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Read This Before You Travel On Amtrak 
 
by Fred Bergendorff August 08, 2005

Delays

Unfortunately, delays in passenger train travel are almost unavoidable. It could be a few minutes to several hours. It mostly isn’t Amtrak’s fault although it is the victim. Again, the problem is freight traffic. With the railroads owning the tracks freight comes first. Often a passenger train pulls off to a siding while a 100-car freight train rumbles by. On a long cross-country trip a delay here and there could add up. Then there are delays that are Amtrak’s fault. For example, this first-hand report tells of a recent trip from Anaheim to Los Angeles. The passengers waiting at the station were informed that the regular Amtrak train that morning had some mechanical problems and there would be a delay of 30-minutes or so. Then, few minutes later came the announcement that the train was cancelled but that another train was coming in its place and would be at the station in 2 hours. That did not sit at all well with the passengers – enough so that Amtrak decided to send two of its Amtrak busses and take the people to Los Angeles that way. Some 45 minutes later the busses arrived and everyone boarded. Then, shockingly, the bus driver turned to the passengers sitting near him and asked, “Does anyone know the way?” The bottom line is don’t expect to be at your destination on time. Just sit back and enjoy your trip no matter how long it takes. Buy a second book to read.

Reservations and Seating Choices

As with other modes of travel you can reserve seats by phone, online, through a travel agency, or in person. Seating is mostly unreserved, meaning that you pick a seat when you board. Amtrak usually doesn’t concern itself with overbooking by a few people so it is possible (but not likely) that you wouldn’t have a seat when you get on. But don’t worry – just head for the café car and sit there. For business class you are guaranteed a seat – but not a specific one as on an airline. The only way to know exactly where you’re sitting is to reserve a bedroom in a sleeping car (only long distance trains). You might consider this even though you may not be on the train overnight. Even the small roomettes are comfortable with large seats facing each other. You have privacy if you want it and even a steward to serve you. And, meals are provided free. It costs a little more but it might be worth it. Oh, and you can be assured of being in the most modern cars Amtrak has – they don’t bring back old cars for long distance trains.

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