Saturday, October 28, 2006


Part 2 -- Traveling First Class on the LAKE SHORE LIMITED

This leg of our trip took us from Albany, NY to Chicago, IL. This Lake Shore Limited was train 49, and it was also “Late-for-Sure” -- about 40 minutes late. But, as we were to learn, 25 minutes and 40 minutes were not long delays at all. Trains can (and often do) run several hours late.

We enjoyed seeing the train station at Albany during our layover there. It is new and absolutely beautiful. It has a food court and even its own branch post office.

And it’s good we got to see it on the way out, because we didn’t see it on the return trip -- just stepped from one train to the next outside. During our wait we snacked on granola bars and speculated as to whether we would be too late to get supper on the train. (We weren’t.)

Even roomettes -- the cheapest, smallest rooms in sleeping cars -- are considered First Class on Amtrak, so meals are complimentary, along with other treats like in-room morning newspapers, coffee, juice, and bottled water. We had heard good things about the food in the dining car, and we weren’t disappointed. I wrote in my journal:

“Supper was good, although we were eating very late. Mr. T had Beef Ragout, and I had the roast chicken. We even had dessert -- he had cheesecake, and I had Mississippi Mud Cake. Very good!”

Here’s another excerpt from my journal: “10:15 p.m. -- We’re cozily ensconced in our little roomette. It IS small, but very comfy indeed. We think we’ll sleep very well. They fit an amazing amount in such a small space. There’s a toilet in here, two bunks, a fold-down sink, a fold-down table, quite a bit of storage space -- it’s great!”

Here's a photo which shows part of our roomette. You can see the window, the fold-down table (in the closed position), a corner of one seat, and our water bottles.

I should add that the Lake Shore Limited sleeper cars are what’s called a Viewliner. When the upper bunk is brought down into position, the person who has that space gets his very own picture window. The roomettes on the Viewliners do seem much more spacious. The Superliners (which we’ll get to later) have an upper level, with bedrooms on both levels, so understandably the rooms need to be smaller.

We didn’t sleep as well as we’d hoped, but I think that’s understandable -- getting used to the motion of the train, hearing the track sounds and the whistle (which blows almost constantly at times) and -- something we hadn’t anticipated -- the roar of passing freight trains.

There was a shower just down the hall -- rather cramped quarters, but not bad. The hardest thing to deal with was getting bounced around as the train sped along the tracks. On this train, I had a rather scary experience -- after showering and dressing, I found that I couldn’t open the door into the hallway! Somehow, probably from all the movement of the train, it had gotten stuck in the locked position! I had visions of myself having to ring for the car attendant to let me out. Fortunately, I was able to use a comb to push up on the bolt and open the door.

Breakfast was wonderful. Mr. T chose the Bob Evans Scramble, a mixture of eggs, sausage and cheese, which comes with hash browns and a bowl of fruit on the side. I ordered the three-cheese quiche, which was excellent, with sausage patties on the side. Juice and coffee were also included for both of us. We had already found, by this point, that one of the highlights of this trip was going to be sitting with all sorts of different people at meals and getting to know them just a bit. I imagine some people hate this part, but we really enjoyed all of the different folks we were able to meet and chat with.

The Lake Shore Limited pulled into Union Station in Chicago about an hour and 10 minutes behind schedule. Late-for-Sure again!

Next Installment: Union Station


  1. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with us. My husband and I have discussed taking a train trip with our children when they are older. How did the cost compare with driving/meals on the road/hotels?
    Looking forward to the rest of your adventure!

  2. Tami,

    The cost was more than flying (but would have been less than flying, had we traveled coach the entire trip).

    I think if you compare it to driving/meals on the road/hotels, you will find that the train would be cheaper than that. One thing we really appreciated, too, was that we didn't have to worry about driving, navigating, reading maps, finding food and lodging at the right times, etc. We were free to just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

    If you check out Amtrak's website, you will find some great info and they also have free publications you can order to look through and plan your trip. The one we got was called Amtrak System Timetable. It contained lots of valuable info and even included some great tips on traveling with children via Amtrak.

    I'll try and finish up sharing our Amtrak adventure this week...

    God bless,

  3. Oh, I'm enjoying this so much! I'm glad you wrote about the roomettes, because if we ever take a cross-country trip, I'm thinking a roomette would be the most economical.

    On our trip a couple of weeks ago, the latest we were was about 30 minutes, and they would hold our next train for us. The Amtrak guys that my husband talked to seemed kinda smug about how trains will wait for you, but planes won't! ;)

    The train stations are so neat to see. They're all old, and have some really interesting architecture. That would be fun to go in the stations across the country.

    My husband enjoyed the food on the train. I had a chicken sandwich on our trip down that I didn't really care for. On the way back, though, I had a hamburger, and it was pretty good. Of course, we didn't have any full meals because our trips were just a few hours each.

  4. Hi Susan,

    I am so glad this info is timely and interesting for you! We really enjoyed it and would definitely do it again.

    I think a roomette is definitely the most economical. (It's a nice convenience in the deluxe bedrooms to have one's own bathroom right there, but from what I understand, the showers in those rooms are much like those in motor homes. Cramped, in a word. The public shower is much larger and nicer from what I have heard.) We thought the roomettes were just fine -- and of course, you can spend as much or as little time in them as you like. My hubby spent lots of every day in the observation car, and I spent quite a bit of time there as well, but also enjoyed some solitude in the room.

    You need to reserve sleeping car rooms quite a long way in advance. 6 months in advance is not too early to reserve. I would also suggest that if you are on a Superliner train, that you reserve a roomette on the lower level of the train. There are several restrooms on the lower level and only one restroom on the upper level of the sleeping cars. The shower is on the lower level as well. (At least this is true of the Superliner we were on. I imagine it's the same on all of them.) I think the upper level rooms would be nice scenery-wise, but if you need to get up in the night to use the restroom, or get up early to take a shower, you'd be glad to be on the lower level.

    I suggest that you check Amtrak's website and get all the info you can on the trains you are interested in. You can also find online (at and other places)a number of travelogues written by folks who have traveled those trains. I did a ton of research before we went, and was so glad I had done so. We were a lot more prepared for our trip that way.

    We enjoyed the food quite a bit for the most part. I tried the chicken sandwich for one meal too and didn't care for it. But then I always find grilled chicken sandwiches unsatisfactory (too slippery) and should have known better!

    Will try and finish this series up this week. We'll see!

    God bless,


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