Amtrak’s Auto Train

by Kev
Auto Train

Out of all of Amtrak’s trains, the Auto Train is the most unique of them all. As you may have guessed, the train hauls more than passengers but their cars, trucks, and motorcycles too! The Auto Train is the longest passenger train consisting of Amtrak’s Superliner Cars and autoracks.

If your next adventure includes driving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, FL (or the other way around), this is an excellent option for you 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

The Auto Train travels 855 miles between Lorton, VA, and Sanford, FL, around 17.5-hours of travel time. After leaving the stations, the Auto Train follows the same route as the Silver Meteor. Sadly, if you want to ride the Auto Train, you need a vehicle on your ticket.

This train uses Amtrak’s Superliner (bi-level) equipment offering sleeper and coach class, food service, and sightseeing (lounge) cars. There may be 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.

The schedule is the same for both the Northbound (#52) and the Southbound (#53) Auto Trains. These trains leave the station at 4 pm, arriving the next day around 9 am. If the train is loaded and assembled early, it could get dispatched sooner. 

It is crucial to arrive early at the station because Amtrak does not admit cars after the check-in time.  There is more information on vehicle check-in further down in this article. 

Once the Auto Train is put together and leaves Amtrak’s rail yard, it then 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. As of 2018 data (last info I could find), it was running 73% on-time; this means it either arrived early or up to 15 minutes late.

Coach Class

Amtrak's long-distance coach seats
Amtrak’s long-distance coach seats. These seats include foot and leg rest, trays, and an outlet.

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. Either by bringing meals and snacks on the train or buying it from the cafe. You can eat the food you bought anywhere on the train. But due to FDA regulations, only food purchased in the cafe food is allowed in that area. Snacks and meals you brought onboard can be consumed in the Sightseer lounge car or at the passenger’s seat. Coach passengers can only consume alcohol they bought on the train and must keep theirs packed.

Restrooms are on the lower level of the coaches and sightseer cars. The lower level also includes seating (that can be reserved) and storage.

Going between cars is done on the upper level, and the lower level is where you get on and off the 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, bedrooms, accessible, and family bedrooms.

Superliner Roomette
An Amtrak Superliner lower berth.

All room reservations come with all scheduled meals, a glass of wine with diner (for those old enough), plus morning juice and coffee service. Each car has an attendant to help you along your journey. These individuals help keep the sleeper car clean, make sure 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.

If you book a bedroom, there is a shower located in the in-room bathroom.

Each room has a small closet (or hook for hanging garments). Also included is a fold-out table, reading, ceiling, and night lights, and one outlet in most rooms. There is little room for luggage, so passengers are encouraged to leave everything in their car but for the necessities.

Sleeper passengers can consume alcohol in their room, either what they brought or purchased from the dining car or cafe.

New Auto Train Upgrades For Sleeper Passengers

  • Upgraded bedding, pillows, towels, and linens got added to every room
  • Duvets added to all Bedrooms, Family Bedrooms, and Accessible Bedrooms
  • A la carte travel products on demand: Beekman shampoos, lotions, body wash, toothpaste, shower shoes, make-up remover, and earplugs

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

Superliner Bedroom
The hallway for Amtrak Superliner Bedrooms

Bedrooms are comfortable for two, with the possibility for three, but two people would have to share a twin plus size bed. Bedroom suites are also available for four to six people. To book a suit 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 dubs as the shower, plus across from the couch is a 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

There is only one family room per car. 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 simular size bed pulls down. The kiddos 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 capacity for a wheelchair. If you cannot negotiate stairs, your car attended or travel companion can bring your food or things you may need from the cafe to your room. This space does have a restroom.

The room’s dimensions are 6.75′ by 9.42.’

Car Layouts & Finding Your Room On The Auto Train

Each car has a four-digit number. The first two numbers are the route number, and the second two 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

Trans Dorm
Transdorm sleepers just roomettes and used for onboard staff occasionally for passengers.

Amtrak Superliner Sleeper

Superliner Sleeper
Superliner Sleeper Car Layout

Amtrak Superliner Deluxe Sleeper Layout

Amtrak deluxe sleeper
Amtrak Deluxe Sleeper unique to the Auto Train

Food & Meals

Amtrak Meal
Amtrak Signature Steak Meal

During Covid-19, Amtrak is cash-free; they are only taking credit or debit cards.

Before your journey starts, Amtrak Auto Train stations have food trucks available to enjoy while you wait for the vehicles to load.

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

For the guest in the sleeper cars, your ticket includes meals and a glass of wine. Coach passengers are responsible for purchasing meals on there own, or they can bring in food and eat it at their seats or in a lounge car. Due to FDA regulations, you cannot consume food you brought onto the train in a food service car; some exemption applies info here.

Vehicles Loading Schedule & Basic Information

Amtrak Superliner Train
Amtrak Superliner 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.

The time for either station is the same; check-in time starts at 11:30 am. Motorcycles and select vehicles have a check-in deadline of 2 pm, and other everything else has till 2:30 pm—plan on being early. Don’t be late; no exceptions for tardy arrives.

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.  Special cars are allowed with some limitations.

Special Vehicles

Each Auto Train allows for a limited number of specialized vehicles. Small trailers, limousines, jet-skis, trikes, and choppers may be accepted. While 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 special 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 roof racks and remain empty during the trip. Temporary luggage racks or bicycle racks attached to the roof are not allowed. Roof-mounted racks will count in 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 rear of the vehicle. Bikes and their racks will count towards your vehicle’s maximum length and width requirements.

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

Amtrak’s Tips For You And Your Car

These are tips from the Amtrak site

  • Ensure you give yourself enough time—including traffic considerations surrounding D.C. and Orlando—to arrive at the station. No exceptions to the check-in times.
  • Pack a carry-on bag. Pack your car like your suitcase. But be sure to bring a carry-on bag for your trip. The Auto Train has no checked baggage service, and you will not have any access to your car during the journey. Do not leave any valuables in your vehicle.
  • 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, which ensures 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.

Wrap-Up

Amtrak Auto Train
Amtrak Auto Train – Photo Courtesy of Amtrak

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, at the Auto Train Stations, or over the phone at 1-877-SKIP-95.

A few takeaways keep valuables out of sight; it reduces temptation and smart to do anyway. Pack an overnight bag and leave the rest in your car.

Provide yourself with entertainment. It is best to download these to your devices instead of relying on wi-fi and cell signals. Services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime allows you to download to your tablet or phone; some limitations may 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.

The crew is there to help you, and delays are out of their control; they want to get to the destination just as bad as you. IF you have excellent service, you can share that with Amtrak, and you can tip. Employees do get rewarded and recognized.

Remember that once you get to your destinations, it does take time to unload the vehicles off the train. Amtrak offers priority boarding for the Auto Train., but you need to call up to make those reservations.

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Safe Travel!

Kev

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