The California Zephyr: The Coach

Tiring a bit from looking at snow for 10 hours and surrounded by empty seats (since the folks for stops between Denver and Salt Lake had to leave the train and take a bus), I decided to do some documentation of my Superliner car seat. The bi-level coach has bathrooms, luggage racks and a small number of seats on the lower level. The upper level is all seats with 17 rows of seats on the starboard side and two sets of 7 rows of seats on the port side, interrupted in the middle by a stairwell, garbage cans and a water fountain. This configuration gives a total of 62 seats on the upper level with an additional 24 seats on cars with lower-level seating.

Seats are 46" wide and 25" deep. Rows in this configuration were separated by 52" giving a leg area of around 27". Aisles are 21" wide. The seats recline steeply and have a retractable leg rest. Small children can lay flat on a single seat and larger folks can recline in a fetal position across two seats if they're lucky enough not to have a seat mate (or have one that is small and familiar enough to cuddle with).

I found the most comfortable sleeping option was to slip as far down in the seat as possible, with my legs supported by the leg rest and extending deeply under the seat in front of me. A rolled-up sweatshirt in the seat bend provided a little extra back support, although I was rarely able to get more than an hour of sleep before discomfort or some other noise (like loudly snoring fellow passengers) would awaken me. The next best option was to sleep in the lounge car, where you could stretch out over multiple seats. The best option is, of course, a sleeper, but at up to $1,000 for some heavily-loaded long-distance trains, the cost is prohibitive.

If the predictions of increased rail passenger traffic come true, seating configurations may more frequently resemble the higher density of Amtrak's commuter line services. As such, ample leg room might become a premium amenity.

12/22/2010 18:12:54
Looking forward from mid-car
12/22/2010 18:13:38
Leg room in front of seats
12/22/2010 18:14:42
12/22/2010 18:14:54
Extended leg rest
12/22/2010 08:02:56
Demonstration of the best available sleeping position