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Passenger Trains > Auto Train review


Date: 04/30/08 08:18
Auto Train review
Author: DavidP

Got back Monday from a week's vacation in Florida with my wife and kids, including travel on the Auto-Train (Thanks, Amtrak Guest Rewards!). Here's a short review with my admittedly subjective grades:

Timekeeping: A

P053(19) was 35 minutes early into Sanford, and P052(27) was 60 minutes early at Lorton. CSX must have changed their act, because these trains kept moving despite heavy freight traffic. On the north end of the "A line" we passed freight trains in almost every siding. Monday morning saw some slick dispatching on the old RF&P as we passed one opposing freight, crossed over behind him and passed two more standing on the other track. Northbound, the only stops I noticed were the crew change at Florence and to let trains 97 and 67 pass us - the latter being necessary because the AT has to cross to the southbound main to enter the Lorton terminal

Equipment Condition: A

All of the cars were clean and everything worked! The sleeper passenger lounge - rebuilt from a Superliner diner - has a round bar in the center, with regular booth seating on one end and small tables and rounded booths on the other. The booth end is used at meal times for seating overflow from the diner, allowing for better than a hundred passengers per seating. The ride at track speed (60-70 mph) is pretty rough for a good portion of the run - you know you're not on the TGV!

Food: B-

Basic, but not bad. Its all about expectations - if you were served Auto Train food in a restaurant you would no doubt be disappointed, but if you got it on a plane you would be pleasantly surprised. Between us we tried the steak, surf and turf, roast chicken, and chicken nuggets, and all were of about the same quality. Complimentary snacks and wine on boarding is a nice touch!

Loading/Unloading/Check-in: B+

Very smooth and efficient at Lorton - less so at Sanford because of their much more limited space. Sanford terminal has a mix of cramped brick buildings and temporary tents, while the newer Lorton terminal is roomy and comfortable. The ground crew was uniformly pleasant and the process extremely well thought out and executed on.

On-board crew: B

Typifies what's good and bad about Amtrak. All were at a minimum cordial, and some very pleasant. However, there are few standards or supervision. For example, on the southbound trip the lounge attendant and one of the waiters camped in one of the large lounge booths despite a continual flow of passengers coming in looking for seats, all of which were occupied. The lounge attendant sat and talked on her cell phone for hours - while she would get up and serve anyone who appeared at the bar, it didn't create a very professional appearance. On the return trip the attendant stayed behind the bar for a while, but was gone for the evening by 8:30 even though they claim the lounge is open until eleven.

Overall, though, its a great service for people not wanting to make the long drive down I-95. And well patronized too - passenger and auto counts were 439/134 on P053(19) and 504/194 on P052(27). One more interesting note - Amtrak carries cars without accompanying drivers for at least one private auto transport firm. I saw a nine such vehicles unloaded from the train and put onto an auto carrier truck at Lorton on Monday. Good form of extra revenue!

Dave



Date: 04/30/08 08:28
Re: Auto Train review
Author: m1bprr

Used Auto train many times, always had a good experience.
Ed K. cp Laurel Run








Date: 04/30/08 08:29
Re: Auto Train review
Author: smitty195

Thanks for the review of a train I've never been on. By chance, did you take photos of the converted diner? I've never seen one of those. Or an all-deluxe sleeper?

Re: the lounge car attendants. Yup, too bad many of them are allowed to get away with this trip after trip with little or no consequence. They are the front-line people who give a face to Amtrak, and it's a shame that SO MANY of their people are allowed (almost encouraged by lack of discipline) to do this.



Date: 04/30/08 08:37
Re: Auto Train review
Author: sfericsf

DavidP Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The lounge attendant sat and
> talked on her cell phone for hours - while she
> would get up and serve anyone who appeared at the
> bar, it didn't create a very professional
> appearance.


I've been seeing more and more of this, unfortunately.

Once some guy on a Capitol Corridor train let out a big huff and puff that he had to end his call and get up from his seat he was lounging in and come help me. Even told who he was talking to: "Ugh, I have another customer. I can't get a break". (This was train #724, the first train out of San Jose in the morning on weekends, which has maybe 10-20 pax on it total to OKJ.) He then called the person back and continued to complain about "how busy the trains are now", and "all these Europeans come over and ride the train because they do that in Europe and they all expect it to be like their train." I really wanted to beat this dude in the face with a wrench! If you don't like your job, then quit.

On #14 this past sunday, I observed one of the coach attendents just sitting and talking on her cell phone loudly, disrupting the whole rear of the car, for quite a while, all while the restrooms remained dirty and needing attention...

<sigh - rolls eyes>



Date: 04/30/08 08:50
Re: Auto Train review
Author: DavidP

smitty195 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
By chance, did you take photos of the
> converted diner? I've never seen one of those. Or
> an all-deluxe sleeper?

Here's the lounge seating end of the car. Other end is regular four-person booths. They use those for lounge space until about a half hour after departure then set them for dinner. One nice thing about the Auto-Train is that the lounge is open when passengers begin boarding, which is a full ninety minutes before the published departure time.

Didn't photograph the deluxe sleepers (which have "Palm xxxx" names), but they're pretty much the same as regular ones with five deluxe rooms substituted fro the ten upstairs roomettes.

Dave




Date: 04/30/08 09:01
Re: Auto Train review
Author: smitty195

Thanks for the photo. I think that's the first time we've seen interior pictures of this car on TO. I don't recall ever seeing this posted anywhere.



Date: 04/30/08 09:23
Re: Auto Train review
Author: raillady

I wouldn't have put up with that nonsense one bit....I would have confronted the person yaking on the cell phone [which I have done with cell phone yakking riders on several occasions]...However, on the Capitol Corridor, I would have noted time, date, appearance of person and referred the matter to Gene Skorpowski who acts pretty quickly.



Date: 04/30/08 11:35
Re: Auto Train review,An equally good Silver Star trip
Author: ChrisA.

My wife and I rode the southbound Silver Star from Raleigh,NC to Miami,Fl on April 12-13th and had an equally good experience,the train was 15minutes early into Raleigh and we ended up 42 minutes early into Miami.This portion of CSX was very smooth and fast,it was the best nights sleep on a train in a long time,train was clean,everything worked and the crew was very friendly and helpful.



Date: 04/30/08 13:55
Re: Auto Train review
Author: retcsxcfm

Don't put up with the way the crew acts.They are suppose to "serve" you.That is what they are paid for.They work for you,and believe me I have had to tell them before.Amtrak gets government money,where does the government get their money ??? DUH!

Uncle Joe-just east of Tampa



Date: 04/30/08 15:44
Re: Auto Train review
Author: ats90mph

sfericsf Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> On #14 this past sunday, I observed one of the
> coach attendents just sitting and talking on her
> cell phone loudly, disrupting the whole rear of
> the car, for quite a while, all while the
> restrooms remained dirty and needing attention...
>
>


Yes, I saw her on the train too, do all the coaches just get one attendant? My attendant in the 31 car was missing for a while, when I asked him where he went, he told me that he had to help the chef in the Diner. Apparently since SDS there is not enough help downstairs, and one of the attendants is called to help out occasionally in the kitchen. I also saw the coach attendant that sfericsf speaks of, acting as a waitress. They really need to realize that more help is needed in the diner, and add back the people that they cut when SDS came out. In my opinion the Dining Car steward should not be serving meals.



Date: 04/30/08 19:56
Re: Auto Train review
Author: DavidP

sdp35 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Don't put up with the way the crew acts.They are
> suppose to "serve" you.That is what they are paid
> for.They work for you,and believe me I have had to
> tell them before.Amtrak gets government
> money,where does the government get their money
> ??? DUH!
>
> Uncle Joe-just east of Tampa

Just to be clear, I'm not averse to speaking up when I'm not getting the service I paid for. However, cellphone-lady was pretty quick to jump up whenever I went to the bar, so while her sitting in a booth talking on her phone was, in my opinion, sloppy, it didn't impact me getting all the Coronas I wanted :-) (That's why the service grade is a B, not a D).

Another example was the waiter handling the continental breakfast in the table end of the lounge. He was very jovial when seating us and got us everything we asked for, but as we neared Lorton it was clear he didn't want to deal with resetting tables to accommodate additional passengers even though people were being sent to the lounge car's tables from the diner. So he let a couple of families stand in the aisle for a good ten minutes, refusing to acknowledge them even though tables were empty. No attempt to seat them, or even to say "we're closed" - just ignore the customers and hope they go away. Its the kind of thing that happens when employees aren't incented to provide quality service or penalized for not doing it.

Dave

Dave



Date: 04/30/08 21:13
Re: Auto Train review
Author: retengr

Just to advise, the trackage between West Palm Beach and Miami is not CSX track but the line was
sold to the State of Florida some years back and it is very well maintained and double track too.
Big difference in ride quality once you get north of West Palm Beach.
Noel Weaver



Date: 05/01/08 00:56
Re: Auto Train review
Author: YOMANWTF

ats90mph Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> sfericsf Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > On #14 this past sunday, I observed one of the
> > coach attendents just sitting and talking on
> her
> > cell phone loudly, disrupting the whole rear of
> > the car, for quite a while, all while the
> > restrooms remained dirty and needing
> attention...
> >
> >
>
>
> Yes, I saw her on the train too, do all the
> coaches just get one attendant? My attendant in
> the 31 car was missing for a while, when I asked
> him where he went, he told me that he had to help
> the chef in the Diner. Apparently since SDS there
> is not enough help downstairs, and one of the
> attendants is called to help out occasionally in
> the kitchen. I also saw the coach attendant that
> sfericsf speaks of, acting as a waitress. They
> really need to realize that more help is needed in
> the diner, and add back the people that they cut
> when SDS came out. In my opinion the Dining Car
> steward should not be serving meals.


Auto Train did not go to SDS.



Date: 05/05/08 10:28
Re: Auto Train review
Author: KV1guy

Well if anyone else here is looking for pictures of specific things on the autotrain, let me know. I will be taking my family on the sb P053 May 24th and we have reserved one of the the family bedrooms.



Date: 05/06/08 17:53
Re: Auto Train review
Author: ProAmtrak

If I ever head out that way I really want to ride 52 and 53, if I stayed in the Navy I would've done it because of my ship bein' drydocked in Norfolk! Hope the bad apples to get a wake up call, these reports you guys put about the cell phones really need to get addressed!



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