Auto Relocation with Amtrak's Auto Train
From families headed to Disney World in Orlando to older folks seeking Florida sun and sand, Amtrak Auto Train has for the past 36 years been freeing drivers from the hassles of the long-distance haul. But unlike planes and busses, Auto Train offers a unique proposal: it will carry both you and your vehicle between Virginia and Florida and back.
Background of Amtrak Auto Train
Beginning service in 1971 separately from Amtrak as Auto-Train Corporation, the company carried passengers and cars for nearly twelve years until fuel costs and a string of accidents caused it to fall into bankruptcy. Nearly two years later, in 1983, Amtrak revived service, and has been a proven hit ever since.
Auto Train Routes and Timetables
If you're familiar with the Eastern Seaboard, you're probably familiar with Interstate 95. Auto Train roughly parallels the I-95 route between Virginia and Florida. In fact, it may be the sheer misery of driving on I-95 that many Auto Train passengers are trying to escape.
Auto Train operates between Lorton, Virginia (about 30 minutes south of Washington, DC) to Sanford, Florida (about 30 minutes north of Orlando). Trains run daily in each direction on this 855 mile trip which is just under 18 hours total. This is Amtrak's only Auto Train route.
It is important to note the inflexibility of timetables and check-in times. Check in begins at 11:30 on the day of departure, with a required check-in time of 2:00 pm for oversized vehicles and motorcycles, and a 3:00 pm check-in time for compact vans and SUVs. 3:00 pm is the latest possible check-in time. The train leaves at 4:00 pm, and arrives at the end destination at 9:30 am the next day. Amtrak makes a point of warning drivers that late check-ins will result in passengers missing the train.
Accommodations for You and Your Cars
There are comfortable accommodations for Auto Train passengers, with both coach seating and bedroom accommodations. Bedrooms are the full complement of regular Amtrak rooms, from the 2-person Roomette up to the spacious Family Bedroom. All meals are included, regardless of class, and there is an attached lounge car.
Accommodations for your vehicle are equally comfortable. Enclosed railcars called "autoracks" carry full-size sedans, as well as SUVs and vans, jet-skis, small trailers, and motorcycles.
A Loyal Fan Base
Amtrak's Auto Train is a proven success, with a nearly quarter-million strong band of followers who take the train every year. Many of these passengers make a point to meet up every year, and off-season they communicate through fan forums and blogs dedicated to Auto Train.
Best Option for Auto Relocation?
Auto Train is not designed as a true auto relocation service. True, it does move you and your vehicle from one place to another. But routes and timetables are limited, and you are expected to accommodate Auto Train rather than the reverse.
Frank comments from passengers attest to problems such as lateness, temperature control problems in the cars, and bumpy track.
Auto Train is more of a novelty than the cheapest, most efficient way to transport a vehicle. For true auto relocation, it is still best to stick to truck-based auto relocation services.