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California Zephyr Delays

Northumberland
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California Zephyr Delays

Hi

I am hoping to book the California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville but have been reading about how they encounter very long delays due to freight taking precedence over passenger trains. Can anyone give me an idea of how delayed they have been and is this all the time? Or do they arrive on time more than they are delayed?

Thanks

:)

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: California Zephyr Delays

You are reading urban legend posted by the speedy alka-seltzer generation who know nothing about train travel. The "I have to get there yesterday" types.

Freights do NOT take precedence over passenger trains. They do, however, share the same tracks. Since there is only one passenger train in each direction per day you see more freight traffic but those are scheduled too. When there is a problem on the tracks the passenger train conductor will announce that the train is waiting for clearance from the Union Pacific or Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Rail Road dispatch. Well, so is every other train on the host line. This is NOT waiting for a freight train, it's waiting for a green light.

There are problems with mother nature and human involvement. I've waited for earthquakes, suicides by train, fallen trees across the tracks, slow orders after a tornado... snow drifts. Those things happen, and I've experienced them all, but the passenger trains get through first. The freights have to wait.

If an Amtrak train is more that 15 minutes late into it's final destination, it is a "late train". That's the contract between Amtrak and the owners of the rail lines. The later the train the more it costs the rail line owner in delay fees. The Union Pacific and the BNSF railroads don't like paying fees so they do their best to get passenger trains in on time.

Someday someone is going to stop this "late train" nonsense. Of course, there are times that I pray for the train to be late like the Capitol Ltd arriving in Pittsburg at 5:00am. or the CZ arriving Salt Lake City at 4:00am. PLEASE be 3 hours late! The train may get through a snow storm 2 hours late but airplanes are grounded until the next day. If a train arrives at it's destination 3 hours late on a 2100 mile, 2 1/2 day journey, that's darned good time. If a plane arrives 1/2 hour late on the same 2100 mile but 4 hour journey, that's -percentage wise - lousy timing. The train is a traveling hotel. Not a sci-fi transporter. It is an experience. Enjoy it. You can get off when you reach your destination and not a moment sooner. If you want to get there yesterday and have no interest in seeing the country then by all means fly over the country and see some clouds.

One word of advice: For your own sanity and serenity, don't plan on keeping an appointment within 6 hours of any conveyance's scheduled arrival time. Always travel the day before an event that you must attend: train and/or plane.

Dallas
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2. Re: California Zephyr Delays

The California Zephyr runs on time about 5% of the time.

Northumberland
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391 posts
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3. Re: California Zephyr Delays

Thanks for the info. If I book I will make sure that we don't have much planned on the day we arrived in san Francisco. I worked for many years for a train operator in the UK. What do Amtrack do for their passengers if the train runs late - do they offer any compensation?

Washington State
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4. Re: California Zephyr Delays

They will give compensation for a severely late train, but it isn't automatic and you have to ask for it from Customer Relations. It usually is in the form of a voucher for future travel, though, which may or may not be of much use to you.

However, if you have a connecting train that is missed, they will provide alternate transportation and hotel with a cabfare and meal allowance if you have to stay overnight for it. That they will do automatically.

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: California Zephyr Delays

It depends on "late". Guaranteed connections, which you do not have, are dealt with first. If the problem was "an act of god" they respond just like the airlines or probably UK rail. If the problem was Amtrak's fault they bend over backwards to assist their patrons. The caveat is that you have to call customer service to request assistance. Personally, I think that you are projecting problems before they have a chance to occur. Relax and enjoy your trip.

Placebets is anti-Amtrak. His information is wrong.

Edited: 12 August 2014, 01:30
Fremont, California
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for San Francisco
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6. Re: California Zephyr Delays

When one takes the train its to see the scenery; sit back and enjoy the ride.....

It is a train trip

On the trip I took in May I arrived 5 minutes early.

Your idea of not planning anything the day you are scheduled to arrive is a good one however - you will find plenty to do in San Francisco if you arrive on time or ahead of schedule.

If going on to San Francisco, the buses will be waiting for you curbside as they synchronize this closely with the train arrival.

Northumberland
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7. Re: California Zephyr Delays

Thanks for the information.

I think I am going to go with the flow and take the trip. I have always wanted to go on a sleeper train and this one looks awesome. If we are late its just one of those things - I will be on holiday so it won't matter :)

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: California Zephyr Delays

Thanks for the reminder MIni. Dopeygirl, when you buy your tickets on the Zephyr buy your final destination as SFC not EMY. You get off the train at EMY (which is the east end of hthe Oakland SF Bay Bridge) and take the dedicated Amtrak bus into SF. There are 5 drop off locations in SF. Use the one best sited for your hotel or get off at the Amtrak Office at the Embarcadero and you will have the all city transit available across the park at the Hyatt Hotel. You can always purchase bus tickets at the EMY station but by including them in your original ticket it is a free service.

Northumberland
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9. Re: California Zephyr Delays

Fab - thanks for that tip - I will do that 😄

Moruya, Australia
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10. Re: California Zephyr Delays

Several years ago my wife and I traveled from Chicago to Emeryville on the Cal Zephyr. It was a great trip.

Our train actually arrived ahead of time, by about 20 mins. This was after it made up about 3 hours overnight, while passing through Salt Lake City.

However, the next Zephyr into Emeryville was more than 13 hours late.

Edited: 12 August 2014, 23:36