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  1. #1
    Senior Member Blopslee's Avatar
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    Folders and Amtrak advaice...or mabe just venting?

    Hi Everyone,

    Sorry this is so long....

    I have been reading posts on this forum for years, but have not posted much myself. My background is in road racing, but I've started to commute on a bike lately as well. I am currently in a job that requires me to stay in a town downstate for part of the week and I just bought a folder in order to replace my car trips with a bike-Amtrak-bike trips. Would be a great change if it would work well. I have been having lots of fun upgrading/ getting to know my folder (although the lack of available parts and range of fit are a bit off-putting), but am not having great luck with Amtrak.

    Amtak employees with whom I interact (especially conductors) do not know or believe the baggage policy that seems to indicate that folders can travel with passengers for free. I use the Lincoln Service Trains, which travel between Chicago and St. Louis and find that just about every trip I take I have to explain, lobby, convince even argue with the conductors or agents. I have read everything I can find on the net, have studied the baggage policy, and have discussed this with many conductors, ticket agents, and customer service people.

    I wonder if others of you are having a tough time taking your folders on Amtrak trains as well - most of the stories I find are several years old? I have read and have been told over and over that taking a copy of the policy on the train is the thing to do, but lately I have been hearing from conductors that the policy does not explicitly state that there is no fee (even though the customer service people seem to think the policy indicates that there is no fee). The exact language is a bit vague when you really examine it.

    Very curious about the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of others - especially if any of you share the same train line as me (though it seems that many on my line have never seen a folder before). I wonder if there is any kind of advocacy group working on bike train relations regarding folders specifically?

    thanks for tolerating the rant and for any feedback

  2. #2
    Senior Member smallwheeler's Avatar
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    this is pretty much all you need- laminate it.
    you are right that it doesnt explicitly state that folding bikes are free. but, it is implied as it clearly makes a distinction between folding bikes as "carry-on luggage" and reserved "ticketed" bicycles.

    not ticketed = free.


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    I agree that a copy of the above notice should be sufficient and since it says that folding bicycles can be brought along as "carry-on baggage" there shouldn't be any question about an extra fee since carry-on baggage is free of charge. There's also this note on the Amtrak website under special items: "Folding bicycles under the dimensions of 34" x 15" x 48"/860 x 380 x 1120 mm will be allowed onboard all trains in lieu of a piece of baggage. They must be considered a true folding bicycle." I note that this indicates that the folder *will* count as one of the two allowed carry-ons whereas the notice above says it *will not* count. If possible I'd try to limit myself to only one other carry-on piece of baggage so that doesn't become an issue.

    I haven't had this issue with Amtrak and our bike club regularly has a ride where we use Amtrak on the return - but it's on one of their trains that allows regular bikes and has hooks for them at the end of the cars. I've also used Amtrak without incident with my folder as carry-on on one of their other trains which doesn't allow regular bikes. Might be a question of how often the personnel encounter people traveling with bicycles on a particular route.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Blopslee's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback Smallwheeler and Prathmann. It is very helpful to know a bit about how it has been going for others.

    Smallwheeler, do we know where this document came from and how it got into the hands of the general public? It looks to be an internal memo? I have been hearing recently about something called the "Blue Book" that employees have which contains all policies. When I asked a conductor if I could get my hands on a copy he just laughed. I wonder if this document is pulled from that inner circle?

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    Senior Member smallwheeler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blopslee View Post
    I have been hearing recently about something called the "Blue Book" that employees have which contains all policies. When I asked a conductor if I could get my hands on a copy he just laughed. I wonder if this document is pulled from that inner circle?
    friend,

    your initial inquiry has been addressed and a satisfactory solution has been provided including necessary documentation. any further inquiry is prohibited. related details are graded "eyes only" and are classified. any supplemental documentation should be considered redacted and non-existent.

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    have a pleasant weekend.


  6. #6
    jmm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blopslee View Post
    ...do we know where this document came from and how it got into the hands of the general public?
    customerservice.amtrak.com/standards/osu/OSU_07_15.pdf

    Note the URL. Copy and paste into your browser (I tried adding the http:// to make the link clickable but ran into some weird problems...).

    John
    Last edited by jmm; 10-05-13 at 08:52 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Blopslee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smallwheeler View Post
    friend,

    your initial inquiry has been addressed and a satisfactory solution has been provided including necessary documentation. any further inquiry is prohibited. related details are graded "eyes only" and are classified. any supplemental documentation should be considered redacted and non-existent.

    your IP address has been logged.

    thank you for your inquiry.

    have a pleasant weekend.


    check.

  8. #8
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I have found that if it is bagged in a nondescript duffle or cover-up that it is never questioned, it is a carry on bag.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Still Pedaling's Avatar
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    I never thought that there would be such a problem with Amtrak. I guess employees need to be brought up to speed, so to speak. I have met a few people where I bought my Brompton who say that they have never had an issue with airlines. They have always brought there Brommies on the plane and stored them in the overhead compartments with no problem/issues at all. I'm amazed that today this should be an issue with any such form of transportation.
    "It's best to remain silent and be thought the fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt" -- Mark Twain

  10. #10
    Senior Member Lalato's Avatar
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    It's really just the Chicago station agents and conductors. I used to ride from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago weekly (now live in SF Bay Area). The agents/conductors that were based in Chicago would tell me that I needed a bike ticket. I would always counter that the policy was that folding bikes were considered carry-on luggage. They would grimace and let me on the train without further fuss. I was always polite... as I got the sense that if I wasn't polite, I might not get on the train. Additionally, when I bothered to put the bike in it's cover/bag... I never got questioned about the bike.

    Now that I live in California, things are very different. I've never once been asked about my folding bike on an Amtrak train. I hop on without issue... and if I do get asked about the bike it's because they genuinely want to know about the bike.

    So... I don't know what's up with the Chicago based crews, but they have an issue with folding bikes. Maybe a folding bike rider kicked one of their puppies once?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Blopslee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lalato View Post
    So... I don't know what's up with the Chicago based crews, but they have an issue with folding bikes. Maybe a folding bike rider kicked one of their puppies once?
    ha! I'm going to tape a picture of several puppies on my bike and see if that works in Chicago

    Totally jealous about the attitude you describe on the California trains

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    No conductor issues here in Maryland along the Northeast Corridor. Many folding-bike commuters here make use of Amtrak's cross-honoring policy so we're a frequent sight.

    I just wish sleeping passengers wouldn't hang half their bodies into the aisle!

  13. #13
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    Another data point, from the Northwest...

    Have ridden Amtrak to/from Seattle, Portland, Vancouver BC, with Bromptons nude, in Ikea Dimpa bag and in Brompton B-bag and never had an issue. I am quick to snag the lower space at the end of my coach which very nicely fits 2 Bromptons. Two will also fit on the first shelf up, but the bars which comprise the shelf are not as friendly to use.

  14. #14
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    My husband and I will be taking Amtrak from Albuquerque to LA tomorrow with our full size Montigue Navigator folding bikes. We have the soft cover bags for them. I am hoping to bring on the train as a carryon, they are under the dimensions shown for folding bikes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    I took my Birdy on my trip to Texas on Amtrak two years ago. They didn't give me any trouble with it.

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    According to my logs, I'm up to 2,169 trips on Amtrak's Keystone (between Philadelphia and Paoli, PA) with my folders over the last 6+ years. No issues since May 7, 2007!

  17. #17
    my nice bike is at home kraftwerk's Avatar
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    Bring that rule , laminated as advised above, and bring a tape measure.

  18. #18
    Senior Member overbyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lalato View Post
    ...
    Now that I live in California, things are very different. I've never once been asked about my folding bike on an Amtrak train. I hop on without issue... and if I do get asked about the bike it's because they genuinely want to know about the bike.

    So... I don't know what's up with the Chicago based crews, but they have an issue with folding bikes. Maybe a folding bike rider kicked one of their puppies once?
    I notice Lalato that you are in the SF Bay Area and Sacramento. Those are served by the Capitol Corridor train of Amtrak, which has the following policy on bicycles (as of March 7, 2012): http://customerservice.amtrak.com/st.../OSU_12_13.pdf . The Capitol Corridor caters to commuters and has embraced bicycle commuting. Other areas may have their own local policy deviations from the general Amtrak bicycle and baggage rules.

    I'm currently trying to plan a short bike camping trip, starting at the San Jose Amtrak Station, taking Capitol Corridor the Suisun/Fairfield station, and from there riding with my loaded bike to a state park 4.5 hours away for a 2-night self-supported bike camping trip. Amtrak doesn't make it easy to go this way, when you get down to the details. The rules allow me to take my bike on board, but it will count as 1 of the maximum 2 pieces of carry-on baggage. There is no way to check baggage on this train, even though the station is equipped for baggage checking on other routes that pass through. I guess the Capitol Corridor has no baggage cars, but it does have bike hanging areas on the lower level of passenger cars and limited space for other carry-ons. So, my challenge is how to get shelter, clothing, cooking, and sleeping gear into the limits imposed by the baggage rules, which only allow one bag of specified maximum size (similar to a large suitcase). I was able to do it once before when I rode with a folding bike and 1 duffle bag, but that didn't involve camping.

    I wonder if anyone has had experience with this dilemma. Things come to mind: Will the conductor allow me to keep panniers on the bike and not count them as additional carry-on baggage? (My guess is that small bags like tool kits in frame bags will be ignored, but panniers may be counted as baggage, which would put me over the limit.) Can I take my sleeping bag as the "blanket" exception which isn't counted as carry-on baggage?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Still Pedaling View Post
    I have met a few people where I bought my Brompton who say that they have never had an issue with airlines. They have always brought there Brommies on the plane and stored them in the overhead compartments with no problem/issues at all.
    'never', 'no problems/issues at all' can be classified as solid dose of fantasy and/or wishful thinking.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Lalato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by overbyte View Post
    I wonder if anyone has had experience with this dilemma. Things come to mind: Will the conductor allow me to keep panniers on the bike and not count them as additional carry-on baggage? (My guess is that small bags like tool kits in frame bags will be ignored, but panniers may be counted as baggage, which would put me over the limit.) Can I take my sleeping bag as the "blanket" exception which isn't counted as carry-on baggage?
    While I don't have experience with this dilemma, I do have extensive experience with Capitol Corridor trains. While there is an overarching policy to limit bags, this policy is rarely enforced on Capitol Corridor trains. No one will be counting the number of bags you bring on board. Each car has a number of bike racks. These bike racks also double as luggage storage areas. Additionally, there are overhead compartments for storage of carry on items. Additionally, the first car's lower level is mostly bike rack/luggage.

    If you avoid rush hour commuting times for your trip you shouldn't have any issue taking as much stuff as you want on the train.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by overbyte View Post
    I wonder if anyone has had experience with this dilemma. Things come to mind: Will the conductor allow me to keep panniers on the bike and not count them as additional carry-on baggage? (My guess is that small bags like tool kits in frame bags will be ignored, but panniers may be counted as baggage, which would put me over the limit.) Can I take my sleeping bag as the "blanket" exception which isn't counted as carry-on baggage?
    I can't speak specifically to the Capitol Corridor, but when I traveled with a boxed bike, they were pretty clear that everything had to be removed. I left a few things on it, thinking it would go unnoticed, but there were comments about the weight (although people comment on the weight of my bike when there is no luggage on it). Of course if you're stowing your own bike, the issue will be more about what the mechanism is for securing the bike, how much weight it can take, and how much the bulk affects the ability of others to use the racks. I suspect you're right that small bags, or maybe empty panniers will be overlooked, but more than that might cause an issue.

    What I did was bring a large, cloth duffle bag and a backpack. Two of my four panniers could be stuffed into the duffle, and the contents of the remaining two panniers were distributed between the duffle and the backpack, with a few items left in the mostly-empty panniers that remained on the bike. It was a tight fit, but I ended up with two carry-on bags that held all of my gear. I've tried to pare down my touring gear a little better, so I think I could improve on the situation next time. I also have a set of panniers that will snap together when off the bike. I've done that, and added a bungee and/or a belt to make it a more solid, compact package, and passed two panniers off as one carry on.

  22. #22
    Senior Member jobtraklite's Avatar
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    I'm surprised you've had trouble on Illinois trains. I regularly take my folder on the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg without any hassle. I often take the train to one station, bike to the next, and train back home (e.g., Macomb to Galesburg), as well as connect in Chicago to long distance trains. Once in a great while a newbie conductor will ask for my bike ticket. When I mention the magic word, s/he always moves on. One of the veteran conductors always asks me where I'm going and how many miles I'm riding. The best place to stash a folder, or full size bike for that matter, on Horizon coaches used in Illinois is in the open space or luggage rack at the ends of the car. Even the gate Nazis at Chicago Union Station have never hassled me. My wife and I are quite a sight pushing our way to the head of the line in Chicago with folders when they call for senior citizens.

    I've long since quit carrying a print out of the policy found on the website. You must have encountered what is known as bicycle derangement syndrome.

    I've also taken my folder on long distance trains to every part of the country. Only once, boarding the SW Chief in LA did a conductor try to give me a hard time as I was about to board. I simply stood there smiling, figuring it was his problem and he could figure out how to solve it. He finally had the sleeping car attendant put it on the ski locker.

    The one problem I see is Viewliner sleepers which don't have community luggage racks; and there is not enough space in the room, especially when there is two of us, both with folders. A while back I was able to sneak them into a coach car with large community luggage racks. But I wouldn't want to try it with the greatly increased ridership the last few years.

    Pacific Northwesterners can perhaps provide more information, but we had trouble fitting our folders into the small community luggage racks on a Cascade train between Portland and Seattle. We should have taken them to the baggage car.

    I forget the details, but not too long ago a folder carrying passenger was hassled (perhaps on the Texas Eagle) and the story went viral as they say. Amtrak apologized profusely and publicly (and probably gave the passenger a generous voucher good for future travel) and sent out a bulletin reminding train personnel of the policy. Think of a manufacturing plant that doesn't have a manager or foreman on site, and you've got an Amtrak train.


    No that's not trash but a Dahon Speed P8 on board the Carl Sandburg en route to a tour of the Hennepin Canal Trail


    Waiting for the Illinois Zephyr at the fancy new Kewanee, IL station on our way to a tour of the Great Allegheny Passage


    Waiting for the eastbound Capitol Limited at Cumberland, MD after biking the Great Allegheny Passage


    On board the southbound City of New Orleans


    Ready to head to Mobile, AL after detraining from the City of New Orleans


    All set to head out to Albany, NY on the Erie Canal Trail. Can you spot the odd ball?


    Portland, OR Union Station
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    Last edited by jobtraklite; 02-13-14 at 07:26 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    ^^^^ Now you're talking!

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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  24. #24
    Senior Member overbyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
    I can't speak specifically to the Capitol Corridor, but ...

    What I did was bring a large, cloth duffle bag and a backpack. Two of my four panniers could be stuffed into the duffle, and the contents of the remaining two panniers were distributed between the duffle and the backpack, with a few items left in the mostly-empty panniers that remained on the bike. It was a tight fit, but I ended up with two carry-on bags that held all of my gear. I've tried to pare down my touring gear a little better, so I think I could improve on the situation next time. I also have a set of panniers that will snap together when off the bike. I've done that, and added a bungee and/or a belt to make it a more solid, compact package, and passed two panniers off as one carry on.
    Thanks for those ideas. However, the problem with a backpack is that you're stuck with it when you reassemble the bike with the panniers at your destination, so you have to carry it on the bike or on your back, neither of which are ideal unless you really are going to hike with the backpack at your destination. Capitol Corridor doesn't have checked baggage for a boxed bike so by the rules you can only bring 2 carry-ons (the bike and one bag, plus some un-counted items including a blanket, purse, and digital devices). Mounting a large backpack on a bike is going to be difficult, especially with all of the belts and straps backpacks typically have. Travel backpacks that are sleek with pockets to hide away the shoulder straps don't typically have frames that would support the bag being mounted like a pannier. Maybe the conductors are more lenient on the Capitol Corridor than the rules specify, but I'm not comfortable going to the station packed with extra baggage on that assumption. I'm thinking about using a large soft-side travel bag (within Amtrak dimensions) that has telescoping handles and wheels, removing the metal handle system, adding some aluminum strips attached to the plastic wheel plate, bolting mounting hooks on the strips at a good level for hanging the bag vertically like a pannier, wheels down. I'd wheel the entire packed bike through the station to the platform, remove the bag, roll or carry the bike and bag onto the passenger car and stow them in the luggage rack. Inside the bag I'd also have a pannier that could be mounted to distribute the load at my destination, leaving the top portion of the big bag for storage of my light-weight personal carry-on items that didn't get counted as baggage ("blanket" sleeping bag, small tote bag for personal items, digital devices, etc. as defined in the general baggage policy of Amtrak). I once tried to ride with an entire large duffel bag bungeed to the top of my rack, but the bike was so unstable I had to use panniers to ride to the station and then pack them in the duffel, but this left me with a duffel to pack around at the destination, so I'm thinking of creating a mountable duffel as I described. The bag's wheels would add a little extra weight, but they would let me maneuver the bag when off the bike, on train and at destination. On my one prior trip with folder and duffel, the huge heavy duffle was hard to handle even when slung over my shoulder with a shoulder strap, going through bus aisles and such.

  25. #25
    Senior Member overbyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lalato View Post
    While I don't have experience with this dilemma, I do have extensive experience with Capitol Corridor trains. While there is an overarching policy to limit bags, this policy is rarely enforced on Capitol Corridor trains. No one will be counting the number of bags you bring on board. Each car has a number of bike racks. These bike racks also double as luggage storage areas. Additionally, there are overhead compartments for storage of carry on items. Additionally, the first car's lower level is mostly bike rack/luggage.

    If you avoid rush hour commuting times for your trip you shouldn't have any issue taking as much stuff as you want on the train.
    Thanks. When I rode Capitol Corridor from San Jose to Davis, the car's lower level had 2 toilets, an alcove for vertically hanging 3 bikes (or conductor could raise a shelf and make it entirely baggage storage), 2 baggage alcoves, a wheel-chair seating area, a couple of single-width seats, and some tables with chairs. I didn't look at the first car.

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