First time overnight in coach

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Mr.Technician

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2021
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59
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Minnesota
I've ridden Amtrak many times as child and teen in sleeper class but have never ridden overnight in coach before. I'm planning to ride from Champaign, IL, to Memphis and meet with family there. I will be packing very light (backpack + my onewheel to get around) so I have less to carry with me and keep track of.

Are there any tips or words of warning for spending the night in coach class? This will also be my first time travelling alone by train.

Edit: the train runs from 10:30 PM to 6:30 AM between my two stops so I won't have time for much other than sleep.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
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I regard a sleep mask as essential in coach (and sometimes in a sleeper as the curtains may not completely close). Also a few snacks and a water bottle. I often use my jacket as a blanket rather than pack a blanket.
 

Kbyrdleroydogg

Train Attendant
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May 27, 2017
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46
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Chicago, IL
The price from WASH DC to CHI is great for a coach trip but I'm concerned about noisy neighbors, sleeping right, food prices, making the hours go by.
Can anyone tell me about their experiences taking Coach on an Amtrak train, good or bad, pro or con?
 

jebr

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"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
For that length of trip, I would be comfortable taking Amtrak coach. If you're taking the Capitol Limited, you'll get on a couple hours before suppertime, have a few hours of scenery to watch, then can turn in for the night. The next morning you're already in Chicago. Noisy neighbors are a possibility, although there is quiet hours between roughly 11 PM and 7 AM that conductors often enforce (with the lounge or cafe car being the place to have conversations and phone calls.)

The seat is reasonably comfortable. It reclines quite well and there is a leg and foot rest, however there is no arm rest between the two seats. Bring a pillow and blanket as those are not provided for you. I'd also recommend headphones to tune out the noise if you'd like or have something to listen to.

As for food, I'd bring on my own, particularly for supper. Amtrak cafe car food is pretty mediocre (think microwaved gas station food) and there's plenty of options in Washington Union Station to grab a meal. There's some food available for breakfast but I'd try and save room for breakfast at a restaurant in Chicago if possible - there's plenty of options within walking distance of the station. Pricing is a bit higher than a gas station, but not as eye-popping as stadium food.

Feel free to ask any more questions you may have!
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
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Jul 12, 2020
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The price from WASH DC to CHI is great for a coach trip but I'm concerned about noisy neighbors, sleeping right, food prices, making the hours go by.
Can anyone tell me about their experiences taking Coach on an Amtrak train, good or bad, pro or con?
Coach is always inexpensive. You have to take in mind if you are traveling alone you might have a seatmate. You can't eat in the diner,but you can purchase microwaved burgers,hot dogs,pizza,etc. Bit pricey,but not outrageous. The seats are wide and comfortable,but bear in mind you will be sleeping in a seat overnight. It's a one night trip,and it is doable. Quiet hours are enforced from 10PM to 7AM. If it's your first time riding It will be a novelty. I used to ride Coach all the time when I was younger. These days,if the price is reasonable,l ll get a sleeper.

Look at it as an adventure. Do you have any plans in Chicago when you get there? You ll be tired all day. Usually l will ride in Coach to Chicago and transfer to a sleeper on trains going West.
 

Trollopian

Lead Service Attendant
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Sep 19, 2014
Messages
259
Location
Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA
The price from WASH DC to CHI is great for a coach trip but I'm concerned about noisy neighbors, sleeping right, food prices, making the hours go by.
Can anyone tell me about their experiences taking Coach on an Amtrak train, good or bad, pro or con?

Not to be a downer...but my general observation (from taking that train often from DC to Pittsburgh and walking through the "Chicago car" on my way to and from the cafe or observation car) is that it's often quite full of families. It is, after all, an affordable way to travel from DC to Cleveland or Detroit (via Toledo) or all the way to Chicago. That fact means that there will be the noise and activity of children and adults, limbs and blankets sticking out into the aisles as people try to get comfortable, lots of food-related trash as they consume makeshift meals (you sure can't do a 17-hour trip without eating), and the inevitable noise at intermediate stops.

It wouldn't be my choice if I could afford to upgrade. But yeah, the price difference is more than $500.
 

Sidney

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Jul 12, 2020
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Not to be a downer...but my general observation (from taking that train often from DC to Pittsburgh and walking through the "Chicago car" on my way to and from the cafe or observation car) is that it's often quite full of families. It is, after all, an affordable way to travel from DC to Cleveland or Detroit (via Toledo) or all the way to Chicago. That fact means that there will be the noise and activity of children and adults, limbs and blankets sticking out into the aisles as people try to get comfortable, lots of food-related trash as they consume makeshift meals (you sure can't do a 17-hour trip without eating), and the inevitable noise at intermediate stops.

It wouldn't be my choice if I could afford to upgrade. But yeah, the price difference is more than $500.
I find it hard to justify the price of a roomette from DC to Chicago. In Chicago I will get a sleeper on the Eagle,Zephyr,SW Chief or the Builder. I ll put up with the one night in Coach on the CL.
 

tomfuller

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My tip regarding a pillow is to pack a puffy coat and a pillowcase in your bag. When you are ready to sleep, stuff the coat inside the pillowcase. Put on the coat before you get off in Memphis. Across Main Street from the Memphis station is the Arcade restaurant which was an Elvis hangout.
 
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Feb 15, 2020
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Last year I went round trip Rochester NY to Seattle. To save some money I booked coach for the Rochester to Chicago part of the trip and again on the way back. Going was OK. Not too many people and quiet. Coming back was overcrowded and delayed and noisy! I would probably save up the extra bucks for that roomette!
 
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Jan 17, 2019
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In the 1960s through the 1980s most of my overnight trips were by coach. In the past 20 years I have only traveled overnight by coach on three occasions and those trips were fine. Two were overnight round trips on the Empire Builder between Seattle and Whitefish. I was impressed by how comfortable the superliner coach seats were compared to some I remembered from the 60s and 70s.

My last overnight coach trip was from El Paso to San Antonio about 5 years ago. I could not justify spending over $300 for a roomette from which I was going to be evicted at 4:50 a.m. or earlier at San Antonio so I went by coach. For dinner I had a nice angusburger at the lounge car. My seatmate for this trip was a student from Germany who, at about 8 p.m., put on his sleep mask and earplugs and went to sleep. I stayed awake until about 10 p.m. quietly chatting with a reitred Texas high school teacher across the aisle from me who was living in Mexico. About 10 p.m. I put on my sleep mask and slept until we arrived in San Antonio.

So I certainly have had no problems with these overnight coach trips and wouldn't hesitate to do them again. There would certainly be a concern if the coach was noisy and the coach attendants failed to intervene to enforce the quiet hours.
 

JP1822

Train Attendant
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Mar 8, 2019
Messages
97
My main apprehension with traveling coach overnight is having a seatmate. And it might be more for their overall comfort than mine. To be honest, I’d be afraid I’d break into snoring, or my arm/leg making the wrong jolt at the wrong time. If I could guarantee the seat next to me would be empty, the train would be on-time, AND have access to the Diner again, I’d perhaps give it a try on the Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Chicago. I’d connect in Pittsburgh from the Pennsylvanian from East to Midwest. Those are all big conditions. So as a result of this, I’m, booking a sleeper. I don’t mind splurging - I work hard, so I’ll “play hard” to enjoy time off. It just kills me that I’ve seen some sleeper prices DOUBLE and neither the overall service nor amenities offered have kept up. Not talking about onboard service, as I really can’t complain about the Amtrak crew. Amtrak is just jacking up these prices due to high demand and a lack of sleeper car capacity…….
 

Sidney

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Jul 12, 2020
Messages
822
My main apprehension with traveling coach overnight is having a seatmate. And it might be more for their overall comfort than mine. To be honest, I’d be afraid I’d break into snoring, or my arm/leg making the wrong jolt at the wrong time. If I could guarantee the seat next to me would be empty, the train would be on-time, AND have access to the Diner again, I’d perhaps give it a try on the Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Chicago. I’d connect in Pittsburgh from the Pennsylvanian from East to Midwest. Those are all big conditions. So as a result of this, I’m, booking a sleeper. I don’t mind splurging - I work hard, so I’ll “play hard” to enjoy time off. It just kills me that I’ve seen some sleeper prices DOUBLE and neither the overall service nor amenities offered have kept up. Not talking about onboard service, as I really can’t complain about the Amtrak crew. Amtrak is just jacking up these prices due to high demand and a lack of sleeper car capacity…….
My only concern traveling overnight in Coach is the prospect of having a seatmate.Nothing is more uncomfortable and awkward than sharing a seat with a stranger on an overnight run.I guess the only positive during the early days of Covid was the 50% capacity in Coach.If the price of a sleeper was more down to earth for overnight and if Amtrak installed BC with 2 to1 seating I would do Coach overnight. If I am on the Capitol Limited going to Chicago from Pittsburgh I'll do Coach because you are already boarding after Midnight. Sadly,I don't see both happening.

On the other hand,maybe twice or three times have I been seated with a lovely woman. That is the exception,not the norm.















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Barb Stout

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Mar 13, 2019
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Albuquerque, NM
Something that no one has mentioned yet is compared to the sleeper rooms, the temperature in the coach car got really cold at night after the sun went down and that was in the summer. I don't know if it was because of the route I was taking in the SW desert, but gosh I was not prepared for it. Which meant that I ended up being the noisy passenger because I was trying to cover up using newspapers that I had brought along to read. A lady complained to me about all the rustling noise I was making (and rightly so), so I just had to be cold. Don't be like Barb, be like some passengers that I have seen who are undoubtedly more experienced going coach than I was and actually were wearing sleeping bags. Yes, it was summer; I have not yet taken a train in any other season.
 

George Harris

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finally! Back in Mississippi
Be warned: If the train is running on time you could arrive in Memphis considerably earlier than scheduled. The October 2020 schedule I have shows Memphis to Newbern (first stop north, and a flag stop) to be scheduled for 1 hour 42 minutes. Southbound the run time is probably much the same, but the schedule give it 2 hours 31 minutes. Memphis is a thru, that is, straight pull in and pull out station, so there is no reason for the inbound train to take any longer than the outbound train. Note your time passing or stopping at Newbern and add 1 hour 40 minutes for a likely arrival time in Memphis. Fulton KY is also shown as a flag stop, but I would think to almost certainly be a true stop. Likewise note the Memphis to Fulton northbound elapsed time and consider that Fulton to Memphis is probably much the same. Since this line is single track and has been for quite a few years, delays due to meets could change that. The scheduled northbound time appears to be about what it would be without any such delays, as it is not much slower than in the 1960's when the line was double track and the City was a true premier train.
 

Cal

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Socal
Be warned: If the train is running on time you could arrive in Memphis considerably earlier than scheduled. The October 2020 schedule I have shows Memphis to Newbern (first stop north, and a flag stop) to be scheduled for 1 hour 42 minutes. Southbound the run time is probably much the same, but the schedule give it 2 hours 31 minutes. Memphis is a thru, that is, straight pull in and pull out station, so there is no reason for the inbound train to take any longer than the outbound train. Note your time passing or stopping at Newbern and add 1 hour 40 minutes for a likely arrival time in Memphis. Fulton KY is also shown as a flag stop, but I would think to almost certainly be a true stop. Likewise note the Memphis to Fulton northbound elapsed time and consider that Fulton to Memphis is probably much the same. Since this line is single track and has been for quite a few years, delays due to meets could change that. The scheduled northbound time appears to be about what it would be without any such delays, as it is not much slower than in the 1960's when the line was double track and the City was a true premier train.
But couldn't they still stay on board? The train can't leave earlier than scheduled...
 
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