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My brother-in-law, Keoni, is visiting here with his wife and daughter and his 90-year old mother-in-law, Angela.
They live in the Bay Area and I mentioned that I would be there in September on a month-long trip that will include Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago. I suggested we could perhaps get together the night before my train left.
Then Angela said she would love to experience an overnight train ride and maybe she and her daughter could accompany me for part of the way.
Well, sure, I said. They could ride for a while, then take the train back to Emeryville, while I continued on to Chicago. The next thing I knew, their whole family was on board and I had said I would come up with some ideas.
My initial thought was that we would all board the eastbound California Zephyr at Emeryville, ride for a 6-8 hours, then they would all get off at one of the regular stops and wait for the westbound train for their ride back home. Meanwhile, I would continue on to Chicago.
But where would all that happen? Their waiting time at that turn-around point had to be carefully considered—short enough so they wouldn’t be sitting for hours in the Reno or Winnemucca or Elko stations, but long enough to make the connection in case their outbound train was running late.
That would not have been difficult to figure out . . . if only I had a timetable!
Amtrak stopped printing timetables several years ago, and a lot of us grumbled about that because any seasoned train traveler wants one. (If the eastbound Zephyr pulls into Reno, Nevada, at 4:55 in the afternoon, how can you know that your train is running almost an hour late if you don’t have a damn timetable to give you the scheduled arrival time?)
Well, I thought, common sense says there would have to be actual, traditional timetables for all of the long-distance trains on the Amtrak website. Maybe so . . . but if they’re there, I couldn’t find them.
Anyway, we finally decided on a plan for our little group: everyone would stay on the train all the way to Denver where an on-time arrival is right around 7:00 p.m.
I would remain on the train, resuming my trip to the Rail Passengers Association conference and beyond; they would spend the night in a Denver hotel—there are several literally within walking distance from the station—and catch the westbound Zephyr back home the next morning.
Meanwhile, I’ve been looking on the web for up-to-date timetables for long-distance Amtrak trains. No luck so far. What’s wrong with this picture??
This article first appeared on www.trainsandtravel.com
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