Amtrak’s First Class Lounges: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

I don’t know what made me think of this, but here’s a small but useful Amtrak travel tip—although it’s one you may already know.  The Metropolitan Lounges are comfortable and nice places to relax while waiting for your train . . . as long as your ticket says you’re traveling in a sleeping car. Those lounges are available in Chicago, New York, Los Angele, New Orleans and Portland.
But you can also take advantage of the Metropolitan Lounges if you arrive on a train on which you have been a sleeping car passenger. This can be very nice if you’re connecting to a short-haul train even if for that portion of your itinerary you’ll be traveling in coach. I’ve been surprised to discover that a lot of regular Amtrak riders don’t know that.

 As a sleeping car passenger, I have often come into Chicago from the East or South traveling as a sleeping cart passenger and found myself with a wait of several hours before catching another Amtrak train, where I’ll be traveling in coach class, for the two-and-a-half hour ride to Galesburg, Illinois, to spend a night with my bother and his wife. It’s nice to be able to wait in a comfortable first class lounge.
However, that does not work in the first class lounge in Washington DC’s Union Station where I was denied entrance because I was traveling in business class from there to New York City on the Acela, not in first class. There were a lot of people in the lounge who were sleeping car passengers waiting to board outbound trains, and I pointed out that four days earlier I had arrived there at Union Station having traveled clear across the country in sleeping cars. Alas, the lady at the reception desk was unmoved.
Then I showed her my tickets for business class travel from New York to Toronto and from Vancouver BC to Seattle. The last ticket in the stack was for sleeping car accommodations from Seattle down to Los Angeles. (I would be aboard VIA Rail between Toronto and Vancouver.) She was wavering and then one of my NARP colleagues, already approved to wait in the lounge, appeared. He realized what was happening and said plaintively that everyone in his small catch of travelers were friends of mine. The lady relented and waved me into the lounge.
By the way, Amtrak is in the process of spending several million dollars creating a new Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago’s Union Station. It’s big … it’s posh … and it’s needed. More to come on that.