Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby AgentSkelly » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:45 am

What I remember hearing about Amtrak considering a "West Coast Auto Train" from a few Amtrak employees was that they were looking for the same pattern of travel you find with the current Auto Train: a snowbird route. The consensus was that its eastern terminus would be described as in the Chicago metro area (I don't even know where you could put a facility...) and its western terminus would be in Flagstaff, AZ. That was picked because well, the state alone is a popular snowbird destination itself (hello Sun City) and its an acceptable drive to various west coast points like Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
New Westminster to Amtrak 516, whats up with the extra 4 axles, over?
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:12 am

Agent, I believe you are thinking of Galesburg. If there were to be "Auto Train Service" added to the Zephyr and/or Chief, that would be the place to do it. The Zephyr's Western terminal would be Irondale CO (10mi E of Denver) and the Chief's would be La Junta.

Lest we forget, Amtrak was going to offer Indianapolis-Poinciana "Auto-Trak" service circa 1973. They even built an Amshack and loading facilities at the latter (I once dug through the rubble down there looking for artifacts). The service was stillborn (Amtrak was free under RPSA 70 to establish it), after a few employee "guinea pigs" had their cars banged up. Just think all that expertise in handling vehicles EKG developed - and Amtrak bought it from the Estate for $1.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:29 am

My very first stock investment was $800 (a lot of money for me at that time) in the original Auto Train. It was a no-brainer and the mid-west expansion was only going to make me richer. How could I lose?

I almost cried when I saw pics of them cutting up those gorgeous dome cars. What a shame.

A few thoughts . . . a lot of time is necessary to assemble the Auto Train prior to departure and dissemble it after arrival. A lot of switching, brake testing, etc. Just watch one of the youtube videos to see the procedure. I would think that having a redesigned terminal that would allow the entire train to be assembled and loaded at once would save about an hour at each end. I know the physical space would be very long, and some changes would be necessary to the loading process, but I would think the 2:30 cut-off for the 4:00 departure might just be substantially reduced. Maybe even allowing the train to go north about 2 more hours?

Also I noticed that all if the videos I've seen show 2 diners for the coach passengers. Now there is a Superliner Lounge car adjacent to the Diner which uses half the car for diner overflow (I had by breakfast in the lounge - very nice). Half the lounge is still a lounge and the other half is set up as a diner. The bar is downstairs with additional seating and a rest room (which I have often found used as storage room in many Superliner trains). I don't know if this is a recent change, but there was only a crudely made cardboard sign at the top of the stairs saying "BAR" with an arrow pointing down. That appears temporary or recent. Don't know.

I need to add that the WiFI is totally useless. No one could access it.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Mon Jul 03, 2017 8:03 pm

Amtrak just sent me a survey about my recent Auto Train trip. There were a lot of questions including where was your final destination and how long was your drive. It also asked about how the service today compares with the services years ago. I guess trying to see if people missed the free wine with diner or the movies or the first class lounge car - all things that were eliminated.

I did comment on the 2:30 cut-off time.

As I write this I am thinking maybe the schedule could be more asymmetrical. What if the southbound trip moved a couple of hours later - say 6:00 PM - 11:00 AM. The northbound would stay at 4:00 PM - 9:00 AM. Now you open up the north end to new markets and still allow plenty of time for Florida destinations. Is 5 hours enough time for servicing the train in Sanford? We left early at 3:40 northbound on my trip BTW.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby mmi16 » Tue Jul 04, 2017 1:17 pm

In commenting on the 2:30 cut-off time - do you know what 4:30 DC Area traffic looks like with your proposed 6 PM departure?

The current arrival and departure times keep Auto Train traffic out of the DC rush hours which always are in the running for the worst traffic in the country.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:41 pm

A further consideration is that with a 9AM, a train passenger-driver can be anywhere in Florida by Sundown.

Some have no business being on the road after dark; some have no business on the road anytime.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Jul 04, 2017 6:34 pm

I totally considered that. For example Sanford to Miami is about 3 hrs 50 min. That's a very reasonable 3PM arrival time.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby mmi16 » Tue Jul 04, 2017 7:37 pm

The operation of Auto Train saves 1 to 2 traffic deaths per month with it's operation. Those 'medical emergencies' that happen on Auto Train would have ended up being traffic accidents on I-95.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:46 pm

For "Voyage 23" during this past February, I left Marriott 16th & Bayshore; Miami at about 940A, made a fuel stop along 95 around Palm Beach Gardens, passed by SFA about 145P, pulled off Persimmon to "get ready" for the "Voyage" (need this aboard, don't need that), and presented my auto at about 210P.

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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Jul 04, 2017 11:29 pm

Still plenty of time at the Florida end.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Jul 04, 2017 11:32 pm

You really DO NOT want to be on I-95 and the Beltway during pm "rush hour",it can turn real ugly,real fast if there's any traffic problem(s)
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Wed Jul 05, 2017 7:01 am

Okay, how about an hour later? 3:30 cut off? The Northeast population needs more time to get there.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:55 pm

3:30 is probably okay, though I would still try to arrive as early as possible. The B-W Parkway is a mess any time of day I-95 is a crapshoot north of D.C., there is usually a big slowdown on the Beltway at Pennsylvania Avenue near Andrews AFB (Joint Base Andrews, whoops) and I-95 south of Springfield gets horrible around 2.

So, really, Amtrak is doing you a favor by leaving when it does. Departing at 2:30 means it gets out between the midday freights and the afternoon commuter passenger rush, and if you are driving from further than PHL (or NYC if you are a fast driver, or STM if you are really lead-footed), it also gives you an excuse to visit Our Nation's Capital.
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby justalurker66 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 7:09 pm

Train departure time is 4 pm. The check in time is 2:30 pm. ("Check-in is recommended by 2:00 pm. Vehicles will not be accepted after 2:30 pm." per Amtrak.)
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Re: Amtrak Auto Train Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Thu Jul 06, 2017 4:35 pm

We are talking about moving everything one hour later southbound - 3:30 for a 5:00PM departure to allow longer drive times on the north end to reach a larger market.
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