Amtrak Auto Train, Depart FL

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.

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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.

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Amtrak Auto Train Entrance

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.

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Amtrak Auto Train Drop Off

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.

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Video Taping

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.

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Loading onto the Autorack

The Terminal Building is beautiful.

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Sanford FL Auto Train Terminal

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.

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Sanford FL Auto Train Lobby

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.

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Boarding Pass & 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.

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Boarding on Both Sides!

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.

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Roometts

Bedrooms are bigger and include a private bathroom/shower stall and a sink. The hallway is on one side of the car.

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Bedroom 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.

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Bedroom

The dining room is already set for dinner. If you wish, you can ask to have your meals delivered to your room.

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Dining 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.

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Lounge

A movie will be showing at 7:15 and 9:15. Tonight’s feature is Shaun the Sheep.

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Taking this train shaves off 855 miles of driving all the way up I-95. I like that their number is 877 SKIP I95

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Call 1-877-SKIP I95

Since 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.

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Nothing to See

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.

This entry was posted in Daily Post, Florida, January and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Amtrak Auto Train, Depart FL

  1. Paula McCrory says:

    I used to work on the Auto train! I loved it too! Now that I no longer work on it, I do ride on it instead of driving to Florida with my family. It is much easier than the long drive, and for me much safer. I enjoyed reading your diary. It was very informative, and it is very good information for those who have never ridden the auto train before.

    Like

  2. I used to work on the Auto train and I loved it! The passengers were the best part! I loved meeting new people on the trips and my co workers became like my family! I miss the Auto train and my friends there I left there in 2002 due to a train derailment they had in Crescent City, Florida. April 18, 2002 We were on our way back home to Lorton Va and at approximately 5:02 p.m. the train derailed and I saw my life flash before me. You can google this….. I decided it was time to find another job however it was hard to leave. Please don’t let this discourage you from riding the train as it is a wonderful experience. I truly loved the Auto Train and I miss it so much! Everything about it was awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • marsbern says:

      Oh, I know. Things happen with all modes of transportation. Driving our car the 855 miles would have been more hazardous than taking the train and not near as relaxing, that’s for sure. Sorry you had to experience that derailment. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  3. DeJordy says:

    Wow, never knew they had six sleepers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charlie says:

    I am a dedicated Amtrak sleeper traveler. One that I haven’t done is the auto train.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for this post. I’ve heard about the auto train and really enjoyed reading your post and seeing the photos. My favorite is 1800skip95. We avoid I95 like the plague! Enjoy your trip!

    Like

  6. nadia says:

    Again, I like how detailed and thorough your blog post is. The terminal is quite full! I wonder if it’s like that the entire year. Also, do Sleeper class passengers always have separate dining cars in all the Amtak trains?

    The accident is quite unfortunate, indeed. I suppose it’s okay that you mentioned it here on the blog; it’s a part of your journey.

    Have a safe trip!

    Like

    • marsbern says:

      The Auto Train is very popular. I think the Auto Train is the only one that has separate dining cars, probably due to it’s number of sleepers. The other trains I have ridden shared one dining car with the coach passengers, and sometimes they also had a cafe car.

      Like

  7. Shirley says:

    Very interesting, thanks for the info and pictures. Hope the rest of the trip goes well –

    Liked by 1 person

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