Have you thought about taking the train for your Holiday travel? Don’t know anyone that can recommend train travel? I am no authority on this subject and can not give you much information about it. I can, however, tell you what my experience was like.
In my opinion, it was not too bad. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I recommend taking the train over other forms of travel? Yes.
I have been fortunate to have experienced all forms of travel – except a skateboard, a wagon, or a sea going vessel. I’ve made journeys in the back seat of cars which required a Dramamine before the trip since I have a problem with motion sickness. I’ve driven long distances in cars, pickups, and semi trucks. I’ve been on several air planes, and I’ve taken the Greyhound Bus.
This train trip was my first. As far as the cost is concerned it was just a few dollars cheaper than the Greyhound Bus from Norman, Oklahoma to Tucson, Arizona. For two people the cost was $236 for coach. The trip was 37 hours in duration with a stop in San Antonio, Texas from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
At the Norman, Oklahoma train depot we got on the Heartland Flyer which has daily service from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas. A trip of about 4 hours which began at 8:40 a.m.
The Heartland Flyer makes daily trips from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Fort Worth, Texas. It leaves Oklahoma City at 8:25 a.m. and returns at 9:39 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Oklahoma Universities and Texas Universities have an ongoing rivalry and game days find this train packed.
While my husband and I waited at the Norman train depot we learned that the fares are nominal. They range from $43 to $10 depending on your age and frequency of use. There were many people traveling for the Thanksgiving Holiday to be with family in Texas. There were a couple of ladies that were meeting a sister for a bit of shopping and dining.
A young couple with two children under the age of 5 had one small suitcase, a diaper bag, and two car seats for their train ride to Fort Worth for the holiday.
I admit it, I groaned when I saw the children. Yikes, screaming and running children for 4 hours was not going to be my idea of travel. After about 10 minutes on the train I didn’t hear the children nor see them.
Anyone that has traveled in an airplane or a bus knows that small children can wear on your nerves and sanity. So I can say that our trip was a pleasant one.
Baggage policy is each person can take on two pieces of luggage with a weight restriction of 50 lbs each. The size of the luggage for carry-on is what an airline would have you check. For the Heartland Flyer, no baggage car is available for checked luggage. They do have a place to store the items you do not wish to take to your seat. Items such as camera bags, diaper bags, briefcases, purses, strollers, computers, and any medical equipment (oxygen bottles) are not included in the luggage requirements. You can carry these on and take them to your seat with any of the trains you ride. With an exception to the Pacific Surfliner trains.
For our train trip, seats were not assigned. We did, however, have to go on the upper level to our seats. There, evidently, are different prices for lower level seating. The stairway to the upper level was a bit dicey. Not only narrow but steep. Both my husband and I navigated the stairway with little difficulty, aside from balance issues when the train was moving, but we had to take extra care with the steps. The steps seemed to be at a steeper incline than a standard stairway – but that could just be me and claustrophobia. There is definitely not enough room for one person going up and another going down at the same time, even smaller sized people would not be able to navigate the stairway simultaneously.
As far as comfort and room goes, the Heartland Flyer and the Texas Eagle trains were roomy. The seats were wide enough for me to not feel squeezed in and there was plenty of distance between our seats and the one in front to be able to stretch out your legs, prop up the leg rest and recline back and not be in anyone’s way in front of you or behind you. According to the information page on the Heartland Flyer the seats have more room than the first class seating on an airline. I don’t know about first class seating in an airplane but I do know that these seats were quite roomy and comfortable.
Once we got on the Texas Eagle out of Fort Worth, the seats were a bit more worn and lumpy in places. Some of the foot rests on the seat back did not come down to prop my feet on. It still was a comfortable ride. This seating and sleeping arrangement was not going to work for my husband. He broke his back in 1976 and would not be able to sleep in his seat. He did request a sleeping room and the Conductor did an amazing job at getting us settled in one before we reached San Antonio, Texas. There was an additional cost of $108 to be upgraded to the sleeping room. This cost included breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the both of us on the next day.
There is a lounge car with seating that faces larger windows along both sides of the train car. The seats do not recline in this car but there are foot rests and tables or small shelves to put a drink or a book on. If you have not done much traveling across country this would be the seating for you. Chatting with other people in the car, snoozing in the sunlight, watching the stars at night, plus many photo opportunities as the country side passes by. A route guide is provided online if you would be interested in knowing railroad history as you travel, as well as landmarks along the way.
Most of the trains passengers will stumble through the lounge car on their way to the dining car from time to time. I did. Grabbing a seat back to steady myself a few times as the train rocked back and forth. Much to my surprise I did not have any trouble with motion sickness.
Breakfast in the Dining Car
The dining car and the food prepared by Culinary Institute of America….well lets just say that there is a dining car and they serve food.
On our trip there were two people that served all who entered the dining car. From 5:30 a.m. to well after 9:00 p.m. Such a long day for those two workers. Each diner was given several options to choose from for the meal. The food came plated from somewhere on the train via a dumbwaiter then hand delivered to our table.
There is a sandwich and snack car on the train. You can get anything from a hot dog to a deli sandwich, chips, sodas, and coffee. There are other items for sale in the snack car. I purchased a deck of playing cards to help my husband and I pass the time since we had seen most of the scenery any way over the past 9 years.
There were several places along our route to get out and stretch our legs for a few minutes – maybe 5 at the most. We were cautioned to stay near the train since it would depart on schedule.
My husband, I’m so lucky, left me a message in the dust on the window of our sleeping car. There were many comments about his thoughtful note to me and none of them were bad. Several of the women reminded me how fortunate I am and I whole heatedly agree with them.
There was an incident at one of the stops. About 10 minutes before we arrived at the El Paso train station, and again pulling in we were all warned that this stop would not be long. Some passengers spied a Burger King and made a dash for food. When the train was ready to leave and moving, frantic calls were made between passengers on the train and their errant family members running as fast as they could from Burger King back to the train. Admonishments were yelled by the train staff threatening to leave these people behind if they didn’t move faster. There was a lot of groaning, huffing, and puffing going on when these people got back on board. Had these passengers not got back on the train they would have had to wait two more days before the train came back through.
We met people that had been on the train for over three days and still had several more days to go. For a relatively short trip I would recommend this form of travel. It is comfortable, you are able to walk about on the train. Bathrooms are communal, there is a shower area in the sleeping cars and only available to the people in the sleeping cars. Food and beverages are always available except for a few minutes at shift change each day. There are travel games to occupy your time should you choose to purchase them.
There are handicapped bathrooms available not usually in the same car – you will have to hunt for one, and 4 of the regular sized bathrooms in each car. All bathrooms are located on the lower level of the train and are similar to that on an airplane.
So, if you would like to take a different kind of trip and have thought about taking a train for the leisure ride then check this form of transportation out.
Our train ride to Tucson, Arizona was to pick up a car I had purchased then drive it home. Plus the added incentive to the trip was getting to have Thanksgiving with our daughter in Arizona (the daughter I make the YouTube videos for). So I had two great reasons to take the train.