Amtrak in the winter

 
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Quick one for anyone who knows, what is the Amtrak network like in the winter. Are the. Long distance runs still interesting or are the dark and snowy climates a bit of a damper on the experience?  I'm thinking at least Empire Builder and Coast Starlight but maybe others.

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  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Quick one for anyone who knows, what is the Amtrak network like in the winter. Are the. Long distance runs still interesting or are the dark and snowy climates a bit of a damper on the experience?  I'm thinking at least Empire Builder and Coast Starlight but maybe others.
james.au

Assuming the CEO hasn't castrated the long distance services in the next few months, all the long distance Amtrak trains operate in Winter, usually daily but the Winter timetable has built in padding to try to allow for the inevitable delays that can occur.

Both trains will obviously operate in reduced daylight hours, easily ascertained by looking up both trains and their schedules.

Why wait till Winter if it can be avoided... Question

I'd do the Empire Builder first from Chicago, allowing for the earlier onset of Winter, then change at Portland OR Seattle for a southbound Coast Starlight which won't be affected as early by the reducing daylight hours and increased falls of snow.
The best month to start would be no later than October to get the best of the Fall colours.

Bear in mind also, the US has a LOT of freights operating that also assist in keeping tracks clear of snow.

Mike in Norway, still on MS Midnatsol between Trondheim and Bergen.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Thanks Mike. The reason Winter is more about timing of other events over there at the time but I'm looking to kill a few birds with one stone if I can.  Good point about doing the return.  I want to spend some time in Seattle so might take a week there.

My events are around Washington, starting middle of the month.  Any recceomended other routes i should think about (either to get there or do elsewhere)?
  Brianr Assistant Commissioner

Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
In June 2014 I travelled by train from New York to Washington for 4 nights then on the Cardinal overnight to Chicago. After a night in Chicago, do not risk connecting the same day, I travelled by the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park for 4 nights then onto Seattle. At that time it was always notoriously late. I nearly missed a ferry connection to the San Juan Islands but some local ladies on the train heard me talking to the conductor and the husband of one drove me from Everett to Anacortes so I just made it. Never rely on connections with Amtrak. I have travelled on m yof the trains over the years but never in winter. I have been on the Coast Starlight several times. All are very scenic.
  NorthWest Locomotive Fireman

Pacific Northwest local here.

The scenery on the LD trains will still be interesting when snow covered, but you'll miss a lot more of it due to the shorter days and longer nights. They're still fun experiences, particularly if done in a cozy sleeper room.

The Builder has a reputation for running consistently 8-to-12 hours late in the winter, day in, day out, for various reasons. I've never seen one more than 24 hours late though, so as long as you give yourself a day in each transfer location you should be fine.

The Starlight is better, but still can be 4 or more hours late with some regularity due to delays between Eugene and Redding. Much of California will be absent of snow, including the very scenic section between SLO and LA.

Portland-Seattle-Vancouver is also a really scenic corridor, and where I do most of my train watching.

Let me know if you want information on local sites.

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