All Aboard The Amtrak Auto Train

Illustration for article titled All Aboard The Amtrak Auto Train

One of the biggest complaints people have about taking Amtrak is that they don't have their car when they get where they're going (that and the delays/long trips). Since the 1970's there's been a solution in the form of the Auto Train, which allows passengers to take their cars with them. The train only operates from near Washington, D.C. (Lorton, VA) to near Orlando (Sanford, FL), making it popular amongst those headed to Disney World.

The service started out as a private venture in the 1970's but collapsed in 1981 and was rescued by Amtrak two years later. Typically, the Auto Train operates with two diesel locomotives, five sleeper cars, four diners/lounges, five coaches and a number of the autoracks that carry the cars (you can see the loading platform here). This creates a train sometimes longer than a half-mile. The total trip takes somewhere around 18 hours and costs $224 on top of the cost of the ticket.

In 2006, the train was the highest grossing single train with nearly $50,000,000 in ticket revenue, just shy of the $62,000,000 it costs to operate. That may sound bad, but that's actually fantastic for an Amtrak route. Has anyone ridden this beast? [Source Wikipedia]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter




Actually Amtrak was a nationalization of the passenger rail components of almost every railroad in the US. The railroads make money from freight and Amtrak pays a pittance. The only track that Amtrak maintains is parts of the Northeast Corridor, and they don't do that very well. What is needed there is a state takeover, especially in New Jersey, since the part of the Northeast Corridor that is owned by Connecticut actually is in better shape than most of the rest of it.

A great deal of Amtrak service is subsidized by either state or federal government. In fact most, if not all of Amtrak's California operations are state subsidized. Probably the only service that actually makes money, or has the potential to, is the Northeast Corridor where the distances are short and the trains are fast and time wise are practical alternatives to driving or flying.

Ideally, the Northeast Corridor should be spun off to some private concerns who can no doubt make some money off of it, with the track an infrastructure given over to the control of the various states it runs through to preserve local commuter services.