Want to save yourself 825 miles (1328 km) of driving along the ferocious Interstate 95 highway from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida? The Amtrak Auto Train is the way for you and your vehicle to go.
How it Works
Your Auto Train journey begins in Lorton, Virginia, 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Washington DC (map). The process is well organized:
- Reservations are required.
- You must travel with a vehicle (4-wheel or motorcycle).
- Vehicles accepted for loading from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
- Passenger boarding begins at 2:30 pm
- Auto Train departs at 4:00 pm
- Dinner is served in three seatings (dinner and breakfast are included in your fare)
- Coffee, tea, soft drinks & snacks always available
- Breakfast is open seating
- Auto Train arrives at 9:00 am
- Unloading of vehicles may be completed by about 11:00 am, perhaps later if the train is at full capacity (320 vehicles)
Start Your Journey
When you arrive at the Amtrak Auto Train Lorton Station, attendants give your car a random identification number and drive it into one of the 20 to 30 autoracks (automobile-carrying freight cars) while you proceed to the waiting area with its shop, snack stand, toilets, Wifi, etc.
In the waiting area, a clerk assigns you to a sleeping car and compartment, takes your dinner-seating reservation, and gives you a boarding number and location. When called, you walk to your boarding location and settle in to your accommodation (reclining seat in coach, Roomette, Bedroom, etc.)
A typical train has two or three locomotives hauling six Superliner sleeping cars, a dining car and lounge for sleeping-car passengers; four coach cars with reclining seats served by two more diners and another lounge. There’s also a crew car.
A full Auto Train is touted as the longest passenger train in the world—nearly a mile (1.6 km) long.
Besides coach seats in Pullman cars, the Amtrak Auto Train offers a variety of private sleeping accommodations in Amtrak Superliner bi-level sleeping cars:
- Roomette, 1 or 2 passengers
- Bedroom, 1 to 3 passengers
- Family Bedroom, 2 adults + 2 children
- Bedroom Suite, up to 6 passengers
- Accessible Bedroom, 1 or 2 passengers, wheelchair accessible, toilet & sink
The Roomette, for one or two travelers, is the mid-range choice for comfort, privacy and price. Each Roomette has two comfortable seats which pull together to form a bed at night.
Life in a Roomette
An upper bunk folds down from above:
There is very little standing room in a Roomette when the door is closed—enough to stand, but not enough for some passengers to turn around.
Luggage & Where to Put It
Checked luggage is not accepted on the Auto Train. Space is at a premium in a Roomette, so leave most of your stuff in your vehicle. Bring on board only what you’ll need for the train ride.
There are small compartments here and there, and space under the seats (best for soft luggage, not hard cases).
Coat hangers and a coat hook hold a few garments.
Those Door Locks…
The door to your Roomette can be locked from the inside. The latch mechanism is not intuitive, so here’s a lesson:
Arrival in Florida
The train arrives after breakfast at the Amtrak Auto Train Station in Sanford, Florida, 25 miles (40 km) north of Orlando (map).
You exit the train to the waiting area and watch monitors for your car’s identification number. When it appears, you car is outside, ready to go.
Autotrain Insider Tips
- Reserve well in advance for the busiest seasons: Southbound December through February, Northbound February through April.
- If you arrive early to check in your car, you may have the best chance to get your preferred dinner seating time.
- You can, of course, take the Auto Train in the opposite direction, from Sanford to Lorton….
- The Amtrak Auto Train page has more info.