Seeing the country by train


One of the new Amtrak Cities Sprinter Locomotives built by Siemens Rails Systems in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
May 16, 2013

Amtrak (800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service nationwide as well as Amtrak Vacations packages (e.g., Canadian Rockies with Glacier National Park; 800-268-7252, www.amtrakvacations.com), the Auto Train to Florida, rail passes, multi-ride tickets (including unlimited travel in a month), multi-city tickets and Acela Express service.

For lower fares, travel during off-peak days or times and reserve at least two weeks in advance. Discount fares are available for seniors, children, students, veterans, military personnel, groups and AAA members with restrictions. SmartFares offer 25 percent discounts on select one-way routes that change weekly. Available for purchase Tuesday to Friday for travel every day of the week except Fridays and Sundays. Tickets are nonrefundable and cannot be exchanged.

Amtrak offers WiFi service in select stations (for instance, Union Station, Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore’s Penn Station) and on certain trains (Acela Express, Capitol Corridor, Carolinian, etc.) across the country.

Acela Express provides daily high-speed service between Washington and Boston and/or New York, with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Haven, Conn., among other cities. Fares are higher than regular service along the Northeast Corridor.

Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. Take the Vermonter between Washington and St. Albans in northern Vermont and experience the Green Mountain State’s scenic vistas. The Palmetto and Silver Service trains offer service between New York City, Georgia and Florida with a stop in Washington. And the Capitol Limited runs daily between Washington and Chicago following the historic B&O line through the Potomac Valley and past Harpers Ferry and the Allegheny Mountains, before chugging onward through Ohio and Indiana.

Passengers traveling by train to select National Park Service sites can find planning assistance and trip ideas at www.amtraktoparks.com.

The Auto Train operates nonstop service between Lorton and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays. In early June, for instance, the one-way fare starts at $275 for a reserved coach seat and a regular car. Sleeper car accommodations are extra. Passengers can also pay $50 extra for priority car offloading.

For more info on train vacations with scenic rides through the United States and beyond, go to Vacations by Rail (877-929-7245, www.vacationsbyrail.com), RailsNW (800-717-0108, www.railsnw.com), Mayflower Tours (800-323-7604, www.mayflowertours.com/train-tours) and Rails USA (www.railsusa.com/links/Tourist_Railroads), an online directory. Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (www.nrhs.com) also organize special rail outings.

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