What About Security on Amtrak’s Long-Distance Trains?
First time travelers in Amtrak sleeping cars are sometimes uncomfortable when they discover that their rooms can be locked from the inside only. It’s a latch, actually, not an actual lock that opens with a key, but it ensures your privacy while you are inside your accommodations. Of course that also means you can’t lock your room when you leave to go to the diner or the lounge car. However, the truth is, I have never experienced any kind of a theft in all my Amtrak travels. In fact, I’ve never even heard of a theft occurring on any of those trains.
Of course, it’s not a good idea to leave a camera or a laptop sitting in plain sight when you head off to lunch. Whenever I leave my roomette, I make sure everything is out of sight. For example, if I leave my camera on the seat, I’ll toss a pillow over it. And I make sure the curtain is pulled across the door, so no one can see inside while I’m gone. More specifically, I make it a practice to leave the curtain open when I’m in the room and closed when I leave.
Once in a great while, another passenger may poke his head into your room, but the sleeping cars are virtually identical, so it’s no doubt a case of “right room, wrong car”.
Amtrak’s long distance trains are assembled with the coaches at one end of the consist and the sleepers at the other, with the dining car and lounge car in between. That really helps to minimize the chances that a coach passenger will wander into the sleeping cars—either by mistake or for mischief.
If there is a problem passenger on board, it will almost always be because he or she has spent too much time in the lounge car consuming too many beers. Watching a veteran Amtrak conductor handle a situation like that is a memorable experience. The troublemaker will get a very quiet, very firm, very clear warning: Any more problems, and you will be put off the train at the next stop. The conductor’s tone makes it clear that he’s not kidding and that’s almost always enough to take care of the problem.
However, if the troublemaker persists in his behavior, there is no second warning. At the next stop—or maybe even at a spot where a main highway crosses the tracks—he’ll look up to find two state troopers standing there. And sixty seconds later, he’s watching the train rolling off down the tracks without him.
Bottom line: enjoy your train journey and don’t worry about security on one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains.
Have there been any updates on train locks for sleeping compartments in recent years? Thank you. Linda Dombkiewicz
Apologies for the long time in answering you. I can only speak with first-hand knowledge for Amtrak and VIA Rail in Canada. All of the sleeping car accommodations I have ever experienced can be secured from the inside only. That said, I can also say there is really no need to lock your roomette or your bedroom when you’re away from your room. Just close the door and pull the drapes shut. All other destinations, of necessity, have quality signs informing everyone where the problems are.
I agree with everything you say, Jim. That said, I have had experience with theft on Amtrak. A long time ago (25 years?) I was riding the Empire Builder and a couple riding in the sleepers between Chicago and the Twin Cities walked through the sleepers and systematically stole a large number of items shortly before they walked off the train. Luckily they were caught and the items returned – after a long delay in departure, though. However, I wasn’t impacted due to the reasons you state – I don’t leave things out in the open and close my door and curtains when I leave the room. Oh, and, yes, I’ve seen the conductor throw a drunk off the train in the middle of no where at a road intersection…
This has been a worry for me and sorry but I am not so sanguine as you. I take my camera with me to the dining car and put my laptop into my suitcase zipped up and put away. Losing either would be traumatic so far from home.