Taking the Train: Part 1

3 Jul

“What route did you take?”

So, as most of you know, Jeremy and I decided to take the train to OCON this summer in lieu of flying. Our planned Route was Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Washington, D.C., and Washington, D.C. to Fort Lauderdale, FL. The trip was scheduled to start on Monday afternoon (June 27th) and end at 6pm on Friday, July 1.

Things did not go according to plan.

First, the Seattle to Chicago route was cancelled. There is a stop in North Dakota that is flooded, so the trains could not pass through. As there were no alternate routes around – either by train or bus – that leg of our trip was simply cancelled.

We were lucky that an alternate trip was available and a sleeper car was also available for the majority of that trip. The new route would start on Sunday morning and take us from Seattle to Sacramento, and then from Sacramento to Chicago, where we would pick up the remaining legs of our trip.

We rode in coach from Seattle to Sacramento, which was just under a day long. Coach is much more comfortable than the airline version, but still not ideal for sleeping. Other than this mild discomfort, the trip went smoothly and we arrived in Sacramento on schedule, with roughly 5 hours to kill before our next train would arrive.

Within 10 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, we learned the train was now scheduled to arrive 4 hours late. As the afternoon wore on, the time was pushed back several times until the train did finally arrive, approximately 6 hours late. Fortunately, there is a certain amount of buffer time built into the route and it looked like we would make up the time over the 3-ish days it would take us to reach Chicago.

After 1 day on this new route, we were only an hour behind schedule. The train we needed to catch in Chicago was scheduled to leave 4 hours after our originally scheduled departure time. I was not worried.

After day 2, we were scheduled to arrive just under 2 hours late. Again, not too worried. Even if we kept steady at adding to the delay, we would be fine.

Then, day 3 happened. We awoke to an estimated 4 hour delay to our arrival in Chicago. Jeremy and I decided rather than taking the day after train to D.C., we could rent a car and drive to D.C. to met the train we were scheduled to catch, and just bypass the Chicago to D.C. leg. This would allow us to still arrive on time at our final destination.

Sadly, as that Day 3 wore on, hours were added to our delay. We were originally scheduled to arrive at 2:50pm. At 11pm, already 7 hours late, we were expected to arrive at 2am. I slept a little, but we didn’t pull down the beds in our car, so the sleep was light. at 2am, we were scheduled to arrive at 4am.

We did arrive shortly after 4am, and decided to look for a hotel. We would sleep for a few hours, turn in the rest of our tickets for a refund, and then rent a car and drive from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. We went to a nearby hotel that was completely booked. We walked back to the train station and waited approximately 90 minutes for the car rental desk to open, at which point we rented our car and drove for as long as we could before we could not safely drive any longer due to fatigue (I lasted approximately an hour). We then found a hotel and passed out for about 8 hours.

After resting up, we hit the road again, making only one other stop to sleep for a couple of hours along the way. I am happy to say that we arrived at the hotel slightly earlier than we would have if everything on the train had gone according to schedule. We checked in, ordered room service, and promptly slept for approximately 12 hours.

Despite everything above, we still had a good time traveling. I will devote my next few blog posts to the actual experience along the way, but felt it was best to start with this overview of the trip’s evolution. I will also write a post giving a brief explanation of the various factors that caused the delays and why we still plan to take the train to New York in December.


One Response to “Taking the Train: Part 1”


  1. Things I was doing instead of blogging: New York City « The Renaissance Woman - July 23, 2012

    […] (to give up some buffer in case trains were delayed – something we learned is useful from our last cross-country train experience) and then one more overnight ride to New York […]

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