Category Archives: Railroad

Inside track: The Amtrak passengers’ checklist

Traveling by train can’t be a more safer way to travel this fall. Here, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train prepares to depart from Washington, DC’s Union Station.

Traveling on Amtrak is the best traveling experience anyone can have. Amtrak’s on board atmosphere without-a-doubt beats that of the airlines. There’s plenty of leg room, the on board dining is not to be missed, and the scenery makes every trip worthwhile. With the fall season underway, the leaves will soon be changing. Seeing the leaves ablaze in their orange, yellow, and red make every Amtrak journey a memorable one. Before boarding any Amtrak train, it’s paramount to pay attention to the passengers’ checklist. What is the passengers’ checklist? It is five simple steps for Amtrak passengers to follow on any journey. Whether intercity or long-distance, being prepared always makes the journey one to truly enjoy. What are the steps? See the checklist below.

5) Reservations: The Amtrak passengers’ checklist cannot start without making reservations. Before any journey begins, all passengers must make reservations. All Amtrak trains are reserved. Reservations can be made online at Amtrak.com or via phone at 1-800-USA-RAIL (872-7245). When reservations are made, passengers will be given their reservation codes. If making reservations via phone, it’s a must to remember the agent’s name. The agent will do his/her very best to provide a positive experience for all passengers. When the phone call is complete, passengers should remember to thank the agent for his/her assistance and professionalism.

Amtrak’s Quik Trak kiosks are available at all major stations. Passengers use their credit cards as their ID.

4) Obtaining tickets: The passengers’ checklist continues with the ticket issuing process. Upon the completion of the reservation transaction, the reservations agent will have provided to the passenger a reservation code. Amtrak passengers must write the number down. The next step on the passengers’ checklist is to obtain their tickets. Amtrak passengers can obtain their tickets via mail, email, at the station ticket window, or at one of the Quik Trak kiosks.

Quik Trak kiosks are available at all major Amtrak stations. Passengers obtain their tickets by using the credit card they used to purchase their tickets. The credit card acts as their identification. At the station window, passengers must provide valid photo ID for obtaining their tickets.

Via email, passengers must go to the email message and download their tickets. The ticket printouts will have both train numbers listed, with a QR code shown at the top corner. Passengers must not misplace the printout. A crew member will scan the QR code, both going and returning. If passengers wish to have their tickets mailed to their home, they must make their reservations a minimum of ten days or more before traveling.

3) Using the Amtrak mobile app: What would the passengers’ checklist be without mobile technology? All aboard the Amtrak mobile app! With mobile technology, Amtrak passengers have their train journey at their fingertips. With Amtrak’s mobile app, Amtrak passengers can do a handful of things. Amtrak passengers can track their train’s status, look up schedule information, or even change a reservation. It’s easy, right? Downloading the Amtrak mobile app takes only a few moments. Once downloaded, Amtrak passengers have America’s railroad at their fingertips. The Amtrak mobile app is not just a key part of a journey. The Amtrak mobile app is a must-have for all Amtrak passengers. Without-a-doubt, it’s a must-do on the passengers’ checklist. With a tap of the app, a riding the rails is moments away.

Checking schedules and a train’s status can’t be easier without the Amtrak mobile app. It is America’s railroad at their fingertips.

2) Be at the station “on-time”: Winding down the passengers’ checklist, there is no better way to have a pleasant train journey than being on-time. All Amtrak journeys start successfully when passengers arrive at the station on-time. If traveling short distance (ex. Northeast Regional) Amtrak passengers should arrive at the station thirty minutes prior to departure. If traveling on a long-distance train (ex. Lake Shore Limited), passengers should arrive at the station one hour prior to departure. This allows passengers time to check-in luggage, if applicable.

Once on the track platform, passengers are then directed to the proper boarding location. On Northeast Regional trains, the quiet car and business car are the last two cars of the train. On long-distance trains, the train staff will show passengers to their assigned sleeping car berths. Being on-time is a key huge part of Amtrak’s tradition. It is how passenger train travel was meant to be. Arriving at the station on-time ensures all Amtrak passengers a safe and pleasant traveling experience.

1) Respect fellow passengers and crew: The passengers’ checklist concludes with the golden rule. Safely aboard, all passengers can sit back and relax. Before getting comfortable, passengers must at all times respect the on board environment. All Amtrak passengers are encouraged to do two things. All Amtrak passengers must respect their fellow passengers and the crew. Respect begins in the quiet car. Those passengers riding in the quiet car must set their cell phones to vibrate or silent. Secondly, they must keep their voices down. Lastly, they must keep their conversations short. Even in coach class, business class, the dining car, and sleeping cars, cell phones should be kept on silent or vibrate.

Aside from respecting one another, passengers should show a great deal of respect towards the train crew. The crew’s responsibility is getting the train to its destination on-time and safely. The safety of the passengers is their responsibility, too. That being said, all Amtrak passengers are to kindly return the favor. Amtrak passengers are responsible for acting safely on board. All Amtrak trains are non-smoking. Passengers are to use handrails when walking in between the cars. No running is allowed on board at any time. Amtrak values safety at the very top of their list. No Amtrak train arrives on-time without the enforcement of safety. A little bit of respect travels a long distance.

While on board, passengers must respect their fellow passengers and the train’s crew. Here, a conductor is doing a routine seat check.

Riding on Amtrak is among the greatest traveling experiences. Whether traveling short or long-distance, the journey should always be one to write home about. No Amtrak journey should ever be complete without plenty of good words shared. More importantly, no Amtrak journey goes successfully without following the five-step passengers’ checklist. All Amtrak passengers should successfully purchase their tickets via phone or online. Passengers should obtain their tickets by one of the methods discussed. Thirdly, passengers are encouraged to use the Amtrak mobile app to check their train’s status. When proceeding to the station, passengers should arrive on-time. The most crucial step of the passengers’ checklist is to respect fellow passengers and the crew. Every Amtrak journey is a shared journey. If passengers carry out their responsibility, the crew can safely carry out theirs. This is why Amtrak has printed on its trains, “A safe team on-time”.

 

Amtrak Fall destinations: Something to be-leaf in

Amtrak’;s summer repairs at Penn Station are officially complete. Here, track workers complete repairs to one of the main tracks, as a train emerges from the Hudson River tunnel.

Wow, what a summer! Understatement, right? The temporary cancellations didn’t cause that much of a disruption. According to most riders, the summer went rather smoothly. With the summer repairs at New York Penn  Station over, it’s time to focus on the good times that lay ahead. With shiny new rails in place, Amtrak’s trains will continue to roll. It’s time to celebrate this memorable feat with great travel ideas. With more than twenty-one routes in forty-three states, there’s no better time to make ‘tracks’ this fall. Further, it’s the right time to show some appreciation for Amtrak’s dedication to keeping passengers safe on the rails. Here are the five top Fall destinations to consider:

5)New Orleans: From July 10th to September 1st, Amtrak’s Crescent (New York-New Orleans) was temporarily operating between Washington, DC and New Orleans. With the Crescent returning to its normal schedule on September 2nd, it’s time for Amtrak travelers to celebrate Mardi Gras year-round all over again. Passengers can feel the Cajun beat from New York to New Orleans without disruption. Football fans can catch the Saints at the Superdome. In New Orleans, it’s party time all the time. The craw fish, alligator meat, and the great deep south flavors await. Passengers can grab their ticket and beads! On the Crescent, the Cajun beat is non-stop. Of all Fall destinations, New Orleans is truly a city to “Fall” for.

P-40 locomotive #701 leads an Empire Service train home from Niagara Falls.

4) Niagara Falls: Of all Amtrak Fall destinations, Niagara Falls is among the most family-oriented and above all, the most romantic. Amtrak travelers can escape the hustle and bustle of the New York metropolitan area for one of the most picturesque places on earth. From the “Maid of The Mist”, to strolling across the Rainbow Bridge, to experiencing the Niagara Falls Canada Whirlpool Aero Car, Amtrak presents Fall travelers with a ticket for the journey of a lifetime. The journey from New York City to Niagara Falls is a journey not to be missed. From departing cavernous Penn Station, to gliding along the city’s west side, to cruising beneath Riverside Park through the Overbuild Tunnel, and speeding along the mighty Hudson River, who would not want to pass up a train ride, a train ride to write home about? Niagara Falls is without-a-doubt, a must-do for all Amtrak Fall travelers. Travelers should forget about  their barrels and let Amtrak take them to the edge of the excitement and experience the power of the falls.

Twilight Shoreliner train #67 arrives at historic Williamsburg Station.

3) Williamsburg, VA: Do you hear the hoofs of Clydesdales? During the Fall. there is no better place to visit than the great state of Virginia. Williamsburg is one of the most romantic and the most charming towns in Virginia. Is is one of the great Fall destinations which speaks to the hearts of all train travelers.

Williamsburg is the home of Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens-Europe. Busch Gardens-Europe is home to the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. There, visitors can see them up close. At Colonial Williamsburg, visitors can experience colonial life in the most authentic of surroundings. It is where history comes alive. At both of these quintessential points of interest, the Fall atmosphere can’t be more intimate. In Williamsburg, there are tons of hotels within minutes of the Amtrak’s Williamsburg station. Who said Virginia was for lovers? Virginia is for Amtrak travelers, too.

2) Boston: Boston, the City of Kind Hearts, is the one destination that was never affected by the summer cancellations. Of all Fall destinations, Boston speaks to the “heaht” of every Amtrak traveler. That says a lot for city known as Beantown. Visitors should be wary of the Boston accent. It is so thick, one can cut it with a “fawk”.

Completed in 1898, Boston’s South Station is the oldest terminal on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

When Fall arrives, Boston’s sports atmosphere is in full swing. The New England Patriots will be defending their historic Super Bowl championship. The Red Sox will be going for their sixth World Series title. With so such energy in the air, Boston is the perfect Fall destination. Passengers will step off their train at historic South Station. From there, they can visit the Seaport  District, enjoy a bowl of fresh clam chowder, and mingle with the friendly city locals. Music lovers can head to Symphony Hall to tune in to the sounds of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. Rock music fans can pay a visit to 1325 Commonwealth Avenue, the former residence of Aerosmith.

Once the World Series is over, the seasons will change again. It will be game-on for Boston’s two other beloved teams, the Bruins and the Celtics. The Celtics will be in pursuit of their eighteenth NBA championship. The Boston Bruins will be pursuing their seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history. In Boston, Amtrak travelers aren’t just part of history. They are part of the revolution.

1) Washington, DC: Our nation’s capital was significantly affected by the summer cancellations. As of September 2nd, the trains will be running on a normal daily schedule. New York-Washington service will be fully restored. There is no better city to experience Fall colors than in Washington, DC.

Washington, DC is the gem of all Fall destinations. Passengers will exit their train at the glorious Union Station. It’s not just a train station, it’s a feast for the eyes. At Union Station, passengers can hop aboard the Metro subway to visit the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums. The Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial are just a short walking distance away.

Built in 1907, Washington, DC’s Union Station was constructed to be both a railroad terminal and a monument in one.

Speaking of Fall destinations, visitors can head to Six  Flags America in nearby Largo, MD. Six Flags hosts its annual Fright Fest, blending the “spirit” of Halloween into its theme parks. Amtrak will have passengers “screaming” down the rails to be a part of an engaging Fall experience.

Washington, DC is not just a city of museums and monuments. It’s a city for all seasons. Come Fall, it is game-on for the NFL’s Redskins, the NHL’s Capitals, and NBA’s Wizards. It’s easy to understand why Washington, DC is a destination of ‘monumental’ proportions.

Fall is the right time to ride the rails. With the hot and humid summer coming to an end, the train schedule is returning to normal. It’s time to return to the pastime all travelers enjoy. Fall time is train time. Amtrak’s great Fall destinations are calling to avid train travelers.

Fall time means train time. Here, a Amtrak’s Fall Foliage Express crosses the 115 year-old Rockville Bridge over the Susquehanna River near Marysville, PA.

Fall destinations are the reason why the train is the way to go. The Crescent will be returning to full service from New York to New Orleans. The Empire Route will be returning to a normal schedule out of Penn Station. Last, but not least, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains will be once again thundering up and down the tracks between New York and Washington, DC. Fall foliage cannot be experienced better than through the windows of a train. On any of Amtrak’s east coast routes, Fall scenery is always a feast for the eyes. In an old Amtrak commercial one can remember the jingle, “There’s something about a train that’s magic.”. That’s Fall!

 

NY Penn Station: At its heart, Amtrak keeps on chugging

All of Amtrak’s Acela trains will continue to run on a normal schedule. The Acela can travel at speeds up to 150 mph. (Photo taken in Kingston, RI)

Passenger train travel is a vital part of intercity daily life in the northeastern United States. Amtrak operates up to one hundred trains per day up and down its bustling Northeast Corridor. In addition, it offers daily service from New York City to the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls. Amtrak’s Empire route also handles trains headed to Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Rutland, VT. New York City’s Penn Station is the origin and termination point for all of these routes. July 10th, 2017, Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling a handful of trains to allow track improvements to be made at Penn Station. Passengers should not be discouraged by these cancellations. Amtrak strongly values the safety of its passengers and employees. What trains will be cancelled? Will they positively or negatively affect passengers’ views of the carrier? It’s best to understand that Amtrak wants to keep daily business on ‘track’.

Three daily Northeast Regional trains will be temporarily cancelled. Here, Northeast Regional train #185, arrives at Newark Penn Station.

Between July 10th and September 1st, 2017, Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling certain trains to alleviate congestion at Penn Station, while track improvements are in progress. Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling three daily New York City-Washington, DC Northeast Regional trains. Amtrak’s Keystone route from New York City to Harrisburg will be slightly affected.  Three weekday round-trips will start and end in Philadelphia. One weekday round-trip will start and end in Newark, NJ. Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg will operate as scheduled. No announcement has been made regarding Amtrak’s Empire route. A decision will be announced soon.

Amtrak’s Crescent, a daily long-distance run between New York City and New Orleans, will also be operating on a modified schedule. The Crescent will run daily between Washington, DC and New Orleans. Passengers traveling to and from destinations north of Washington, DC will be able to connect to other services.

Spanning the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny, NJ, Portal Bridge handles up to two hundred trains per day, Amtrak and NJ Transit combined.

Schedules are up to date. Anyone with a trip already booked on affected routes has been contacted. Additional work will last through approximately June 2018, with most of it occurring on weekends to minimize the impact on service. Amtrak continues to make progress on the construction of the new Moynihan Station, across from the current Penn Station. Amtrak also plans to replace the 107 year-old Portal Bridge between Secaucus and Kearny, NJ. The current bridge has a two-track right-of-way. The new bridge will have a four-track right-of-way.

Amtrak Northeast Regional train #178 prepares to depart Newark Penn Station for New York Penn Station.

Despite temporary cancellations, Amtrak will continue make ‘tracks’. Travelers, both business and pleasure, rely on Amtrak more than ever before. New York City is the mecca of northeast railroad travel. With a handful of scheduled trains to be briefly affected, life on the rails will keep rolling. The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger railroad in the United States. In the coming year, passenger volume is projected to rise even further. In recent years, Amtrak has broken ridership records and will continue to do so. Amtrak’s temporary cancellations are necessary for the company to improve its infrastructure. Furthermore, these improvements are key to Amtrak’s reliability. Without them, Amtrak cannot move forward. These cancellations, along with the needed improvements, are a tribute to the perseverance of Amtrak’s dedicated and talented employees. No journey on the rails would be possible without them. Despite upcoming cancellations and mandatory track improvements at Penn Station, Amtrak keeps on chugging along.

Amtrak Guest Rewards: Where passengers build a “track” record

Amtrak Guest Rewards points

For each and every journey on the rails, Amtrak Guest Rewards members earn points towards free trips in the near future.

Amtrak; it’s America’s railroad and one of the finest ways to travel in the United States. With all drama arising in the airline industry, it is time to return to basics. It is the right time to focus on the many great reasons why Amtrak is the right choice of travel. There’s better leg room and there’s no need to put electronic devices on airplane mode. Further, it’s frustrating enough to be subjected to a never-ending wait at airport security checkpoints. With Amtrak, traveling is far more relaxing and more rewarding than ever before. Amtrak Guest Rewards is one of the top passenger loyalty programs in the travel industry. The rewards are not just earned on board. They can be earned anywhere and anytime.

With the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard, members can earn maximum points with merchant partners (i.e. eBags, See’s Candies, and Intuit TurboTax). Above: Platinum Card

Amtrak Guest Rewards doesn’t just reward points for train travel and ticket purchases. Passengers accrue Amtrak Guest Rewards points for making everyday purchases with the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America. With the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard, passengers can earn points for purchases at well-known merchants. Presently, passengers can earn ten points per dollar when they purchase Intuit TurboTax. Passengers can earn ten points per dollar by shopping at eBags. Another popular merchant is See’s Candies. At See’s Candies, passengers can earn six points per dollar. The merchant with the largest rewards value is AnytimeCostumes.com. Passengers can earn thirteen points per dollar. Anytime Costumes has been in business since 1954 and online since 1997. The Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard makes preparing for the next trip on the rails all the more desirable.

Once passengers have made their Intuit TurboTax purchase, shopped at EBags, or bought someone a gift at See’s Candies, they are earning instant Amtrak Guest Rewards points. Using the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard is that simple. Amtrak Guest Rewards points for Amtrak travel or ticket purchases are posted to passengers’ accounts within three weeks. Points from all other purchases such as EBags and AnytimeCostumes.com will be posted within six weeks. The complete listing of Amtrak Guest Rewards merchant partners and point values can be found at www.AmtrakGuestRewards.com.

World Card

Members who use the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Card can earn great perks including a complimentary Companion Coupon and a single-day pass for Club Acela or Metropolitan Lounge access.

Bank of America offers two choices of Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard. There is the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Card and the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Card. With the Platinum Card, passengers can earn twelve thousand instant points when they spent one thousand dollars or more in the first ninety days of activation. When using the World Card, passengers can earn twenty thousand instant points after having spent one thousand dollars or more within ninety days of activation. Passengers can view card details at www.AmtrakGuestRewards.com.

Amtrak has without a doubt made traveling the most rewarding experience anyone could imagine. Earning points for traveling on Amtrak is the utmost fascinating. Earning Amtrak Guest Rewards points for such as tickets and cafe car purchases makes traveling even more exciting. Chiefly, earning Amtrak Guest Rewards points for shopping at popular online merchants makes riding the rails a well-deserved traveling experience. Amtrak Guest Rewards members are VIPs of Amtrak travel. Whichever card passengers use, the rewards and possibilities are endless. The Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard makes being a VIP and an avid shopper a combined traveling experience to savor for many journeys to come.

Rider etiquette: Every Amtrak journey ‘rides’ on it

Amtrak's Northeast Regional train #95 arrives at Newark Penn Station en route to Newport News, VA.

Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train #95 arrives at Newark Penn Station en route to Newport News, VA.

Traveling on Amtrak is always a pleasurable experience.  Traveling from one city to another while viewing the scenery passing by can’t be more relaxing. It cannot get any more intimate than that. There are times when we run into situations which we cannot control. One time or another, there will be a passenger being rude. There will be a family whose children have zero manners. Even though it is yet to be established, a rider’s code of etiquette should be implemented. The only way it can be implemented if someone begins preaching it. Let the time be now.

While on board any Amtrak train, the on board environment should always be gratifying. Amtrak’s quality on board service has always been top notch. Further, it should be enjoyable and safe. When riders maintain proper etiquette, their journey whether short or long-distance, will be a memorable one. There’s proper etiquette to be followed when on the beach, in a library, at a restaurant, and at a family event. Who says it can’t be implemented on board a train? It’s implemented on board an airplane. What should an Amtrak rider’s code of etiquette look like? Here’s how it should read.

Luggage: Luggage, including carry-on baggage, does not belong on top of the seats. There is no saving of seats by placing luggage on top of them. It is extremely disrespectful and blatantly selfish for any rider to do so. Luggage belongs in one of two locations; in the overhead bin, or in the storage areas at either end of the coach. It’s not fair for fellow passengers to be climbing over and around each other’s luggage. Are we good?

Amtrak's Amfleet II coaches are by the the most comfortable in the fleet. The seats are leather upholstered and fully recline.

Amtrak’s Amfleet II coaches are by the the most comfortable in the fleet. The seats are leather upholstered and fully recline.

Quiet car: To let everyone in on a secret, the quiet car is the best car on the train. The quiet car is part of coach class. There is no additional cost. While riding in the quiet car, riders must keep their voices down. Secondly, riders must keep their conversations short. Third and last, riders must set their cell phones to silent or vibrate. How does a passenger tell if he/she is in the quiet car? There is signage posted on the doors.  Signage can be also be found hanging from the coach ceiling. The signage is in plain sight. No passenger deserves to have his/her journey disrupted by someone’s phone making funny noises. If it’s an important business matter, it should be discussed via email. Amtrak provides free wi-fi on board all of its trains. If riders wish to be loud, irritable, or just plain indecent, they can enjoy their ride in regular coach class following the quiet car. Are we good?

Seating: Seats are for sitting, not for enjoying a mid-summer night’s dream. What this means is that riders should be sitting properly in their own seats, making nearby seats available for their fellow riders. Riders should not put their feet up on nearby seats. It is distinctly impolite to do so. The seats in the business class car, the Amfleet II coaches (on long-distance trains), and on Acela Express trains come equipped with foot rests. It is a necessity that passengers need to “feel at home”. While on a train, feet belong in the proper location. Are we good?

Amtrak's Acela Express features Business and First Class accommodations, including foot rests and reclining seats.

Amtrak’s Acela Express features business and first class accommodations, including foot rests and reclining seats.

Sleeping cars: Sleeping cars can’t be a more intimate traveling experience. They have a rich history dating back to the days when railroads such as the Pennsylvania, New York Central, Union Pacific, and Santa Fe were known for their top notch sleeping accommodations. Sleeping cars have come a long way since then. It is best to say that Amtrak has made the sleeping car experience tremendously better than the days of the older sleeping cars. While occupying sleeping cars, riders must refrain from horseplay. Riders should save horseplay for the hotel room. Riders should respect the privacy of those around them. There should be no coarse language of any kind. Secondly, riders should be properly dressed during daytime hours. If not dressed appropriately, the curtains should be drawn.

Lastly,  sleeping car berth doors should be closed at all times. Yes, passengers should mind their own privacy and not make themselves too presentable. That’s an understatement. For safety reasons, berth doors should remain closed. The train can roll over switch points, and a variety of crossings including diamonds. The vibrations from passing over diamonds and switches can be enough to get a door swinging. The train can also round curves which can cause the doors to swing back and forth profusely. No passenger needs to get hit or injured by a swinging door. It all comes down to common sense. Are we good?

Pets: Everyone loves traveling with their “best friend”. When it comes to traveling on board trains while accompanied by pets, the etiquette is straight-forward. Pet carriers should be kept on the floor, not on the coach seat. Even in the sleeping car berths, pet carriers belong on the floor. It’s the same as not placing luggage on top of the seats. More importantly, the animal must be kept inside the carrier, and not be sitting on the seat. Passengers don’t need to be wiping locks of dog or cat hair from the seat before sitting down. Pets belong in the pet carriers, and pet carriers belong on the floor.  Are we good?

Small children, small or grown up, should be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Small children, small or grown up, should be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Small children: Proper etiquette is vital anywhere we go or whatever situation we’re in. When it comes to small children, they have to be advised about it right off the bat. While aboard any Amtrak train, small children should be supervised at all times. They should not be running roughshod all over the coach. They should not be frolicking back and forth aimlessly in the sleeping car. Small children, just as adults, should respect the safe and tranquil traveling environment of their fellow passengers.

When going to and from the cafe car, small children should be accompanied by an adult. While going to the cafe car, passengers have to walk through the vestibules between the cars. In the vestibules, there are few handles to hold on to. The train is moving at a high speed and the cars are bouncing up and down, left and right. To ensure their safety, adults must accompany their small children to the cafe car at all times. Are we good?

Traveling by train should always be a fun and enjoyable experience. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, the journey should be memorable. Not only do passengers want to have a pleasurable journey, but the crew deserves to have a safe work experience, too. Whether on short or long-distance, proper rider etiquette is paramount. Adults should use their common sense with their luggage, in the sleeping cars, with pets, and even when riding in the quiet car. Traveling with small children may require a lot more patience, but it’s vital to keep them under control at all times. Keeping them under control, accompanying them at all times, and seeing that they respect their fellow passengers at all times is significantly crucial. Amtrak passengers, both young or older adults, along with children of all ages all look forward to their journey. Above all, proper etiquette on board all trains is key. As long as proper etiquette is exemplified, passengers will always get to their destination in the most desirable way; safely.

 

 

 

 

It’s official: New Amtrak lecture is complete and “rolling”.

Author David Kriso at the cab door of an Amtrak Acela Express train at Washington DC's Union Station in May 2012.

Author David Kriso at the cab door of an Amtrak Acela Express train at Washington DC’s Union Station in May 2012.

This January 2015, I added to my writing repertoire by doing a lecture on cruising. Out of my experience working at the NY area cruise terminals and my travel writing came my program, “Cruising: Making Waves & Sense”. It is geared toward novice cruisers and those seeking helpful hints for future cruises. It has been an immediate success and well-received. Undoubtedly, I didn’t stop there.

Feeding off the positive outcome of the cruising lecture, I created something new. I decided to trace back to my longtime love affair, riding the rails. Being an avid Amtrak rider, and having written a multitude of train travel articles on Examiner.com and on this site, I couldn’t help but reach out to rail travelers with both seasoned and minimal experience. The lecture is entitled “Amtrak: Staying on ‘track’ with America’s railroad”. The purpose of the lecture is straight forward. As we all  know, the derailment of Amtrak train #188 in Philadelphia was a horrific event. Eight people lost their lives. All types of questions were asked. Many won’t be answered for a long period of time. Despite the circumstances of the derailment, the train is still looked to as the preferred form of transportation from city to city. We cannot argue with that. With the craziness we face dealing with airport security, stepping aboard a train without taking our shoes off is all the more convenient. Agree?

David, standing along side Amtrak's new workhorse, the ACS-64 electric engine. Built by Siemens in California, it develops 8,600 horsepower and will be at the head of trains between Washington, DC and Boston.

David, standing along side Amtrak’s new workhorse, the ACS-64 electric engine. Built by Siemens in California, it develops 8,600 horsepower and will be at the head of trains between Washington, DC and Boston.

Amtrak makes life far easier than how the airlines make it for travelers. There’s no question about it. The lecture features an array of on-point topics for all rail travelers’ interest. Topics include Amtrak facts and services, routes, on-board amenities, everyday discounts, Amtrak vacation packages, and the advantages of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. Amtrak is much more than just a passenger carrier. It’s a passenger carrier with a smorgasbord of incentives and the simple life rolled into one. Traveling has truly become sophisticated, and in many ways complicated. The airlines have done just that. Amtrak continues to keep life simple for travelers. Simple is the way it ought to be everyday. The lecture brings all of these talking points to light. I am confident that those who will attend this lecture will go home feeling exceptionally convinced that their upcoming trip to Florida, California, or to Montreal will be not just relaxing, but memorable too.

Amtrak's Silver Star, train #81, arrives at the Kissimmee station in March 2012. Kissimmee is twenty minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort.

Amtrak’s Silver Star, train #81, arrives at the Kissimmee station in March 2012. Kissimmee is twenty minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort.

“Amtrak: Staying on ‘track’ with America’s Railroad” is going to be my best lecture yet. The cruising lecture has made a “splash”. That’s for sure! The new Amtrak lecture, with the wealth of information included and the “Ah-ha!” moments to be shared, will most definitely convince travelers to look to Amtrak more often for their vacation needs. Knowing what vacation packages are available is imperative. Knowing what to expect on your traveling day is vital. Knowing what amenities and services are available is fundamental. I invite all travelers alike to attend and appreciate this presentation. The presentation will do more than just help travelers better understand the conveniences of riding aboard Amtrak. Through the presentation, travelers will also learn what Amtrak is doing to help make their vacation safer, desirable, and utmost enjoyable.

Since June 2015, nearly a dozen venues have shown interest in my Amtrak presentation. As train travel continues to attract the likes of millions nationwide, so will my presentation. Amtrak: Keeping On ‘Track’ With America’s Railroad” is a presentation is not just going to educate all travelers alike. It’s going to help get all travelers alike keep their vacation plans on ‘track’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Where should I sit?”: Every Amtrak traveler’s quest

On all of Amtrak's Northeast Regional trains, the Business Class car is the very first car of the train. Here, HHP-8 electric engine #655 in charge of train #135 bound for Washington DC.

On all of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains, the Business Class car is the very first car of the train. Here, Northeast Regional train #135 is stopped at Newark Penn Station. HHP-8 electric engine #655 is at the head end.

Traveling by train is the most exciting experience anyone could have. Who needs to deal with being tied up in traffic jams every step of the journey? Who needs to find a road stop when someone in your party has to “go”? Who needs to juggle all of those rest stop refreshments in the car, while driving along at sixty-five miles per hour? Last but not least, who needs to deal with the road rage of other drivers? They are all inconveniences that certainly make any simple journey the longest. The kids in the back seat are getting restless, yelling “Are we there yet?” more than fifty times in a two-minute conversation and getting hungry at the same time. Who needs that? That is where an Amtrak train comes to the rescue. All of these unnecessary matters are put to rest. Climbing aboard any Amtrak train anywhere in the country makes any vacation more than half the fun. It’s where the fun is!

One can see how relaxing the Business Class car can be. Notice that author, David Kriso, is already in vacation mode.

One can see how relaxing the Business Class car can be. Notice that author, David Kriso, is already in vacation mode.

Cutting to the chase, there is a huge question which friends, family, and coworkers ask me time and again. The question they often ask is “Where is the best place to sit?”. It’s not that simple to answer. Being a sophisticated traveler myself, I have certain preferences of where to sit on board. Needless to say, there are also places not to sit. Here’s a list of my preferred places to sit on an Amtrak train.

1. Business Class: In the Business Class car, the seats recline a bit further than the seats in Coach Class. Passengers are allowed one free non-alcoholic beverage from the cafe car menu. Passengers must present their Business Class ticket to the cafe car attendant before ordering. Even better, passengers are provided with a complimentary newspaper.

The  Business Class car is the most comfortable car on the train. From reclining seats, to foot rests, to curtains on the windows, it's the place to be.

The Business Class car is the most comfortable car on the train. From reclining seats, to foot rests, to curtains on the windows, it’s the place to be.

2. Quiet Car: The Quiet Car is one of my favorite cars on board an Amtrak train. The Quiet Car is designated by the signage on board, not on the outside of the car. There is no additional charge for traveling in the Quiet Car. While riding in the Quiet Car, passengers must keep their voices down. Passengers must also keep their conversations short. For the consideration of other passengers, it is paramount that cell phones are set on “vibrate” or “silent”.

There are also places on board an Amtrak train which passengers should not sit. These are places which would make you wish you bought a Business Class ticket, or wish you thought of sitting in the Quiet Car. Here are some places NOT TO SIT. Permission granted to laugh at some of them.

1) DO NOT sit next to the guy snorting his brains out.

2) NEVER sit next to a business traveler who brought along every electronic gadget known to man, meanwhile hogging every electrical outlet.

3) REFRAIN from sitting near the family with not one, but seven children, with no imaginable way of controlling them.

4) AVOID sitting next to any passenger who purchased every item on the cafe car menu.

5) FORGO sitting next to the passenger drinking coffee with ten packets of sugar.

6) AVERT sitting next to any passenger who inconsiderately makes a living room out of the face-to-face seats.

7) AT NO TIME should you want to sit near anyone who has a small child asking passengers what their names are, or announcing that it’s their potty time.

Whether it's for business or for pleasure, traveling on board any Amtrak train is an experience every traveler will everlastingly appreciate.

Whether it’s for business or for pleasure, traveling on board any Amtrak train is an experience every traveler will everlastingly appreciate.

Traveling by train, without a doubt, is an experience which everyone looks forward to. It could be that trip to Kissimmee, FL (Disney World), that trip to Boston for your friend’s wedding, that long awaited ski trip to Vermont, or even that weekend getaway to Washington DC. Whatever the occasion, Amtrak makes all passengers feel at home. Whether in Business Class or in the Quiet Car, every passenger enjoys his/her journey in both directions. However, passengers should be aware of the those situated around them. That one annoying passenger with the unsightly habits, those families with free-roaming children, and business travelers who think the train is their personal castle, are people you need to be conscious of. They can make turn any pleasant journey into the longest journey. Peace, tranquility, and comfort are not easy to come by nowadays. That awaited Amtrak train ride is a well-deserved break from the stresses of the outside world. It is legitimately your right to keep it that way.

Setting Sail By Rail: Your Amtrak Train and Ship Await!

The beautiful Carnival Splendor awaits her departure from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on a bitter cold January afternoon.

The beautiful Carnival Splendor awaits her departure from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on a bitter cold January afternoon.

Have you ever driven or flown to your cruise vacation before?  The highways and airports are a mess.  Driving and flying are sometimes not ideal ways of traveling to your cruise departure port.  Cruises are supposed to be fun! From the many activities on board ship, to all the exciting shore excursions, it’s the perfect reason to get away from the stresses of home.  Do yourself a favor.  Don’t wait for the air fares to go down or to be asked to take your shoes off the security checkpoint.  It’s  not fair waiting for that slow poke in your lane to move over.  It’s train time! Let’s set sail!

Having been a cruise line agent in the New York area for five and a half years, a cruiser for over ten years, and an avid train traveler for more than twenty-five years, I have ample traveling advice to share with you.  When going to any Amtrak station, be sure to arrive approximately half hour before your train’s departure time.  For long distance trains, arrive at the station approximately one hour before your train’s departure.  It’s important to allow yourself time to check in your luggage and locate your departure track.  When the train finally arrives, it’s time for your railroad and cruise adventure to begin.

The first port on the list is New York City.  New York City has two cruise terminals; the Manhattan terminal, and the Brooklyn Red Hook Terminal.  If you’re traveling into New York City by train, getting to either terminal is very easy.  New York Penn Station is not far from the Manhattan terminal.  When you arrive at New York Penn Station, take the C or E subway north to 50th Street.  At 50th Street, walk four blocks west to the Manhattan cruise terminal.  Passengers can take the A subway south to Jay Street-Borough Hall, and take a short taxi ride to the Brooklyn cruise terminal.  It is a very modern looking building with a spacious interior.  If your cruise is departing from New York, make sure you give yourself enough time in between your arrival and boarding your ship.  New York City’s traffic can be unpredictable.

Across the way from New York lies the beautiful port city of Bayonne.  Bayonne is home to the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal.  Getting to the Cape Liberty terminal by train is simple.  The station closest to Bayonne is Newark Penn Station.  When you arrive at Newark, it’s a quick twenty minute cab ride to the port.  If you wish to use mass transit, take the PATH train east to Exchange Place, in the waterfront area of Jersey City.  New Jersey Transit Light Rail station is one hundred feet from the PATH station.  The light rail train will take you south to 34th Street in Bayonne.  It’s a three minute taxi ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is formerly a military ocean terminal.  Be sure to have your traveling documents in hand before entering the terminal building.

The next terminal on the list is Baltimore’s cruise terminal.  Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela Express serve Baltimore on a daily basis.  Baltimore’s Penn Station is a fifteen minute cab ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is very modern looking.  Make sure that whichever train you take gets you to Baltimore with plenty of time to spare.  The earlier you arrive at the terminal, the more relaxing the check-in process will be.

Further south is Port Canaveral.  Port Canaveral is home to Disney Cruise Line.  It is also home to the Kennedy Space Center.  Amtrak’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor both serve the city of Orlando.  Be sure that you have transportation arrangements made to take you to the cruise terminal.  If you choose to rent a car, be sure to locate a rental car facility in the Orlando area.  All cruise terminals have parking facilities for passengers.  On disembarkation day, it’s best that you try to leave the ship early, to give yourself enough time for your ride back to the Orlando station.

The two busiest cruise ports on the east coast are Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  These two ports handle millions of cruise passengers on a yearly basis.  Traveling to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami by train is extremely easy.  The Silver Star and Silver Meteor arrive late in the day.  Amtrak’s Fort Lauderdale station is a short ten minute ride from the Port Everglades cruise terminal area.  The Miami station is on the north side of town and fifteen minutes from the Port of Miami.  Whichever of the two cities you’re sailing from, you want to stay overnight at a hotel nearest to the cruise terminal area.  Further, its best to rest up from your long journey.  The next morning, you’re all set to check in for your ship relaxed and refreshed.

Amtrak's Silver Star, train #91, arrives at Newark Penn Station on her journey south to Miami, Florida.

Amtrak’s Silver Star, train #91, arrives at Newark Penn Station on her journey south to Miami, Florida.

The third Florida port served by Amtrak is Tampa.  Tampa is also served by the Silver Meteor and Silver Star.  The Tampa cruise terminal is approximately ten minutes from the Tampa Union Station.  Whether in Tampa, Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale, it’s recommended that you stay overnight near the cruise terminal.  On the morning of disembarkation, be sure to be registered for the express walk-off in order to meet up with your train on time.

 

Taking the train to your cruise is the way to enjoy any cruise vacation from the east coast.  Got your bags packed? Swimsuit, check! Sun tan lotion, check! Shades, check! Passports, don’t forget them! Engineer hat?? Yes, I’m serious!  Your cruise awaits you track-side!  Get off thet highway and off that airport security line.  It’s time to start enjoying cruising the way it was meant to be…railroad style.  All aboard and Bon Voyage!

 

 

A Railroader’s Dream: Coast to Coast…and Back!

Washington DC's Union Station, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May 2012.  This photo was taken on National Train Day.

Washington DC’s Union Station, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May 2012. This photo was taken on National Train Day.

I have been on many train trips in the past.  My Amtrak travels have taken me to and from many great places.  I’ve traveled on the Empire Service to Niagara Falls on the old Turboliner.  I have traveled aboard the Broadway Limited, the Northeast Regional service, the Metroliner, the San Diegan, the Acela Express, and the Vermonter.  I’ve even traveled as far south as Williamsburg, Virginia. There is one kind of trip I have always wanted to take.  I have always wanted to travel coast to coast, and back.  Hey, why not?

My trip would start at New York Penn Station.  From New York, I will take the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago via Albany, NY.  My train will depart Penn Station, and head up to Albany.  In Albany, the New York and Boston trains are joined together.  From there, I will continue my overnight journey to Chicago.

The next morning, the train arrives at Chicago Union Station.  Once off the Lake Shore Limited, it’s time to enjoy the city.  I will ride the L, stroll along the lake front, and visit the most famous skyscraper of all, the Willis Tower (f.k.a. Sears Tower).  Fifteen hundred and fifty-three feet above the city, I will try my nerves to stand in the Sky Box, the new glass feature they added to the Sky Deck.  There, you feel like you’re standing in mid-air above the city.

My next stop in Chicago is to visit my favorite sports arena, the United Center, home to my Chicago Bulls.  While I’m there, I will go to the box office to get seats for a game on the day I arrive  later in the week.  After visiting the United Center, I will move on to Michael Jordan’s Restaurant.  There I will have lunch, and mingle with fellow Bulls fans.  Then, it’s time to head back to Chicago Union Station, and wait until train time.

At the conclusion of the day, I will board my next train, the Southwest Chief, bound for Los Angeles.  It’s a two-night trip to Los Angeles, crossing the farmlands and dessert terrain.  While in Los Angeles, I will stay overnight and buy a ticket to a Kings or Lakers game at the Staples Center.  At some point, I will go to Hollywood and visit the famous Chinese Theater.  I’ve seen the one at  Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.  It’s even more exciting to see the real thing. It will then be time to head back to Union Station, and continue my journey.

At Union Station, I will board my next train.  I will then board the Coast Starlight en route to Seattle.  This is definitely a train ride not to forget.  Traveling along side the Pacific Ocean would sure be an incredible experience.  The next morning, I will arrive at Seattle’s King Street Station.  There I will spend the whole day dining out a local restaurant and doing some sightseeing.  Later, it’s  time to head back to King Street Station.  It’s back on board to head back east!

My return trip home has begun.  At this point, I will be on board Amtrak’s Empire Builder, en route to Chicago.  This route I heard is absolutely incredible.  Speeding along, being surrounded by nothing but wilderness would be awesome.  The scenery would be nothing shy of splendid.  Two days later, the train will arrive at Chicago’s Union Station.  In Chicago, I will spend the night in a hotel nearby.  Once settled in my hotel room, I will go to the United Center to catch the Bulls game.  The United Center is always a fun arena to visit.  Chicago loves its Bulls.  Finally, it is then time to rest up and be ready to hit the second leg of my journey home.

Amtrak's Northeast Regional train #95, en route to Newport News, VA, arrives at Newark Penn Station on a brisk April morning.

Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train #95, en route to Newport News, VA, arrives at Newark Penn Station on a brisk April morning.

The second part of my journey home takes me to Washington, DC on board the Capitol Limited.  The train will travel southeast through Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and through western Maryland.  On this leg of the trip, just like the Empire Builder, the train will be passing through the majestic mountain ranges, past crystal clear rivers, and some of the most picturesque scenery I’ve ever seen before.  The next morning, the train will arrive at the beautiful Union Station in Washington, DC.  Washington DC’s Union Station is my favorite railroad terminal of all.  Besides it being a busy train station, I love the mall inside.  I may be from New Jersey, but it’s one place where I definitely would love to spend a day Christmas shopping.  When done meandering around the station, it’s time for me to head home.  My last leg of my journey is about to begin.

All fun trips have to come to an end.  It’s time to finish the journey.  I will be traveling on board the Acela Express.  I’ve taken this train twice in the past.  That baby really covers some ground!  The Acela travels up to 150 mph.  On the way north to Newark, NJ the train races along like a speeding bullet.  The train will then cross the majestic Gunpowder, Bush, Susquehanna, and Delaware Rivers.  A short time later, my train will arrive at Newark Penn Station.  At Newark, I’ll get off the train and wait.  Ever since I was little, I always waved to the engineer as the train departed.  Once the rear unit of the train pulls past me, I’ll head towards the stairs.  Suddenly, I will hear the announcement that the next Northeast Regional train to Washington, DC will be arriving shortly.  Do you know what I was thinking?  I felt like turning around and doing the whole trip all over again.

After watching the Northeast Regional train arrive, I will wait a few minutes for that train to leave.  There’s an aura to watching passenger trains.  Even when my trip is over, I can never get enough of the action.  When the train finally slips out of the station, I will head on downstairs.  I will then walk out the station exit door and I find my family waiting to pick me up.  When they asked me how my nine day cross-country trip on the rails went, I said, “I so want to do that again. How many Guest Rewards points do I have?”.

 

The Kingston Years

A Christmas ornament of Kingston Station, the station filled with my fondest of railroading memories.

A Christmas ornament of Kingston Station, the station filled with my fondest of railroading memories.

I can never forget the four incredible years I had in college.  I made plenty of friends, hung out with the girls every other day, and accidentally had a family of raccoons in my dorm watching 20/20.  College was made up of four great years of fond memories.  I made the Dean’s List for the very first and only time.  It was the first time I became an honors student, after many years of struggling.  The great memories which I still hold dear to my heart were the four years of taking the train to and from Kingston, RI.  From Kingston to Newark, NJ and back, it was a fun ride.  It was the highlight of every college break.  There was truly no trip more exciting.

I attended Salve Regina University in Newport, RI.  I graduated in 1999.  My mom’s former peers from the University of Rhode Island used to drive me to and from Kingston Station.  My most memorable trips included going home for Thanksgiving and Christmas break.  Thanksgiving of 1995, I took the train  home from Providence.  The trip was wonderful.  It was a reserved train and the train was not packed at all.  It was good to get home to be with my family.  A few days later, it was time to head back north.  Back in Kingston, was it cold!  I’ve never seen so much steam coming out of my mouth.  I could spell my name with every breath.  The next few weeks were extremely stressful.  I had final exams to worry about. I had take home exams to complete, exams in the classroom, and a ton of studying in between.  My mom suggested taking the evening train, the Merchants Limited, #179.  My train was due into Newark before midnight.  That evening, I wore my Amtrak cap with the famous headless arrow logo.  That same trip, the conductor gave me a signal pin to attach to my cap.  To this day, that pin is still attached.  The ride from Kingston to Newark was a long four and a half hours.  I made sure that I drank as much coffee on board as possible.   The coffee on Amtrak is absolutely awesome.  Even back then it was good stuff.  Finally at Newark, I came off the train wired but wide awake.  Even better, I didn’t miss my stop.

The one trip I remember to this very day, was Christmas break in 1997.  I was under the weather that week.  After my last exam was over, I finished my packing and it was train time.  I was on the evening train once again.  Just like before, I kept myself wired with plenty of coffee.  That trip home was like no other.  It was my junior year.  By then, all of the crew members knew me personally.  They always asked me personally if I needed anything.  That evening, one of the crew members offered me tea since I wasn’t feeling well.  They were the nicest people I ever traveled with.  They treated me like I was a VIP.  While changing engines in New Haven, the conductor wished me a Merry Christmas.  He even said he was looking forward to seeing me on board in a few weeks.  After changing engines in New Haven, the trip became even more interesting.  The engineer was playing “Jingle Bells” on the horn.  It was a crisp, cold night going home.  How appropriate!

My junior year spring break was a trip I remember extremely well.  It was my very first daytime train trip home.  I took the late morning train home, #173.  That was a ride which I will never forget.  It was the day I beat my brother home for the very first time.  My brother attended Fairfield University in CT.  Stamford station sits right next to I-95.  While the train was slowing for the station stop, I searched for my mom’s car, hoping to wave at them.  When I finally arrived in Newark, my dad told me that my brother and my mom still had not arrived home yet.  I was happy as a kid in a candy store.  The train had beaten the automobile!

My return trips to Kingston were nowhere shy of unique.  I took the same train back up every time.  I took the infamous train #174, formerly known as the Minuteman.  The train was often packed.  Every college student in the northeast was heading back to school.  Every station going north had a crowd of students waiting to board.  New York Penn Station, New Rochelle, Stamford, and New Haven were all jammed with college kids.  I never moved from my seat the entire trip, so that my seat wouldn’t be taken.  Finally arriving in Kingston, I could only exhale in relief.  There were days when that train would be jam-packed.  Twice I had to take the next train afterward.  Sometimes I was lucky, when the train was half full.  All in all, the memories and the miles just kept piling on.

March of 1999 finally came along.  The most emotional ride awaited.  Easter break of 1999 was my very last train ride of my college career.  The Monday after Easter was even more emotional.  I could not hold in my tears.  I stepped off the train in Kingston for the final time.  My mom’s dear friends from college took a photo of me stepping down onto the platform, with my bags in hand.  In the June of 2004, I went up to Salve Regina for my five-year reunion.  It was a fun weekend, but sad to not see any of my closest classmates.  Like old times, the train ride home was comfortable and pleasurable as I can remember.

Being a Salve Regina alumnus has been quite an experience.  Traveling to and from Kingston to visit my college alma mater has taken on a different feel.  There are barely any delays going up and back.  It’s very different going up there, instead of going home.  The changing of engines is long gone, but now a fond memory.  I have a collection of photos of every engine change from my freshman year to the end.  Watching trains at speed has been my long time joy.  Watching the Acela train race through Kingston at 150 mph is now my favorite thrill of all.  Kingston is not just the station I grew up traveling to and from.  It’s a time capsule of memories to cherish.  They are memories to cherish both now and forever.