Taking the Train

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Amtrak (800-872-7245, http://www.amtrak.com/) offers rail passenger service nationwide, as well as Amtrak Vacations packages (e.g., one-way air, theater tickets, hotel, etc.), the Auto Train to Florida, rail passes, multi-ride tickets, and Metroliner and Acela service to New York. For lower fares, travel during off-peak days and/or times. Discount fares are available to seniors, children (half-price for ages 2 to 15), students, veterans and AAA members. The Weekly Specials(Internet-only deals) offer discounts on certain routes, such as D.C. to Chicago or Pittsburgh. For more train travel, reservations are required.

Acela Express and Metroliner provide daily high-speed service between D.C. and Boston and/or New York. Fares are higher than for regular service. Service for both is available only at select stations. Acela stops in such cities as Philadelphia; Newark; New Haven, Conn.; and Providence, R.I. Metroliner runs only between D.C. and New York, with stops at BWI; Wilmington, Del.; and Philadelphia, among others.

Passenger service from Washington includes some scenic routes. The Vermonter attracts skiers in winter, cyclists in summer and leaf-peepers in fall. Heading to Chicago, the Cardinal transports passengers past West Virginia's rushing rivers, Kentucky horse country and the Cincinnati skyline. And while you have to get to New York first, the Adirondack runs from Manhattan to Montreal, and has two onboard Trails and Rails programs that work in conjunction with National Park Service Areas.

The Auto Train operates daily nonstop service between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla. Prices vary according to season and holidays. In late February, for instance, a one-way fare is $251 for one car and a reserved coach seat. Add $114 to $376 for sleeper car accommodations.

For info on tourist trains that offer scenic rides in the United States and beyond, check out Routes International Travel ( http://routesinternational.com/touristtrains.htm) and Rails USA ( http://www.railsusa.com/links/Tourist_Railroads). Many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society (215-557-6606, http://www.nrhs.com/) also organize special rail outings.

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