Passenger Trains, A Guide To US Train Travel

Passenger trains are steadily becoming a very popular means of transportation in the USA once again. Their history and "Golden Age" have been well documented and covered in other areas of the website so if you are interested in reading about the history of train travel you can find links about such here. However, this section of the website looks to generally cover your train travel options today so if you are looking to take a trip by train information regarding such can be found here, whether it might be a long distance ride aboard Amtrak or a commuter train in your local area. Lastly, this page will be updated as new train routes are added or others are discontinued.

A History of Passenger Trains, Before Amtrak

In the days prior to federally-funded Amtrak and other state commuter rail agencies now found all across the country, the primary means of rail travel came by way of the private freight railroads for both intercity and local services.  Included within these services was the classic interurban and streetcar systems, most of which went extinct by the World War II era.  Interestingly, even these operations are making a comeback.  In many ways the private services then were far superior than what you will find today with comfortable reclining-seat coaches, lounge services, and light-dining provided on some commuter trains while long-distance travel provided even great accommodations including full-service sleepers, five-star dining, club/parlor cars, domes for unparalleled scenic views, and much more.

Unfortunately, this "Golden Age" of rail travel quietly slipped away as the public abandoned trains for the freedom of the open road and speed of the airliner.  The era was also one of heavy regulation that largely dictated freight rates railroads could set and made abandoning unprofitable rail lines or discontinuing passenger trains virtually impossible.  Not surprisingly, several large carriers were in bankruptcy by the 1960s causing the federal government to step in and relieve railroads of passenger service, creating Amtrak in the spring of 1971.  To its credit the passenger road has done its best to maintain respectable service in spite of little Congressional funding year-after-year (usually slightly more than $1 billion annually, barely enough to pay the bills).  Featured here is a brief overview of all Amtrak's current trains and services.  To learn more please visit their website.

Amtrak Passenger Trains/Services

NorthEast

Acela Express:  Amtrak's fastest service operates at speeds as high as 150 mph in some locations while traveling between Washington, D.C. and Boston via New York and Philadelphia along the old Pennsylvania's Northeast Corridor while traveling the former New Haven east of New York.  The train has been in service since December 11, 2000 offering business and first-class accomodations.

Adirondack:  The Adirondack has been on Amtrak's timetable since August 5, 1974 operating between New York City and Montreal, Quebec via Albany and eastern New York.  The train offers coach service only, travels 381 miles, and requires 10-11 hours one-way.

Auto Train:  The famous Auto Train began as a private corporation by Eugene Garfield to test the concept of running a passenger service offering passengers the ability to transport their vehicle(s) en route along the East Coast.  It began operations on December 6, 1971 but was never particularly successful and stopped running after September of 1977.  However, Amtrak revived the service on October 30, 1983 and it still runs today between Lorton, Virginia (Washington, D.C.) and Sanford, Florida.

Capitol Limited:  The historic Capitol Limited was once the flagship train of the venerable Baltimore & Ohio, our country's first common-carrier system.  It first entered service on May 12, 1923 between New York and Chicago via D.C. (later truncated to Washington/Baltimore).  It was retained by Amtrak on May 1, 1971 and today operates between Washington and Chicago via Pittsburgh and Cleveland.