This is an overnight non-stop trip. The train leaves Sanford, Florida, at 4:00PM and should arrive in Lorton, Virginia, 855 miles later, around 9:00AM tomorrow. We were told to be there no later than 2:00 to allow time to get the car loaded. After putting our RV in storage this morning we had lots of time to drive the car to the Amtrak Auto Train Terminal so we were plenty early.
As we approach the entrance to the Terminal we get a glimpse of the inside of one of the auto carrier cars, called autoracks.Upon arriving at the station we check in at the first gate and the attendant placed a magnetic number sign on the driver’s door of the car and told us to drive up to the #1 lane. Here we remove whatever luggage and anything else we want with us for overnight. The rest of our stuff can stay in the car and leave the key in the ignition. When we’re out of the car one of the employees takes a video recording of all sides around the car. They don’t want to be blamed for any damage that they didn’t do. They put a large clear plastic sheet over the driver seat and then one of them drives our car into one of the open autoracks. I watched as it entered the lower level of the middle car. The Terminal Building is beautiful. The daily Auto Train has been cancelled the last FOUR days while Winter Storm Jonah slammed the Virginia and Washington DC areas, which is the destination for this train. This train today is the first one to return to service and it looks like it’s packed. The lobby was pretty busy. We did not have actual tickets, being given only a confirmation number. They asked to see my driver’s license and asked us which dinner service we wanted and then we were given a boarding pass and our meal tickets. Sleeper car passengers are given priority boarding, with coach passengers 15 minutes later. Passengers board cars on both sides of the platform. The Auto Train is the only train that uses this Terminal. Roometts are small sleeping rooms with chairs that convert to bunk beds at night. These have no bathroom and no sink but there is a shared bathroom nearby. Roometts line both sides of the train car with a narrow hall down the center. Bedrooms are bigger and include a private bathroom/shower stall and a sink. The hallway is on one side of the car. Our Room. You can’t see the chair around the corner, we can sit facing each other. There is a center table that pulls out for a work space or to eat on. The car attendant will come by later tonight and pull out the couch to form a bed, and lower the top bunk for us, and add a mattress and sheets and a blanket. The dining room is already set for dinner. If you wish, you can ask to have your meals delivered to your room. Nobody in the lounge car yet. Here you can purchase some snacks and drinks. There is no cool observation car with the big windows like there was on the train we had last year. A movie will be showing at 7:15 and 9:15. Tonight’s feature is Shaun the Sheep.
Taking this train shaves off 855 miles of driving all the way up I-95. I like that their number is 877 SKIP I95Since this is the middle of winter it gets dark early. The train left at 4:00 and we only have a few hours of daylight for scenery pictures. But there wasn’t anything to take a picture of anyway. Dinner seatings are at 5, 7, and 9 o’clock.It is community seating as they need to fill all the seats, so we were seated with another couple, nice people from New Jersey. I chose the beef dinner and Bernie had the fish. For sleeper car passengers the meal is included in the price of the ticket. A small salad and a roll were served with the meal. Wine and beer were available for an additional charge. Coach passengers have a separate dining car.
- Some statistics on today’s train:
- 43 cars which include 15 passenger cars and 28 auto carrier cars.
- There are two locomotives.
- 379 passengers,
- 227 vehicles which include 196 autos, 29 priority cars (who paid $50 for priority offloading), and two motorcycles.
- 22 crew members, 2 conductors, and 2 engineers.
- 6 sleeper cars and a diner car and a lounge car.
- 4 coach cars and a coach diner car.
- And we are 3/4 of a mile long.
Sad story here. Our train stopped at 7:00PM for 90 minutes because of a “police investigation” on the tracks ahead, just south of Hilliard, Florida. We learned later that a freight train ahead of us had hit somebody and there was a body on the tracks. This is heartbreaking and I considered not even mentioning it on this blog, but this is my daily diary and it was part of our day.
Safe travels everyone.
For last year’s Amtrak Adventure from Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts, begin reading here.