Railroading North America

February 23, 2015

An Auto Train Update == February 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — petecrow @ 9:43 am

auto train MAP

A detailed MAP of the Auto Train route can be found HERE.

I’m obviously a fan of Auto Train, in spite of the fact that Amtrak has been tinkering with it recently in some good ways (updating stations and laying new tracks in Sanford to allow wheelchairs to roll right onto the train) and stupid ways (charging for blankets and pillows in coach and dumping the pre-departure wine and cheese party).

In February I rode Auto Train twice — first alone with my car from Sanford (Orlando) to Lorton, Virginia — and then a week or so later from Lorton back to Orlando with my wife.

So it’s time for an Auto Train update for anyone who wants itWhat follows is a reprinted posting from a personal blog which I do for family and friends.

. . . . . .

Each night Amtrak hauls several hundred cars and upwards to five hundred people from the Washington, DC, area at Lorton, Virginia, south about eight hundred miles to Orlando, at Sanford, Florida.

A woman enters her compartment on Ato Train on February 7, Saturday. I took our car up and joined Carol Anne in Waynesboro. Then we took Auto Train together back to Florida on February 15.

A woman enters her compartment on Auto Train on the evening of February 6, Friday. I took our car up to Washington, DC, on Auto Train overnight on February 6-7 and joined Carol Anne in Waynesboro February 7. Then we took Auto Train together back to Florida on February 15.

The train heads out about 4 pm with about forty railroad cars, two-thirds loaded with automobiles and motorcycles, and stretches some nights as long as three-quarters of a mile.

By the following morning, usually about 8:30 am, the non-stop train is chugging to a stop in Sanford, Florida.

It’s all about avoiding the I-95 — which is not only the drug highway from Miami to New York, but which is also chocked full of cars bumper-to-bumper with really nasty and aggressive drivers. In contrast, Auto Train offers a pleasant overnight ride whether you have a sleeper (which we almost always do) or ride the night away in coach (which each of us has done once, but only once).

Sunday we slipped away from our comfortable cozy room at the Williamsburg Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia, and in three hours were pulling of the I-95 into line south of Washington, DC, waiting to hand over our car and climb on the train. Alas: Check-in Sunday took longer than usual because the Auto Train had arrived late Sunday morning.

Like we cared?

Soon enough we were tucked in our cozy Auto Train compartment and our car was boxed up and riding along a dozen or two train cars behind us … and off we went, home to Florida.

We expected warmer, sunnier weather, but whoa! By Wednesday night, two days after we arrived, weathermen were talking about Orlando hitting 20-degrees on Thursday, February 19 which, if it happened, would be one of the coldest days in Orlando history. … Global warming is killing us here in Florida these days.

Carol Anne in Compartment 13, night on Auto Train heading non-stop south to Orlando. The trip takes about 16 hours, but because Auto Train sometimes must stand aside for freight trains, sometimes it takes long. Officially it leaves at 4 pm, although usually leaves about 3:30pm once all the cars are loaded. Arrival officially is 9:30 am but commonly the train arrives an hour or more early, occasionally as early at 7:30 am, although off-loading of cars starts only at 8 or 8:30 am when the train arrives early.

Carol Anne in Compartment 1 —  night on Auto Train heading non-stop south to Orlando. The trip takes about 16 hours, but because Auto Train must stand aside for freight trains, sometimes it takes longer. Officially Auto Train leaves at 4 pm, although usually leaves about 3:30pm once all the cars are loaded. Arrival officially is 9:30 am the following morning, but commonly the train arrives an hour or more early, occasionally as early at 7:30 am, although off-loading of cars starts only at 8 or 8:30 am, even when the train arrives early.

Stations at both ends of the Auto Train route have been rebuilt in recent years. Currently at Sanford, Florida, new tracks are being laid so that wheelchairs car roll right onto the train.

SANFORD, FLORIDA == Stations at both ends of the Auto Train route have been rebuilt in recent years. Currently at Sanford, Florida, new tracks are being laid so that wheelchairs car roll right onto the train.

SANFORD, FLORIDA == During construction of the new tracks, passengers have to trudge over ramps to board the train. Amtrak has passengers loading in groups trying to avoid crowding.

SANFORD, FLORIDA == During construction of the new tracks, passengers have to trudge over ramps to board the train. Amtrak has passengers loading in groups trying to avoid crowding.

SANFORD, FLORIDA == The yard at Sanford from the back of the train. The original Auto Train went broke, but Amtrak took it over and has run it for decades successfully. It is Amtrak's premier train along with Acela Express in the New York-Washington, DC, corridor. Auto Train can only run as far north as Washington because of the height of the railcars carrying the automobiles. Bridges north of Washington, DC, are too low. Still, many people from New York and New England take Auto Train eliminating about 800 miles of their trip.

SANFORD, FLORIDA == The yard at Sanford from the back of the train. The original Auto Train went broke, but Amtrak took it over and has run it for decades successfully. It is Amtrak’s premier train along with Acela Express in the New York-Washington, DC, corridor. Auto Train can only run as far north as Washington because of the height of the railcars carrying the automobiles. Bridges north of Washington, DC, are too low. Still, many people from New York and New England take Auto Train eliminating about 800 miles of their trip.

AUTO TRAIN == The popular wine and cheese party prior to departure is gone and Amtrak is now hawking cheap wine and munchies to its passengers for $25. Breakfast too is now simply a continental breakfast and Amtrak is chiseling amenties on Auto Train in other irritating ways. Still, it's the only game in town and when you can stuff your car full of anything you want no matter what it weighs and ship it off to Florida as you ride along sleeping, who can beat that?

AUTO TRAIN == The popular wine and cheese party prior to departure is gone from the Lounge Car (above) and Amtrak is now hawking cheap wine and munchies to its passengers for $25. Breakfast too is now simply a continental breakfast and Amtrak is chiseling amenties on Auto Train in other irritating ways. Still, it’s the only game in town and when you can stuff your car full of anything you want no matter what it weighs (which all passengers seem to do) and then ship it off to Florida as you ride along sleeping, who can beat that?

AUTO TRAIN == The coach cars aren't bad. Plenty of legroom, electric plugs here and there and internet. But here again the business school graduates have struck in stupid ways -- want a pillow and a blanket these days? Auto Train now makes coach customers pay for it.

AUTO TRAIN == The coach cars aren’t bad. Plenty of legroom, electric plugs here and there and internet. But here again the business school graduates have struck in stupid ways — want a pillow and a blanket these days? Auto Train now makes coach customers pay for it.

AUTO TRAIN == Brazenly Auto Train reminds everyone on the side of each railcar carrier that they have no reason to be abused further by driving the I-95.

AUTO TRAIN == Brazenly Auto Train reminds everyone on the side of each railcar carrier that they have no reason to be abused further by driving the I-95.

Auto Train waits at a lonely crossing in South Carolina while a freight train approaches and passes. Amtrak owns some of its own tracks in the United States, but more commonly uses the tracks of other railroads who haul freight.

Auto Train waits at a lonely crossing in South Carolina while a freight train approaches and passes. Amtrak owns some of its own tracks in the United States, but more commonly uses the tracks of other railroads who haul freight. That means a rough ride because freight railroads don’t care about smooth tracks. And it also means Auto Train and regular Amtrak passenger trains commonly must stand aside and allow freight trains to pass.

The train stops only once in the middle of the night to change engineers in Florence, South Carolina. Usually the crew change is about 11:30 pm on the southbound leg, and about 1 to 2 am when the train is heading north. The blue dot shows location of the train the night of February 6 stopped in Florence.

The train stops only once in the middle of the night to change engineers in Florence, South Carolina. Usually the crew change is about 11:30 pm on the southbound leg, and about 1 to 2 am when the train is heading north. The blue dot shows location of the train the night of February 6 stopped in Florence.

THE JAMES RIVER == Auto Train runs through some of the most beautiful country in the world, albeit much of it at night. But heading north, at dawn, the train crosses the James River in February at dawn. The James is just south of Richmond, Virginia, and runs into the Atlantic Ocean.

THE JAMES RIVER == Auto Train runs through some of the most beautiful country in the world, albeit much of it at night. But heading north, at dawn, the train crosses the James River in February at dawn. The James is just south of Richmond, Virginia, and runs easterly  into the Atlantic Ocean.

Woodlands just north of the James River at dawn on Saturday, February 7.

Woodlands just north of the James River at dawn on Saturday, February 7.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == The northern terminus of Auto Train. To ride Auto Train you must have a motorcycle or automobile. You pay one price for your ticket, and a second price for your vehicle. If you want a sleeper that is an additional cost. General, you, your car and a second person all ride for about $500, but that can vary greatly from day to day.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == The waiting room of the northern terminus of Auto Train. To ride Auto Train. Rules are simple:  you must bring along a motorcycle or automobile. You pay one price for your ticket, and a second price for your vehicle. If you want a sleeper that is an additional cost. Generally, you, your car and a second person all ride for about $500, but that can vary greatly from day to day.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == As in Sanford, Florida, improvements are underway in Lorton. Currently the restrooms are adjacent to the waiting room.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == As in Sanford, Florida, improvements are underway in Lorton. Currently these temporary restrooms are adjacent to the waiting room.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == To drop off your vehicle you first waiting in line for a magnetic tag with a number to be slapped on the side of your car. Then the car is videotaped and driven away while you head for the passenger portion of the train. Auto Train begins accepting cars at 11:30 am. The stations in Lorton and Sanford are only used for Auto Train. And both have Free Wi-Fi.

LORTON, VIRGINIA == To drop off your vehicle you first waiting in line for a magnetic tag with a number to be slapped on the side of your car. Then the car is videotaped and driven away while you head for the passenger portion of the train. Auto Train begins accepting cars at 11:30 am. The stations in Lorton and Sanford are only used for Auto Train. And both have Free Wi-Fi.

They ought to sell these posters, but so far they don't.

They ought to sell these posters, but so far they don’t.

 

 

Advertisements

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.