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Old Nov 11, 07, 8:28 am   #1
 
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Amtrak "newbie" ? : Upper or lower seat in Coach?

I have never taken Amtrak and it looks like I will make my first trip this Christmas from Seattle to Vancouver BC.

The train does not offer a Business Class but an "upgrade option" to reserve a seat in the lower compartment. (there is no price difference)

Where do I want to sit? Upper or lower?

Also.. how early does one have to get to the train station to get a decent seat? ( I think this will be on Monday the 24th of December)

Thanks for any advice.
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Old Nov 11, 07, 10:13 am   #2
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Originally Posted by david4455 View Post
I have never taken Amtrak and it looks like I will make my first trip this Christmas from Seattle to Vancouver BC.

The train does not offer a Business Class but an "upgrade option" to reserve a seat in the lower compartment. (there is no price difference)

Where do I want to sit? Upper or lower?

Also.. how early does one have to get to the train station to get a decent seat? ( I think this will be on Monday the 24th of December)

Thanks for any advice.
Personally I'd go with an upper level seat, as the view is better from there. Especially if a freight train happens to be going by. Sometimes you can see over the top of a freight train from the upper level. You never can from the lower level.

However, if climbing stairs is an issue, then you might prefer the lower level.
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Old Nov 11, 07, 1:56 pm   #3
 
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I too would choose an upper level seat, if climbing stairs is no problem. I don't even know why they offer that option. (You can choose any available seat on the train.)

Unlike an airline flight, there is no real check-in or seat assignments. Once you board, you can have your choice of any available seat. (Personaly, I choose the window seat at the back half of the window. Each is 2 rows wide. This way, you can see out farther without obstruction.)

The only time you need to check-in in advance is if you are checking bags. (More than 30 minutes in advance.) Also some stations have a check-in in advance of boarding. (I'm not sure if SEA is one of those.)
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Old Nov 11, 07, 6:30 pm   #4
 
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Also some stations have a check-in in advance of boarding. (I'm not sure if SEA is one of those.)
I have never heard of this, what does it involve?
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Old Nov 11, 07, 7:17 pm   #5
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I would vote for an upper seat, too. Lower seats are preferred by some because the compartment is smaller and therefore the crowd is quieter (though I've never had a loud or unruly crowd on the upper deck). Track noise will be louder downstairs, though, and the view isn't nearly as good.

On some trains, a car attendant standing at the door will give you a seat assignment as you board. It's not heavily enforced, though, and if there are a lot of other open seats and/or there are very few other people getting on in your car, you can probably sit anywhere you like (though someone else getting on may come up and say you're in their seat). Once the door shuts, you can move anywhere within that car you'd like. Just be sure that if the conductor has already passed by to check your ticket and give you a seat check, make sure to take the seat check (they stick it in a plastic thingy above your seat) with you when you move.

This isn't really applicable on your short Cascades trip, but for other long-distance travel, if you want to move to another car, it shouldn't be a huge problem, but if your stop is one in the middle of the night and you want the attendant to wake you up, be prepared that if you move to another car, you may not get woken up, since the attendant won't likely be paying attention or may even be sleeping (cars are assigned by destination--you might want to check with the attendant of the other car to see if they can do it). (Sorry, that was a lot of commas for one sentence...)

On another note, I'd be hesitant to reserve a lower-level seat on the Seattle-Vancouver run, since while some trains currently use two-level Superliner trainsets, as the single-level Talgo sets come back into service (they were out for repair), they will replace the Superliner sets and everyone will have lower-level seats (no sense paying for one, then).
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Old Nov 11, 07, 8:12 pm   #6
 
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The Superliners SEA-VAC won't go away until the scheduled maintenance on its regular Talgo set is complete....
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Old Nov 11, 07, 8:42 pm   #7
 
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It's an "upgrade" option since it must be offered to those with mobility problems, and that's just how Amtrak's reservation system puts it. The lower levels aren't as crowded, and nobody's moving through -- in winter, it can get a bit drafty by the doors.

You don't "check in" for trains per se -- at SEA, you can print your ticket from Quick-Trak anytime (even a few minutes before boarding), and check your bags anytime that day, but you'll still have to get in line with everyone else when they're boarding. Boarding is "cattle call" style, with one great big line; just be nimble and sit closer to the platform and you'll be in line before the others.
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Old Nov 11, 07, 9:05 pm   #8
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Originally Posted by ClimbGuy View Post
I have never heard of this, what does it involve?
In Portland for example, when riding the Cascades service one must go up to a ticket window and show your ticket. They then give you a seat check with your assigned seat number and one is not allowed to just change your seat. The conductor will notice if you move the seat check ticket, since it has the number of the seat you're supposed to be in written on the seat check.
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Old Nov 11, 07, 10:22 pm   #9
 
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Originally Posted by ClimbGuy View Post
I have never heard of this, what does it involve?
At a few stations I've been to a few years ago, (namely DEN, GJT and RNO - which are crew change points), you check in with the conductor (inside the station before the train arrives) - giving him/her your ticket and getting a seat check to board. I don't know if they still do that.
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Old Nov 14, 07, 11:45 am   #10
 
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I have never heard of this, what does it involve?
Quite a few termini do this just to get lots of people 'herded' properly. It's happened to me in LA, CHI, and DC. Basically, you check in, they check your ID, and then they tell you to stand in a line. Then a 'tour guide' comes along and the bunch of you walk in a single file line without being allowed to talk or chew gum (ok, not really) all the way to the platform. There, they separate the first class from the coach, and the coach passengers by destination.

It doesn't happen anywhere 'enroute' - just at Terminals to the best of my knowledge. Kind of silly if you ask me, but that's their thing. Of course, if you show up 10 minutes prior to departure, the ritual is over and you just walk up to the train and board where they tell you to.
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