Customer Reviews: All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide
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on November 13, 2000
I've taken a few U.S. East Coast train trips, some overnights with sleeping accomidations, and I thought I knew the system pretty well. I learned so much more after reading this book and I wish I had read it before my first train trip. There are so many little tips that can make your travel better. From the book I learned a lot about the operations behind the scenes and this is helpful information for an overall enjoyable train experience. It's a great book. I have not come across any other book like it. Thinking about a train trip? Get the book and hit the rails. Already have a trip planned? Get the book and enjoy your trip even more.
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on December 7, 1999
My friend and I are planning a trip to the USA in 2000 and not being too confident about driving on the "wrong" side of the road, had vaguely thought about doing a train trip, but the one travel agent we consulted was a bit vague about the subject and gave us an Amtrak brochure and sent us on our way. As we aren't yet up to booking (just after Christmas, we'll do that) we were a bit lost. Imagine our delight to come across 'All aboard!' in our local library. I have devoured it from cover to cover and have ordered my own copy to take with us. Being Aussies, a lot of the local customs are foreign to us. It is wonderful to have the on board etiquette spelled out, eg. tipping isn't common in Australia, and I would hate to slip up by not tipping appropriately etc. We are planning our holiday using 'All aboard'as our bible. I give it 5 stars.
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on June 29, 2000
This book will take you behind the scene of railroading in North America with emphasize on amtrak in USA. Thanks to Jim Loomis enthusiastic writing style I learned a lot about trains, on-board personnel, operations, logistics, history and rail terms in general. If you are rail freshman like me than you'll appreciate this book just for that alone. Recently I took a trip from Halifax to Vancouver with VIA and now I'm looking forward to take similar route (coast to coast) with Amtrak. The only thing that you'll not find in this book is comprehensive list of places to stay and see that are typical for classic travel guides like the Lonely Planet series. (If you're planing the rail trip in Canada then don't miss the excellent travel guide "Trans-Canada Rail Guide".) Overall this book deserve five stars. Recommended!
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on April 26, 2012
For a first time Amtrak traveler I'd give it 4 stars due to some practical information and the simple, easy to digest writing style of the author. But for those who have already traveled on the US rail system, they will likely experience a lot of 'been there, done that' passages. I also encountered a LOT of repetitive information--sometimes nearly identical advice offered just pages apart. Again, this may prove valuable to a total train newbie, but even when I tried to read it by selecting random chapters, skipping sections that didn't apply to me, I still encountered repeated topics such as what to pack, missing connections, etc. I think had Mr. Loomis offered bulleted points or merely utilized a bold typeset for the stuff he really wanted to emphasis for the novice, it might have made for a more succinct read or at least succeeded as a quick reference guide. (This is more of an editing issue than Loomis' gaff, but it sure would be helpful for future editions.)

As a train fan, if I want a lot of cool, in depth history on US trains--mechanical specs, freight lines, etc., I seek out a book specific to that topic. But this title is trying to be both a glossy history lesson AND a basic 'how to' guide; it's suffering from an identity conflict because there's not enough in-depth info for the fanatic. Yet writing it as a regular general interest book means it includes more dry topics than a nervous first timer would want. So it's difficult to parse the facts needed for embarking on actual modern day excursions, failing as a mere reference guide or practical train 'bible' but leaving the mini experts wanting more. Mix in the memoir aspects of Loomis' lifetime as a train lover, and you've got a lot of different categories of train books in one bloated title. Something for everyone leaves someone (me) feeling like no one cared to understand their target demographic.

Ultimately my greatest disappointment comes from the promise found on the cover (and my main motivation for purchasing this title) called "Best Routes, Lowest Fares". That looked mighty appealing!! But, except for learning one single 'inside' piece of info concerning what time of day to call Amtrak for last minute sleeper car fares, I'm STILL searching for any fare related savings beyond the common sense all budget-conscious travelers apply to ANY form of travel! Perhaps this is because tricks to low fares aren't really addressed in this book at all--save the 'advice' to book early, take advantage of senior/student discounts (ones impossible to miss on the Amtrak reservations website or even via a phone rep), and understand summer months are popular travel times thus sell out rapidly. Really, how shocking?!! I never knew! Geesh. So the mention of frequent travelers joining Amtrak's loyalty program for future perks makes me wonder if the author believes every train rider has been living under a rock their entire life. In 2012, no matter what your age, it's insulting to think folks don't know loyalty programs are good ideas, summer is the most popular travel season, and booking early is prudent. Nothing gleaned from that front cover teaser, unfortunately.

I'm a big planner, and this title does succeed in highlighting a lot of what you'll encounter on your long distance journey. However, there's some major rose colored glasses going on. Loomis fails to mention how entirely unique every train ride can be--and that includes the good, the bad, and the very very ugly. Take it from me. I adore riding the rails, but I wish Loomis had included a list of stuff you might encounter that you're hardly prepared for. It's not always a very good time, but just telling us to 'bring your own travel pillow' and enjoy the 'scenic ride' is not enough true insight into what the realities of public train travel (journeys much longer than domestic flights) really involve. I officially checked out when, on page 82, I read "The dining-car food is quite good". I am hardly a food snob, but folks, if you believe that, I suggest you hit a few train blogs and discover the real deal with US train travel....and save yourself the price of this book and the overtly rosy strokes with which it's painted. Online you'll read real stories from real passengers, understand the huge differences between coach and sleepers (a topic Loomis seems hesitant to address and only in PC terms), determine which routes are truly snooze fests, cringe when discovering how overworked attendants can radically affect your experience, and ultimately decide if trains are for you. And if you're an old timer and plain ole train enthusiast, I'd ask what this book offers you that you really didn't know before.
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on August 24, 2002
The information is good -- plenty of background material on North American trains, etc. I'd recommend reading it if you're planning a vacation and are interested going by rail (or could be talked into it).
But having read it, I can't help feeling that it would be more useful if it were organized and presented differently. Rather than a thick paperback with about 10 typically-sized chapters, maybe it would be more useful if the chapters were broken down into smaller, better delineated sections, with stronger cross-indexing. Maybe spiral bound. More maps?
If you're planning a vacation in North America, it would be good to get this book and read it during the planning stage. But it wouldn't be very useful to throw into your backpack and take it with you, which is too bad because with a different organization I think it could be.
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on September 29, 2001
This is the latest edition of an earlier book written by an enthusiastic supporter of American rail travel. It includes changes in Amtrak's system within the last five years. If anyone is looking to travel by train for the first time or is a supporter of rail travel themselves, you should get this book. It explains everything from the duties of crewmembers, who to go to with questions while onboard, an excellent history of Amtrak from its formation by Congress in the early 70s and some sample itineraries. Coverage of the Canadian VIA system and Mexico's Copper Canyon is also included. His section on the Copper Canyon route will make you want to go, and he tells you how to do it. If you need help planning your itinerary, this book provides great advice and even lists some travel agencies who specialize in rail travel.
Old rail veterans may consider this book a little trite, and there isn't a whole lot of detail about the trip descriptions in the book. However, the history of rail travel and the technical information about railroads is pretty interesting.
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on March 18, 1999
Great book for the rail fan or wannabee rail fan! My favorite escape is planning train trips (even if they don't usually pan out) and I have read every book I have found. Jim's books are extremely readable and have lots of intersting information that I didn't know! It makes you long for the whistles and sway of the train. I did just go on the Copper Canyon and used Jim's comments on that trip; however there were barely 17 pages, which were not enough. If you haven't been - GO. I had a great trip and will give any interested parties all my secrets if you care to drop me an e-mail. But be sure to buy and read Jim's book before you go!
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on November 26, 1999
My wife and I have enjoyed a few overnight (Lake Shore Limited) train trips and, based on this experience, fantazied about a cross-country trip. When it came time to forfill this particular fantasy (now with our son), we found this to be the best source of pratical, how-to, what-side-ot-the-train-to-sit-on advice. the author clearly loves train travel and has a first-hand knowledge of his subject. My 4-star rating is based more on the lack of artistic style than content. In you're planning a trip, this is an eminently useful book.
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on January 30, 2007
I hadn't taken an Amtrak crosscountry trip although I've ridden trains in NY area, in Europe, etc. So when we planned a crosscountry train trip, I got this book (there's a second edition published in 1998 too) and it was marvelous. We knew what to expect, this book explained it all. The book is honest and detailed in what it says, and it's easy to read. Plus it's self-contained, meaning you can read only one part and know all you need to about that part without having to go through the whole book. Well worth it for anyone taking an Amtrak trip of 2 hours or 2 days (done both now). Only point to add is that in the sleepers, he recommends against room A since it's a bit smaller, but the other rooms (B, C, D, E) have a door for connecting rooms together for parties of 4 instead of 2, and the door isn't as soundproof as the rest of the wall. So A is a bit smaller but quieter. Also, there is space in the ABCDE sleepers to stow two suitcases under the bed, as long as they aren't too big (9 or 10" x 19" x 23" fit OK) and thus they are out of the way, and I'm not sure he makes that clear--or maybe I was overzealous in figuring out how to get the suitcases out of the way. BTW, on 6 Amtrak trips in the midwest and west, we've never subsequently made up any time, so any delays that happen have stayed with us for the rest of the trip. A good book for a novice train traveller or for one who wonders how some of the stuff happens in the train world. And he's right, the coach seats compare favorably with business class/first class on planes.

Chicago is a big hub. From there, we've taken trains to Seattle, New Orleans, San Antonio, Washington DC. A very useful book to explain what you'll encounter. A train trip is a lot more restful than a plane trip nowadays (yes, I fly a lot too).
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on October 21, 2001
I was planning to take a train across the country on a sleeper.It is certainly nice to know what to expect before you embark unless you are a real adventurer. Author provides very detailed information about the life on board of the train, living quarters, conditions. This takes about half of the book. Than he describes each route. I found this part very short, for my purpose was to know what kind of cities or sceneries I would expecte to see or where to get off the train for a day or two. So for that reason I was a littel dissapointed.But the TV shows gives you some information anyway. So this book was more valuable for life in train.
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