Here are some tips and suggestions that will
help make your Amtrak train trip more enjoyable.
Amtrak's National System Timetable. You may download Amtrak's system timetable, as well as individual timetables for most trains, here: Amtrak System Timetable. Timetables are a helpful planning tool, and are handy for keeping tabs on progress during your trip. In addition to timetables for each Amtrak train, the Amtrak System Timetable contains route maps by region, descriptions of services and accommodations on each train, planning tips, and other useful information.
Baggage. Each passenger may bring 2 personal items (purses, laptops, etc.), 25 lbs. and 14 x 11 x 7 inches each, and 2 carry-on bags, 50 lbs. and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each, onboard. Two excess carry-on bags, subject to a $20 fee each, are permitted per passenger. Passengers traveling with infants may also bring items suck as as strollers and diaper bags. Checked baggage service is available on all long distance (overnight) trains, and on some short distance trains. Passengers may check up to two pieces of luggage at no extra charge. Each item checked should not exceed 50 pounds in weight or 75 linear inches in size (oversize luggage may be checked for a $20 fee). Up to two additional bags may checked for a fee of $20 each. Not all trains offer checked baggage service, and not all stations are equipped or staffed to handle baggage, so it is a good idea to inquire ahead of time to be sure baggage service is available at your origin and destination stations. Top
Your trip will be easier if you can limit the amount of your luggage to what you can comfortably carry. Then you can carry it directly on your trains. All coaches have overhead luggage racks. Bilevel Superliner coaches and sleeping cars (on all overnight western trains and some eastern trains) also have convenient luggage shelves on the lower level. It's handy to pack items you'll need en route together so they'll be easily accessible.
Personnel. On long distance (overnight) trains a car attendant will be in charge of your car to see to your needs during your trip. Other service personnel include the dining car staff, headed by the "Lead Service Attendant", and the lounge car attendant. The conductor heads the train's operational crew, which includes assistant conductors and the engineer and assistant engineer. While service personnel usually remain with the train for the entire trip, operational crews change at various points en route.
Coach Accommodations. Coach seats on the train are roomier than airplane seats. Long distance coaches feature comfortable reclining seats with foot and legrests (if you find yourself on a long distance train lacking legrests, you are in a car for short haul passengers, and you might want to try to get seated in another car). On overnight trains a "comfort kit" (which includes an inflatable pillow, ear plugs, a light blanket, and eye shades), is available for purchase in the lounge car. A washcloth, in a plastic bag, and hand towel will come in handy. Many short distance trains and some overnight trains (e.g.. The Coast Starlight) offer extra-charge Business Class with extra amenities. Top
Sleepers. See Amtrak Sleepers for descriptions, and some photos, of the various types of sleeping accommodations on Amtrak trains. The service notes in the Amtrak System Timetable indicate which types of bedrooms are available on each train. Towels, washcloths, soap, and bedding are provided. Showers are available in all sleeping cars. Other sleeper amenities include morning coffee, tea, and juice available in your car, and meals in the dining car. Room service is available upon request.
Lounge Car. The lounge car on long distance trains, open to all passengers, is a great place to meet people and enjoy the scenery. Superliner "Sightseer" lounge cars feature ankle-to-ceiling picture windows for panoramic viewing. The lounge car food service counter, serving beverages, snacks, sandwiches and other goodies, is usually open from 6:30A until midnight, except during the attendant's meal breaks. Most short distance trains also have food service counters, some of which are located in a "dinette" with table seating that serves as a lounge.
The Dining Car. "There is nothing finer than dinner in the diner!" The dining car on most long distance (overnight) trains, is a comfortable sit-down restaurant. Meals in the diner are included in the room accommodation charge for sleeping car passengers. Coach passengers may purchase their meals, just as they would in a regular restaurant. Gratuities for good service are appreciated.
Meals in the diner are part of the train travel experience. Large windows provide a good view of the ever-changing scenery as you dine. You will usually be seated with others, and people tend to be open and friendly, perhaps because of the relaxed atmosphere on board the train. This makes for interesting, companionable mealtimes. Top
On long distance trains breakfast is usually served from 6:30A or 7:00A until everyone who wants to has had an opportunity to eat (usually until at least 9:30A). Lunch service usually starts at noon. As a rule reservations are not required for breakfast or lunch. There are often three or more dinner seatings; an announcement about dinner reservations is made during the afternoon.
Diversions & Entertainment. Once your ticket has been collected or scanned, you may freely move about the train. If you are a coach passenger, leave the tag above your seat (unless you change seats), as this reserves it.
It's fun to spend time in the lounge watching the changing scenery and enjoying conversation with fellow travelers. On some trains, onboard entertainment includes seasonal presentations and commentary by volunteer National Park Service rangers, through Amtrak's Trails and Rails program. The train service notes in the Amtrak System Timetable indicate trains that feature interpretive commentary. It is a good idea to take some things of your own to do, such as reading material, your laptop, a deck of cards, or a board game.
If you take photographs through the window, it helps avoid reflections if you hold your lens almost against the window pane. On long trips, use the timetable to identify station stops lasting 5, 10, or more minutes; such stops afford good opportunities to step off the train and stretch your legs. If you do, stay on the platform so you can quickly re-board the train when the "All Aboard" call is made. If the train is running late stops may be shorter than indicated in the timetable. Top
Smoking. All passenger trains in North America are smoke free. Most long distance (overnight) trains have periodic stops of five minutes or more at which passengers may smoke on station platforms. The Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight, for example, has nine such stops.
Electronic Equipment. Sleeping compartments have electrical outlets suitable for appliances such as electric shavers, camera battery chargers, and laptop computers. On most trains there are electrical outlets at coach seats. However coach passengers with laptops, cameras, etc. might want to carry extra batteries. Restrooms also have outlets for electric shavers and hair dryers.
Passengers may play portable radios or music players, but are asked to use headphones to avoid disturbing others. Free wi-fi is available on most short distance trains. The Coast Starlight and many other overnight trains also offer free wi-fi. Wi-fi service can be erratic on some routes through remote areas. This is true of cell phone reception, as well.
Train Arrival Information. People who plan to meet you at your destination can call 800-USA-RAIL to find out if your train is expected on time. It would be a good idea to call a few hours ahead of time, and again an hour or so prior to your scheduled arrival. Top
We hope you have a wonderful train trip.
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