Traveling by train through the United States on
Fed up with airlines charging you for everything from checked bags to
a pack of pretzels?
Reconsidering your road trip due to skyrocketing prices at the pump? Consider
taking the train.
You'll see nothing of America at 35,000 feet, so come down to Earth and see the world
class scenery from an Amtrak train across the United States. The USA has an excellent rail network, and
although it's only a skeleton network by European standards it'll take you to almost all the towns &
cities a visitor wants to see. It'll take you from coast to coast in comfort, by a variety of routes, at
very affordable prices indeed. Long-distance trains in the USA are operated by the National Railroad
Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak
Amtrak serves 500 destinations throughout 46 states. From the Rocky Mountains to the
coast of Maine. The possibilities for travel are from the sunny shores of California and Florida to the
Big Apple (New York). In addition to natural wonders like the Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon of Colorado,
the Yosemite National Park and Glacier National Park.
Amtrak trains are as varied as the American scene. High-speed trains like the Acela
carries passengers between Boston and Washington DC at speeds of up to 150 kmh/250 mph. Northerners
exchange a dozen hours in traffic for a smooth trip on the Auto Train, and travel to Orlando theme parks.
Coast Starlight guests are pampered while watching the breathtaking views along the Pacific coast. The
range of services ranging from frequent travelers in comfortable cars with WiFi, long-distance trains
with spectacular views and hotel-style amenities.
Train routes Map in USA
To see a detailed map of the Amtrak routes click here
Each trans-continental routes shown on the map has one train a day, except for New
York to Florida (2 trains aday) and the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to SanAntonio, and Los Angeles
(3 trains per week). Important short distance routes(ex, from Washington DC, to New York, or Boston
and Los Angeles to San Diego) have regular intercity services. It's impossible to list all Amtrak trains,
but this is a summary of trains on major routes, including coast to coast.
Crossing the USA by train.
The journey of 3,000 miles across the United States by train is one of the biggest travel experiences
It's easy,comfortable,safe and an alternative to flying. There are about 5 different routes from coast to
If you travel non-stop it will take three nights: one night in New York, Boston or Washington DC to
Chicago, where you must change trains, then two nights from Chicago to Los Angeles, San Francisco or
Seattle. You can also travel from coast to coast through New Orleans, but it will take one more night
because it is necessary to spend a night in New Orleans.
Below is a brief description of coast-to-coast trains. These trains travel over 2,000 miles and
can be late, so do not book any connection with exact time.
The 'California Zephyr' from Chicago to San Francisco
A route specially highlighted as the most spectacular
for its landscape and historical significance to the United States which you can take in
connection with the 'Lake Shore Limited' from New York or Boston to Chicago or the 'Capitol Limited'
from Washington DC to Chicago. The California Zephyr is one of the most remarkable rail journeys in the
world, and in about 48 hours, you will cross the prairies of Nebraska, scale the Rocky Mountains beyond
Denver and while you eat breakfast in the dining room, and passes through the Sierra Nevada mountains
to get to Reno, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. The route covers much of the first historic
route of the trans-continental railroad route. However, all trans-continental routes are scenic, and all
have their own character. The Southwest Chief, for example, takes you from Chicago to Los Angeles over
the famous Santa Fe Railroad, near the equally famous Route 66, through the Navajo Indian country,
that's another amazing trip.
New York to New Orleans daily (1,377 miles, one
night). Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet lounge-café &
The Sunset Limited:
Runs 3 times a week. New Orleans to Los Angeles 1,995 miles, 2 nights.
Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars &
The Capitol Limited:
Washington DC - Chicago daily (764 miles, one night). Superliner train with
reclining seats, observation-lounge, sleeping-cars & dining-car.
The California Zephyr:
Chicago-San Francisco daily (2,438 miles, two nights). Superliner train with
reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car. This train is
one of the great train rides of the world, and if you are planning a
coast-to-coast trip, this is the best route to take. It climbs through the
Rockies between Denver & Salt Lake City, and through the Sierra Nevada between
Reno and the Bay Area.
The Empire Builder:
Chicago - Seattle/Portland (2,206 miles Chicago-Seattle, two nights). Superliner
train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.
This train winds its way past Glacier National Park and through the mountains of
The Lake Shore Limited:
New York - Chicago daily (959 miles, one night), with through cars Boston -
Chicago daily. Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet
lounge-café (Boston-Chicago) & heritage dining-car (New York-Chicago). This
train takes the scenic route up the Hudson River out of New York, with the train
tracks running right alongside the river, past Storm King Mountain and West
Point Military Academy. Try and get a seat on the left-hand side of the train
out of New York, right-hand side heading to New York. The Boston-Chicago & New
York-Chicago sections are coupled together between Albany & Chicago.
The Southwest Chief:
Chicago - Los Angeles (2,256 miles, two nights). Superliner train with reclining
seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car. This train mostly
travels via the Santa Fe railroad, once used by the famous Chicago-Los Angeles
'Super Chief', the film stars' favourite. It will take you through Apache Canyon
and right through Navajo Indian country, with a live commentary from an Indian
guide over the train's public address for the relevant section of line. The
train serves Flagstaff which is one hour by connecting bus from the Grand
Canyon, with day tours available, and Williams, for the Grand Canyon Railway.
The Texas Eagle:
Runs daily Chicago - Dallas - San Antonio, but only three times a week between
Chicago & Los Angeles (westbound from Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays,
eastbound from LA on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays). Superliner train with
reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car. 2,728 miles
From New York & Washington DC to Orlando, Tampa & Miami
Silver Meteor: daily
Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-car, heritage dining-car.
Silver Star: daily
Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-car, heritage dining-car.
The Acela Express, Amtrak's high-speed train...
Acela Express travels at up to 150mph, and has first class & business class.
There's no coach class, and premium fares apply, with no discounts for children.
New York - Niagara Falls
Three daily trains link New York via Albany with Niagara Falls. Journey time is
a leisurely 8 hours 30 minutes, a relaxing journey along the Hudson River Valley
out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a
very scenic route, highly recommended.
New York - Toronto, Montreal (Canada)
A daily train (the Maple Leaf) links New York with Toronto via Niagara Falls,
and another daily train (the Adirondack) links New York with Montreal via the
scenic Adirondack mountains. Both trains travel along the Hudson River Valley
out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a
very scenic route, highly recommended. See the Canada page for train times.
Chicago - Memphis - New Orleans
Amtrak's daily 'City of New Orleans' links these cities, with Superliner seats,
sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car.
Seattle - Portland - Oakland (San Francisco) - Los Angeles
Amtrak's daily 'Coast Starlight' links these cities, with Superliner seats,
sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car.
What are Amtrak trains like?
(1) Long distance trains in the east.
Long-distance trains east of Chicago (such as the New York-Chicago 'Lake Shore
Limited', the New York to Florida 'Silver Star' & 'Silver Meteor' or the New
York to New Orleans 'Crescent', but not the Washington to Chicago 'Capitol
Limited') have Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet reclining seat cars, an Amfleet
lounge car serving snacks and drinks, and a heritage dining car serving full
meals at very reasonable prices. If you have paid for a sleeper, meals in the
dining-car are included in the fare.
Amfleet reclining seats.
These distinctive stainless-steel coaches have comfortable reclining seats with
loads of legroom, drop-down tables & 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles.
Drinking water is available in each coach..
Amfleet cars. This is the New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited',
after a scenic run down the Hudson river valley. It'll reach
Chicago's impressive Union Station next morning.
Reclining seats on long-distance Amfleet cars.
There's loads of legroom, 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles,
Heritage dining car.
All the most important Amtrak long-distance trains have a dining-car. These
stainless-steel dining-cars date from the 1950s, but they have been fully
refurbished inside. The dining-car is open to all passengers, both coach class &
sleeper. Meals are included for sleeper passengers (although drinks are extra),
but must be paid for by coach class passengers. There are usually several
sittings for dinner, for example at 5pm, 5.15pm, 7pm or 8pm in the case of the
New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited'. The dining-car manager will come down
the train (starting with the sleepers) to take dinner reservations for your
chosen sitting. Note that couples and singles won't get a whole 4-seat
restaurant table to themselves, you'll normally be seated with other passengers,
a great chance to meet people even if you're travelling solo. The food is
surprisingly good: Credit cards are accepted.
Long-distance trains in the East have Viewliner sleeping cars. The distinctive
double row of windows on these cars makes them light & airy during the day, and
gives both upper & lower berths a window for star-gazing at night. Travelling by
Amtrak sleeper is a real treat. All sleeper passengers get complimentary meals
in the dining car, and a 'coffee station' provides complimentary tea/coffee &
fruit juice throughout the journey. You return from dinner in the diner to find
you bed made up for the night by the sleeper attendant. A hot shower is
available at the end of the corridor if you're travelling in a roomette, or en
suite if you are travelling in a bedroom. All necessary bedding, soap and towels
are provided. However, sleeper travel isn't cheap. In the US, you have to pay
for the whole room whether there are two of you or just one. To give you a rough
idea, some sample sleeper supplements are shown in the fares section above.
Viewliner sleeping-cars have:
Roomettes (previously called standard bedrooms): Each
Viewliner sleeping-car has ten very compact 2-berth compartments called
'Roomettes' arranged either side of a central corridor. They're just big enough
for two seats facing each, and at night the seats pull together to form the
lower berth, an upper berth drops down from the ceiling. The beds are alongside
the windows, and take up most of the room! Roomettes have a fold-out washbasin,
concealed toilet (your companion may have to leave the room while you use it) &
fold-out table. There is a shower at the end of the corridor.
Bedrooms (previously called deluxe bedrooms): Each
Viewliner sleeping-car has two Bedrooms, which are much larger than roomettes,
and they have a private shower & toilet. Bedrooms have freestanding chair & sofa
in daytime mode, and upper & lower berths at night. The lower berth is extra
Special bedrooms: Similar to a bedroom, with private
shower & toilet, but fully wheelchair-accessible. Each Viewliner sleeping-car
has one Special Bedroom.
Viewliner Roomette, in daytime mode.
This photo shows the size of the room. Two comfy seats...
Viewliner sleeping-car, with its distinctive double row of windows.
They are light & airy, even the upper berths get their own window!
Viewliner Bedroom, in daytime mode. Sofa, armchair, sink, and
private shower & toilet. Much more space than a roomette, but twice
Viewliner Roomette showing the toilet lid open & the drop-down sink
folded out. All of life's necessities in a very small space!
Viewliner Roomette in night-time mode. The door to the central
corridor is on the right.
2) Long distance trains in the west.
Long-distance trains between Chicago & Los Angeles/San
Francisco/Seattle/Portland, also the New Orleans-Los Angeles 'Sunset Limited',
Seattle-Los Angeles 'Coast Starlight' and Washington DC-Chicago 'Capitol
Limited' use impressive double-deck Superliner cars. Superliner trains have
coach class reclining seats, sleeping-cars, a dining car & an observation-lounge
car. A route guide is available free on these trains, telling you want to look
out for along the way.
Superliner reclining seats.
Coach class reclining seats are spacious with lots of legroom, comparable
with business class on an airliner. Don't worry if you can't afford a sleeper,
these seats recline to about 40 degrees, and are quite easy to sleep in, in fact
if there is any train in the world where I wouldn't much mind not having a
sleeper, Amtrak trains are the ones I'd choose. There are 120v power sockets for
laptops & mobiles at each seat, and drinking water is available in each coach.
Unlike in Europe, your reservation does not secure a specific seat in a specific
coach, you can sit where you like once on board. An attendant looks after each
seats car, and will place a 'seat ticket' above your seat to indicate that the
seat is taken. Pillows are provided at night, and you can either bring a blanket
or buy an Amtrak blanket from the lounge car.
Superliner cars... Even in 'coach class' these double-deck cars are
spacious and comfortable.
Superliner coach class reclining seats on the upper deck, showing
just how much legroom & recline you get!
There are 110v power sockets at every seat.
Superliner 'Sightseer' Lounge car
On the upper deck is an observation lounge with armchairs & tables and huge
windows for sightseeing. On the lower deck is a cafe selling drinks & snacks.
All passengers can use the lounge car, whether they are travelling in coach
class or in the sleepers. You end up spending most of your day here, watching
America unfold in front of you! Seats are available on a first-come, first
served basis, but it's not usually too difficult to find a seat or two free.
However, they do fill up for the most scenic sections of the journey!
Superliner 'Sightseer' lounge car. Pictured above
left, passengers look out of the lounge car's huge windows as
Amtrak's 'California Zephyr' from Chicago to San Francisco crosses
the Mississippi river, and so enters America's Wild West... You see
it all from Amtrak, but nothing from 35,000 feet
Superliner dining car...
Like the lounge car, the dining-car is open to all passengers, both coach
class & sleeper, for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Meals are included in the fare
if you have a sleeper (although drinks are extra), but must be paid for if
you're in coach. However, the food isn't expensive, so treat yourself. All the
tables in a Superliner dining-car are on the top deck for great views while you
eat - the kitchens are downstairs. In the sleepers, the dining-car manager comes
down the train asking each passenger which sitting for lunch or dinner they'd
like, and issuing table reservations. An announcement is made at the start of
each sitting. In coach, a steward may also come down the car asking if you'd
like to reserve a seat for lunch or dinner, or you can simply go along to the
diner at meal times and ask if a table is free. If one isn't available, they may
take your name and announce when your table is ready over the p.a. Note that
couples and singles don't get a whole 4-seater restaurant table to themselves,
you'll normally be seated with other passengers. This is a great chance to meet
people, even if you're travelling solo. Panorama photo of Superliner dining-car.
Travelling by Amtrak sleeper is a real treat. All sleeper passengers get
complimentary breakfast, lunch & dinner in the dining car, and each sleeping-car
has a 'coffee station' with complimentary tea/coffee and fruit juice available
throughout the journey. You return from dinner in the diner to find you bed made
up for the night by the sleeper attendant. All necessary bedding, soap and
towels are provided. Superliner sleeping-cars are double-deck, with 10 very
compact 2-berth roomettes and 4 larger 2-berth bedrooms on the upper deck,
whilst the lower deck has another 4 roomettes, 1 family bedroom & 1 special
accessible bedroom. The bedrooms have a private shower & toilet, for roomette
passengers there are toilets on both upper and lower decks, and a hot shower on
the lower deck. The gangways to the adjacent cars are on the upper deck.
However, sleeper travel isn't cheap you have to pay for the whole room whether
there are two of you or just one.
Superliner sleeping-cars offer:
Roomettes (previously called standard bedrooms):
Roomettes are just big enough for two seats facing each other with a small table
by day and 2 berths at night. Toilets are available along the corridor and
there's a shower cubicle on the lower deck. There are ten roomettes on the upper
level, and four downstairs, arranged either side of a central corridor. Panorama
photo of Superliner roomette.
Bedrooms (previously called deluxe bedrooms): Bedrooms
are much larger than roomettes, and have an en suite shower and toilet. All five
bedrooms in each car are on the upper level, off a side corridor. Bedrooms have
freestanding chair and sofa in daytime mode, and upper and lower berths at
night. Like the Viewliner bedrooms, the lower berth is extra wide.
Family bedroom: Located at one end of the lower level,
taking up the full width of the car, the family bedroom has two adult beds and
two child beds. There is no shower or toilet in a family bedroom, but these are
nearby outside the room.
Special bedroom: Located at the other end of the lower
level, also taking up the full width of the car, the special bedroom is
wheelchair accessible, with two berths & private toilet. There is no shower in a
Superliner special bedroom, but a (non-wheelchair-accessible) shower is just
outside the room.
shower & WC.
The photo shows its size, it's just big enough for two comfy seats
facing each other. At night, the seats pull together to form the
lower berth, which takes up most of the room, and the upper berth
folds out from the wall above the window. Washrooms, toilet & a hot
shower are just along the corridor.
Family Bedroom, in daytime mode... It takes up the full width of the
car at one end of the lower deck, and has a sofa and jump seat that
becomes 2 adult & 2 child berths at night. Toilets & a shower are
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