Amtrak California Zephyr (Chicago to Omaha)

The Amtrak California Zephyr rail service runs daily from Chicago in Illinois to Oakland in California, a journey which takes just under 52 hours. It’s also one of the most beautiful rail routes in the world, although I was only travelling the Chicago to Omaha section which isn’t the most spectacular in terms of the scenery.

I’ve taken Amtrak services from Chicago Union station before and I like how they call them from the Great Hall, it’s all very organised. Everyone is then escorted to the train and then seated on the appropriate part of the train for their destination. This has the advantage that the train crew will wake passengers up if necessary as they know where they’re getting off.

It’s not a great photo, but it shows the amount of room between each row of seats. Even if the passenger in front reclines, the seat is nowhere near the passenger behind, so it’s all spacious and comfortable. There’s also power and large tray tables for those who want them. The service wasn’t particularly busy on my journey so the crew member told everyone they could take up both seats if they wanted.

The crew, like with the majority of Amtrak services I’ve taken in the past, were friendly, helpful and didn’t take life too seriously. The announcements had a touch of humour to them and everything seemed organised, well managed and safe.

There is a full service dining car on board, which I’ve never got round to eating in, I always go to the cafe bar. That’s primarily because I like the chicken noodle soup and Pepsi, it’s not classy, but it meets my basic requirements. And it’s cheap.

There’s an observation car on the train for those who want to watch the scenery go by. I didn’t spend much time in here on this journey, but I have done before. The main reason why I usually spend so much time staring at the scenery is that many Amtrak trains don’t have wi-fi. I was delighted though to discover that the California Zephyr now has wi-fi (or at least this particular train does), so I managed to get numerous things done, ideal given that the journey time was nearly nine hours.

Photos of the scenery. The bottom one is the Mississippi River, the fourth longest river in the world.

The train arrived in Omaha and this is now my first visit to Nebraska. The train journey cost around £40 in coach, although there are rooms available for those who want more luxury. The train also arrived into Omaha on time, despite being around 20 minutes behind schedule at one point.

It’s quicker to fly I know, but Amtrak make play that’s not just about arriving at the destination, it’s also about the journey. And there’s something about trains which I just prefer to flying, especially given how comfortable they are.