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Union Station

Pawnee City...
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Union Station

This summer I'm taking a train trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to Irvine, CA. I've got it all planned out, but I'm a little anxious about transferring trains in Union Station. I get in on the Coast Starlight around 9pm and my next train, the Pacific Surfliner, departs around 10pm.

I'm anxious for two reasons; one of which is that I've heard the trains can be behind, so I'm worried about being pressed for time. The other reason is that I have a sneaking suspicion that Union Station is a little more traffic-heavy and confusing than my train station in Nebraska (which is basically just a tiny building next to a track.)

What I would love is any advice on navigating Union Station, or perhaps tips on what to expect. Are there several train platforms? Is there a departures board? Are the staff friendly and willing to helping a dazed Nebraskan find her train?

I'll be dealing with the Sacramento train station as well, but I'll have more time to navigate and figure things out there, so Union Station is my main worry.

Thanks in advance!

Anaheim, California
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1. Re: Union Station

Union Station is a large old school historic station that host Amtrak and Metrolink trains from multiple platforms, plus the LA Metro Lines. The Gold line uses one of the platforms, and the Red Line Subway is in the "basement". Has a large waiting area with a few places to eat drink and shop.

If the trains run late, they do have a planned Coach Bus service that would take you to the Irvine Station, which is basically just a piece of concrete next to the tracks.

And I presume you know thee is no checked luggage service at the Irvine Station.

There should be Amtrak Staff when you arrive on the Coast Starlight to help you, and there are electronic boards, like an airport, to help you figure out which platform to go to.

Pawnee City...
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2. Re: Union Station

Yep, I'm aware of the no-checked-baggage stipulation so that shouldn't be a problem. I wasn't aware of how small the Irvine station is, that'll be more what I'm used to :)

I also signed up for amtrak text alerts to tell me if trains are delayed, so that should help.

Thanks so much for responding!

Anaheim, California
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3. Re: Union Station

Here is a link that talks about the Irvine Train Station with a photo...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irvine_(train_station)

Hope you have a great trip.

West Hollywood...
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for Los Angeles
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4. Re: Union Station

Here's what to expect when you arrive at Union Station:

1. The train will pull up along side a platform that will be outdoors.

2. This platform will be one of many outdoor platforms that will be parallel to one another and separated from one another by tracks.

3. There will be downward staircases on the platform that will connect to a tunnel that is running perpendicular to the platform -- it will, in effect, join all of the platforms together underground.

4. When you get to the bottom of the stairs from the platform, the tunnel will be crossing your path. You'll need to turn in the direction that will lead you into the station; if you turn in the opposite direction, you'll end up at the foot of a staircase that will lead you to the bus plaza behind the massive train station property. Most people will be heading 'to the station' but just so you're clear, consider the following:

a. You will be arriving on the Coast Starlight which will be heading south when the train pulls into Union Station. Assuming you are facing in the same direction as the train, Union Station will be to the west of you. (a right turn, if you were a bird and could simply fly over to it).

b. In reality, you can't simply 'go over to it'; you'll need to descend to the tunnel and then turn in whichever direction at the bottom of the staircase that will head west. Of course, to make things simple, you can ask any uniformed Amtrak employee: "Which way do I turn when I enter the tunnel in order to reach the station?"

c. At the end of the tunnel (the end that emerges in Union Station), you'll be in the main ticketing area. Keep walking straight ahead for about 10 seconds and then look back over your left shoulder and you'll see the "Departures/Arrival board". There should be a number of people looking at it.

d. Find the track # for the Pacific Surfliner and then head back into the tunnel to the correct track. Be sure to check the board to see if the train is delayed before heading to the track.

Good luck!

Fremont, California
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for San Francisco
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5. Re: Union Station

There is a train forum also on Trip advisor where you can get more advise about riding the trains.

In genreal, the staff is very nice and kind.

They are most interested in being sure you make your connections between trains. They will sometimes hold departures of the other train if its a short delay on the train you are riding; or they will arrange for alternative methods to get to your next stop sometimes by bus. It all depends how close they are to getting to Union Station per published schedule. As such, its best if you have booked your ticket through showing both segments of your trip (i.e. not individual tickets) as then the train staff does not know you are trying to make another train unless you tell them.

Do NOT expect the trains to arrive on time. Amtrak is not known for that - but they do have very friendly and nice staff who are most willing to answer your questions. The above has given you good information on Union Station itself - There is experts on Amtrak on the train forum

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12483-Train_Tr…

Fortaleza, CE
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6. Re: Union Station

What will youdgo when you get to the station in Irvine? If you need a taxi, I'd phone in advance of arrival.

www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer…

Edited: 02 March 2014, 20:40
Fortaleza, CE
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7. Re: Union Station

p.s. Sacramento station is quite small. Union Station in L.A. bigger, but not all that complex, IMHO. Certainly nothing like L.A. International Airport. There will be signs and, as noted, staff you can ask for directions. Lovely building, used in many films since at least the 1940s.

What is your actual routing? Áre you starting in Sacramento? There is a more direct train from Sac to L.A., but that involves train (San Joaquin) and Amtrak bus. Less scenic than the Coast Starlight.

Edited: 02 March 2014, 20:45
Pawnee City...
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8. Re: Union Station

Thanks for all these awesome tips everyone! I'm overwhelmed with all your helpfulness and knowledge. The description of Union Station is especially helpful.

I've taken the train once before; I was supposed to take the Zephyr from LNK to SAC, then the San Joaquin from SAC to Bakersfield, where a friend picked me up. But the Zephyr was super late and they put me on a bus which took us to a station where we got on the San Joaquin (which was crazy and they also forgot to take my checked baggage off the Zephyr.)

This time I'm going to Irvine so that my friend doesn't have to drive as far. I want to avoid busses (and I've always wanted to ride the Coast Starlight), so I arranged to take the Zephyr from LNK to SAC, then stay the night in SAC, then the next day go from SAC to LA (Coast Starlight) to IRV (Surfliner).

I have a friend picking me up in Irvine so transportation once I get to that station won't be a problem.

Fortaleza, CE
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9. Re: Union Station

There are a few hotels in the general vicinity of the Amtrak station in Sac. Close to Old Sacramento. The state railroad museum there is great, and not just for train fans. There's an automobile museum not too far from there.

Pawnee City...
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10. Re: Union Station

I've booked a hotel near the Amtrak station in Sacramento and I'm going to try to hit the railroad museum too! You read my mind :)