Good AutoTrain Trip

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May 25, 2006
Central Florida
After visiting family in NJ and PA we returned home to Florida on AutoTrain. The fare was very reasonable and let us have our car to make stop offs in NC and MD on the way north to visit friends.

We arrived Lorton around noon to find maybe 12-18 cars already in line waiting for the auto check in to begin, scheduled for 12:30. The inbound train was on time so we hoped check in would begin then and have an OT departure.

I left my wife in the car and walked up to the station to check in for our boarding pass and dinner reservation. It was done quickly and I was able to get a 6pm seating for dinner. The second one was at 8. A lighter load, about 400, eliminated the need for the late third seating.

As I finished at the ticket counter she said it looked like they’ve already started auto check in(about 12:15). I trotted back to the car to find my wife had moved it up and was almost at the auto check in gate.

Since we had done ticket check in we did a U-turn and headed to a good lunch at the Harbour Grille on the Occoquan river and a slightly obstructed view of the Amtrak/VRE/CSX bridge over the river.

We returned about 2, had the car checked in, and while my wife read in the very nice waiting room I explored the station, the consist of our train, and auto loading process. Our very tired looking engines (many rust spots and an about a 6” gash) backed onto the consist and coupled up. The lead unit was built in 1993, according to the builders plate. But they did the job. Before coupling I noticed the lead car, a coach, had covering over the door to reduce exhaust getting into it.



We boarded promptly at 3:30. There were 7 sleepers and 4 coaches. Our attendant, Mashcoor (sp), was good. We were next to the all bedroom car which was next to the diner. Ice was available in that car and ours had a very good coffee machine, both very important.

After switching up the auto carriers and coupling to our train, we pulled out to the end of A-T siding, at 4:20, to await dispatcher clearance. That took a half hour as VRE and Amtrak trains passed. We still left about 10 minutes before the scheduled 5pm departure.

Everything worked in our bedroom, and water in the shower was plentiful and hot. Since I’m relegated to the top bunk, I’m still not a fan of superliner sleepers and my ‘coffin’ bed with a thin mattress. Since I’ve learned how to slide into bed (and remove the netting) it was ok.

Dinner was excellent! Perfectly cooked flat iron, much improved salad, flowers on the table, efficient and friendly service. Also we had great table mates (moving from Philly to St. Pete) , decent wine, and loved the lemon cake.

As a bonus, I checked out the sleeper lounge. A few tables had been used for overflow dinner seatings. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lounge attendant has returned! She said they started staffing it intermittently in April/ May but was now full time. The lounge area was being used and next time we won’t have to BYOL.




The only negative was our 1’20” late arrival due to ‘mechanical issues north of Savannah’ and some slow orders between Jax and Deland. Since we live 30” away it was not a problem for us. Otherwise it was a great trip and maybe there is hope for Amtrak. Now, they just need to provide this level of service on other trains.

As we were getting ready to get off in Sanford, our SCA presented us with some chocolates. My wife said it looked like Apple packaging. Nice touch.



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