Amtrak Auto Train
Amtrak Auto Train

Amtrak’s Auto Train: What You Need To Know

The Auto Train is the most unique of all Amtrak’s trains because you make a reservation for yourself and your vehicle! The Auto Train is the longest passenger train consisting of Amtrak’s Superliner Cars and autoracks.

If your next adventure includes driving from spots near Washington, D.C., to Orlando, FL (or the other way around), this is an excellent option to sit back, relax, and avoid 1-95! You can even sleep while you travel.

A quick overview of Amtrak’s Auto Train

Auto Train Basics & FAQs

The Auto Train Route

The Auto Train travels 855 miles between Lorton, VA, and Sanford, FL, taking 17.5 hours, not including loading and unloading time. After leaving the stations, the Auto Train follows the same route as the Silver Meteor.

There is only one “scheduled” stop on this train, but not to take on new cars and passengers. Instead, this stop is for refueling and crew change, which is late at night. Ask staff before getting off the train.

Can I Ride The Auto Train Without A Car?

Sadly, if you want to ride the Auto Train, you need a vehicle on your ticket.

Is There Smoke Or Fresh Air Stops On The Auto Train?

As I said, there is one stop in Florence, SC. It is a quick stop so Amtrak can switch out conductors and engineers, plus fuel the train. There is no set time for the Florence stop, but on average, the Southbound (53) comes in around midnight and the Northbound (52) around 1 a.m.

Amtrak does not allow you to smoke or vape on the train, and since Amtrak is considered federal property, you cannot transport marijuana on the train or in your car. Here is more information on smoking, vaping, and pot on the train.

What Kind Of Accommodations Can I Find On The Auto Train?

This train uses Amtrak’s Superliner (bi-level) equipment, offering sleeper and coach classes, food service, and sightseeing (lounge) cars. There is more on this later in this article.

Does The Auto Train Have Wi-Fi?

Yes, Amtrak says the Auto Trains has cell-based Wi-Fi on the train, but don’t expect to stream videos or download large files, and there is the possibility of dead spots along the route. The service is mainly for surfing the web and emails.

Is There a Checked Bag Service on Amtrak’s Auto Train?

There is no baggage service on this train because you can leave everything in your car but what you need to use on the train. You can bring a small personal bag or two and pack any medication or medical device you may need on the train. Additional items to consider are a change of clothing, sundries, charges, cords, and entertainment are all you may need.

You will not have access to your on the train or during the boarding process for you and your car. Do not leave anything valuable in view when you turn in your vehicle.

Who Owns The Tracks That The Auto Train Uses?

Once the Auto Train is put together and leaves Amtrak’s rail yard, it travels on tracks owned by CSX. Once the train is on CSX tracks, they are in charge of dispatching it and occasionally causing delays due to freight interference.

Auto Train Coach Class

The most economical way to ride the Auto Train is coach class.

The coach accommodations include a reclining seat with a foot and leg rest. Additionally, there are outlets, reading lights, overhead storage, and the lounge and cafe car.

Coach passengers are responsible for purchasing the food for their journey. Passengers can bring meals and snacks on the train or buy them from the cafe.

If you bring alcohol, leave it in your car. You cannot drink from your stash. If you are caught drinking on the train, especially if you get out of hand, you will get removed from the train, but your car will not. So your car will travel without you, and you must figure out how to get it.

Restrooms are on the lower level of the coaches, along with some reserved seating and storage.

Boarding the train is on the lower level; if you want to go to another rail car, you must go to the upper level.

Amtrak Superliner Coach Car Diagram
Superliner coach car diagram: Some cars do not have lower seating but have a space for baggage.

Auto Train Sleeping Accommodations

Superliner Sign
Superliner Room Sign

A great way to enjoy a ride aboard the Auto Train is in private accommodations. Amtrak offers roomettes and bedrooms, plus accessible and family bedrooms.

All room reservations include scheduled meals, a glass of wine with dinner (for those old enough), and morning juice and coffee service.

Each car has an attendant to help you along your journey. These individuals help clean the sleeper car, ensure you are well, and help with the beds.

While you are riding the rails, you can take a shower. There is one located on the lower level for all to use. There is a changing area for you to use with clean towels and a place for the soiled ones.

Roomettes

Roomettes are perfect accommodations for one and cozy for two. The room’s dimensions are 3.5′ by 6.5.’

Superliner Roomettes have two facing chairs that, at night, form the lower berth. The second bed is above and folds down from the wall.

There are built-in steps to help passengers get to the upper berth. Solo travelers can use these steps for luggage storage.

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are comfortable for two, with the possibility for three, but two people would have to share a bed that is a little bigger than a twin size.

Bedroom suites are also available for four to six people. To book a suite or have three people in a bedroom, call 1-877-SKIP-I-95.

Bedrooms offer more room to stretch your legs. Instead of two chairs, there is a sofa and a chair. These accommodations pack a lot of amenities into a small space.

The bedroom includes a bathroom that also dubs the shower. In the room are the sink and a medicine cabinet.

Additionally, there is a small closet and ladder to get into the upper birth.

The room’s dimensions are 6.5′ by 7.5.’

Family Room

Each sleeping car has one family room. This space accommodates two young travelers and two adults, but you can mix and match.

This room has a sofa that folds into one bed; another similar bed pulls down. The kiddo’s beds are on the sidewall.

The room is on the lower level and close to the shower and bathrooms, with dimensions of 5.17′ by 9.42.’

Accessible Room

The accessible room is for those passengers with mobility issues and a companion.

These rooms offer an in-room toilet, upper and lower berths, and the capacity for a wheelchair. Your car attendant or travel companion can bring your food or things from the cafe to your room if needed.

This space does have a restroom, and its dimensions are 6.75′ by 9.42.’

Sleeping Car Layouts & Finding Your Room On The Train

Each car has a four-digit number. The first two numbers are the route numbers, and the second pair are the car numbers. 53 is the Southbound train, and 52 is the Northbound. Click here to see where your car is in the consist.

Amtrak’s Superliner Transdorm Sleep Layout

Amtrak Superliner Sleeper

Amtrak Superliner Deluxe Sleeper Layout

Amtrak deluxe sleeper
Amtrak Deluxe Sleepers.

Meals & Food On The Auto Train

Chicken dinner
Chicken entree

Amtrak offers traditional dining for sleeper car passengers and a la carte food for coach passengers in the cafe cars.

A sleeper car ticket includes meals and an adult drink during dinner.

Can You Bring Food And Drinks Onto The Auto Train?

Passengers can bring food and drink onto the train. Due to FDA regulations, you cannot consume personal food in a food service car; some exemptions apply here. Coach passengers cannot consume alcohol they brought on the train; sleeper passengers can drink what they brought in their rooms.

Vehicle Loading And Train Schedule

Boarding starts at 12:30 p.m., and the last car must arrive by 3 p.m. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact Amtrak at 1-877-SKIP-I-95.

Will Your Vehicle Fit On The Auto Train?

On average, the family car will fit on the train, but here are auto restrictions. Every vehicle needs a reservation and checked in to ride.

Factory-model automobiles, vans, trucks, SUVs, and two-wheel motorcycles can ride on the Auto Train. Dual-wheel vehicles, gull wings, or scissor doors are prohibited. Unique cars are allowed with some limitations.

Special Vehicles

Each Auto Train allows for a limited number of specialized vehicles. Amtrak may accept small trailers, limousines, jet skis, trikes, and choppers. Can-Am motorcycles, Rewaco trikes, and Polaris Slingshots are not permitted. And there can be an additional fee for special vehicles.

For vehicle specifications and to book a trip with a unique vehicle, call 1-877-SKIP-I-95 (1-877-754-7495).

Roof & Bike Racks

Does your vehicle include a rack on the roof or at the rear?

Roof-mounted racks are permitted if they are factory-installed and remain empty during the trip. Temporary luggage or bicycle racks attached to the roof are not allowed. Roof-mounted ones will count toward your vehicle’s maximum height requirements.

Bicycle racks that are attached to the back of the vehicle only. Bicycles are not allowed on board. Amtrak makes you sign a loss or damage waiver for bicycles transported on the car’s rear. Bikes and racks count toward your vehicle’s maximum length and width requirements.

Luggage racks must be removed from the top of your vehicle and stored inside the car before check-in.

Amtrak’s Tips For You And Your Car

These are tips from the Amtrak site.

  • Give yourself enough time to arrive at the station, including traffic considerations surrounding D.C. and Orlando—no exceptions to the check-in times.
  • Pack a carry-on bag with your valuables, medication, and what you need for the night.
    • Leave your suitcase in the car, but bring a carry-on bag for your trip. The Auto Train has no checked baggage service.
    • You will not have access to your car during the journey.
  • Deactivate the car alarm system before you drop off your car.
    • Failure to do so may result in a dead battery if your alarm goes off en route.
  • Consider Priority Offloading, ensuring your vehicle will be one of the first 30 off the train upon arrival. Subject to availability, Priority Offloading is available when you purchase your ticket or during check-in at the station.

For more information, including liability, click here.

The Auto Train & Florida Attractions

From the Sanford station, you are not far from the following destinations or one of the many great roadside attractions.

  • Walt Disney World Resort
    • The Monorail is about 50 minutes or 40 miles away.
  • LEGOLAND
    • Getting to “the bricks” takes about an Hour and 38 minutes or 75 minutes to this park.
  • Universal Studios
    • Your Butter Beer is around 39 minutes or 32 miles away.
  • Sea World
    • You can get to the fishies and more in about 47 minutes or 38 miles.

Auto Train Wrap-Up

Amtrak Auto Train
Amtrak Auto Train – Photo Courtesy of Amtral

Amtrak’s Auto Train is a fun way to start or end any trip along the East Coast. Book the Auto Train using the website, Auto Train Stations, or phone 1-877-SKIP-I-95.

A few takeaways include keeping valuables out of sight; it reduces temptation and best practices. Pack an overnight bag and leave the rest in your car.

Enertainment and elctronics

Provide entertainment for yourself; I have an article about entertainment suggestions for Amtrak.

It is best to download videos to your devices before your trip instead of relying on Amtrak Wi-Fi and cell signals.

Services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime allow you to download to your tablet or phone; some limitations apply. Amtrak does provide scenery out of every window, and if you need to stretch your legs, you can walk to the observation cars for a better view and a stretch.

If you are interested in the city and towns the train rolls through, download the Amtrak Atlantic Coast route guide. I should warn you it is for the Silver Service and not the Auto Train, but The Auto Tran and the Silver Meteor travel the same route for the most part. The Meteor starts in New York and ends in Miami, so you get more info than you need.

Amtrak crews are there to help you and to say thanks; you can tip and let Amtrak know you received excellent service. Employees do get rewarded and recognized.

Remember that it takes time to unload the vehicles off the train once you reach your destination. Amtrak offers priority boarding for the Auto Train., but you must call to make those reservations.

A great video on the Auto Trian

Safe Travels!

Kev

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Kevin Monteith

Kev Monteith has been traveling on Amtrak since 2012. With over a decade of experience, he has been on over 800 trains, covering over 200k miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by providing support and information. Outside of travel, Kev enjoys making music as an organist and outings with family.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kathleen Harper

    Kev, took your advice and arrived at 11:30 to check in, so our car would be relatively early getting off. NOT. 2 hours later after arrival, our car was called. They do a great job, but don’t count on first in , first off!

  2. Joseph

    Great article thank you. We are travelling coach and there are 6 of us (2 adults 4 kids) any tips of how to sit together?
    One person on the chat said arrive early and they allow you on according to when you checked in. The other said no it is all first come first served.

    Thank you

    1. Amtrak tries to place families together as best as it can. Conductors try to put passengers going to similar stations in the same car, which is harder on some long-distance trains. With the Auto Train, everyone is going to the same destinations, so there are more cars to accommodate families. I would let them know as soon as possible; they may let you board early. Safe travels! Kev

  3. David

    The fewer the riders, the cheaper the fares. When are the peak months for traveling north and south?

    1. The peak times for the Auto Train are summer in both directions for family travel. The snowbirds cause peak Northern trips in the late Spring as they migrate home, and the Southbound trains see a lot of passengers in Fall for the Southern sun. Spring break can cause a few weeks to get busy. If you have time, sign up for the Amtrak emails to inform you of flash sales. I hope this helps!

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