On the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited Train
What’s it like to travel from New York to Chicago by train. We took the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited overnight train. Here’s an overview of our experience as our great adventure around the world continues. We have travelled on Amtrak once before on the daytime train between New York and Washington. However, this is our first sleeper train experience with them.
Leaving New York
Firstly, at Penn Station, sleeper tickets get you access tithe 1st class Acela lounge. So that is where we waited for our train to be announced. It is very civilised although busy. Free coffee and soft drinks and muffins, comfy sofas and free wifi. My feet appreciated the chance to rest after another day walking around New York. Of course, we have more walking to come when we arrive in Chicago tomorrow.
We were collected from the comfortable Acela lounge by an Amtrak employee who also booked our dinner reservation. We are assigned 5.45 pm as he said there was no dinner service between 6 pm and 8 pm. Then we went down an escalator to the train. Ainsley, our sleeping-car attendant, met us at the carriage door.
Our room for the trip was very small which was not unexpected and all the essentials were somehow crammed in. It basically consisted of two seats opposite each other. Then the seats slide together to make the lower bed and the upper bed pulls down from the ceiling.
Oddly, there was a toilet next to one seat. Thankfully it had a cover as Paul had to use that as a step to get into bed. We’ve travelled on many sleeper trains around the world and this is the first time I’ve seen this. Some of the Chinese trains have an ensuite which is great. But a toilet in the open compartment is just weird. We walked down the carriage to the main toilets.
Dining on the train
Being more positive, the room did have a huge window though so we could watch any slip away as we headed out of the station. Then Ainsley told us that the dining car lady would be round to take our dinner reservations and to disregard anything organised at the station. She came by shortly and we secured a much more sensible 7.05 pm slot. Meals are included for sleeper car passengers and weren’t at all bad. I had a spicy black bean enchilada and Paul had crab cakes. Then there was strawberry cheesecake and Haagen Das ice cream for dessert.
I didn’t find it at all easy to get to sleep but having stuck a towel in the door to stop it rattling and utilising a scarf to block out the glow of the safety light I must have nodded off as it was early morning when I woke up. It was still dark but the driving rain was still clearly visible and the trees were swaying fiercely in the wind. Dozing again, I woke up to grey skies but the rain was clearing.
Getting up and dressed was a challenge. However, with a bit of juggling bags and shoes we managed to get up and about and the room back into day mode. Our breakfast was also included and the pancakes were pretty good.
On arrival in Chicago, we made use of the Metropolitan lounge while waiting for our luggage to come through. We quite enjoyed the trip, but the couple next to us obviously had a lesser experience. They complained bitterly about the lack of hot water. To me, it would be more of a surprise if there were any hot water (other than in the coffee) but then it takes all sorts!
We left the Metropolitan lounge and went in search of our bags. Baggage claim was deserted so we head round to information. ‘You have to ring on the phone by the desk’ she tells us, so back we go. We ring the number for baggage collection but no answer. After a few tries, we realise we need to try something else so we head down to the Amtrak ticket counter where the clerk also tries ringing the. Still no answer.
At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if we will ever see our bags again but the ticket clerk informs us that she will take us down there. Where is unclear but we follow hopefully down into the basement area under the station. There she meets the baggage guy and tells him nobody is answering the phone and we are looking for our bags. He points to the phone on the wall so he obviously knows where it is. She tells him again that nobody is answering it. He does not seem surprised but clearly doesn’t see it as much of an issue.
However, he pointed to a small pile of bags and ours are amongst them – so result. He checked our baggage receipts and the nice lady takes us back up to the main station. Thank goodness for her helpfulness as I don’t think the baggage department at Union Station is big on customer service.
We decided not to check our bags on Amtrak in future. As they are just a small cabin bag size we can take them onto the train with us. Lesson Learned. Overall, we enjoyed our trip fro New York to Chicago by train. Now we looked forward to exploring Chicago.