Many beginning train travelers are unfamiliar with platform stations. Like Metra, commuter railroads use platform stations, and they can be found on Amtrak lines as well. To get a handle on what they are, think of it as a bus stop where there could be a shelter and a bench or just a slab of pavement.
Who Determines The Type Of Station A Community Has?
Let’s back up for a second and chat about who picks what the station offers and how it appears. Often the local municipality determines what they provide for a “station.” Some cities choose to deliver a beautiful station for passengers to use 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 you may encounter on 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 are prepared, you will be fine. You will never have long layovers at platform stations.
Luggage And Platform Stations
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, but if that is not you, fear not.
Amtrak offers a generous carry-on policy. For Amtrak, you are allowed two 28” suitcases plus two personal item bags (like backpacks, purses, diaper bags, and so forth).
For the safety of you 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, they could get flagged and face a fee for being too heavy. A few stations 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 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 Superliner Trains
On Superliner trains, coach passengers can use the unattended set of shelves on the cars’ lower level to store bags.
To keep a better eye on your bags, bring them upstairs and place them on the shelf above your seat. Similar to the bins above the seats on airplanes.
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 still a little tight.
Baggage On Viewliner And Regional Trains
For coach passengers, like Superliners trains, Viewliners offers both luggage shelves and overhead in coach class.
There is ample space for storage 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 instead of 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 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 not aware that Sturtevant, WI, 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 is running 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 when you make your reservations; check the ticket for your sleeping car and room numbers.
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, if you are transferring. For example, if I am traveling from Omaha, NE, to Sturtevant, WI, when I get to the train, they want to know I am going to Chicago and not Sturtevant in Omaha. All the information you need is on your ticket.
Ticketing Information – Buying & More
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 will need an email address so Amtrak can email your eticket. There are a few ways to save money when it comes to buying Amtrak tickets. While you can purchase tickets on some trains, I wouldn’t suggest it.
Amtrak will scan either paper tickets or your phone. If you or others in your party are Amtrak Guest Rewards members, your etickets will show up in the app.
When you purchase a ticket, Amtrak emails you a receipt and a pdf attachment that is your ticket. 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 if it 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 judge better on when to leave. Remember that trains can make up time along the route.