Where is the rail car based?
The Sierra Hotel operates largely out of the mid-west. Most trips originate in Chicago, although the car is often kept in St. Paul, MN, or occasionally St. Louis, MO for longer storage periods between trips. During the Winter months the car undergoes rigorous inspection and maintenance in Salinas, CA.
Where can we travel?
The Sierra Hotel can travel to many destinations on the Amtrak System, with the exception of those where height restrictions apply (Boston, New York City, Philadelphia). Some favorite destinations and itineraries are: through the Rocky Mountains via Colorado or Montana, along the West Coast from Los Angeles or Oakland to Portland or Seattle, along Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to Montreal, or traversing the Appalachians from Chicago to Washington, DC.
What will it cost?
Pricing will vary with the length and timing of the trip, along with the number of passengers, service required, and other variable factors. An average estimate of $7-8000/ running day for 8 passengers would include everything except very expensive items and gratuities. Stationary days at any location cost less but prices vary with the length of stay and services required. If positioning of the car is required to move it to the itinerary point of origin (for example, to Chicago from St. Paul or St. Louis), then positioning charges would apply as well.
Can we go one way?
Yes, but the car would still usually need to return to the point of origin and thus the client would be responsible for the cost of doing so. However, we will try to sell the positioning move to a second party, resulting in a partial refund for the client. This cannot be guaranteed, and it varies with the route and the timing, but we generally are successful at selling these trips at discounted rates.
Can we stay aboard the car at our destinations?
At most destinations, yes. It is possible for passengers to stay aboard the car, using it as your hotel, while parked in St. Paul, MN, Whitefish, MT, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, Los Angeles, CA, Albuquerque, NM, Houston, TX, New Orleans, LA, Washington, D.C., Savannah, GA, Tampa or Miami, FL. Albany, NY varies. Montreal PQ, Canada , Kansas City, MO and Chicago all have extra switching and parking charges. There are other possibilities as well.
Can we get a room for one or two, or do we need to charter the entire car?
Sierra Hotel Railway does not normally offer rooms or individual tickets for sale. We prefer to charter the entire car to one party, though some clients will pull together friends or family to help with the expense. We are occassionaly able to offer individual rooms for sale on certain positioning itineraries. These trips are discounted, but the timing is not negotiable, and they are often available on short notice.
Is it possible to travel to Canada or Mexico?
As of 2015 VIA Rail Canada will not put private cars on any of their trains. Montreal is currently the only destination in Canada that is reasonably accessible as a destination since this is on and Amtrak train (#68/69 The Adirondack). Special rules and prices apply when staying aboard in Montreal. Toronto is likewise accessible on Amtrak but neither passengers nor crew are allowed to stay aboard there. Mexico has not had passenger rail service since 1997, and you wouldn’t want to go there if you could.
How many people can travel on the car?
For daytime travel only the car can reasonably handle up to 24 passengers, with buffet meal service, but the Sierra Hotel is really at its best for long distance travel with 8 passengers. We can sometimes accommodate extra passengers who sleep on Amtrak but ride on the private car, but this is limited to a total of ten, or a third crew member is required. For larger groups we recommend adding a second private railroad car like either our sister car the Puget Sound or a private sleeping car. A second car will add approximately 65-75% to the cost for up to 16 passengers.
What kind of services do you provide?
Sierra Hotel Railway provides an experienced crew consisting of an Attendant and a Chef who will gladly customize the menus and service to suit your needs and desires. The Attendant is the Safety Officer and Liaison with railroad personnel in addition to his/her porter and serving duties. The Chef will work with you to design and coordinate menus for the itinerary. We frequently feature local and regional cuisine when possible for the areas through which you’ll travel. Almost all food is prepared aboard from the freshest ingredients. The service aboard the Sierra Hotel is professional and attentive, and best described as simple elegance. To quote the car’s designer/partner, we offer the “luxury of a cruise ship in the confines of a submarine”. We will take care of everything related to the railroad car and host railroads. Unfortunately we are not able to offer outside tours of any kind, although we will assist as best we can with our local knowledge and contacts.
How much baggage can I bring?
With all of the bedrooms occupied the car can comfortably accommodate up to 12 pieces of luggage that will fit under an airline seat, four cosmetic cases, and four hang-up bags. One additional bag can also be stored in bedrooms #2 & #3 which have an extra overhead space. Oversized luggage should be avoided if possible especially since zippers, buckles or other external hardware can damage woodwork and would need to be stored in the main lounge at the expense of lounge space, or checked with Amtrak. Most long distance trains have baggage cars that you can check bags with, but this cannot be guaranteed, nor can we guarantee the safety of baggage checked with Amtrak which would not be accessible en route.
Are there safety issues to be aware of?
Safety First! is not just a slogan, but a primary concern of all private rail car operators. We are guests of Amtrak and the various host railroads. It is imperative that we enforce safety rules as the very existence of private railroad cars on the nation’s rail system is dependent upon it. Clients are given a list of safety rules including being seated on the rear platform (with safety glasses and closed toed shoes), keeping arms and legs inside the platform area, no glassware or beverages on the rear or station platforms, etc. These are mostly common sense, but of immense importance for a safe and happy journey.
Is smoking allowed?
Smoking is always permitted on the rear platform (with the permission of your fellow passengers). Smoking may be permitted indoors, in the rear lounge, with advance notice and an additional charge for charcoal air filters throughout the car.
Are pets allowed?
Pets may be permitted with special permission on a case by case basis.
Do you offer discount trips?
We do offer lower priced opportunities in the form of positioning moves which are basically priced at cost. These are advertised by email or website posting as they become available. Please note that the timing of these trips is at the convenience of Sierra Hotel Railway. To receive these notifications please email your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org