What to Expect on a Train

Amtrak Genesis Loco Image


This section will give a brief overview of what you can expect on Amtrak and some of its services.  Generally, Amtrak operates three types of services:


  1. Northeast Corridor service between Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Washington, DC.  Service on this corridor is frequent, and is divided between the speedy Acela trains which can reach speeds of 125 miles or more on some stretches of track to Northeast Regional service.  Accommodations feature regular coach seating, business class ( wider seats, complimentary newspapers and beverages ) along with snack and beverage service cars.  The Acela also features First Class service, with wide leather seats and full meal service at appropriate times served at your seat.   Amtrak owns this segment of track and service is dependable and on time.
  2. Short Distance Corridor Service – are routes of 750 miles or less.  Some examples of these routes are Chicago- St. Louis, Mo, Chicago-Milwaukee, WI, New York, NY-Montreal CA.  Through state sponsorship some of these trains have more than once a day frequency, such as Chicago-St. Louis.  These trains generally are hosted by Amtrak’s freight railroad partners, meaning they are dispatched and run over freight railroad lines and because of this, timekeeping can vary.  Although many states supervise these services carefully and sometimes intervene if there are service issues caused by freight railroads.  Accommodations feature coach, and sometimes business class seating, and are very similar to the Northeast Regional trains already described.  There are also food service/lounge cars that feature snacks running to light meals, hot and cold beverages, and alcoholic beverages.
  3. Long Distance Service  – these are trains more than 750 miles in trip length and can be one to two nights in duration.  Trains in the East, with the exception of the Capitol Limited,  feature single level cars with sleeping, dining, lounge, coach, and baggage cars.  Trains in the West feature double deck “Superliner” cars with coach, lounge, dining, sleeping and baggage cars.  The Empire Builder is equipped with Superliner cars, and has the distinction of the first Amtrak long distance train so equipped, beginning in 1979.  The following is a brief description of Superliner accommodations and services;

Coaches–  feature wide reclining seats with leg rests – similar to the first class seating in airplane.  There is ample luggage space, and rest rooms are located on the lower level where you board the train.   There are coach porters to make your journey more comfortable and enjoyable.  You move through the train on the upper level only.

There is also “Handicapped” seating on the lower level of the coaches, along with additional luggage space.  Picture below is of a Superliner Coach:

Superliner Coach Interior Photo

Lounge Car – known as the “Sightseer” Lounge car, it features low backed swivel chairs, either singles or in pairs on the upper level.  This car has floor to ceiling windows that wrap up into the roof for maximum visibility.  At one end of the car there are tables with booths for four people to play cards or read.  One the lower level there is a snack bar which features light meals ( pizza, burgers, etc. ) snacks, hot and cold beverages, and alcoholic beverages.  There is also more table and booth seating on the lower level.  A perfect place to sit and watch America the beautiful go by!  Picture Below:

Sightseer Lounge Photo

Dining Car – Booth and table seating is on the upper level, and the dining car features full sit down meal service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Breakfast and lunch service are first come first served, and times of service are announced over the trains loud speaker system.  Dinner is by reservation only, and the Dining Car Steward will walk through the train and take your reservation.  While maybe not the elegant grand standard of railroad dining car service of years gone by, food is generally good, hot, and service is good.  It is a special experience to dine while watching the countryside roll by and perhaps meet new people.

Superliner Sleeping Cars – these cars feature four types of accommodations to suit different traveling needs.  Most common type of room in these cars is called a “Roomette” and is a small enclosed room for two.  There are two seats that face each other in the room, and at night these seats fold down into a bed.  Another bed folds down from the ceiling.  There is a small closet, and light and ventilation controls.  It is a small room, but can grow on you!  A porter is assigned to each sleeping car, and will make down your bed, and attend to your needs throughout your trip.  Complimentary coffee and juice are provided, and washrooms, along with a complimentary shower are located on the lower level ( there is also one public washroom on the upper level).  Towels and soap are provided for the shower.

Another type of room in the car is called a “Deluxe Bedroom”, and is a larger accommodation than the “Roomette.”  This room features beds that are larger, both upper and lower than the Roomette.  There is a long couch in the room which folds down into a bed at night, along with a single chair, a wash basin and vanity, and an enclosed toilet and shower.

There is one “Family Room” which run the full width of the car on the lower level, and has two adult beds, and two shorter beds for children.  This accommodation does not have its own wash or toilet facilities though.

There is one “Handicapped” room which sleeps two on the lower level, and has its own private facilities.

Just as in the coaches, on the lower level there is additional storage space for over-sized or bulky luggage and other large items.

It is wonderful to be rocked to sleep by the motion of the train as you speed through the night.  Enjoy your trip on the train!