Afraid To Travel On Silver Star: Advice For Traveler Anxiety

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I am a 27 year old female with a toddler (2) and a baby (10 mo). We reside in NJ and have an upcoming family event in FL (next week). I’d love to be there to show my support and have booked tickets on the Silver Star leaving Philadelphia. I have never ridden on the Amtrak before and I have travel anxiety.

1) I can afford to place a $210 bid on a roomette but upon looking at pictures online I am unsure if it would even comfortably fit myself and two small children. Wish I could afford a room but I can’t. Any experience/thoughts here?

2) I have health anxiety due to a heart condition and am worried about traveling alone. I am worried about the minute possibility of a health complication—does this route always stay close to urban areas? I.e. if I legitimately needed medical help would it be easy to access? I made the mistake of reading some horror stories online about people having heart attacks onboard and unable to get help/trains being stuck for 24+ hours.

Thank you in advance for any advice. At this point I am thinking about canceling our trip and I’m so down about it. 😞
 

Maglev

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Welcome to the forum!

A Roomette would probably be more comfortable for the three of you than sitting in two coach seats. You and the 10-month old would fit on one chair and the 2-year old on the other chair (which is wider than a coach seat). Do you trust your two-year old in an upper berth?

The train is never far from grade crossings where it may be met by an ambulance, but it does travel through rural areas where there are few hospitals. I am just going to guess that it might take at most an hour to get an ill passenger to a hospital from the Silver Star.
 

Ryan

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I would definitely bid on the roomette and have some private space for the three of you.

In the unlikely event of being stuck on the train for an extended period of time, there's still the chance that you'll be stopped somewhere that help is accessible. Stopped for a really long time in a place that is unreachable would sort of be an edge case of an edge case, particularly if the weather is decent.
 

daybeers

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First off, welcome to AU!

I agree with the above posters that taking the train is definitely less stressful than flying, and a roomette would really help with two young kids along.

The Silver Star does go through some rural areas, though on the whole it's much more populated than some of the other long distance trains. The train can always stop at a grade crossing or let you off at an earlier station if there's an issue. The conductor would communicate over the radio with the dispatcher to coordinate with local EMS so they are there when the train arrives.

As the BidUp program uses a bidding process, there's no guarantee you would get the roomette. I would call Amtrak or look online to see how much one is for your dates.
 
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Welcome to the forum!

A Roomette would probably be more comfortable for the three of you than sitting in two coach seats. You and the 10-month old would fit on one chair and the 2-year old on the other chair (which is wider than a coach seat). Do you trust your two-year old in an upper berth?

The train is never far from grade crossings where it may be met by an ambulance, but it does travel through rural areas where there are few hospitals. I am just going to guess that it might take at most an hour to get an ill passenger to a hospital from the Silver Star.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I see you are a conductor with Amtrak? Have you ever conducted the silver star? It is good to know that help would not be too hard to come by.

I did read some concerning things perhaps you may be able to address as a professional? I tried to call customer service but I am looking for more experiential knowledge. 1) I read that in 2019 a man had a heart attack while still in station onboard an Amtrak and his wife could not open any emergency doors or windows and could not locate personnel. This seemed strange and frightening.
2) I read that an Amtrak in Oregon was stranded for 36 hours in a rural area and help could not reach them (sounds as if there is no rural stretches quite like this on the eastern side?) Thank you in advance for helping me decide what to do and offering such valuable expertise and advice!
 
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I would definitely bid on the roomette and have some private space for the three of you.

In the unlikely event of being stuck on the train for an extended period of time, there's still the chance that you'll be stopped somewhere that help is accessible. Stopped for a really long time in a place that is unreachable would sort of be an edge case of an edge case, particularly if the weather is decent.
Apparently they got stuck somewhere in Oregon but I’m thinking that route may be more rural than the one I am considering. Hopefully, so…
 

Ryan

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The titles off on the side do not indicate actual employment, they're more for fun - while there are some Amtrak employees that post here (and I suspect some will come along), I don't recognize anyone that has posted here as someone that's publicly disclosed that they're an employee.

That said, I think you'll find that the cases that you describe to be the edge case of an edge case that I spoke of earlier. There seems to be some good bit of detail lacking from the first story.

Since it will probably come up, it is somewhat ironic that this is your concern, as one of the site's administrators passed away of a heart attack while on a train ride with several other members. This is a topic that's somewhat personal to us here, and even through that lens, I don't think you'll find many that would advise you to avoid Amtrak over that particular concern.
 
Joined
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Welcome to the forum!

A Roomette would probably be more comfortable for the three of you than sitting in two coach seats. You and the 10-month old would fit on one chair and the 2-year old on the other chair (which is wider than a coach seat). Do you trust your two-year old in an upper berth?

The train is never far from grade crossings where it may be met by an ambulance, but it does travel through rural areas where there are few hospitals. I am just going to guess that it might take at most an hour to get an ill passenger to a hospital from the Silver Star.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Have you ever conducted the sil
The titles off on the side do not indicate actual employment, they're more for fun - while there are some Amtrak employees that post here (and I suspect some will come along), I don't recognize anyone that has posted here as someone that's publicly disclosed that they're an employee.

That said, I think you'll find that the cases that you describe to be the edge case of an edge case that I spoke of earlier. There seems to be some good bit of detail lacking from the first story.

Since it will probably come up, it is somewhat ironic that this is your concern, as one of the site's administrators passed away of a heart attack while on a train ride with several other members. This is a topic that's somewhat personal to us here, and even through that lens, I don't think you'll find many that would advise you to avoid Amtrak over that particular concern.

Thank you for clarifying! That is very sad—at least they passed doing something they enjoyed. Presumably, it was not due to being on a train so much as it was just the nature of the occurrence? I have such a fear of being away from medical help as I actually had to have my heart restarted by paramedics once. However, I don’t want to live my life in fear—I am attempting to put my mind at ease as much as possible to quell any irrational fear.
 
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I'm trying to figure out what the sleeping arrangements would be.

I've never had kids, but would a 2-yo be safe alone on the upper berth? Obviously the safety straps wouldn't do much to hold them in.

OTOH, if the adult took the upper berth along with the infant, would there be a danger of the 10-month-old wandering off the edge while the parent was asleep? Or would placing the infant on the window side be enough to prevent that?
 

Joe from PA

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A few years ago a person had a heart attack in Florida (Sebring I think). The train stopped at a crossroad, where a ambulance was waiting. Total time was about 15 minutes.
Put the older one in the top bunk. He/she will talk about it all of her/his life. You will regret not getting a roomette. BTW, I have 8 grandkids.
 
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I'm trying to figure out what the sleeping arrangements would be.

I've never had kids, but would a 2-yo be safe alone on the upper berth? Obviously the safety straps wouldn't do much to hold them in.

OTOH, if the adult took the upper berth along with the infant, would there be a danger of the 10-month-old wandering off the edge while the parent was asleep? Or would placing the infant on the window side be enough to prevent that?
I am thinking I’d just have to sleep on the bottom with both of them somehow. I don’t see it being safe unless my 2 year old will stay up top alone.
 
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A few years ago a person had a heart attack in Florida (Sebring I think). The train stopped at a crossroad, where a ambulance was waiting. Total time was about 15 minutes.
Put the older one in the top bunk. He/she will talk about it all of her/his life. You will regret not getting a roomette. BTW, I have 8 grandkids.
Thank you for the advice! I hope that I get up the courage to just go. He is already excitedly asking when we are going on the train every 5 minutes.
 

Ryan

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Thank you for clarifying! That is very sad—at least they passed doing something they enjoyed. Presumably, it was not due to being on a train so much as it was just the nature of the occurrence? I have such a fear of being away from medical help as I actually had to have my heart restarted by paramedics once. However, I don’t want to live my life in fear—I am attempting to put my mind at ease as much as possible to quell any irrational fear.

I'm not a doctor, just a random guy on the internet, but I wouldn't think there is anything inherent in riding a train that would induce a heart attack. If it were to happen (and be it heart attacks or other issues), it isn't uncommon for the train to stop and meet an ambulance at a convenient road crossing. Train crews and dispatchers are used to working together to make that sort of thing happen. It's good to be concerned and do your research, but I wouldn't be overly worried about the trip. I do hope that you maintain the courage to take the trip and that it's a good one for you and your family.

I'm trying to figure out what the sleeping arrangements would be.

I've never had kids, but would a 2-yo be safe alone on the upper berth? Obviously the safety straps wouldn't do much to hold them in.

OTOH, if the adult took the upper berth along with the infant, would there be a danger of the 10-month-old wandering off the edge while the parent was asleep? Or would placing the infant on the window side be enough to prevent that?
I would assume the little one was still able to sleep in an infant carrier of some sort. I think I'd forgo the beds (other than dropping the upper and using it to store items) and sleep either Mom and Kid in a seat with the baby carrier on the other, or on the floor between them with one person on either seat. Roomette is still valuable for private space and meals.
 

pennyk

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Since it will probably come up, it is somewhat ironic that this is your concern, as one of the site's administrators passed away of a heart attack while on a train ride with several other members. This is a topic that's somewhat personal to us here, and even through that lens, I don't think you'll find many that would advise you to avoid Amtrak over that particular concern.

I was on that train when our friend was having a heart attack. The crew handled the situation promptly and professionally. We were in rural Alabama and the conductor arranged for an ambulance to meet the train at a crossing. I do not recall how long it took, but it was not long.

Yes, the Silver Star travels through rural areas, but I do not think the train is ever very far from "civilization."

I, too, suggest that you get a roomette if at all possible.
 
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I would assume the little one was still able to sleep in an infant carrier of some sort. I think I'd forgo the beds (other than dropping the upper and using it to store items) and sleep either Mom and Kid in a seat with the baby carrier on the other, or on the floor between them with one person on either seat. Roomette is still valuable for private space and meals.
I was thinking of that. I suppose it would be not much worse than sleeping in the coach seats.
 

Joe from PA

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Since I'm familiar with the station...upon arriving, roomette or no, turn your luggage over to a red cap (located mid-section of station), and tip $5. per suitcase. He will take the 3 of you down to the platform in a elevator about 10 minutes prior to the train's arrival, and see that you get into the proper car on the train. If you get a roomette, you could wait in a private lounge, BUT the kids will be more entertained in the terminal proper (just tell the red cap where you will be).
 

TheCrescent

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I’ve had several train incidents:

1. I was relaxing in bed in a roomette when the train hit a U-Haul at a grade crossing. Consequence? The U-Haul was destroyed. The train then continued on its way, after a short delay.

2. In New Jersey, the train broke down. Consequence? We got off the train, walked along the gravel next to the tracks, and boarded a rescue train. We were maybe an hour late.

Imagine how much worse things would have been if I had been on a plane or in a car. I’d take Amtrak and not worry much.
 
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Amtrak ridership in sleepers skews older. So, unfortunately, medical incidents are relatively common just due to demographics. Amtrak and the host railroads have procedures down for such incidents for which are used fairly frequently.

Basically, the conductor radios the dispatcher and the dispatcher arranges the train to be met by EMS. They can do this at any grade crossing. They don't have to come down from 30,000 feet and find an airport. It is typically pretty quick.
 
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Don't read so much about accidents and incidents or you would hide in your home forever and worry about your home burning down and some crazy breaking in - also far fetched. After all, many of us older folk have never had either of those happen in our lifetimes and don't personally have friends who experienced those situations.

Think of the advantages and the more likely scenarios. If your little one starts crying, you can get up at any time, day or night on a train and walk around to calm them down. Try that on a plane! It isn't easy even if you they let you get out of your packed seat. Trains are sometimes bumpy but on planes, anxiety is more of an issue because their bumps can be big up/down ones and, for me at least, a momentary but far-overworried thought "Are we going down unexpectedly?" You have an anxiety attack on a plane, they will not stop at another airport to let you off. You have more room in your train coach seat than in most first class seats these days on planes. You can get up from your seat or out of your room and go to the cafe car to sit and relax for a bit.
Yes, the train trip is a LOT longer. Like a plane, you have to wear a mask the whole time (except if you have a room and are in it); you can check bags at no extra cost if the departure and arrival station have baggage service. You do not have to go through TSA security. If your plane is delayed, you have to stay inside security and never take your mask off but you can walk outside the station and remove it. For smaller stations, you can stand outside the building and remove your mask. You can carry on the food you want and what the little ones will like. No worry about carrying too many liquids in too many containers.

And if you get sick before your trip and your doctor says you can't travel (even if nothing to do with Covid), Amtrak will allow you to cancel w/o penalty with the doctor's letter.
 

George Harris

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First: While much of the route of the train through the Carolinas and Georgia is uncrowded, particularly compared to the Northeastern normal, you are never far from a medium to large city at any point, so proximity to a good hospital should not be an issue. It would almost certainly take longer to get from the medical event to medical help and a medical facility if you were flying. As mentioned, coordination with EMS can frequently result in an ambulance meeting the train at a road crossing. However, much of the time simply going to the next regular stop would likely work as well. Chances are all involved will have some familiarity with dealing with medical situations and developing a plan to minimize time from train to ambulance/hospital. Remember, it will take time from the call for the ambulance to get to the meeting point, so the chosen meeting point may not be the next road crossing on the line.

Ride quality: I do not know from what you wrote whether you have ridden trains before or not. Given your location can we assume that you have ridden some of the commuter lines in that part of the country? If so, then you would be somewhat familiar with some of the peculiarities of riding on track. Ride quality can vary from smooth to quite bumpy with a good bit of sway at times. There can be a noticeable bounce sometimes at road crossings and bridge ends. There can also be sudden brief changes in external noise levels when going across open deck steel bridges. Don't panic. In particular one of the segments of the Star's route carries very little freight traffic and as a result is maintained not far above that required by safety. If the ride gets bumpy and even quite rough in some areas, do not panic. There is nothing here to be scared about. A ride on rails can be quite rough and still be well within safe limits. Track safety is very precisely regulated by the FRA. Railroad accidents and derailments have a tendency to make national news, but that is because of their rarity. An equivalent highway accent would barely get beyond local news if that. However, if you are subject to motion sickness, it would be a good idea to take whatever medicine you safely can for that purpose. Although not so much in the last 10 plus years, I have ridden trains over much of my life beginning in the mid 1960's. While this has been for the first 15 to 20 years mostly in the Southeastern US, it has included a transcontinental trip plus fairly regularly in a few countries in Asia in the 1990 to 2007 time frame.

Sleeping arrangements: Somewhat depends upon how large a person you are, but I would go for lowering the bunk and putting everybody in it. Seems kind of silly to sleep in the seats when you have bunks available. Maybe your 2 year old would go for the adventure of sleeping in the top bunk by himself. If not, I think you could still manage to get all three of you in the bottom bunk. As a maybe, you could put the two year old at the bottom aimed the other way with his head at the bottom and yours at the top and the 10 month old beside you. I know two adults with little to no excess weight can fit in a bottom bunk. Don't ask for details.
 
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