Car vs train across the United States
A modern, decidedly Top Gear homage to the great Blue Train races: a head-to-head between Amtrak and a Bentley Continental...
Posted: 19 Dec 2012
We chose the California Zephyr firstly because of its history. It first ran over a similar route in 1949, and was pitched as not just travel but "A vacation unto itself". It had special Vista-Dome viewing cars with bubble-glass roof sections, sleeper cars with double bedrooms, and roomettes with flip-down bunk beds.
With its hostesses nicknamed the Zephyrettes, it became synonymous with glamorous rail travel at a time when cheap US domestic flights were yet to leach the romance from long-range travel. It still has most of these elements. The second reason we chose it was because it covers some of the most spectacular parts of America in one long sinuous hit - from the Great Plains to the Rockies, the High Sierras to the Nevada desert. And because, with an average speed of 55mph, it would be a real challenge to beat cross-country, even in a powerful, modern car on well-resolved modern highways. It all fits together and looks great on paper. The reality, as we have already discovered in the faintly disastrous first leg, is somewhat different.