Capitol Limited Bike Service with no Baggage Car?

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

desertflyer

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2013
Messages
345
Location
San Francisco
I'm going to be doing a lot more traveling with my bike. I know the Capitol Limited sometimes has a Viewliner baggage, but sometimes only has a Superliner Coach Baggage. How does bike service work with the Superliner Coach Baggage? I see this thread but was curious to see a more definitive answer. Thanks!
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
From my notes from my CL trip, it worked the same as the full baggage car. I was responsible for both loading and unloading the bike in the car. The Coach/Baggage didn’t happen to have a bike rack, so I laid it down. It went well, and I’d do it again in heartbeat. Can’t wait as a matter of fact.

Don’t forget to get a baggage check for the bike at the station if possible. It was a step I forgot outbound, and it could have caused me issues.
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
Go figure you can't lay down a bike in a dedicated baggage car but it's a-ok in a coach baggage on the CL. Thanks for the response.
It’s not about what kind of car it is but what kind of bike rack it has. The full sized baggage cars I saw had bike racks, and I was 100% comfortable with my bike loaded on them. I don’t believe the Coach-Baggage at that time was fitted with a bike rack. Maybe that’s changed by now.
 

desertflyer

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2013
Messages
345
Location
San Francisco
Yeah I understand, but before the Viewliner baggage cars came online with bike racks, you had to box the bike which was a PITA. I'm glad to hear that even if a coach baggage doesn't have a rack that they don't require the bike to be boxed. It's actually pretty reasonable.
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
Yeah - the last thing I want to do is box my bike.

On the Cardinal, you just take it aboard - or did when I rode it a couple of times in’18 & ‘19. While some staff members didn’t seem all that familiar with the bike policy - they dealt with it really well.

On a westbound trip (CRF-CHI), they had me stash the bike in a deadheading sleeper. On another trip CRF-CHI, I was directed to store it in an unoccupied handicapped accessible area. There was plenty of open handicapped space on that train - so no one was inconvenienced.

On the eastbound returns, the lounge had a bike rack both times. Although I wish they wouldn’t have removed a booth for a bike rack. There’s not enough booth space for passengers as it is.

The Cardinal had a very “can do” crew in 2018 and 2019 in my experience. We’ll see how it goes this summer.
 

desertflyer

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2013
Messages
345
Location
San Francisco
Gosh that's really different than the west coast trains where I *have* to get a check tag from inside the station, tag my bike, and then hand the bike over to a conductor in the baggage car. I mean part of me likes that it goes into baggage and then I see it again in a day or two without worrying about theft, but it's more of a process than just carrying on. Also, on the trains out here we can only take bikes to or from staffed stations, which is actually pretty limiting.

Interesting to hear that they have a rack in the cafe. I wasn't aware of that.

Here was my last time checking my bike on the Zephyr.
Step 1 - get a tag from the station counter
Step 2 - take it up to the baggage
Step 3 - retrieve the bike car side at the destination

I look forward to taking my bike much further east soon. :)
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20200919_083951 (1).jpg
    IMG_20200919_083951 (1).jpg
    68.3 KB · Views: 15
  • IMG_20200919_085409.jpg
    IMG_20200919_085409.jpg
    94.5 KB · Views: 18
  • IMG_20200926_193522.jpg
    IMG_20200926_193522.jpg
    54.5 KB · Views: 18
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
My station (Crawfordsville IN) has no baggage service, which makes the “bike on board” policy even better.

Here’s a shot of my bike parked in the deadheading sleeper on the westbound Cardinal.

008F6CE5-7D62-400C-8B13-4189E2635E4F.jpeg

Here’s the same trip eastbound in an empty area behind a Coach seat.

28DC81B6-063D-49E7-9E09-CAC120EB1CD9.jpeg

And from those not used to seeing bicycles in unusual places on the train - everything was safe and secured and other passengers were not inconvenienced. The last thing I want to do is to negatively impact anyone else’s trip, or make it more difficult for bicyclists like myself to bring their bike along in the future.

For Amtrak, they’ve gotten more business out of me. I’ve taken several bike-train trips (including some in sleepers, and others in BC) where without the bike friendly policies I wouldn’t have gone by train.
 

B&Ofan

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 17, 2009
Messages
68
This is good news. I would hope to take my vike on the Boston section of the Lake shore limited and on trains to New York City.
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
This is good news. I would hope to take my vike on the Boston section of the Lake shore limited and on trains to New York City.
One caution - there’s a lot of variability in policy from train to train. So with the LSL you may need to use a station with baggage service. Do your homework!

When I planned my previous trips (last one was 2019) - the reservation system on the web was accurate for bikes. Hopefully that is still the case.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,870
Location
Baltimore. MD
For my June joyrides, when I booked the Capitol Limited, the app asked if I wanted to bring a bike. The same for my reservation on the Lake Shore Limited (and this was from Boston to Albany), except that bike space was "sold out." For my leg from Baltimore-Boston, they asked if I wanted to bring a pet along (for an extra fee, of course.) I've never actually seen anyone with a pet on board a train, but I once saw a woman waiting at Penn Station (Baltimore) holding a pet carrier that had a cat inside.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2018
Messages
4
Help! I've been trying to book a family bike trip down the C&O Towpath, but it looks like the Capitol Limited only has two bike slots. I called Amtrak and they confirmed only two slots. I can check bikes from my origin (Birmingham, AL) to destination (Cumberland) but when I try to get back on the train in Harpers Ferry they don't stock the bike boxes at the station. The Amtrak agent I talked to was under the impression this is an insurmountable problem. Any ideas? I could try to find boxes at a bike shop in Harpers Ferry but it seems like a bit of risk at the very end of the trip with no backup plan. I'd like to take the train but at this point, it looks like I am driving and using the train to shuttle my car.
 

PaulM

Engineer
Joined
Jun 27, 2008
Messages
2,332
Location
Quincy, IL
@Bzhayes

Like everything Amtrak, things appear to have changed for the worse. In late September of 2015 hell had finally frozen over - Amtrak instituted roll on - roll off bike service at all stations on the Capital Limited, including Harpers Ferry, after GAP and C&O canal cyclist had begged for it for many years. Coach baggage cars had been fitted with bike racks. You simply purchased a $20 ticket, notified the conducter on the platform, and rolled your bike on board, and secured it to a rack. The only argument seems to be whether there were 6,7, or 8 racks. In any event the service worked like a charm.

However, I selected the bike "customization" option on 3 dummy bookings, including late September, from Cumberland to Chicago. It was SOLD OUT all three times. Yeh, sure.

Also, apparently the CL doesn't have a baggage car anymore, so that leaves out the box option.

Incidentally, I don't know of any train with only two slots. Midwestern trains do have two slots, but that is per car. I'm not surprised that Amtrak agents don't know this. The bicycle system is very complicated. The possibilities are:

* The long time box option but only at stations with baggage service.

* The unique CL service mentioned above.

* A relatively new service that came about with the deployment of the viewliner baggage cars with racks. You purchase a ticket, roll it up to the baggage car, and hand it off to the conductor. In general this is limited to stations with an agent, although there may be exceptions. I don't understand what this has to do with an agent.

* State supported corridor trains with a wide variety of services and costs.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2018
Messages
4
@PaulM

Thanks for the insight. I was hoping it had something to do with COVID restrictions and would open up once we started emerging. It is shocking that Amtrak doesn't strive to be more bike-friendly. It seems like a perfect match to me. Particularly for the C&O towpath and the Capitol Limited.
 

Locobill

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Messages
17
So has this situation improved any over the last year? We have four bikes we would like to take from Chicago to Cumberland and back from Pittsburgh this August. Is there a baggage car where bikes can be stored?
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
799
Location
Lubec, ME
The Downeaster has no checked baggage but also allows bikes to be brought on the train. Sounds similar to what the CL had before. They allow 4 bikes per train, have to be reserved ahead of time and the front wheel removed. Apparently they use the baggage area in the coaches.
 

SubwayNut

Conductor
Joined
Nov 17, 2011
Messages
1,559
Location
South Bend
I've never actually seen anyone with a pet on board a train, but I once saw a woman waiting at Penn Station (Baltimore) holding a pet carrier that had a cat inside.

My brother's and his partner have done it on an Empire Service Train from New York to Albany, he sent me tons of pictures. The pet has to be 20 pounds or under.
 

daybeers

Conductor
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,654
Location
NHV
The Downeaster has no checked baggage but also allows bikes to be brought on the train. Sounds similar to what the CL had before. They allow 4 bikes per train, have to be reserved ahead of time and the front wheel removed. Apparently they use the baggage area in the coaches.
I thought they went in the cabbage (cab/baggage) unit, but if they work like the relatively new racks on the Amfleets, they are terrible. The worst designed bike rack I've ever seen. The instructions are unclear, the hardware is worn out and doesn't latch correctly, all while trying not to be in the way of passengers and conductors in the aisle and not dropping your bike as the train starts to move. It's incredibly awkward. I'm 5'10" so I have a larger than average frame and seat height so it also sticks out into the aisle when the bike is in the rack. It's quite awful. Conductors can help but you have to ask and no guarantee they actually know how to use them either.

Oh and they double as luggage racks so if anyone has oversized baggage that doesn't fit in the overhead racks, good luck.
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
I’ve taken my bike on the Cardinal for the (relatively) short trip of Crawfordsville IN to/from Chicago multiple times. These trips were all before the Bag/Dorms were deployed on the Cardinal - and as you may have seen from my earlier posts on this thread they put the bike in different places on almost every trip.

Tuesday night will be my first Cardinal Bike trip from Crawfordsville east - as I’m doing a round-trip to Charlottesville VA. Crawfordsville is a tiny flag stop without baggage service - and it’s wonderful that Amtrak supports roll-up bike service at this stop.

It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with the bike. I’m hoping they’ll be logical and put it in the Bag/Dorm. I’m sure there’s a bike rack there - and it should be a piece of cake to get the bike there from the inside of the train if necessary. I’ve got a room in the sleeper - so in theory they could board me at the rear door and roll the bike half of a car length into the Baggage area.

We’ll see what happens!
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
Bike Storage Mystery solved - at least Crawfordsville IN (CRF) to Charlottesville VA (CVS)! As mentioned above, it’s my first trip on the Card eastbound from CRF with my bike since the Bag/Dorms have been added to the consist. As it turns out - it was also the first time ever (after 20+ trips from CRF) that I was the only one boarding at this small IN college town.

The engineer stopped the baggage car directly in front of the temporary platform shelter, with its door already open – and I handed my bike right up to a crew member. I thanked him for the service - then walked about 40 feet up the platform to board my sleeper. It really couldn’t be any easier.

Compared to flying with my bike - which is totally doable but also nerve-racking, a bit of a hassle and sometimes expensive - this was an absolute piece of cake.

This Bike/Train trip has just begun, and I can’t wait to start planning the next one!
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
Well…the return trip on Cardinal #51 with my bike is not going so smoothly.

Sorry for the length of this post, but for bicyclists on Amtrak it’s important information.

The Charlottesville conductor looked at me sideways when he scanned my return e-ticket to Crawfordsville IN with my bike. He was insistent that I should not have been sold that ticket - and that if necessary he wouldn’t allow me on the train.

After a bit of back and forth - I suggested that if necessary I would get off the train in Indianapolis (1 stop & 90 minutes early). He agreed to the compromise.

So if the Indianapolis-Chicago conductor is willing - he will hand my bike down to me in Crawfordsville. If he is not, I’ll have to retrieve my bike in IND.

From what I can tell online (and it’s online, so YMMV) - the Cardinal now supports trainside bicycle service. By default, that means that you hand your bicycle from the platform to an Amtrak employee in the baggage car when boarding - and vice-versa when deboarding.

This is only supported at staffed stations with baggage service - with a few exceptions including Prince WV. Crawfordsville is not yet listed (on the website at least) as a supported exception.

The criteria for the exception is supposedly the platform. Is it long enough and high enough so that the train doesn’t need to make a double stop and the bicycle lifting distance is reasonable? If it meets that criteria, it can be added as an exception to the staffed baggage requirements.

Because of its ongoing ADA platform upgrade, Crawfordsville might meet this criteria. Somehow I’m going to have to find that out, and then work (maybe thru RPA?) to get it listed.

Otherwise, even if they continue to sell me the ticket I’ll have no assurances that a conductor will agree to load or unload the bike.
 

acelafan

OBS Chief
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
994
Location
Atlanta, GA
If Amtrak sells you a ticket that includes your bike, they need to figure out how to accommodate it, and it shouldn't depend on the mood of a particular conductor. I'm a cyclist and I would be livid if they refused to take my bike after buying a ticket.

How did the story end for you? Could you go all the way to Crawfordsville?
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
Well - the trip ended just fine - despite the drama.

On Monday morning, when I went into the café car to talk to the Indianapolis crew - they were positive and apologetic.

They saw the report from the Charlottesville conductor and apologized for any stressing I may have had.

They said that absolutely Crawfordsville is an authorized bike stop on the Cardinal, and they were 100% supportive.

I’m glad because I’m bringing my bike on the Cardinal again on Thursday night. 🙂
 
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
889
Location
Brownsburg IN
…I would be livid if they refused to take my bike after buying a ticket.

Yes, I was internally very livid - and I did start to argue with him - but quickly stopped myself.

As far as I know - as the Conductor he has the authority to do whatever he sees fit at the moment. Later on, there may have been ramifications for him, but that wouldn’t help me get home.

So I pretty much kept my mouth shut and did what was in my best interest and offered to exit the train early at a baggage stop if that’s what he thought I needed to do.

From my previous post you can see that it all ended OK.
 
Top