This is a really good video. TY for sharing it!
Now for my 2 cents, having just traveled on train 53 from Lorton to Sanford on 2/14/23 in coach.
I had recently flown in coach from PHL to Thailand and was able to tolerate that VERY long set of flights, so I thought I could easily handle sitting in the coach seats on the auto train. I was not going to pay $317 (the prices vary widely, but that was what was quoted when I made my reservation 3 month prior to my departure date of 2/14). I was traveling alone and $317 for one person utilizing a very, VERY small space did not seem practical. The coach seats were only about 60% full the day of my travel. I had planned my departure date for mid-month on a holiday hoping the train would not be very full. That was the case, but IDK if that was pure luck or good planning on my part.
I enjoyed the train ride. Because the train was nowhere near full, I had two reclining chairs to myself and could easily curl up and sleep on those seats once both of the leg rests were in their full, upright position and the seat backs were reclined. I had taken along a firm, long, half-round body pillow to wedge in along the armrest of the window seat I had requested, thinking I would need that for comfort. I did not know until the train had boarded that I would have the whole 2 seats to myself, so I really didn't need that pillow. I had a small cooler with beverages, a bag of snacks, my bed pillow, and a few other creature comforts packed, as well as a small carry on containing some jewelry, electronics and medications.
I was surprised that the auto-train allows people to take their own alcoholic beverages on board. Quite a few people had done so. The prices of the 1/2 bottles of wine and other drinks were reasonable though; no price gouging IMO.
I had requested an upper level coach seat, located mid-train and mid car. I received just that. Because the car I was in was many cars back away from the engine, the engine whistle was barely noticeable to me (especially once I was onboard for awhile). Anyone who has never taken a train before needs to be aware of the very frequent use of the whistle for crossings (something I knew about, but just didn't realize how frequent it would be). I got used to the rhythmic swaying/bumping of the train. Since I was mid-train, this provided a smooth ride most of the time. The only thing I did not find comfortable regarding the seat is the length of the elevating leg rest hit me about mid calf and the pressure of this really bothered me. I did not try to sit that way because of discomfort and luckily, I did not have to!
I did not pay the extra $90(?) for "priority off loading" of my car. It took just over 1 hour for me to get my car. It would most likely have taken considerably longer had the train been at maximum coach capacity or nearly so.
I really loved the auto-train. but probably won't ride it again. These are my primary reasons:
1). When I booked on-line it said I would be able to choose a seat after paying and receiving a confirmation. This is NOT true of coach seating on the auto-train! In fact, as many of you know, selection of your seat is first come / first served on most Amtrak trains. Since I learned after booking/confirmation that I could not reserve a seat, I arrived at the Lorton station a full 3 hours before departure. I did not want to get stuck in an aisle seat, or near the engine. or in the bottom level. The only way to insure a seat that I preferred was to arrive early. The gates where you drive up to enter the auto check-in open at 12:30. I believe pre-boarding of anyone over 65, handicapped, etc. began at @ 3:00. The rest of us were allowed to board by no later than 3:30 if I remember correctly (sorry, I wasn't looking at the clock every minute). So the need to arrive so early meant that another 2-2.5 hours of time was added to my journey to sit around in the waiting area. Yuck!
2). The only animals allowed on board are true service animals. I opted to not travel with my dog, but he is my buddy and I almost cancelled my ticket because I was having anxiety becasue of leaving him behind on this trip. I usually drive, and am the lone driver to the far Southwestern Gulf Coast of FL, so that is a very long trip for one driver! Despite that, I would rather take an extra day driving to FL and staying in a hotel since I can take my dog with me.