Guest Column | Riding the rails on the Southwest Chief
On August 2, we boarded the Southwest Chief here in Kingman. Our final destination was Bar Harbor, ME so we needed to take 3 different trains. Of the 3 trains that we traveled on, the Southwest Chief was the best. Nice compartments, decent food and good service.
When we arrived at the train station at 1 a.m. we were totally surprised to find the place packed, the station was full of people and there were many waiting outside as well. Many of them had traveled across the country to go to Vegas, getting off the train here and getting on a shuttle to Vegas.
We also ran into many foreign visitors who were traveling across the country by train. Several people who had visited the Grand Canyon, one couple had taken a train to Chicago from New Orleans then they got on the Southwest Chief to visit the Grand Canyon.
On our return trip we asked our room attendant how we would know when we arrived in Kingman because they don’t make announcements over the PA system after 10:00 pm. She told us that the conductor would come and knock on our door about 20 minutes before reaching Kingman and not to worry about the Vegas shuttle because it would wait for us. We had to explain that we were not going to Vegas but home to Kingman, which makes us think that not too many people from town actually take the train.
This is not the only train that travels from Chicago to California there is also one that goes to San Francisco. The Southwest Chief is the only train that uses one section of track in Colorado that Amtrak is responsible for on this route and they don’t want to keep up the maintenance on the rails. That is the ONLY reason he wants to get rid of the Southwest Chief, just to save a few dollars.
Sadly, the track they no longer want to care for is some of the most stunning scenery in the country. A lot of people take the train to enjoy the scenery, his idea is to take people off the train and transport them via bus, nowhere near the same travel experience.
Amtrak’s new CEO wants to kill this line claiming that no one wants to take the train cross country anymore. He is totally wrong the train was really pretty full. If he is successful in shutting this line down it will impact Kingman, some of the riders spend the night in town before going home.
It wasn’t much but we helped Kingman’s economy by taking a taxi to the station and back home. It’s a shame that there isn’t anything open near the train station at that time of night to purchase snacks and drinks because there isn’t any way to get food or drinks on the train that late at night.
We had taken along several items to keep ourselves busy if we got bored while riding the train and wanted to something to do. We were enjoying the ride so much that we never even looked at our stash of books, games, etc.
If there is any way that Kingman can help to save the Southwest Chief from Amtrak’s CEO they should do it. Believe me when I say that you haven’t lived until you have taken a shower on a moving train.