I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

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David Collins
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I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by David Collins »

I mentioned a while ago that I would be riding Amtrak to Chicago from the Detroit area, and have never gotten around to debriefing the trip, the trip itself was enjoyable, but how was the ride?


I got on the train in Troy, Michigan (Amtrak Code: TRM). The train I was riding to Chicago was Amtrak P351-11 (I rode on the 11th of August). Our train consisted of Amtrak Charger #4617 and an all Horizon consist. I decided to shell out a few extra bucks and paid for a business class ticket alongside my dad.

The last time I rode Amtrak, we were booked into Coachclass (which is Amtrak's nickname for economy). I remember that trip vividly and I will say there was almost no difference other than the seating configuration of the cars, which was 2-1 in Business and 2-2 in Coach. Also, unlimited coffee/hot drinks were available, and my dad did NOT pass that up :lol:

I spent most of the ride to Chicago working on video projects for YouTube, Watching the countryside pass by and chatting with a buddy of mine who happened to be a conductor on the train to battle creek.

All was well until we got to Jackson. We ended up sitting at the station for roughly 25 minutes because something happened with the ITCS system on the lead unit. Thankfully we would have no more issues with THAT on the trip, keyword in there is THAT.

At Battle Creek, My buddy got off the train, briefed with the new crew and they came aboard, the guys that got onboard in Jackson were great. However, NS had other plans, we went through roughly 8 slow orders from CP 482 all the way to Union Station, two of them were at walking speed, however, we were in no hurry to get to our hotel. We arrived roughly 45 minutes late, with the 110 Mph stretch starting in Albion, we made up most of our time with that.

I did some various railfanning in/around Chicago and it was all in all a very enjoyable trip.

However, the ride back was not so enjoyable.

While my dad sat in the metropolitan lounge (which if you have a same-day business class ticket, you're automatically booked in). I decided to railfan in Union Station. Where I learned something, you ARE allowed to railfan on the platforms there. However only on the platforms that have a metra train on them.

I then found out that things were about to get exciting. It was roughly 3:30 PM CST and Amtrak #49 had just departed Elkhart, over 6 hours LATE. This was due to a derailment on the NS Chicagoline near South Bend. How they got 49 around the derailment site is anyone's guess.

I was then told that all Metra trains going North on the CP were canceled due to a Metra train picking a switch open. This switch apparently was on the connection track out of Chicago that Metra/Amtrak uses to get on the CP to go North out of Chicago. So that's Oopsie #1.

Oopsie #2 made me seriously think about canceling my ticket and booking a Delta flight home. Amtrak Empire Builder #7 had just departed Union Station, with NO last call boarding announcement, which left 2 dozen people behind. I decided to pitch in and help because the staff wasn't doing anything about it. I redirected the people to the ticket counter and told them that was all I could do. I was appalled by this, and I was definitely concerned that something would happen with our train (which was P354-14).

Just a few minutes later after that drama, I decided to go back out on the platform to see what else was happening. Not much did, other than a Metra inbound with the Milwaukee Road heritage unit leading. This is when I found out that an outbound going on the BNSF I had JUST filmed departing had just suffered a full-on electrical failure departing Union Station, blocking several crossovers in the process. Therefore nothing could go in/out of the station on the BNSF/Metra side. Thankfully that didn't affect Amtrak too much.


The determining factor as to if I was going to be riding in Business Class on Amtrak or Economy on a Delta CRJ-900 was if the Blue Water (which departs around an hour and a half earlier than 354 does) departed on time and wasn't stopped by NS, which it did depart on-time and actually got to Porter Junction early. Which gave me a huge sigh of relief. We boarded the train, and the conductor even opened the other side door of the vestibule so I could snap a quick photo of a CDOT P40 coming back from Boston on the just arrived Late-for-sure limited. Our train consisted of Charger #4618, an AmCafe/Business Class and 4 horizons.

The ride home was good, pretty much a repeat of the ride out to Chicago. However I had no crew friends on board on this leg back, oh well.

To sum it all up. It was a great trip, the ride out was great and the crews were nice, but the service at Union Station made me seriously question Amtrak's commitment to their customers, I never found out what happened as to them getting a refund or something along those lines, but I hope they did.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by CSXBOY »

I hate Amtrak Michigan services lately. They are slow and very late. Try going on the builder like I did in august from Wisconsin to Montana and you’re moving at 79 mph and on time. I was on time both to and from Montana. Couldn’t been more happier.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by ~Z~ »

Just to get this straight, you were contemplating hurrying back to Detroit via Delta because a couple other northbound trains were delayed, and one train left without hearing a "last call" announcement, prompting you to guide people to go to the ticket counter?
Just taking a quick look at Delta flights for today from Chicago to Detroit are $328 each. Interesting you'd rather pay that than ride Amtrak.
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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by GP30M4216 »

So you don’t see a late train as Amtrak’s love for rail fans with more time spent on the train? 😆 I think all of this just illustrates that no matter what, so much of every trip can be out of Amtrak’s control. Or it is Amtrak’s control. Or a combination. ITCS failure, electrical failure, dispatching failure, boarding announcement failure, whatever. Csxboy cited the Empire Builder running on time, which does happen! But today’s No. 8 is about 5 hours late and hasn’t even hit MSP yet. Hopefully, the Michigan Line track work and work delays will lift soon, and that along with enough crews to run 350-355 again will yield a return to more “normal” service for Michigan.

Business Class is a worthwhile upgrade, especially outbound from Chicago. Did you get pre boarded? Did you think BC would get left on the platform??

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by SD80MAC »

Rode Business on 365 and 352 last month. Definitely worth the upgrade, IMO.
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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by Ypsi »

So your trip was almost ruined when someone else missed their train? You realize you are supposed to be in the boarding area a certain amount of time before the train departs and on board as well just like an airline. If you are late you miss the train, announcement or not. Also given the noise and size of Union Station it is entirely possible that an announcement was made which you did not hear given your position on Metra Platforms, or the people did not hear because they were late to the station. Why would you consider changing your plans because someone else clearly was late to the station (for whatever reason). Makes zero sense considering you described basically an uneventful round trip to and from Chicago.
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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by ConrailDetr​oit »

But in today's world of extreme equality, one person's misery is supposed to be everyone's misery. Just as one person's earned gains are supposed to be everyone's gains. Isn't that what the greater good / benefit us all / human rights / sanctuary place is?

Union Station is no exception. If one misses the train, everyone is supposed to miss the train. Can't have any injustices anymore.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by David Collins »

Ypsi wrote:
Mon Sep 12, 2022 4:05 pm
So your trip was almost ruined when someone else missed their train? You realize you are supposed to be in the boarding area a certain amount of time before the train departs and on board as well just like an airline. If you are late you miss the train, announcement or not. Also given the noise and size of Union Station it is entirely possible that an announcement was made which you did not hear given your position on Metra Platforms, or the people did not hear because they were late to the station. Why would you consider changing your plans because someone else clearly was late to the station (for whatever reason). Makes zero sense considering you described basically an uneventful round trip to and from Chicago.
I was considering booking a flight because I sincerely thought I would be crossing the Michigan border several hours behind. I also have a job and I couldn't afford to skip a day. Also, I asked another Amtrak employee who also said they didn't hear the last call announcement as well. I should've mentioned that. But regardless I enjoyed my trip, and I'll leave it at that

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by ogauge47 »

I don't understand how mechanical failures and incidents out of Amtrak's control contributed to what "made me seriously question Amtrak's commitment to their customers". Per your story, it seems like you were able to make it out of town on YOUR train without incident.

Did you just want to find things to ding your Amtrak experience?

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by David Collins »

ogauge47 wrote:
Wed Sep 14, 2022 1:07 pm
Did you just want to find things to ding your Amtrak experience?
Absolutely not, the expereince was enjoyable and all, but there were some moments that definitely made me concerned. Let's just leave it at that.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by ogauge47 »

David Collins wrote:
Thu Sep 15, 2022 3:24 pm
ogauge47 wrote:
Wed Sep 14, 2022 1:07 pm
Did you just want to find things to ding your Amtrak experience?
Absolutely not, the expereince was enjoyable and all, but there were some moments that definitely made me concerned. Let's just leave it at that.
You are framing your original post like your trip was a disaster when it was not, at least for your direct experience. Concerned or not, I think your mildly sensationalized title "I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say..." does not sound entirely appropriate for your trip.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by PatAzo »

Give him credit for figuring out a contingency to get to work on time. There is an ethic in short supply.

Boarding in Chicago can be a disorganized zoo. Last time I rode they were calling business class to board. I could see the train so I head through the doors. A couple Amtrak cops stopped me. You can't just walk through the doors you have to board through the great hall. But the train is right there I say. Nope you have to board through the great hall. About then the conductor was walking past. He said "Businees class 354? Let's go." pointed at the train. Off we went.

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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by Saturnalia »

PatAzo wrote:
Sun Sep 18, 2022 4:33 pm
You can't just walk through the doors you have to board through the great hall. But the train is right there I say. Nope you have to board through the great hall. About then the conductor was walking past. He said "Businees class 354? Let's go." pointed at the train. Off we went.
Yeah it's dumbfounding how tens of thousands of Metra riders find their train JUST FINE every day, but Amtrak walks you to the train like a bunch of elementary school students.

When the train is ready, open the gate and let them have at it. It really is that simple, and is how the rest of the world does it. But not Amtrak!
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Re: I rode Amtrak and I have a lot to say...

Unread post by Jetlink »

As a former frequent Amtrak passenger to and from CUS. I agree. The boarding process at CUS is maddening. I hate it. One of the reasons I no longer ride as frequently.
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