphia to Boston, it takes about the same amount of time as flying, once you factor in all the time spent in the airport waiting for the plane, dealing with baggage, etc. But the train is MUCH more comfortable.
     
  12. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Wow. Andrew's post made me sad.

    We traveled all over the UK using BritRail passes on my visits in 1985 & 1986. It was a wonderful experience. The trains were always on time. Passengers were all polite & well-behaved (this was the age before cell-phones). We even did the sleeping car from London to Edinburgh, and also from London to Cornwall. This was reasonably priced and very comfortable - they even had a waiter bring complimentary tea & biscuits to our cabins before bed and again in the morning.

    I can't believe British Rail has fallen so far. [​IMG]
     
  13. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    So far the experience seems positive for the most part, other than the late factor.

    As far as mechanical issues, I would assume a mechanical failure on a train is going ot be less trouble than a mechanical failure on a plane 99% of the time....

    I liked the relaxing part. I wonder if there is a way that a person could get a ticket that allowed them to stop over at any of the stops along the way, explore, then reboard the train later? That would be fun.

    There is a small time issue, but measure by days, not hours. I like to be frugal, but cash isn't too much of a problem. I the experience is worth it then I don't mind paying a few extra bucks. I absolutely plan to have a room. How big are they?

    My worry was that the rooms are uncomfortable, staff and passengers rude, trains grossy late, etc.
     
  14. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    Amtrak sells a North American Rail Pass, with unlimited rides for 30 days. You can find it on their website. I've been thinking of taking a train trip, mainly because my daughter (she's 3) is CRAZY for trains.
     
  15. andrew markworthy

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    There lies a large part of the problem - British Rail doesn't exist anymore. British Rail was state-owned but a few years ago it was sold off to private industry. Nothing necessarily wrong in that. However, instead of selling everything off to one consortium so there would at least be some coherence and cohesion, it was sold off in bits. Thus, different geographical areas (I know, Britain isn't big enough for different geographical areas) were taken over by different companies. This just applied to the trains that run on the tracks. The actual tracks and maintainance of these passed to a different authority, catering rights ticket sales, etc, passed to yet other companies, and so on and so forth. The result was (and is) utter confusion and a shambolic service. Now the government is having to buy back a large part of the rail services to make them work, and to cut down on the number of horrific accidents that have resulted from sub-standard maintainance of trains and track. And in addition, trains are generally slower. A recent study demonstrated that on many key routes, train journeys were actually faster in 1910 than they are today. Plus of course, trains used to be more frequent.

    Unfortunately, this is only the latest episode in the UK's idiotic post-war record regarding trains. In the 1960s, roughly 2/3rds of the rail network was literally torn up and abolished, forcing more people onto the roads. Car ownership skyrocketed (made worse by people's reluctance to use the trains that were still running because of their substandard service), and we now have some of the most congested roads in the world.

    Sorry to have my little rant, but just be grateful for what you've got, guys.
     
  16. Leroy

    Leroy Second Unit

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    Travel by rail(Amtrak)= worst travel experience EVER!!!

    Went from Houston to L.A. about 2 years ago. Train was 6 hours late getting to Houston. Overall was running close to 8 hours behind. We had to actually get off almost 2 hours outside of L.A. so that we could even remotely stick to our itinerary. On the trip there, the restrooms in our car backed up and out onto the floor, right by our baggage. The A/C filter grates were FILTHY!! I wonder what I was actually breathing in!?!

    The trip back ran over 4 hours behind and we weres tuck with the worst passengers. They were loud and quite rude to everyone else in the car. We asked them to quiet down which worked for a few moments. We then asked train personel to talk to them and they ever did.

    We were never offered any reasons as to the delays, nor were we offered and sort of compensation (like the free meals offered in another post).

    Even cooler, is that you can't talk to a customer service person whileyou are still on the trip. We had to wait to lodge complaints after the entire trip was complete. We got a nifty apology and rather than a refund of any kind, we got Amtrak travel funds...NO THANKS!!

    We had planned a couple of hours of leeway into our schedules, but the 8 hours on the way there and the inaction of the train crew just insures that I will NEVER travel by rail again.
     
  17. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’ve taken trains from Lansing, Michigan to Chicago and to Toronto more than once. You really don’t get to either place any faster than driving, but pack a picnic with a bit of wine and it is very relaxing—much more so than driving.

    From Boston down to New Haven and NYC. Better than the plane IMO, as you wind up in the center of the city, not on the outskirts. Not really that relaxing as so many people commute.

    Years ago I went from Kentucky to Boston.

    In Europe I’ve only gone short distances—Amsterdam to Rotterdam for example or to the cities around Frankfort, for example. But it was easy and convenient.

    My experiences with UK train travel are at variance with Andrew’s, but then I have not traveled by train there in some years.

    The train from Tokyo to Kyoto is a great trip. In general I think that the trains are pretty good in Japan, but all of the local trains are very crowded.

    Hong Kong to Canton (old name) is interesting, but make sure you go first class. Or fly.

    Some of my friends highly recommend the train to Perth, but I have no personal experience.

    In most cases I like trains as a mode of transportation, especially if you are not concerned with time.
     
  18. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    I've had almost invariably excellent results while traveling by rail - in Germany. Haven't used it elsewhere except for a short trip across the Panamanian isthmus many years back, and a trip on rail in Argentina. both worked just fine, except Panama didn't have the hang of sendign a train off on time. Wasn't an issue when part of the CZ.

    Germany, however, excelled. Trains are almost always clean, they run on time, and at reasonable rates - much cheaper than renting a car. Problem is more transportation where one gets to, but that may not be an issue.

    Never travelled by train here; might have to give it a chance given some of the comments above!

    Mike
     
  19. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    Today I spoke with a client who travels by rail frequently. He had some good advice and I think I am going to give it a go. Tomorrow my spouse and I will make our plans/reservations to leave the irst week of September. I will post the progress and result.
     
  20. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    I took an overnighter from NYC to Chicago once and it was fairly awful. I booked a sleeperette but I was put in the cattle class since the conductor didn't look at my ticket when I boarded and my mom bought the ticket so I didn't know I had a whole room waiting for me. I ended-up in the lounge car talking all night since it was impossible to sleep in the chairs as they were uncomfortable and the noise was too much.

    We were on time and it was pretty but the Eastern trains suck compared to the trains west of Chicago which run on wider gage tracks and have the really nice skyliner cars with bigger rooms. When it came down to it, it was only about $20. more to fly to Chicago but my mom and I thought it would be a fun experience. Keep in mind the snack bar and dining car charge outrageous amounts for what they serve and the food is just barely passable.

    I did have a good trip from Rome to Vienna on an overnighter sleeping in a berth with my father, sister, and two older ladies. Thank God I brought earplugs! It wasn't comfortable really but it was a better trip than my NYC to Chicago run. Given the view, I wish we had driven instead. I did take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then TGV to Lyon and that is a singular blast. You toddle along the track on the British side (this was before they put in the high-speed track on the Brit side) and there are no lights in the Chunnel so as you begin to accelerate you don't have any idea you're doing it. Occasionally you hear a rising note hum but you can't feel yourself accelerating. But once you hit France! HOT DAMN!! The train zooms out of the tunnel and it's shocking to realize how fast you're going. You can't focus on anything within 500 feet of the train as it goes by just far too fast. Outrageously fast and nicely appointed. The French have wonderful trains!
     

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