Our First Amtrak Train Ride

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We recently took our first ride on Amtrak and loved our experience. Our travels took us from Osceola, Iowa, to Granby, Colorado. This was a mother-son trip to celebrate my youngest’s tenth birthday.

Arriving at the Amtrak Station

We arrived over an hour early at the historic Osceola Amtrak train station. I often fly for my job and am used to arriving at the airport two hours early, so I was surprised when we only needed to be there 30 minutes before our departure time. An hour early was much too early to arrive! There isn’t a lot to do at the station so we just walked around the parking lot to stretch our legs. We left our luggage in the car until closer to departure time. We knew we could bring at least one big suitcase plus two small carry-ons with us on the train. We each had a suitcase and backpack.  

We heard Amtrak is rarely on time and we experienced that. The Amtrak app came in very handy and I appreciated that we were texted updates often. This train, the California Zephyr, shares the rails with freight trains as well so it is easy to get off-schedule.  

Boarding

About 20 minutes after our scheduled time, we heard train whistles in the distance! Our lovely station attendant, Pat, helped us across the tracks so we were ready to board when the train arrived. I had my ticket ready on my app and a train car attendant met us on the platform to show us where to go. Everyone was very friendly and I was quick to let them know it was our first time on a train. 

I had a few main worries about the train.

  • Would it be a big rush to board the train? No, while there is a two-minute window to board. It happened very fast, but I never felt like we would be left behind.
  • Would I know where to go, where to put my luggage, etc.? The Amtrak employees were so kind and quick to answer all of my questions!
  • Would it be hard to walk between cars? Not at all. I never felt danger between the cars and there are places to hold on if needed.

On Board

We booked a “roommette” on the sleeper train. This is a very small room with two chairs that converted to a bed with another bunk bed above us. We were definitely cozy! Our sleeping car attendant, Tony, quickly greeted us and made sure we ordered our dinner, even though it was after 8:30 p.m. He was with us during our entire trip and made our journey very comfortable.  We could have booked our seats in Coach but thought a sleeper car roommette might make our mother-son trip more memorable and private. There are also larger family rooms available too.

My son and I ate a delicious pasta and meatball dinner in our roommette and then played cards until about 9:45 p.m. when we decided it was time for bed. It was neat to watch the sun setting and see rural Iowa zooming past through our big picture window.  

Amtrak would probably appreciate it if I kept my sleeping opinions to myself. Let’s just say my son slept very well and I saw a lot of Nebraska throughout the long night. It was a very bumpy ride. (On the way back home, I slept very well the entire night though!) 

The Views

We woke up the next morning in Colorado and could see mountains in the distance! We ate breakfast in the dining car and then headed to the lounge car to save a seat. The lounge car has floor to ceiling windows which made our ride through the mountains breathtaking! This train follows the Colorado River through some of the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen. The last part of our journey was through the “Tunnel District” where we went through over 20 tunnels including the famous Moffat Tunnel! 

Right before it was time to depart the train, we gathered our belongings from our room and headed down to the train doors. We said a quick goodbye to Tony and we had arrived in Granby, Colorado!  

Amtrak was a fun part of our trip and we are already planning our next Amtrak adventure with our entire family. I loved being able to play cards, read, watch movies, and snack our way to Colorado instead of driving. My son loved those same things as well as the chance to stretch out and walk around the train cars too. We highly recommend a ride on Amtrak’s California Zephyr!  

Have you ridden Amtrak?

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