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The Amtrak Auto Train

By Glenn Arnette, lll

It really use to be the way of life and one of the only ways to travel the United States. Have we forgotten about “trains”? The world of air travel seems to have taken over or has it? There are still those millions who prefer a more relax mode of transportation. First of all Amtrak Trains have a revenue of over $1,371 billion dollars a year. The passengers for this year alone will top 25 million. Surprised? Well, I was completely surprised. As a matter of fact, I just had no interest is “train travel” in the United States, that is until I recently had the most exciting adventure on the Amtrak Auto Train.

The Amtrak Auto Train travels “non-stop” between Sanford, Florida and Lorton, Virginia. When the train leaves Florida at 4 P.M. each day , the identical train leaves at the same time from Virginia. They pass in the night and you would never know it. These two trains are the only two trains that will take you, the passenger, your car, SUV, van, motorcycle, jet-ski or other small recreational vehicle to your destination. To help you enjoy your relaxing ride, you can have one of the following accommodations; i.e., Coach, Sleepers (Bedrooms, Roomettes) or the Special accommodations for families and passengers with special needs. There is a wonderful dining car where you can select from a menu your choice for complimentary sit-down meals for dinner and breakfast. And finally, there is the Lounge Car where you can enjoy snacks and beverages. The only thing really not allowed is access to your vehicle during the trip. Just remember you need very little and do not bother dragging you luggage on board. Just take the necessities and leave your bags alone. CAN THIS BE REAL? NO DRIVING?

Ever heard the song, “Take The A Train”? Well, get on board and settle back and leave the driving to the Amtrak Auto Train!

The Amtrak Auto Train is a class act. Everything about it is first class. From the moment you arrive at the station you are treated like the Royal Family and the price is right!

Remember you depart from your city at 4 P.M. each day and arrive in the Sanford or Lorton location at 8:30 A.M. the following morning. If you plan to drive North or South you must consider this fantastic option. There is never a dull moment and you get to meet lots of people while traveling.

After you have your car loaded on board, you are free to go to your arranged accommodations. After settling in, there is a planned wine and cheese reception in the club car for all of those on board. What a great place to meet new friends. Depending on your dinner arrangements, you will have dinner at 5 P.M., 7 P.M. or 9 P.M. I choose the 7 P.M. so I could have an extra cocktail! The meals are superb and the service is impeccable. From fish, steak, to chicken the selections were perfect in every way. Next, you have time for a movie before settling in for the night. Then all of a sudden you wake up in your destination and have a continental breakfast ready with a hot cup of coffee. Personally, I felt like I cheated the highway. I was amazed how fast, how easy and how relaxing it was to not drive my car and yet have it rolling along behind me.

On arrival Amtrak has your car brought around to you and your are ready to depart for you final destination refreshed and excited to get on the road!

The cost, depending you’re your dates, run around $140 for the car, $89 per person for the rail charge, $114 for a roomette for two. Then you have the option for the suite at $140 for the car, $89 per person for the rail charge, $260 for the suite for four people. For the current rates call 1-877-Skip-1-95 or check their website at The trip takes 16 hours and 30 minutes and is considered the “longest passenger train in the world”. Bet you did not know that! It has 40 plus passenger rail cars and vehicle carriers and when it arrives from Florida in Lorton, it will be at a boarding platform of 1,480 feet long making it longer than the Sears Tower is tall.

The Amtrak Auto Train was created by Congress in 1970 and began service on May 1, 1971. The Amtrak network is now serving 500 destinations in 46 states over 21,000 miles of routes with 19,000 employees. The Northeast Corridor is the busiest in North America with more that 1700 trains daily. If Amtrak was included among airlines, it would rank 8th in number of passengers served and there are nearly twice as many passengers on any Amtrak train that a domestic airline flight. New York Pennsylvania Station is the busiest station with 8.5 million boardings during the year.

The Amtrak Auto Train is very special in every way. The staff is without a doubt the most pleasant and efficient group you will ever want to meet. By-the-way most employees of the Amtrak Company have been with the company for years and their smiles and greetings let you know that you are riding with a great group of people and a super organization. Congratulation, Amtrak, and my personal thanks to Dennis Lyons, the Florida Market Manager for bringing me back to the rails! I am delighted Amtrak is back in my life! Where can I go now?

Next week I will be continuing my adventure with Amtrak and my visits in Alexandria and Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Virginia Tourism Bureau went out of there way to see that we had a wonderful time. Now I am ready to move to Virginia. 

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