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Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

Montreal, Canada
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Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

We took the Amtrak Auto Train, after finishing our first winter as snowbirds. We figured this would ease the 2400 km journey from South Florida to Montreal. Unfortunately, in our case it did not work out.

The AutoTrain runs from Sanford, Florida (Orlando) to Lorton, Virginia (Washington). It departs at 4 p.m. and arrives at 9 a.m. (Non-stop). The fare (one way) was $370 for two adults and one compact car. We did not take a private compartment.

THE PLUSES

Dinner is included as part of the fare. It is served at a tables set with tablecloth, linen napkins and a rose. There are five choices for the main course (beef, fish, pastas, and chicken) and four dessert options. As well, there is unlimited table wine, iced tea, and tea or coffee.

Breakfast is also included. It consists of cold cereal, rolls with butter and jelly(no jam or peanut butter), fresh fruit, and tea, coffee or milk.

The lounge car offers 24 hour snacks, fruit, cookies and coffee. As well, they show a movie at 7 & 9 p.m.

The seats are large and recline quite a bit. They have a foot-rest, leg-rest, and a pillow. There is a fold down table, but there is so much leg space, that the table is too far away to use comfortably. There are two electrical outlets at each seat. There is no Wi-Fi.

There are five bathrooms per passenger car. Two are rather large (they each have an ante-room) and one is fully handicapped accessible. There is limited seating on the lower level. This is reserved for travellers who cannot access the stairs to the main passenger compartment.

There is the opportunity to meet fellow travellers.

THE NEGATIVES

We found it very difficult to sleep. There is no clickety-clack to lull you into dreamland. Why? Because the train is constantly speeding up and slowing down. As well, the rail bed is not nearly as smooth as many on which we have travelled. It is rather bumpy.

There are always some people who are chatting even though it is one o’clock in the morning; or worse, they are yakking on their mobile telephones.

The stairway to the upper level is very steep and very narrow. It is not possible for someone who has mobility problems or someone who is quite overweight to use the stairs.

You have to arrive 2.5 - 3 hours before departure and wait for up to two hours to have your car loaded and off-loaded, ie. five hours of nothing happening.

The station is 80 km from highway 95, PLUS 350 km from Fort Lauderdale

Train travel time (including waiting) is twenty-one hours to cover 1350 km.

CONCLUSIONS

It would have quicker for us to drive all the way. It still took us three days and two nights, with one of the nights being a sleepless one. It would have been cheaper to stay at a hotel for two nights and not try to use the train as a hotel. This includes restaurant meals, lodging and gasoline.

If you can sleep on the train, then it is worth it (because of less driving). Also to be noted, that fares fluctuate a great deal according to when you go. The train always carries a maximum of 300 cars - so once it is full, there is no more space. Space fills up quickly at peak travel times

128 replies to this topic
Dallas, Texas
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1. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

Thanks for your report. We traveled once on Amtrak, just for the experience, since trains will probably be outdated before long. It was slow. I agree that driving will most definitely get you there more quickly. Still, we enjoyed the novelty of it. Thanks again.

I hope that you ended up at Union Station in Washington. It is quite lovely, isn't it?

Edited: 8:30 pm, March 11, 2012
Connecticut
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2. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

We have friends doing this, already have it booked. Any tips? Luckily it will help the driver, he can probably sleep through anything.

Dallas, Texas
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for Boston, Orlando, Walt Disney World
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3. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

Very nice TR yeah driving is much quicker.

Montreal, Canada
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4. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

The train's northern terminal is in Lorton, Virginia, a suburb south of Washington. Because it requires a facility to off load automobiles, the station is in a freight yard with a passenger waiting room.The station is about one hundred meters from highway 95, the main north-south route from New England to Miami.

I do not think trains will be outdated - especially in the high traffic areas, such as the U.S northeast, San Francisco-L.A, and the Quebec City - Windsor (Ont) corridors. High speed trains are much quicker than airplanes when you factor in security checks, baggage retrieval wait time, and the ride between the airport and downtown

Montreal, Canada
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5. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

To MacsFive,

A tip would be to consume as much wine as you need to make you drowsy, then top it off with an Ativan. It will knock you right out.

Bring earplugs (under a dollar at a pharmacy or Home Depot type store), a sleep mask, and your own pillow. Amtrak pillows are quite thin and small.

Connecticut
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6. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

Just what I needed to know to tell them.

Thanks!

Flanders, New Jersey
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7. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

My husband and I just took the auto train to go to Daytona Bike Week and we live in Virginia, so not too much travel on either end. We got a "roommette" sleeper car both ways. I will say I think they provide efficient transportation, but the accommodations are stinky, dirty and way too small. By efficient transportation I mean they have this departure time, loading and unloading vehicles, check in, etc. down to a science, so it is a reliable way to go. However, the "roommette" is the size of a small half bathroom in your house with 2 seats that face each other (folds out to bottom bunk) and a top bunk above. There is literally ONE FOOT of space in between the bottom bunk and the end of your room/your door. My husband and I had to TAKE TURNS changing in this room. There is almost no head room on the top bunk and the mattresses are thin. They have bigger bedrooms available which would be a better choice. The bathrooms are the size of airplane bathrooms - which is OK for a 2.5 hour flight, but not a 17 hour train ride when it gets so much use. My two biggest beefs there are the toilets look like they have not been thoroughly cleaned in 58 years, and the sinks are teeny tiny with faucets that only deliver water when you hold down the spigot - and the water comes out at 94 miles per hour. So, the entire bathroom is usually soaked - the mirror, the sink, the floor, your pants, the toilet paper, etc. It is not even possible to wash your face in this bathroom. The lack of cleanliness was the case both down and back - so I can't blame it on any one "car attendant." Amtrak also needs to provide some fresh air in the sleeper cabins - I get why they wouldn't want you to stick your hand out the window with the oncoming trains whizzing by 2 feet away - but the train just STINKS. I will try to fly next time.

Longwood, FL
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8. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

We did the Auto Train Northbound twice in 2011 and both times were good to great. The first time was on time leaving and on time arriving. The second time we had an issue with the engine about 30 minutes up the track. They kept us informed and explained what would be happening.

I do have to laugh about people complaining about delays on the train. The train slowing and sometimes even, GASP, STOPPING. None of that would happen on I-95.

Oh yeah, you don't have to show up 5 hours early. Look at the site. I think for a 4:00 departure, you have to have the car there by 2:00. You can begin boarding at 2:30. If you do show up really early, Sanford is kind of a cool little town on the water. (Regardless of what Al Sharpton says). A shuttle service runs regularly into town. You don't have to sit at the station.

As far as the trains being dirty. That wasn't our experience. I didn't inspect all that close but to suggest that the bathrooms are the same size as an airline bathroom is totally inaccurate. If you find a dirty one, let an attendant know and go to a different one. The showers are much larger and better than those found on airlines by the way. If you feel the need to take a shower between 4:00pm and 9:30am.

I do suggest the roomettes over the bedrooms or coach. You really never know what you are going to get in coach and it could be loud at any and/or all times. The bedrooms are pretty expensive and for the additional space including the private bath/shower (same space - sort of like an RV set-up), I don't think the cost is warranted. A roomette is worth it in my opinion. Yes, two people will have an impossible time of standing up and dressing and undressing at the same time but it really shouldn't be that big of a deal. When is the last time that you and your significant other both went to the bathroom at the same time, undressed together, dressed for bed together, and got into bed at the same time? The space is small but research the Amtrak site. They have pictures and a 360 tour on there and they are accurate. Do what you always do. Whoever usually goes to bed first, uses the bathroom first, gets changed for bed, and goes to bed. While #1 is changing for bed, #2 goes to the bathroom. When #2 comes to the room, #1 is already in bed. Probably just like at home. Seriously guys. They are bunk beds and you will sleep in privacy with some sense of quiet. If you are thinking 5 star hotel (and maybe even 4 star) then you will be upset. The mattress isn't paper thin, but it isn't very plush either. It's a bunk bed for crying out loud.

Oh yeah - one thing about the roomettes. There is one outlet. Instead of complaining, take an extension cord with you so you can plug in a couple of different chargers. I would suggest one as a GPS so you can keep track of where you are.

Riding Amtrak is as much an experience as it is transportation. Relax. There are worse ways to travel this distance. One of them is in a car on I-95. I'm willing to spend a little more to go the distance without having to get behind the wheel.

Kissimmee, Florida
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9. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

we took the train not the aouto train,but still amtrak and i will say if you do use this you will need to get a room. some of the people that ride the coach cars are real chatter boxes and you get no sleep with that and the over head always calling out meal times and stops it's a pain in the butt...atlaeast with a room you can get a shower in the shower room in the hall.

Boca Raton, Florida
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10. Re: Amtrak Auto Train(Orlando-Washington)

Does anyone know if they have guard rails for the beds for small children?

What is the safety factor on the train? My daughter will be traveling alone with two small children.

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