Monday, March 15, 2010

Amtrak Adventure

 So, a poster on the Travel Plan Idea Blog asked about Amtrak. I was responding to their post and decided it would be fun to share my response on my own blog as well. Here you go!

A trip from DC to Chicago getting off in Toledo would have only touched one city in WV. Most of those mining towns would have been in Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, I took Amtrak round trip from my home in Pittsburgh to Washington, DC in 2008. I took a coach seat down and a roomette back so I could get both experiences.

In coach, the seats were wide and roomy and I always felt like I had a lot of room. I didn't have a seat mate, so I was able to stretch out a bit (like everyone else was doing). There was at least some freedom to walk around, but there wasn't too much to actually do. You could sit in the lounge car with the overhead windows, but I got bored there after a while. Downstairs from the lounge car was the snack car which was empty, save for the lone employee working the counter.

Lunch was merely ok, but was a bit overpriced if you had to pay out of pocket (it's included if you get a room). Service was slow, which is fine if you have no where to go and have interesting table mates, but can be painful if you have no interest in the others at your table.

The train from Pittsburgh to DC was about two hours late arriving into Pittsburgh and about four hours late arriving into Washington. I had checked luggage at the Pittsburgh station and it took them forever to get it to us at baggage claim in DC.

For the trip back, I was able to wait in the first class lounge at Union Station in DC because I had booked a room. The lounge was fine, but very crowded. Boarding went off without a hitch and I was soon led to my roomette.

The roomette is comfortable, not too big, but not really cramped either (until the beds are down). It was very spacious for one, probably just right for two. The big drawback here is that you can feel really isolated from the rest of the train once you're in your cabin. Many people left their doors open to seem sociable, but I thought it was pretty rude to interrupt someone sitting in a private cabin. However, on a long haul journey of more than a day, I'd bet things are different. Coach passengers aren't allowed into the cars with cabins.

Honestly, the trip wasn't long enough for me to get much out of the roomette, about eight hours or so. I would have been fine in coach. Compared to the four hour delay earlier, my train was only five minutes late arriving into Pittsburgh.

I'd probably take Amtrak again, but it has to be at a good price. Once you factor the cost of the room into the overall price, it's frequently much cheaper to fly.