About Overnight Train Travel.

Today I want to pass along some thoughts about Amtrak long-distance travel that have been in my “to do” file for several weeks. Perhaps one or two will be of help on your next overnight train trip.

The Conductor is boss. Once under way, the conductor is in complete charge of the train. Whatever the problem—trouble with an unruly passenger in the lounge car, a mix-up with your ticket, whatever—the conductor is the person to see. (If he or she isn’t “walking the train”, you can usually find a conductor at one of the tables in the lounge car.)

If you’re traveling in a sleeper, the car attendant is the person for any problem with your accommodations—a door won’t close properly, a light switch doesn’t work, or if you become ill. The car attendant is usually in roomette #1 in the Superliner sleepers and in the last roomette at the rear of the Viewliners.

In Room Dining.  If this is your preference, the car attendant will take care of it for you. But—please!—be aware that he or she will have to make three trips to the dining car for each meal you take in your bedroom or roomette: once to bring you a menu and take your order back to the dining car; twice to bring your food to your accommodations when it’s ready; and the third time is when he takes your dirty dishes back to the diner. Please remember that when you tip him at the end of your journey. My suggestion: $5.00 added to the normal tip for each meal you take in your accommodations.

Use the Dining Car. I urge you to take all your meals in the dining car. Yes, you will be seated with other travelers—with strangers—but meeting people over meals in the dining car is one of the more interesting and enjoyable aspects of long-distance train travel. Truthfully, I look froward to those experiences as much as I do enjoying the passing scenery. Probably more.

If you’re a Late Arrival.  Long-distance trains are often late. Sometimes very late . . . even many hours late. Usually it’s because of interference by freight traffic on the same tracks.

If you miss a connection because your incoming train is running late, the moment your train comes to a stop, RUN—do not walk—toward the front of the train where one or two Amtrak employees will be set up to help you. I know it sounds selfish, but the idea is you want to be one of the first people who gets help, not one of the last. If you are traveling in a sleeping car, you can expect Amtrak to put you up in a decent hotel and give you vouchers to cover the cost of meals. They will also arrange space for you on another train to get you to your final destination. 

Try to remember that the Amtrak employee you’re dealing with is the solution to your problem, not the cause!