Have you researched an Amtrak adventure to find results with two or more trains with the same name and departure times but different route numbers and possibly prices? If so, this article on Amtrak Routes With Multiple Numbers is for you!
Why would Amtrak run two or more trains back to back like that? What tickets should you buy?
So you know, Amtrak does not run two trains back-to-back. Instead, they run a few trains that split or come together along their routes.
This article will guide you through the confusion to make the right decisions regarding buying tickets for these trains.
As you read this article, you will get the basics and be an Amtrak travel pro.
Amtrak Routes With Multiple Numbers Podcast Episode
Why does Amtrak do this?
As I said, Amtrak does not run back-to-back trains; instead, they have four long-distance routes where the train split or come together.
Splitting trains allows Amtrak to serve more areas more efficiently with less equipment.
With these trains, each section has a route number. There is the base number, and the offshoots are one digit off from there.
For example, the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited is 49, with the Boston South Station being 449.
Between Albany and Chicago, the Lake Shore runs as one train, but after Albany, the Lake Shore Limited runs as two trains servicing New York and Boston and their intermediate stations.
What to expect when the train is taken apart or put together?
When the train is separated and built, you can either stay on the train or get off and watch.
You may feel some bumps while it happens. Listen carefully to the instructions from the staff. If you get off the train, do not wander too far away, and do not make it back on time, the train can and will leave without you.
If you stay on the train, the lights will go off, and the emergency lights will come on. The bathrooms will not work, and the food service cars will close, so plan accordingly.
The Amtrak Routes With Multiple Numbers
I use “build point” to identify where the trains come together or separate.
Empire Builder 7, 8, 27, & 28
Train 7 and 8 are the main trains for this route.
- Destinations and route number
- 7 Chicago to Seattle
- 8 Seattle to Chicago
- 27 Chicago to Portland
- 28 Portland to Chicago
- Build point
- Spokane, WA
The cafe car is on the Portland section for the Builder, and the dining car is on the Seattle side. So if you need food and are going west, you want to do that early.
Lake Shore Limited 48, 49, 448, & 449
- Destination and route number
- 48 Chicago to New York
- 49 New York to Chicago
- 448 Chicago to Boston
- 449 Boston to Chicago
- Build point
- Albany-Rensselaer, NY, (ALB )
Texas Eagle 21, 22. 321, 324. 421, & 422/ Sunset Limited 1 & 2
The Sunset itself does not split or come together, but cars from the Texas Eagle get added or taken off this train.
If you are booking a trip between San Antonio, TX, and Los Angeles, going east, you could see options for trains #1 and #421 and going West #2, and $422.
In this case, you could be in either train depending on the number, but in reality, that is one train.
- Destination and route numbers
- 21 Chicago to San Antonio, TX
- 22 San Antonio, TX to Chicago
- 321 Chicago to St Louis, MO
- 322 St Louis, MO to Chicago
- 421 Chicago to Los Angeles, CA
- 422 Los Angeles, CA to Chicago
- Build points
- St Louis for the “300” cars
- San Antonio for the “400” cars
These trains are put together at night or early in the morning. During that time, you may not have power or heating/AC. It does not take too long for them to make this move, and they are gentle when moving cars, or at least try.
Boarding And Riding Amtrak Routes With Multiple Numbers
When preparing to board the train, have your ticket in hand, and listen for instructions. Sleeper and coach cars for each section are together, but the sleepers may not be together.
For example, the Seattle sleepers on the Empire Builder are on the front of the train, while the Portland ones are on the back.
Sometimes conductors may put the 7 and 27 coach passenger together in the same car if the destination is before the splits.
Once on the train, feel free to walk around and even get off the train at fresh air breaks. But ensure you get back to the right car and seat so conductors get you off at the right spot.
Do not change your seat to a different one in another car without talking to the staff.
If you move to a different car, there is a chance you could end up in the wrong car when the train splits. If you are in the incorrect coach car, you could go to the wrong destination. Not all doors open at all stops, so if you are in the wrong one, it will take you longer to get off the train because you have to go to the right car, or you could miss your stop.
Buying Ticket Basics For Amtrak Routes With Multiple Numbers
The biggest takeaway
The best takeaway from this article is when buying tickets for a train with multiple numbers is to make a reservation that fits your budget and accommodation needs.
If you take the Empire Builder from Milwaukee to La Cross, WI, it doesn’t matter if you are train 7 or 27; both “trains” will get there simultaneously, so either work and are “right.”
The price difference from section to section is because Amtrak uses a “bucket system.” Most transportation industries use the bucket system.
Amtrak sets aside a set number of seats for each price bracket. After all the seats in the first buck sell out, the price jumps to the next bucket. It continues until that section or train sells out.
The ticket system looks at both sections of the train separately, which can cause price differences since it does.
There are times when going with a lower price might not be convenient. For example, a multiple-train option could appear if you go from Milwaukee to Portland, OR.
For example, it may offer a roomette on train 7 (Seattle Builder) and then have you switch to a roomette in the 27 sleeper car to Portland during the Spokane, WA stop. This change does not happen at a convent time for most people. If your next room is open, there could be a chance you could change early, but that is not a guarantee.
Paying a few extra bucks may be worth not dealing with that hassle. This situation can happen with coach tickets as well.
The moral of the story
Go with the cheapest ticket when it makes sense for you and your adventure as you book.
When boarding, listen for instructions, so you get in the right car! When traveling, always know your train’s name and number and the destination for that train (or layover). Knowing the last stop of your route is helpful as well.
I hope this clarifies confusion and does not create and create new ones.