Recent Auto Train experience

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Joined
Jun 25, 2018
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5
Thought folks might appreciate a recap of a recent, late November Auto Train experience. Round trip LOR>SFA and back. Have been on this train several times before but not since Covid.

Masks enforced at the stations, which was comforting, but mostly waited outside. Still have to manually check in with an agent for a dinner time (why can’t this be done on the app???). Options were 5pm or 6pm in room, or 7pm and 9pm in the diner. Chose 6pm in the room both times. Train was lighter on the way back so there was no 9pm option.

Didn’t really want to eat as early as 6pm but food didn’t show up until 6:45 or so each time, which was perfect. Comp wine (even a second glass!). Same menu each way (and we ordered the same thing each way) but there were differences nonetheless. On the way down, food was served on Amtrak “chinet” covered in tin foil…on the way back it was in covered plastic trays with compartments. Also on the way back, the salmon came with a mushroom risotto instead of the ancient grains on the menu, and the pasta came with a side of vegetables on the way back but not the way down. No salads either direction, bummer.

Did grab and go breakfast though some were eating in the dining car. Same items both ways: cereal, bananas, coffee cake, OJ, coffee. But on the way back, also a variety of hot sandwiches from a local vendor, including a relatively healthy whole wheat English muffin with egg white omelet and gouda. Did not see these on the trip down though I supposed we may have missed them.

Car attendants were friendly and helpful both directions. The surliness and customer unfriendliness you can all too often experience on other lines mostly seems absent from the A.T. crews.

Bedrooms provided piece of mind and you can really avoid everybody if you want (though did venture briefly to café car to secure a well-made G&T).

Had Bedroom B on the way down in the very last car prior to the car carriers, and no one in A. Could not be more isolated and perfect for Covid. Had Bedroom E in a Deluxe Sleeper car (first time) on the way back and the train was light, so felt equally safe. Found both to be equally comfortable though slept really well in particular on the way back. Any way to tell the difference between a regular sleeper and the deluxe sleeper from the outside? Looked identical to me.

Have noticed that on-time performance has been pretty abysmal these past few months (what’s going on?) However, we were lucky to arrive a little early on both legs, which was great.

And finally, Amtrak should really offload the cars of sleeper passengers first, after Priority. It’s an easy amenity to offer the train’s most profitable customers, who are literally spending up to 10X more than coach passengers.

Overall a very good trip and felt like Covid being taken seriously, which gave comfort. Avoiding planes right now so repeating in February!

P.S. Passenger boarding which normally starts at 2:30 was delayed for a half hour on the way back, so I got to see first hand what I always wondered about, which is what happens if cars roll in late. Well, at 2:29 sharp they start closing up shop. The first (of four that I saw) cars after that rolled in at just 2:34 and was denied boarding. Of the four, seemed like three of them rebooked for the next day while the fourth angrily ran out of the station and peeled out (in a groaning ancient minivan haha!). So, PSA folks...they are not kidding about the 2:30 deadline and they don't care about bad accidents on I-4!
 
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
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And finally, Amtrak should really offload the cars of sleeper passengers first, after Priority. It’s an easy amenity to offer the train’s most profitable customers, who are literally spending up to 10X more than coach passengers.
Thanks for an interesting post. I don't feel the same about your thinking in the above paragraph, however. All Auto Train guests have the choice of paying for Priority offloading. If I chose not to do so, why should my Buick, owned by a Sleeping Car passenger, be given any preference over a Buick (or any other make) that belongs to a Coach passenger?
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
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NYC/Queens
Thanks for an interesting post. I don't feel the same about your thinking in the above paragraph, however. All Auto Train guests have the choice of paying for Priority offloading. If I chose not to do so, why should my Buick, owned by a Sleeping Car passenger, be given any preference over a Buick (or any other make) that belongs to a Coach passenger?
I would imagine providing any type of priority unloading beyond a limited number as done now might be a royal PITA, it would mean cars would have to be loaded a certain way, and the carriers split accordingly on arrival, cars would have to be segregated on entry to the departure terminal for staggered loading. Not worth it. If I show up late, just before cutoff time, but have a sleeper, should cars sitting there not be loaded so mine can be in a specific slot? It sounds like a nice amenity, but probably not practical.
 
Joined
Aug 11, 2012
Messages
2
P.S. Passenger boarding which normally starts at 2:30 was delayed for a half hour on the way back, so I got to see first hand what I always wondered about, which is what happens if cars roll in late. Well, at 2:29 sharp they start closing up shop. The first (of four that I saw) cars after that rolled in at just 2:34 and was denied boarding. Of the four, seemed like three of them rebooked for the next day while the fourth angrily ran out of the station and peeled out (in a groaning ancient minivan haha!). So, PSA folks...they are not kidding about the 2:30 deadline and they don't care about bad accidents on I-4!
Took our first Auto Train trip in December, southbound on 07DEC and nothbound on 19DEC. I enjoy any train trip I can take, my wife's not as forgiving as I when it comes to late arrivals (both times) and rough track. On both occasions, we arrived early and ours was one of the first cars to load. In both cases it was one of the last to unload. Seems like Amtrak uses LIFO rather than FIFO for car loading, so it probably pays to arrive as close to the deadline as possible. I would have opted for priority but it was sold out months before the trip....
 
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