AMTRAK Train Experience

Discussion in 'Your Questions' started by cssaus, Mar 26, 2006.

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  1. cssaus

    cssaus Active Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    917
    63
    Sydney
    Although not exactly a "frequent flyer" question but I was just wondering if anyone has had any experience with travelling by train with AMTRAK in the north-east of the USA.

    Flying to Boston next month and will be returning to Oz out of JFK. Needing to arrange travel from Boston to NYC and I'm planning on catching the train.

    Just wanted to know if there are others out there who might be able to share their experiences.
     

  2. thadocta

    thadocta Active Member

    I haven't used Amtrak on that sector, only cross-country (Chicago - Los Angeles) and it was several years ago.

    I found the service to be good (particularly when they heard the Aussie accent), but the time-keeping was atrocious, since the tracks are owned by the freight companies, who give Amtrak little priority.

    This is different though in the NE Corridor, where Amtrak owns the tracks. I have heard they are actually very good.

    Dave
     
  3. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    I used Amtrak for part of our family RTW holiday a few years back. I did not want to drive into New York, and car rental price for a one-way rental was way cheaper if I started and finished at an airport location (special deal if booked through Travelocity). So I decided to drop the rental car off at BWI airport since it is co-located with an Amtrak station on the DC-NY line.

    I bought the tickets on-line a few days before the journey. At BWI station I printed the "boarding pass" at one of the self ticketing machines by entering the reservation code that had been provided during the booking. The whole process was simple and painless.

    The train was comfortable and clean and ran on-time into New York Penn station. We stayed at the New Yorker Hotel a few short blocks walk from Penn Station.

    Two days later we left Penn Station heading for Niagara. Again ticket collection and boarding was simple. But this time the train speed was limited due to track works, making our arrival into Niagara about 2 hours late, and the Canadian immigration and customs agents were not ready for the train's arrival and we had to wait about an hour on the train before the agents arrived and stamped all passports etc.

    Overall I would say we had a very good experience and I would be happy to use Amtrak again based on that experience. It served its purpose of avoiding driving through New York.
     
  4. cabbage74

    cabbage74 Intern

    Mar 28, 2005
    91
    1
    I have used Amtrak once from Frenso (FAT) to San Fran. As previously mentioned, ticketing was easy...just turned up at the station and did it all just before the train arrived.

    I found that the train was nice and clean. The wide guage tracks which the US uses makes for a fairly smooth trip (atleast much better than the Queensland narrow guage).

    Sitting close to us was a "dead head" who worked for one of the frieght companies who owned the line. So he chatted away and filled the role of "flight path."

    Can't remember if I used the toilet etc so can't comment. I also didn't use any of the dining car or whatever they have if they had one.

    Mal.
     
  5. aspro2

    aspro2 Member

    Nov 26, 2004
    174
    1
    MEL
  6. HardieBoys

    HardieBoys Member

    Sep 28, 2003
    411
    2
    I've used the Amtrak service from Philadelphia to DC, and would preferentially use it to travel between Boston, NY and DC again. The stations are conveniently centrally located, and boarding is not problematic.

    I booked my ticket over the net in Australia weeks before I left, though for short hops, in future I would buy them the day before.

    The only downside is that Americans seem to travel with relatively heavy bags (and often several of them), and seemed to have an expectation that any able-bodied person under 60 would be at their beck and call to lift and get their bags from them. After getting called upon by 3 people in a very short time, I feigned ignorance.
     
  7. bambbbam2

    bambbbam2 Active Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    857
    1
    Perth, WA
    Well slightly OT, but a friend was in one of these ice-cream parlours in LA last year, you know the ones where they wear all the silly hats.. anyway his ice-cream arrives and just for a bit of a laugh says "I ordered mustard with my ice-cream!".. anyway the waiter says "Sir! Yes Sir! I will get it right away Sir!"

    In Australia they would ask what drugs you were on, not in LOTFAP! :D
     
  8. bambbbam2

    bambbbam2 Active Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    857
    1
    Perth, WA
    Well slightly OT, but a friend was in one of these ice-cream parlours in LA last year, you know the ones where they wear all the silly hats.. anyway his ice-cream arrives and just for a bit of a laugh says "I ordered mustard with my ice-cream!".. anyway the waiter says "Sir! Yes Sir! I will get it right away Sir!"

    In Australia they would ask what drugs you were on, not in LOTFAP! :D
     
  9. cssaus

    cssaus Active Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    917
    63
    Sydney
    As the guilty party that initiated this thread, I feel I should report back on my experience from the other day travelling from Boston to New York City.

    Arrived at the station about 35 mins before departure and inserted my credit card into the automatic ticket machine and printed out the ticket that I bought over the internet ($US81 one-way).

    Boarded the Acela train and was immediately struck as to how much the interior resembled the inside of an airplane with overhead lockers and 2x2 seating. I was in the carriage referred to the "quiet" carriage which is for people who do not want to be bothered by people talking on mobile phones. Each pair of seats had power outlets for plugging in a laptop.

    The train left on time and rumbled through the country-side. The ride was smooth and quite and the seats comfortable with reasonable leg-room. I kept getting the feeling of reaching for my seat belt whilst sitted but of course there aren't any.

    There is of course no food or beverage service but there is a snack car located in the middle of the train but I didn't make use of this service. Bathrooms were were a good size and clean.

    Arrived at Penn Stn in NY 20 mins late (the train had to slow down as someone had parked a car across the tracks further down the line) and immediately transferred to my LIRR train for my final trip out to Long Island.

    Overall it was a very relaxing journey without all the hassles that go with flying in the USA and would certainly consider doing it again if the need calls to travel from say Washington DC to NY or down from Boston again.
     
  10. cabbage74

    cabbage74 Intern

    Mar 28, 2005
    91
    1
    And after the break, Cabbage74 reports on his Indian and Sri-Lankan train experiences. :D

    Mal.
     
  11. Zorro

    Zorro Junior Member

    Oct 7, 2008
    23
    0
    SYD
    I will be in New York in July - is Amtrak to Boston still preferable over flying. Also want to hire a car to travel to Niagra Falls from Boston and return to JFK - any tips?
     
  12. Gold Member

    Gold Member Established Member

    Feb 12, 2008
    1,082
    640
    MEL
    I would recommend the Accela train to Boston from New York. The train is faster than their regular services and you get to see some of the nice country side on the way. But the biggest advantage, by far, is that you do not have to put up with US airport/airline pains like checkin, security, delays, lost luggage etc. With the train its so simple and painless.

    Try booking a fare for around the middle of the day, or on the weekend - they're about 50% off regaulr prices since its not as business focussed at that time.

    My tip for hiring a car is don't drive through NY!
     
  13. openseat

    openseat Active Member

    Jun 1, 2006
    633
    76
    SYD
    Amtrak between Washington and Boston is fine - especially given the fact that they own those tracks.
    Wherever an Amtrak train has to pass over the tracks of another railroad company, then it gets the rough end of the timing deal.
    I often took the train from Washington to Williamsburg Va. over a period of two years. Invariably the train was late because of the freight trains taking precedence in Richmond Va.
     
  14. lovetravellingoz

    lovetravellingoz Senior Member

    Jul 13, 2006
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    Ditto for me as I will be in New York for a fotnight in November.

    As such apart from New York I am thinking of also visiting one, or more, of:
    • Washington DC
    • Niagra Falls
    • Boston
    As such, I am thinking about the relative merits of flying, train or driving from a New York base?
     
  15. I'd be taking the train between NYC, Boston and DC. Amtrak's Acela services are fast and comfortable, and to/from Penn station is just so much easier than schlepping out to LGA/EWR/JFK for such a short flight.

    If going to Niagara Falls, you could fly up to BUF and then rent a car. Driving from NYC will take about 6 hours.
     
  16. parsonstrish

    parsonstrish Active Member

    Sep 23, 2005
    648
    144
    queensland
    i agree with the comments re. amtrak. i had return trip nyc-dc August. I did the same thing as others of pre-booking tickets through web. Easy to print out, etc. one thing i learned was by having a 'red cap' to escort you and take your bags to train, you are able to pre-board. saved lot of hazzle and worth the $tip.

    i wouldn't hesitate in doing it again on next trip.
     
  17. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    Another recommendation for the trains. I also use the train from NY Penn Station to Niagara (CA side). The only issue was the immigration processing on the train as we crossed te border. The train had been delayed due to track works and the Canadian immigration authorities were not available when the train arrived so we had to wait for about an hour before they came onto the train. But I understand that is unusual and it is generally faster than the queuing and processing for the drive over the bridge.

    If going to Niagara Falls, then definitely try to get over to the Canadian side. You can also fly into Toronto and drive down from there.
     
  18. Zorro

    Zorro Junior Member

    Oct 7, 2008
    23
    0
    SYD
    Thanks for all your feedback - looks like Accela train is the go - are there baggage limits or is the usual USA flying 2x20kg bag/person OK.
     
  19. You can take a maximum of two, 23kg bags onto the train with you - this is considerably more than the airline allowance, although on-par with what lots of Americans seem to take into the cabin ;).

    I don't know if the Acela trains have checked baggage - I've never had to check bags - but Amtrak let you check in three, 23kg bags.

    Have a look at the details at amtrak.com.
     
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