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A platform station in Plano, Il.

Amtrak Platform Station: What You Need To Know

Many beginning train travelers are unfamiliar with a platform station. Most commuter railroads use them as well as Amtrak. One way to think about them is they are like many bus stops; there could be a shelter and a bench or just a slab of pavement. Some of the platform stations are flag stops as well.

If your first trip starts with platform stations, you have nothing to worry fear. This article helps you understand what you need to know, so you are ready for your trip. Besides, the amount of time you spend at the platform station is such a small percentage of your trip.

Who Determines The Type Of Station A Community Has?

Let’s back up for a second and chat about who decides what the station a community will offer and how it appears.

Often the local municipality determines what they want to provide for a “station.” Some communities choose to build a beautiful station for passengers as they come through their boundaries, like Sturtevant, WI.

Others offer the bare minimum, and that’s what we are talking about here, the platform station.

Traveler’s, don’t worry about the station types for your adventure. The time you spend at a platform is short compared to the rest of your experience. If you do your homework, know what to expect, and prepare, you will be fine. You will never have layovers at platform stations.

Platform Station And Luggage

Platform stations do not offer baggage service, so the lighter you pack, the easier it will be for you. Carry-on-size luggage (around 21”) or travel backpacks work great for these situations. If you do pack heavy, fear not.

Amtrak offers a generous carry-on policy. You are allowed two 28” suitcases plus two personal item bags (like small backpacks, purses, diaper bags, and so forth).

For your safety and the Amtrak staff, luggage cannot weigh over fifty pounds.

If you are new to travel, fifty pounds is the most weight most transportation carriers allow. If your bag is overweight, it could get flagged and face a fee for being too heavy. A few stops have trackside checked baggage, and to find out what ones, click this page.

Keep in mind, whatever you bring to the platform, needs to be carried onto the train. Most platform stations require you to climb steps to get on the train, and some trains are two levels. Conductors can help you get your belonging onto the train, but you still need to schlep them onboard. If you have special needs, Amtrak has ways to assist with that.

Baggage On Trains Superliner Trains

Superliner Storage
All Amtrak trains have a place to store your bags.

Coach passengers can use the unattended shelves on the cars’ lower-level to store bags on Superliner trains. These areas are not supervised but are accessible during your entire journey. The space is limited, so only put your heaviest luggage here.

The other option is to bring them upstairs and place them on the shelf above your seat. The space is similar to the bins above the seats on airplanes, but no doors and a lot deeper.

When you bring your luggage upstairs, you will carry your belonging up a narrow staircase. If this could be a problem for you, try and reserve a lower-level seat. Then you do not have to bring your luggage upstairs, although you will need to go upstairs to go to and from the cafe car.

For sleeper passengers, the rooms have limited storage for your bags. Solo roomette passengers can store a suitcase on the upper bunk step (providing it is not too large). An option for solo travelers is to fold down the upper bunk and keep stuff up there. Bedrooms have a little more room than roomettes but are still a little tight.

Baggage On Viewliner And Regional Trains

Like Superliners trains, Viewliners offers both luggage shelves plus overhead in coach class for coach passengers.

There is ample storage space above the door in all rooms in the sleeper cars, so Viewliner sleepers do not offer luggage shelves like Superliners. If you need help getting your bag up and down, your car attendant or fellow passenger may help.

Parking At A Platform Station

It is easier to figure out parking ahead of time than dealing with it the day of the journey.

Station parking varies depending on the municipality. If you are not familiar with the area, call the town or check out their website for long-term parking information.

It is best to do this before your departure date. You don’t need a ticket, or worst yet, your vehicle is towed when you get back from a fantastic adventure.

Preparation For Using A Platform Station

If you are not familiar with the platform station area, why not do a “dry run.” Doing something like this may eliminate stress on the day of travel.

I know of one particular traveler that did not do that for his first Amtrak trip. He thought he knew the station location and was unaware that Sturtevant, WI, had built a new station.

He did catch his train on time, but it wasn’t a great start on his trip. Also, by doing a dry run, you could find a place to hang out if the train runs late or if the weather is not marvelous. Although he dealt with an unstaffed station, the story still rings true.

When The Train Arrives At A Platform Station

Pretty straightforward here, wait for the train to come to a complete stop, and listen for instructions from the conductors or Amtrak staff for directions. They will direct you to the right car and assist you with your room or coach seats.

In some cases, Amtrak gives you a seat number; when you board, look for the numbers above the seat on the luggage rack. Amtrak assigned you a sleeping accommodation; check the ticket for your sleeping car and room numbers when you make your reservations.

Conductors may either scan or lift your ticket before you board the train; wait till you are on board. The crew and how many people are getting on with you determine when they collect them. In either case, have your tickets ready as you see the train coming or before.

When staff asks you where you are going, they want to know your destination for THAT train, not your final destination. For example, if I am traveling from Omaha, NE, to Sturtevant, WI, they want to know I am going to Chicago and not Sturtevant when I board in Omaha. All the information you need is on your ticket.

Ticketing Information For A Platform Station

Buying Tickets

For the best price, buy your tickets before you leave. You can buy tickets electronically via the app or website or by calling 1-800-USA-Rail. You need an email address so Amtrak can email your eticket. There are a few ways to save money when buying Amtrak tickets. While you can purchase tickets on some trains, I wouldn’t suggest it.

If you do not have an email, there is a chance you can get your ticket on the train, but you will have to call to see if this is an option.

eTickets

Amtrak will scan either paper tickets or an electronic device. If you or others in your party are Amtrak Guest Rewards members, your etickets will appear in the app.

After purchasing a ticket online or over the phone, Amtrak emails you a receipt and a pdf attachment of your travel documents. You have the choice of printing that out from home or pulling up the email when the conductor comes around, and they can scan the barcode from there.

Platform stations do not have Amtrak ticket machines.

Where Is My Train?

If you want to know if your train is running on time or a little late, you have the following resources:

Another option is to have Amtrak text or email you if your train is running late. You could sign up for delay notices when you book your ticket or later if you forgot or have them sent to whoever is picking you up.

Another helpful tip is to sign up for the station stop before yours. If it is running late, you can better judge when to leave. Remember that trains can make up time along the route.

Safe Travels!

Kev

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Kev

Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not moving, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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