Amtrak (1-800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com) offers rail passenger service throughout the country, which it promotes with special programs: all-inclusive vacation tour packages, rail access to ski resorts, the Auto Train to Florida, air/rail packages, high-speed Metroliner service to New York, sleeping accommodations and frequent off-price fare offers.
* Passenger service on Amtrak from Washington includes especially scenic routes. The Vermonter attracts skiers in winter, cyclists in summer and leaf peepers in fall; it has a specially equipped baggage car for skis, snowboards and bicycles. Heading west to Chicago, the Cardinal transports passengers past luxe resorts like the Homestead and Greenbrier as well as Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains and West Virginia's New River Gorge. And although you have to get to New York City first, the Adirondack, which runs from Manhattan to Montreal, is another beautiful ride, stopping along the way in Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid.
* The Auto Train operates daily between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla. The one-way fare for the 16 1/2-hour overnight trip ranges from $116 to $182 per adult (depending on departure date), plus an additional $230 to $330 for the auto. Sleeping car accommodations are additional.
* The Air Rail Program links Amtrak with United Airlines so that passengers on a round-trip journey can travel one way by train and the other by plane for less than if they booked the two legs of the trip on their own. (Amtrak Adventures packages allow you to fly to a destination on United, explore it aboard Amtrak and return by air.) Amtrak Vacations: 1-800-321-8684.
* Escorted Tour Vacations feature escorted motor coach tours of a week or more from major cities served by Amtrak. There also are rail/lodging packages available for many cities and resorts on Amtrak routes, as well as rail/sail vacations on several cruise lines. Call 1-800-321-8684.
* Metroliners provide frequent high-speed service daily between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Reservations are required, and fares are higher than regular service. Reservations: 1-800-523-8720. (Amtrak says start-up of its super-high-speed service between New York and Boston, originally scheduled for November, can be expected sometime after the first of the year.)
* Discounted fares are offered on Saturdays and during off-peak travel seasons. Special Explore America Fares are sold for travel within four regions: Eastern, Central, Western and Florida. Senior citizen and children's fares are available.
TOURIST TRAINS offer scenic rides, among them the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango, Colo. Many historic trains still in operation are listed in the "Steam Passenger Services Directory (Great Eastern)," which is sold at the Great Train Store in Washington's Union Station. In addition, many chapters of the National Railway Historical Society, 301-946-9461, organize special rail outings.