I planned my latest trip with the original itinerary featuring a single flight that I cared about, Chicago to L.A. on Virgin America however, with time this trip grew to include one of Chicago's newest hotels and one of the most outdated forms of transportation in North America. When I realized that my planned flight from St. Louis to Chicago only allowed roughly 25 minutes until my flight on Virgin was scheduled to board, I decided to book a hotel. When I realized I had a whole day to make my way up to Chicago I began to look for unique ways to get to Chicago so I booked a train ride. That's how this whole Texas Eagle thing came about.
Amtrak Booking Process
Amtrak's website is updated every so often and had undergone a pretty significant face lift since the last time I visited. It's very easy to navigate if your only goal is to purchase tickets.
I'd argue that Amtrak's reservations system has more to deal with than American's or Delta's due to the massive possible itineraries for one single train number. The reservation system handled my request quickly and before I knew it I had finished booking. The only draw back was the lack of customization of a fare; you can't choose checked bags, you can't select a seat or room, and you can't purchase any extras that you'd be able to on most airline websites.
St. Louis Gateway Station
I'm almost exclusively an airport guy, actually, I am exclusively an airport guy. With that said, the whole train station-Greyhound Bus stop was a pretty new experience to me. You walk into a room, one side is Amtrak's operations, the other side is Greyhound's area, and other than that-there's not much to it. I checked in at an Amtrak kiosk, asked where the lounge was, and then planted myself in a lounge chair until boarding.
The "First Class Lounge" wasn't much but it served its purpose. It was a little remote area with comfy couches and lounge chairs with a private bathroom and chilled water bottles with a few snacks. The lounge area also allows Sleeper Car passengers to bypass the massive line that forms just in-front of the door to the lounge.
Texas Eagle #22
I had been vigorously researching what to expect so I had an idea of the Superliner Bedroom. I'm usually surprised by one thing or the other but for once, what I had expected was exactly what I got.
Amtrak packs a lot into such a small room. There are a total of two beds, one large and very soft couch, one single seat, a personal shower+toilet, a sink, A/C power, climate controls, and storage compartments. The couch pulls out into a bed and a bunk can be pulled down as well. Both beds feature a separate mattress, pillows, and blankets. I actually managed to get an hour or so of sleep though I had actually got a full eight hours the night before.
My devices were fully charged, I was always a step away from a bathroom, I was always hydrated, and I was able to keep the cabin at the optimal temp. Privacy wasn't an issue as there is a a locking door with a curtain that covers the window. Overall, it was a very unique, fun, and almost luxurious experience. I'd go so far as to call the Amtrak Superliner Bedroom the "common man's Etihad Residence".
All Sleeper Car passengers get free coffee, juice, bottled water, and cabin side service throughout the ride. The only thing I wasn't very impressed by was the service aspect of the ride up to Chicago. There was a single Sleeper Car attendant for the two massive sleeper cars so service was scarce. Every single Amtrak attendant was unprofessional; I had to beg for my breakfast to be delivered to my cabin, the attendant didn't make the beds, there were two off duty attendants in the employee car talking ill of their colleagues. One attendant said to the other (in-front of me and my travel partner), "F**k her, she gets all the good trips even though she does jack s**t...she's not even senior to me". Amtrak's obviously suffering from a lack of professional employees because not one Amtrak attendant was professional, enthusiastic, or warm to their passengers.
My travel partner and I made our way down to the Parlor Car and sat down at a booth that turned out to not be out booth, we were then sat at a booth that was already occupied so that resulted in some awkward conversation. I ordered breakfast and then had it sent to my cabin. Finally after 35 minutes, breakfast arrived.
Though tardy, breakfast was great. The croissant was warm and flaky, the eggs were hot, the potatoes were tasty, and the fruit was fresh. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal. I say meal and not meals because lunch was only offered for an hour and the parlor car was closed two stops before the terminus even though there was a two hour delay between the second to last station.
The word I'd use to describe my experience on Amtrak is "unique". The food was great, the accommodations were better than any first class suite I've slept in, and it's fun to see how we traveled before the airplane went mainstream. However, between the rude staff and nearly four hour delay, I'd take the 45 minute flight from STL to ORD in a middle seat any day of the week.
If you've got money and time to kill on a long weekend, look no further to Amtrak. If you've got an important meeting in Chicago, don't take the train! It's a fun novelty however, the most impractical way to travel with comparable fares and lengthy delays.
Trip Reports pulled straight off the aircraft. Follow my flights, experiences, and other journeys right here.
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