Many beginning train travelers are unfamiliar with a platform station without using commuter railroads. One way to think about them is like many bus stops; there could be a shelter, a bench, or a pavement slab. Some of the platform stations are flag stops as well.
If your first trip starts with platform stations, you have nothing to fear. This article helps you understand what you need to know to prepare for your trip. Besides, the time you spend at the platform station is 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.” Like Sturtevant, WI, some communities build a beautiful station for passengers crossing their boundaries.
Others offer the bare minimum, and we are discussing the platform station here.
Travelers, don’t worry about the station types for your adventure. The time you spend on a platform is short compared to the rest of your experience. You will be fine if you do your homework, know what to expect, and prepare. 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. 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.
Remember that whatever you bring to the platform must be carried onto the train. Most platform stations require climbing steps to get on the train; some trains are on 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
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 airplane seats but with no doors and a lot deeper.
You will carry your belongings up a narrow staircase when you bring your luggage upstairs. If this could be a problem for you, reserve a lower-level seat. Then you do not have to take your bags upstairs, although you must go upstairs 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 more room than roomettes but are still a little tight.
Baggage On Viewliner And Regional Trains
Like Superliners trains, Viewliners offers luggage shelves and coach class overhead 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 unfamiliar 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 worse yet, see that your vehicle got towed while on a fantastic adventure.
Preparation For Using A Platform Station
If you are unfamiliar 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 one traveler who 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 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 scan or lift your ticket before boarding the train; wait until you are on board. The crew and how many people are getting on with you determine when they collect them. Either way, 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
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.
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 can print that out from home or pull 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:
- Amtrak website
- Amtrak’s App
- This third-party site
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.
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