Yep, yesterday was absolute failure- but on Amtrak’s part not my own! We got up yesterday morning, packed, took our bags to the train station to check them and then headed out for some last minute sight seeing. We managed to see the Skydeck at Willis (Sears) Tower and have some authentic Chicago pizza before heading back to catch our train. We were ecstatic that it was on time after experiencing four hour delays at the station in St. Louis earlier in the week. All seemed to be going well and we thought our trip home would be much more uneventful than our trip there. We thought wrong.
The first announcement we got stated that the tracks were too hot for us to safely travel at normal speeds so we knew we’d be delayed by about an hour. Next we had several unexpected stops because our slower pace meant we were experiencing more ‘traffic’ than usual (and apparently freight trains have priority over passenger trains). Finally there was track work. We completely stopped in the middle of a corn field while track work was being done up ahead. It was announced that this would be a 15-20 minute delay. An hour and a half later we were finally moving again.
We ended up making it back to St. Louis four hours later than scheduled (yep, four hours both ways) for a total of 10 hours on the train (the drive would have been about 4 1/2). In the interest of trying to be positive I will admit that it could have been worse. There were bathrooms, overpriced but available food (and alcohol!), a lounge car with tables and we could get up and move around as much as we needed/wanted. My kids had plenty to do and there were even outlets so you didn’t have to worry about the battery dying for your electronics. Wifi would have been nice. Customer service would have been even nicer.
It felt like we passengers were a mere nuisance for the crew to deal with and they went up and down the aisles doing who knows what without making eye contact unless directly spoken to. Here is just one example of the quality of customer service we were dealing with: At one point the car in front of us (which we passed through to reach the lounge and dining cars) received pillows. My daughter asked a crew member where we could get pillows and he told her our car would be getting them very soon. We left the train over two hours later without pillows and without even seeing another crew member to ask about pillows. I hope the people in our car who still had 19 hours (or more if there were more delays) to travel to Dallas finally got their pillows.
I sincerely wanted to love train travel and there are still quite a few advantages to consider- such as how expensive parking is in a place like Chicago (where even downtown hotels charge their guests nearly $50 per day to park) and the fact that 10 minutes of driving in that city would be more stressful than 10 hours trapped on a train. It’s too raw at this point for me to decide if the advantages are worth the disadvantages. My mom and my daughter want to go back for a girls only trip for Kya’s birthday sometime. It sounds like fun but I’m not sure how we’ll get there. The train was a really horrible experience but driving would not be a better option. I guess Kya’s going to have to get over her fear of flying.