traveling The Auto Train, you will get dinner and a continental
breakfast included in your fare. The basic fare includes
coach seating, and they do offer sleeping accommodations
at an additional cost. A first-run movie is shown (twice)
each leg of the trip. For refreshments, a domed lounge car
offers beer, wine, spirits,
soft drinks and sandwiches. Finger snacks such as pretzels,
peanuts, bagel chips, potato chips, cheese doodles and different
type of cookies and crackers are also available. You have
unlimited access to coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate.
cars are Double Decker rail cars. The upper level has
95% of the coach seats and requires the use of stairs
to reach them. The first floor is usually reserved for
handicapped or elderly passengers. There are plenty of
bathrooms in each car that are usually large enough to
change clothes or tend to infants and children.
Although some love the auto train, some do not, all depending
upon how flexible you are when traveling. A good night's
sleep in a coach seat (auto train or conventional train)
is almost impossible. Like a plane ride, any sleep will
be in an upright seating position. There are times when
the train is not crowded and the conductors allow you
spread out (one whole seat to each passenger) where you
may be able to lie down.
If you live close to the Lorton, Virginia Train Depot
it is not hard to get to the train the same day, but be
aware there are times when there are back-ups on the Beltway
(Interstate 95/495) crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge
from Maryland into Virginia. Usually it is a relatively
smooth trip. For folks traveling for more than 3-4 hours
I recommend arriving the day before and getting a hotel
room that is within 1-2 hours of the Auto Train terminal.
This allows you to get a good night's sleep and then drive
to the terminal without having to rush.
Upon arrival at the terminal you will be checked in at
a welcome station. They will number the side of your vehicle
and direct you to where they take your car. As you exit
your vehicle, the employee will inform you about the items
that you will need to take aboard the train, such as a
change of clothes and overnight needs. Pack wisely! Remember
that once you leave your large bags in the vehicle, you
won't have access to them until your trip is over. Each
passenger is allowed two carry-on bags. Sleeping car passengers
may bring additional pieces, but only two average-sized
suitcases will fit in even the largest rooms. Be sure
to pack all medication and special snacks in one of your
carry-on bags. They will keep the lounge cars cool to
provide maximum comfort for all the passengers, so you
may want to bring an extra sweater if you tend to get
cold easily. For maximum comfort, dress in layers and
bring a pillow with you on board -- or stuff a small duffel
bag with sweaters or sweatshirts. Be prepared. There's
nothing like watching the countryside roll by your outside
window. Bring a camera with high-speed film to record
some of the sights you will see.
All other luggage and other items will remain in your
car. You will not have access to your vehicle after it
is loaded into the car carriers. You then go into the
waiting room and sign in. There you will select a dinner
seating time (usually they will have three dinner seating
to choose from) Finally, you will wait for the boarding
announcement. Take five minutes to read the Amtrak Safety
Instruction Card for help, in the rare event of an emergency.
note that they don't unload your car at Sanford (or Lorton)
in the same order in which it was received. They expect
everyone who is booked on the train to be checked in by
2:30 P.M. But, you still have approximately an hour before
you're allowed to board the train. Also keep in mind that
the restrooms on board the train are not operational until
the train pulls out of the station, so if nature calls,
use the restrooms at the waiting room.
Upon arrival to your destination they ask you to depart
the train. After everyone has departed the train, they
then begin unloading the vehicles. As they are unloaded,
a representative calls out the number of the vehicle being
unloaded. When your number is called you go claim your
vehicle and continue to your final destination.
you to take the return train back north the procedure
is the same as when traveling south. You have to be at
the Auto Train depot by 2:30 P.M. This is because of the
amount of time it takes to load all the vehicles. The
trains always leave around 4:30P.M. The train gets into
Sanford (or Lorton if you're going north) at around 8:30
A.M. the following morning. It takes approximately two
hours before they unload all the vehicles.
are restrictions on the size of the vehicles and you may
have to remove antennas, luggage racks etc.. The vehicle
maximum height allowable for passenger vehicles is 5
feet, 5 inches. A limited number of oversized vehicles
(vans/SUVs) can also be accommodated. The maximum allowable
height for oversized vehicles is 7 feet, 1 inch.
type of space required must be specified and reserved
at time of booking. Auto Train cannot carry vehicles
with temporary luggage or bicycle racks, or with luggage
or bicycles packed or loaded on the roof.
that are overloaded resulting in insufficient ground
clearance (minimum of 4 inch clearance required) will
limited number of spaces are available to transport
motorcycles (without side cars). ALL motorcycles must
have at least five inches of clearance between the lowest
portion of the frame and the bottom of the tires. Motorcycles
with windshields cannot exceed 57.5 inches in height.
Train begins accepting vehicles as early as 11:30 A.M.
and oversized vehicles and motorcycles must arrive by
2:30 P.M. Automobiles will not be accepted after 3:30
you have any questions about special Auto Train requirements,
call 1-800-USA-RAIL for more information.
The majority of vehicles on the Auto Train going south
are from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Vehicles
from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maine, and all the New England
States and several Canadian Provinces also use this mode
of transportation. The trains are usually less crowded
going north from Sanford during November and into early
December than the opposite way because many retirees head
to Florida for the winter. In September the train is equally
crowded in both directions because of college students
going back to college, and many students ship their cars
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