What is the Amtrak Auto Train?

All about the Amtrak Auto Train.

East coast travelers bound for Florida understand that the trip is a long one, especially from Washington, DC, northward. While most trips can be accomplished in a day or two, the wear and tear on the body and vehicle should not be easily discounted.

Fortunately, America’s railroad system has a solution for weary travelers: the Amtrak Auto Train. Specifically, the train receives cars and passengers just outside of Washington, DC, and deposits them near Orlando, in the vicinity of major theme parks, such as Disney World. Is taking the Amtrak Auto Train right for you? Read on and we will explore this available option for traveling to and from the Sunshine State.

Amtrak Auto Train Autoracks
Ramps leading to the Amtrak Auto Train Autoracks.

Amtrak Auto Train Details

One-of-a-Kind Travel

Although shipping personal vehicles are not restricted to the U.S. market, the Auto Train is. The 855-mile route is exclusive to the Eastern Seaboard, starting in Lorton, Virginia, and culminating in Sanford, Florida. It is a non-stop trip for people who embark in Virginia and disembark in Florida. Passenger vehicles are not removed at any of the many stops en-route, although human passengers may do so.

Riding on Autoracks

Passenger vehicles are carried in autoracks, which can hold as many as 320 units. While their cars are safely enclosed in each rack, the passengers ride in a coach seat or a private sleeping compartment. Passengers pay for their vehicle and their choice of seats. There are also a lounge and dining cars attached with each train for passenger comfort and convenience.

Pack Your Vehicle

Amtrak does not put restrictions on how people should pack their vehicles. Indeed, the advice from the railroad is to “pack your car like a suitcase.” Of course, passengers will want to bring some of their luggage onboard while they travel. This means leaving important gear in a readily accessible place ensures that nothing is left inside the vehicle while en route. Notably, passengers have no access to their vehicle until they arrive at their destination.

Amtrak Auto Train Autoracks
Empty Amtrak Auto Train Autoracks waiting to be placed into service.

Types of Vehicles

The good news for travelers is that Amtrak accepts a variety of vehicles, including sedans, coupes, convertibles, vans, pickup trucks, and utility vehicles. Also, motorcycles are allowed. However, you should know that there are dimension guidelines to help people determine if their vehicle is the right size. Those sizes include standard and extended vehicles, with the latter measuring up to 216 inches long. Other restrictions involve width, height, ground clearance, and tire size. While that includes many models made today, some exceptions include full-size SUVs such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition MAX.

Early Check-In

On the day of the trip, passengers with vehicles may check-in as early as 11:30 a.m. For special models, passengers (including motorcycles), the deadline is at 2:00 p.m. For standard vehicles, the deadline is 2:30 p.m. There are no exceptions. The train departs Virginia at 4:00 p.m. and arrives in Florida at approximately 9:00 a.m. the next day. On the return, the train follows the same schedule, which makes it simple for customers to remember.

Auto Train Notes and Considerations

Customers should be aware that passengers cannot bring carry-on pets with them on the train. This means they cannot ride in the vehicle either. Keep this point in mind if you plan to winter in Florida and expect your furry companion to travel onboard.

Amtrak does have certain restrictions in place concerning overhead luggage. Also, you cannot trailer with your ride. However, Amtrak does accept a certain number of small trailers, limousines, jet skis, trikes, and choppers. The exceptions, though include Can-Am motorcycles, Rewaco trikes, and Polaris Slingshots.

As always, check the Amtrak site for current details as well as specials. The Auto Train is an unusual option, one that may make seeing the USA an easier and more enjoyable proposition.

Photo Attribution

Rails at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rails, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

YouTube: Amtrak Auto Train | What It’s Like & Full Review by Grounded Life Travel.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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