First ever Amtrak Experience

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CTANut

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Oct 29, 2019
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I am curious, but does anyone remember what their first experience on Amtrak was? For me, it was on the LSL from Toledo to Chicago during COVID. It was delayed from 6:22 am to 7:25 am. After that, I stayed in a roomette on the SWC, and my first meal was a Chick-fil-a sandwich that I had bought in Chicago. I did not find the flex meals that bad, but when you eat dining hall food a lot, it's not that big a difference. Hopefully I will get to experience the traditional dining sometime soon. It also took place during the 3x weekly service. Lastly, the cherry on top was a 2 hour delay because of cars parked near the tracks. Overall, I enjoyed it more than flying Delta cross country (Cincinatti to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage) I once was delayed 6 hours or more flying from Colorado to the east coast, so it was not that bad.
 

Josh M

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Ferndale, MI
I very vaguely remember my first Amtrak experience. I was about 3, and my parents already knew I loved trains. They took me on a short day trip aboard what is now the Blue Water (I don't even know if it was called the Blue Water back then) from Lapeer to Durand and back. It was a few months before my younger brother was born, and they wanted to do something special with me before the new baby arrived. I still have flashes of memory from the trip, and I do genuinely remember being REALLY excited about the whole thing.
 

zephyr17

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Washington State
My first Amtrak experience was riding a San Diegan from Los Angeles to Fullerton on May 1, 1971.

It wasn't that different from a short ride from the old Santa Fe Anaheim station on Lincoln to Santa Ana the day before under Santa Fe. The main difference was Amtrak had put Pointless Arrow placards all over the place.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I have memories of riding the Crescent, City of New Orleans, River Cities, and Texas Eagle as a kid.

I can remember walking through heritage roomettes and slumbercoaches to get to the diner and lounge (this was in the gulf breeze days) on the Crescent.

I remember the dome car on the city, and I remember the river cities with only 1 coach and the conductor let me wear his hat.

Less memories of the Texas Eagle but I remember the coach with the lower level lounge.

Not really sure how old I was when we rode those various trains.
 

AmtrakBlue

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My first Amtrak trip was in 2011 on NERs from Delaware to DC and back. Several months later I took my first long distance Amtrak trip (which had already been booked when I went to DC). It was from Delaware to Utah - NER, Capitol Limited, Zypher. I flew back to DE.
 
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caravanman

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Mar 22, 2004
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Nottingham, England.
I was on holiday in 2004 with my girlfriend and young son and stepdaughter, and the kids were having a day in Disney. We left them to it and rode on a Surfliner from Anaheim to Los Angeles for a look around.
It was while I was at LAX staion that I noticed an arrivals board, which mentioned The Chief, coming all the way from Chicago! Wow! that sounded interesting! A month or so after getting home, I was busy booking my ride from Chicago on the Zephyr, and the return on the Texas Eagle! I was hooked, and the rest is history...
 
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Cal

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I don't recall other than a few snippets of mine. I was pretty young and was on the SWC. I'm glad you were able to take your first trip on Amtrak, as it seems it was recently..
 

Trailrider1951

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My first Amtrak trip was in the summer of 1987. I lived in Houston TX at the time, and my new employer wanted me to take a week-long class in Chicago. I really hated flying, so I asked if I could take the train instead, as long as I traveled on my own time (weekends and vacation). They said yes, and paid for my Roomette, round trip. WOW! I was very impressed with the service, from the dining car meals to the sleeping car accommodations, to the Amtrak employees I encountered. Back then, there was a daytime train that went north from Houston through College Station, and joined up with the Texas Eagle at Dallas. Now that route is served by a bus, but it looks like plans are to reinstate that train.

After that, anytime I needed to travel for my job, it was Amtrak all the way. I was hooked!
 

Seaboard92

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South Carolina
My first ride was a special inspection train from Columbia, SC to Charlotte, NC. They were wanting to extend the Piedmont down to Columbia so after No. 73 arrived in Charlotte they ran down the R Line into Columbia. My family took a cat to the vet and then went to the station in Columbia where we got on and rode to Charlotte in one of the heritage coaches on that train. Also on that train was the Milwaukee Road Super Dome then owned by NC as the Mount Mitchel and Amtrak's office car Beech Grove. And I was shown around by the CEO of Amtrak at that time around the office car and the dome. Most passengers were only able to ride short distances but I got to ride the whole ride. I remember we made intermediate stops at Winnsboro, Chester, and Rock Hill.

I was maybe 4 or 5. I wish I had been a bit older so I could remember some of the scenery.

Then we did a bunch of trips to Disney World on the Silver Meteor back when it left Florence at 6 AM.
 

Cal

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My first ride was a special inspection train from Columbia, SC to Charlotte, NC. They were wanting to extend the Piedmont down to Columbia so after No. 73 arrived in Charlotte they ran down the R Line into Columbia. My family took a cat to the vet and then went to the station in Columbia where we got on and rode to Charlotte in one of the heritage coaches on that train. Also on that train was the Milwaukee Road Super Dome then owned by NC as the Mount Mitchel and Amtrak's office car Beech Grove. And I was shown around by the CEO of Amtrak at that time around the office car and the dome. Most passengers were only able to ride short distances but I got to ride the whole ride. I remember we made intermediate stops at Winnsboro, Chester, and Rock Hill.

I was maybe 4 or 5. I wish I had been a bit older so I could remember some of the scenery.

Then we did a bunch of trips to Disney World on the Silver Meteor back when it left Florence at 6 AM.
Wow, that's a great first ride!
 

Dakota 400

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I had several train trips on NYC, C&O, PRR, and C&NW before Amtrak came into existence. My first trip on Amtrak after they began operating: the National Limited from/to Dayton and New York City. It was close to the "end of the line" for that train. The year was either 1978 or 1979.
 

jiml

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Not the first, but our most memorable was in 1988. Determined to "max out" an Amtrak "all regions" pass, with a 6-year old in tow, we set out on a multi-train, multi-stop cross-country adventure. (If this was in the Trip Reports forum I'd add pictures.) Toronto - Albany on the Maple Leaf; stopover; Albany - NYGCT on a Turbo (great windows on the Hudson); stopover; NYP - Chicago on the Cardinal; stopover; Chicago - Fullerton on the Desert Wind (still my favorite Amtrak train); a week in SoCal; Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle to Dallas; stopover; Dallas - Chicago on TE; stopover; International to Toronto. All overnight trains with sleepers, day trains in coach. There were several trips before and many after, but this one checked a lot of the "bucket list" routes.
 

railiner

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Palm Beach County
I too had rode trains for several years prior to Amtrak, and I was at Penn Station, NY to witness the first Amtrak Metroliner 101 departure. But I can't recall my first actual Amtrak trip...I am thinking it probably was a circle trip I made from New York to Baltimore to Harrisburg, and back to New York to experience the "Port Road" rerouting of the Washington section of The Broadway Limited....🤔
 

NS VIA Fan

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My first ride on Amtrak was in July 1973 on the 'Washingtonian' from Montreal to New York. I was in coach and didn’t get much sleep that night. I remember getting off at White River Jct in the wee hours of the morning....and by the time we reached Springfield we were over 3 hours late after crawling for miles along the bankrupt Boston & Maine RR. I was fascinated by all the old abandoned railroad infrastructure I was seeing. Then it was on to New Haven and my first encounter with a GG-1. I walked forward for pictures while it replaced our E8s for the run into Penn Station........ where we finally arrived in early afternoon.

Here’s the 'Montrealer' arriving Gare Centrale. This would be my southbound 'Washingtonian' that evening......and a couple of shots at New Haven the next morning: A GG-1 replaces the E-8s just as a Turbo arrives from Boston.

73-07Scan10032.JPG
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MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
To be quite honest, I'm not really sure about my first Amtrak ride. I know I rode the Silverliner service to Harrisburg in June 1971, but I believe that the service was still being run by the Penn Central at the time. I may have made a joyride on a NEC train, though after May 1, 1970, I was getting pretty busy dealing with my high school graduation. In any event, the experience on the Amtrak NEC trains in the early 1970s weren't really much different from the experience on the Penn Central NEC trains.

That summer I worked at a camp, and thus had no time or opportunity for joy-riding. At the end of the camp session in August, I got bussed back to New York and had to make my way home from there. I remember riding on the Southern Crescent, which was hauled by Amtrak to Washington, and which had a few Amtrak cars clipped on for the corridor riders. I got stuck in an old ex-PRR P-70 which had been repainted in Penn Central green, but had no air conditioning. Rolling down the NEC at 100 mph with the windows open in this old antique was quite the experience!

After that, I spent a gap year in Israel and had no opportunity to ride Amtrak. I rode the Silverliner Service to Harrisburg when I returned in August 1972, but that was still being run by Penn Central. (Amtrak didn't take over operation until October 1972.) The train was terminated at Lancaster due to flood damage from Tropical Storm Agnes, and we were bustituted into Harrisburg.

Then I went off to a college in Wisconsin that was 90 miles from the nearest Amtrak station. I definitely know I rode an Amtrak train in April 1973, when I returned home for Spring break riding the Broadway Limited, and returned back to school the same way.
 

Steve4031

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My first ride was as a 4 or 5 year old between Champaign and Chicago on what was probably the Illini. My first ride on the Panama Limited around that time was from Chicago to Champaign. It was 2 hours late. Not enough seats so we sat in the lounge outside of the restroom.
At some point in the mid-seventies dad and I took a steam train from Champaign to the Randolph street station. I remember riding on an open platform observation car.
We took a cab across the loop to union station and rushed to catch the Panama Limited. This time we left on time. We were sitting in the diner waiting for dinner as we traveled over the St. Charles Airline. I saw the steam engine that pulled us.

I also remember a rideon the cn&W 400 cars on the Illini. My first solo train ride was on Amfleet. Thus was the first time I had seem Amfleet equipment.
 

JayPea

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My first Amtrak trip, in June, 1990, was a short Champaign-Chicago round trip on the City of New Orleans, to see a Cubs-Expos game with my uncle. I really don't remember much of the trip other than enjoying the fact I was on a train in the first place. I had taken trips between Spokane and Chicago many years prior, in 1963 on the North Coast Limited and in 1965 on the Empire Builder, and shorter trips, between Chicago and Champaign on the Panama Limited and Chicago and Bloomington on the GM&O's Abraham Lincoln. And in 1970 I took a round trip between Spokane and Hinkle, OR on the Union Pacific's City of Hinkle. That was the last time I was on a train until the 1990 trip. Oh, and the Cubs beat the Expos in the bottom of the 9th, 3-2. 😁
 

tim49424

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Holland, MI
My first time was December 26, 2007 from Tomah, WI to Chicago on the Empire Builder and then on to Holland on the Pere Marquette. The coach attendant was very friendly and sat with me until Wisconsin Dells. She was handing out bags of assorted candies. It was her final trip on the Builder as she was transferring to the Hiawatha so she could be closer to home as she lived in Milwaukee. On the train to Holland, I met the conductor who has become a dear friend. When the crew base was changed to Grand Rapids, he ended up being extra board for a while, ironically ending up on the Empire Builder after I’d moved to Holland. I rode with him on my last trip a year ago February and got a picture with him outside the train in Milwaukee. He is slated to retire this fall and I’m hoping to see him again before he’s done.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

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Sep 12, 2018
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My first ever Amtrak trip was on the 93 NER from NYP to BAL in Coach back in the Summer of 2018. I had been wanting to ride Amtrak for years and finally I had the opportunity to ride it. I chose NYP because I had always wanted to ride Amtrak to/from New York City. I took a Martz bus from Wilkes-Barre, PA to Port Authority Bus Terminal and then I rode the subway to NYP. I can remember gathering around the departure boards with everyone else waiting for the train to arrive. The crowd was huge. When the train finally did arrive we descended down to the platform using an escalator and boarded the train. Passengers boarding at NYP were limited to about two Coach cars plus the quiet car near the back of the train where business class was. I sat in the quiet car because I couldn't find any other place to sit. When we got to PHL, they announced that the train was sold out, so I guess I picked a really popular run. I remember liking the seats and enjoying the scenery. My favorite scenery has to be where the Susquehanna flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The train got into BAL late, but only by a half hour. I took Amtrak on the way back home too, riding the 86 NER back to NYP and then taking a Martz bus back to PA.

I really enjoyed my first Amtrak trip and it was this positive experience that inspired me to take my first LD trip in the Fall of 2018. That trip was on the LSL from NYP to CHI followed by a Hiawatha to MKE. My experience on the LSL was a bit rough, but I learned some things. I learned that I definitely need a neck pillow for overnight Coach travel as well as Dramamine for overnight train travel in general. I also learned that I should probably pack some summertime clothes if riding LD Amtrak in the fall because the heat was cranked up really high on the LSL. On a more positive note, I loved the Hudson river scenery and the burger I had from the Cafe car was really good.

I hope to ride Amtrak again someday.
 

Willbridge

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I was trying to make sense of what was happening in the States on May 1, 1971 while preparing for another bumpy journey on the friendly Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Main Line of the Cold War, so my first ride on Amtrak had to wait. At the end of August, 1971 I rode up to New Haven from Penn Station on the Amtrak Merchants Limited and returned the same evening. The agent in New Haven happily told me that he was looking forward to the arrival of those good cars from the West now that they were no longer needed there. So that was my first Amtrak ride and my introduction to NEC thinking.

I've written about my early September 1971 trip from Grand Central to Portland Union Station before. My decompression stopovers after 27 months overseas and 32 months since I had left Portland were Albany, Cleveland, Chicago, Portage and a change of trains in Seattle.

Some pix from 1971 Amtrak...
1971 103.jpg


1971 111.jpg

1971 116.jpg

1971 123.jpg
 

Bob Dylan

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I've ridden so many Amtrak Trains ( and Pre-Amtrak going back to 1944!!) that it's hard to remember my first, but I believe it was a " Clocker" ( ex PRR)from Philly to NYP!( sort of what the Keystones are now)

What I remember best about Early Amtrak were the Mixed Consists, that came to be known as " Rainbow Trains", since there were so many Cars and Engines still in the Livery of their original Class Is!( and of course the Pointless Arrow!Lol)
 

Willbridge

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I've ridden so many Amtrak Trains ( and Pre-Amtrak going back to 1944!!) that it's hard to remember my first, but I believe it was a " Clocker" ( ex PRR)from Philly to NYP!( sort of what the Keystones are now)

What I remember best about Early Amtrak were the Mixed Consists, that came to be known as " Rainbow Trains", since there were so many cars still in the Livery of their original Class Is!
The rainbow had already started when I boarded the Empire Builder due to the GN Big Sky Blue repaint followed by the BN repaint. One 1971 train that looked pretty good was the Broadway Limited in all-Armour Yellow! And then there were the silver and turquoise interiors of the Coast Starlight!
 

johnmiller

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Sep 30, 2019
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My first was in 1974 on the National Limited. It was in the early days of Amtrak, when the trains were made up of rolling stock of passenger cars that Amtrak had then recently acquired. We slept in a Pullman and took the train to Washington, D.C. from Kirkwood, MO outside of St. Louis. I have many vivid memories of it. The porter was very patient as I was getting up during the night to see where we had stopped. He kept me safe! I was also introduced to putting mayonnaise on roast beef sandwiches, which was an East Coast thing. On the way back, there were problems with the train outside Philadelphia, so Amtrak put us up for the night downtown. I got to see the Liberty Bell for the first time. Great trip!
 

Sidney

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Jul 12, 2020
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I rode from NY to Albany as a teenager pre Amtrak in the 60's. In 1985 I flew to Florida on one of those cheapo airlines for a cruise. While on the cruise my airline ceased operations. I thought about my train experience years before and rode Coach back to New York on Amtrak. I was hooked. Four years later I rode the Broadway Limited and Southwest Chief to LA for a convention,after finding airfare too expensive. Once I got on the Chief,I was hooked again and from that point on I started riding just to ride every year and 31 years later I'm still doing it. For the first ten years I did Coach exclusively. Then when I could afford it,sleepers.

So my first trip was in 1986,but starting in 1990 I was hooked and am to this day. Biggest change over the years was the deterioration of amenities from champagne on the EB,trivia contests,the Pacific Parlour Car,special made to order regiinal menus,etc to what we have today. However,the thrill of riding is still with me,from the time I see my train arriving to the initial movement of a long distance train in a sleeper.
 
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