About three weeks ago, I took my first ever Amtrak trip. I'll offer ten observations to help those thinking of doing a Amtrak experience.
1. There are two categories of seating: a coach seat or a private cabin. From DC to Birmingham, it's around $130 for a coach seat. The private cabin? For two-person cabin, it depends on the day of the week and how things are going for Amtrak....it could be $325 for the cabin, or $475.
2. Traveling via the coach seat? If it's eight hours or less....the seat is acceptable but you'd best make a reservation and ensure you have a seat. Don't just walk up and buy a ticket for today and assume you will have an empty seat.
3. The private cabin? Cramped. No room for more than an overnight bag. The toilet seat is in the cabin. Don't expect nothing but privacy.
4. The rails are four-star and one-star. You could run into a fifty mile stretch where you barely feel the train moving. You could be on a 100-mile stretch where you are continually thrown against the wall.
5. Some areas of travel are just farms and kudzu. If you expect great landscape between DC and Birmingham.....you are fooling yourself. Between Chicago and Seattle.....maybe great landscape.
6. The food? Well....the restaurant car is decent and if you go by private cabin....the meals are all free (you pay for beverages). Steak? Two-star at best. Breakfast is fairly good and acceptable, at by my standards.
7. When you get to the station, you can load two bags freely into the baggage car. The only negative? It's usually thirty minutes after you arrive that they open up the door and let you pick up your bags.
8. The stations? It's best not to discuss this matter. If you expected any kind of scenic train station....you'd best go to London, Paris or Frankfurt. Don't stand around outside of any station, and use the taxi to get the heck out of the neighborhood.
9. AC works great and you won't complain about the cabin temperatures.
10. Sleeping in the cabin car? Well.....it's lousy sleep but maybe some folks who did time in the Air Force or Army might synchronize themselves enough to accept the sleep provided.
All in all.....most guys want to do such a trip once in their life and when it's done.....half of us never want to do such a trip again. The plus side? You see alot of the country that you'd never see in a car or on a plane. You appreciate the backward scenic surroundings. America is a curious place, if you look hard enough.