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Earlier, I shared an introduction to our upcoming summer family vacation – Big heads, trains, and bears, oh my! Part of the trip is an Amtrak train from Ohio to Denver, and so as I’ve planned out the trip, I’ve become concerned about Amtrak delays. Amtrak points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards) are part of the 350,401 miles that we’ve spent on this trip.
Connecting in Chicago
An Amtrak delay of even several hours wouldn’t be the end of the world, except that our current plans have us connecting Amtrak trains in Chicago. We’re taking the Capitol Limited train into Chicago, and connecting to the California Zephyr to Denver. Amtrak delays that caused me to misconnect on the outbound leg of our vacation would be catastrophic. In looking through people’s comments, Amtrak has a pretty good policy about misconnections – they will rebook you on the next day’s train, usually with hotel, meal and/or taxi vouchers, or I even read stories of them busing you to “catch” your train, but even in the best-case, where we got on the California Zephyr the next day, that would cause a major disruption to our plans, since we have hotels and other plans all booked based on our current schedule.
The other issue is that we currently have 2 family bedrooms (sleeper cars) on our trains, but availability is pretty tight, so the odds of there being 2 family bedrooms available on the next day’s train is pretty low.
Checking Amtrak status
If you are wanting to just check the status of a specific train, the best place to do it is the actual Amtrak website. On the main part of the website, choose the “Status” tab instead of the “Tickets” tab, put in your train number and station, and pick your date
In this case, you can see that train 29 left Toledo, Ohio 52 minutes late on June 7th. The big downside with this site is that you can only check the status for a week in the past. So while that can be useful, what I was more interested in was figuring out how delayed (or not!) my trains were likely to be.
Tracking historical Amtrak delays
Luckily, there are several other sites that will help you track historical Amtrak delays. One that I used is called the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Amtrak. It has a few resources that I’ve found useful. First is the status maps. Pick a region, and you’ll be presented with something like this
In pseudo-realtime, it will show you the location of each train. Clicking on the train number will take you to a page with a URL that looks something like this
The IP address seems to change periodically, so I wouldn’t bookmark that actual URL, but once you can get to it, from the status maps page, you can also change the URL parameters for different dates. So changing “selday” to 07 would give you June 7th. Or changing selmonth to “02” gives you days in the month of February, etc.
Amtrak delays in charts
I was able to spot check a few days to get a better idea of the on-time performance of the various trains that I’d be on to see what kind of Amtrak delays I was likely to run into, but then I found a different website – the ASMAD: Amtrak Status Maps Archive Database.
This lets you review the historical Amtrak delays information in a few different ways. First, you can look at the historical Amtrak delalys for a given train at a different station. Here’s the delays for the eastbound California Zephyr out of Denver’s Union Station
As you can see, there’s been a few really bad delays lately. Amtrak must have gotten the memo as they recently emailed me that they’ve pushed the schedule back, so instead of leaving at 7:10pm it is now scheduled to leave at 8:10 p.m.
But even more useful is that the ASMAD gives you a page where you can test a connection. Since that’s really what I’m trying to figure out, I gave that a try. Here’s the connection information in Chicago connecting from the California Zephyr to the Capitol Limited
Out of the 6 months of data that I chose (157 total results), I’d have missed the connection in Chicago 12 times (7.6%), though some of those were close enough where they might have held the train in Chicago for us. That’s good but not great news, but the better news is that for the reverse trip, I wouldn’t have missed the train once. Since that’s MUCH more important to me, I was glad to see that.
Hopefully this can give you a better idea of how to check historical Amtrak delays, and whether those delays are large enough to have an impact on your travel!