Dealing With Missed Connections.
Amtrak has had a lot of problems over the past couple of years with missed connections, or “misconnects” and they’re called within the company. The problems were especially bad back a couple of years ago when the North Dakota oil fields were booming and the oil trains were clogging the rails.
But the reality is that stuff happens . . . and there is always the chance that any of Amtrak’s long-distance trains can be delayed, sometimes by a matter of several hours. Of course, Amtrak’s scheduling takes a lot of this into consideration. For example, trains originating on the West Coast are scheduled into Chicago around the middle of the afternoon and trains heading south and east depart later to allow what should be plenty of time for connections.
California Zephyr at 2:50
Southwest Chief at 3:15
Empire Builder at 3:55
Capitol Limited at 6:40
City of New Orleans at 8:05
Lake Shore Limited at 9:30
I’d probably take chance on most of those connections, but if I were coming in on the Empire Builder and heading for Washington, DC, on the Capitol Limited, I would overnight in Chicago.
You should always be kept aware by the conductor when your train is running late. If it looks like you could miss a connecting train, button-hole him or her before you arrive for advice as to your options. It’s possible, if just a few minutes are involved, Amtrak might hold the connecting train for you. If not, there will be Amtrak buses waiting either to cut across country to catch up to the train you were supposed to be on or take you to your final destination.
But if you’ve definitely missed your connection with another long-distance train—and this is important—once you pull into the station, go immediately to Amtrak’s Passenger Service Desk in the station. And I mean run if you can. There will be a lot of other passengers on your train in similar situations, and the object is to be one of the first problems solved instead of one of the last.
Bottom line: Don’t cut it close. When working out a rail itinerary involving a connection, especially from one long-distance train to another, schedule an overnight if you can afford the time and the money to do it.