Honkin' Mad

Wanna take an Amtrak train across the country in style? Now is a good time to book

Passengers exit the Texas Eagle, from San Antonio, at the Amtrak Station in Fort Worth, Tuesday, September 8, 2015. A freight train derailment forced the ones going further north to board buses bound for Little Rock where they will resume rail travel. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
Passengers exit the Texas Eagle, from San Antonio, at the Amtrak Station in Fort Worth, Tuesday, September 8, 2015. A freight train derailment forced the ones going further north to board buses bound for Little Rock where they will resume rail travel. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison) Star-Telegram

If you’re itching to take a train across America, and travel the rails in comparative style, now is a good time to think about booking a trip on Amtrak.

The nation’s only coast-to-coast passenger rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free sale on its roomettes (the small sleeper car rooms with seats that fold into beds). In other words, a passenger who books a roomette can take along a companion for free.

The sale will continue through Dec. 11, according to Amtrak. Travel must be between Jan. 7 and May 23.

“They could have a little softness in their bookings, mainly because of lower gas prices, and this time of year is off-peak,” said Peter LeCody, president of Texas Rail Advocates, a group that supports passenger rail improvements. “I can’t remember them ever putting roomettes on sale. They always did coach seats. I think that’s a bargain.”

So how much does it cost to travel in a roomette car? Prices vary greatly, but for a hypothetical example the Star-Telegram went to the Amtrak booking site and requested a roomette for travel Jan. 11-15 from Fort Worth to Chicago. The round trip fare for both travelers was $424, although the booking site warned that there were only two fares at that price.

That fare includes all meals (dinner and breakfast in both directions) in the dining car.

The trip from Fort Worth to Chicago is nearly 24 hours long, leaving Fort Worth at 1:45 p.m. on the Amtrak Texas Eagle and pulling into Chicago’s Union Station at 1:25 p.m. the next afternoon. It includes service to other Texas cities such as Dallas and Longview as well as Little Rock, Ark., St. Louis and Springfield, Ill.

Roomettes include chairs that convert into a drop-down bunk bed, which comes with linens, pillows, temperature and light controls and bedside storage. An attendant can change the roomette linens, provide complimentary bottled water and book meal reservations in the dining car.

amtrakian.JPG
US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: AMTRAK KRT PHOTO BY IAN MCVEA/FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM (DALLAS OUT) (September 26) Businessman Dean Chandler works on his laptop in his first class sleeper quarters on the northbound Amtrak Texas Eagle. The seats fold down to become a bed. Another bunk will lower from above his head. (mvw) 2003 IAN MCVEA Star-Telegram archives

During train trips, travelers can move throughout the train, including spending time in a lounge car for snacks and beverages, or retreat to the roomette for privacy.

Trains with sleeper car accommodations include the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

Prompted in part by a Southern California commuter train crash that killed 25 people, the federal government is requiring railroads to install a new GPS-based safety system on trains and tracks to make them safer. Here’s a look at how the system,

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.


  Comments