Sunday, October 16, 2005
Amtrak auto train
Last summer my son and I took the auto train to Virginia. It was a really neat experience. The train runs everyday from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virgina. Lorton is just outside of Washington, D.C. You have to get to the train station about an hour before and they load your car in the special car carrier rail cars. These cars are "triple decker" and hold a lot of cars. The car carriers are backed up to loading ramps, and a team of loaders drive each of the cars on. They put a magnetic number on your car, so they can call it out at the other end when your car is unloaded. Our train had 148 autos loaded on it, and with the engine, dining car, coach cars, and sleeper cars, the whole train was almost a mile long. The train leaves at 4 PM and arrives in Lorton at 9 AM the next morning. We were in a two person sleeper (they also have bedroom & family sleepers) and our bathroom was down the hall. The passenger cars have two levels, with bathrooms and showers on the first floor and the bedrooms are upstairs, so you are about 25 feet above the tracks. Shortly after you get under way, the porter assigned to your car comes by to welcome you aboard, and tell you where everything is, and all about the lounge car and dining car. Our compartment was really cool. It had a large picture window, and sliding glass door (with curtains)on the hallway side. Two reclinder type seats face each other, and there is a fold down table in the middle. There is room to hang clothes, and bring a small carry on bag. There is a plug in (we brought the laptop and watched a movie) or you can go to the lounge car where they have two showings of a current movie. Dinner is served at 5:30, 7, or 9 PM, and the porter calls you on the intercom in your comparment when it is your time. The food was comparable to any good restaurant, and they have silverware, linen table cloths and napkins. You may choose from three different entres, but all were good. You may have wine with dinner, but we didn't - it is difficult enough to dine then walk on a moving train! At the time of your chosing, you can go to bed for the night. The porter comes by and turns those recliners into a bed, then pulls down an upper bunk, and makes that into a bed. Getting used to sleeping on a moving train is difficult at first, but soon the "clackiety-clack" lulls you to sleep. We awoke in the night because the train stopped, but we found out later that this was a normal stop to change engineers. We got up about 7 AM and headed down to the dining car for a continental breakfast, they had everything you could want from fruit to bagels, and GOOD coffee. When we finished breakfast we returned to our compartment and our beds were put away and back to our sitting room. Before long we were at the station in Lorton, and just had to wait for our car to be unloaded. It made a long trip more bearable, and it was WAY better than flying. Plus, we had our car with us when we got there.