Dreading Amtrak “Hardships”.

I frequently get emails from people with questions or comments about train travel. Here’s one that came in today.

Email inquiry: Is there any way to find out which [Amtrak] routes are still using busses for a part of the way?  And where are the newer sleeper cars being used.  Since 2008 we have heard about these cars and have yet to ride in one.  We still want to travel by train, but are dreading the many hardships.

My Response: Many buses are operated by Amtrak, but they are only used if a main rail line is temporarily obstructed or to transport passengers between one of the stops on the rail line and another city or town not on the rail line.

As to Amtrak sleeping cars, they are regularly repaired and refurbished, but I’m afraid there is no way to know when you will find yourself traveling in one that’s fresh from one of those make-overs. In any event, some of those sleeping cars are more than 40 years old. Amtrak is way overdue for new equipment.

But why do you continue to travel by train if you really do “dread the many hardships” that you feel must be endured?

I personally have accumulated something in excess of 200,000 miles on Amtrak and have seldom had a “perfect” experience. After all, when you travel more than 3,000 miles crossing the country in an Amtrak train, over track owned and controlled by two or three different freight railroads, there are innumerable opportunities for incidents that result in delays.

My best advice: Expect minor inconveniences when you travel by train. Assume your train is going to be late, possibly very late. Allow for that. And, when other incidents occur, don’t be distressed by them. Remember that a long-distance train ride is a journey. Experience all of it.