Almost immediately, this routing began to lose money as demand was not
nearly as high. In just three years the train lost millions of dollars
and was canceled in September of 1977. Additionally, a year earlier the
original Train had its own setback when a derailment
occurred near Florence, South Carolina that injured two-dozen passengers
and scattered nearly half of the train's cars along the rails
(typically, a train consisted of between three to five dozen cars).
This incident also cost the company millions of dollars. Essentially,
due to both setbacks the Auto-Train Corporation was forced into
bankruptcy shortly thereafter because of mounting debts despite the fact
that demand remained high over the original route.
Finally, the railroad called it quits in April, 1981 ending one of the most unique operations ever attempted in the industry. Then, after more than two years Amtrak decided to revive the service thanks to a growing demand by the public to see it returned. On October 30, 1983 the new Auto Train departed Lorton for Sandford. Amtrak purchased the Auto-Train Corporation's former terminals at both locations and also a good portion of its rolling stock although not the locomotives. At first the carrier offered service three days a week but within a year had reestablished daily service. During this early era power consisted of EMD F40PHs although the cars themselves were all secondhand; rebuilt general equipment Amtrak had acquired from the private railroad industry (dubbed "Heritage Fleet" cars), other passenger equipment it had purchased from Auto-Train, and finally all of the former autoracks the corporation had used.
In the 1990s the service was upgraded significantly with the new and popular Superliner cars as well as new General Electric P42 diesels for power. A standard consist for the Auto Train has really changed all that much today with diners, sleepers, roomettes, and standard coaches still used. Today, the route is 855 miles in length (requiring about 17.5 hours of travel time) with only the two terminals mentioned as stopping points along the way. It is one of Amtrak's only trains that operates as a completely through train. Over the years the Auto Train has held a steady demand of patrons although it has never grown significant during that time. In a typical year it will see about a quarter-million riders.
While you may not realize there has actually been a book published about the train. Released through Arcadia Publishing's "Images Of Rail" series the book entitled Auto-Train written by author Wally Ely provides a 128-page pictorial history of the service from its beginnings in 1971 until its cancellation in 1981. You will also see photos of the service under Amtrak's direction. Overall, the book has received good marks from readers. If you're interested a copy of Mr. Ely's book please visit the link below which will take
you to ordering information through Amazon.com.