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Old 02-01-08, 12:50 AM   #1
tomn
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Taking Bikes on Amtrak?

Hi All,

Can you take your bikes on an Amtrak train? We would be heading to Seattle from East Glacier, or Cut Bank Montana.

Thanks,
Tom
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Old 02-01-08, 01:05 AM   #2
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Yes, you can take our bikes on an Amtrak train ... but ...

1) You will need to box your bikes.
2) You will be able to load and unload them only at certain stations (see the Amtrak website for which ones).
3) Count on an additional 12 hours to your travel time ... the occasional train runs on time. Most are late ... very, very late.
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Old 02-01-08, 08:04 AM   #3
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Also, if the train is traveling across the border... then you cannot bring your bike on the train.
Amtrak explained to me that they didn't allow it because Customs officials would have to check the box, and this takes too much time.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:02 AM   #4
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Some trains do allow your bike to be un-boxed, but I think those are mostly the short-haul commuter type routes (like LA-San Diego).

I once canceled a train trip at the last minute b/c we found out they wouldn't let us offload our bikes at our destination. We took the bus instead, and it was horrible.

I realize you didn't ask for suggestions, but if you are just looking for transportation, I used a one-way rental car once, and that might actually be less expensive, if there's more than one of you. UHaul can work too.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:21 AM   #5
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This page from www.biketouringtips.com provides 5 links to transporting bikes on planes, trains, and buses. Three of them deal with trains.

Ray
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Old 02-01-08, 10:11 AM   #6
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Sometimes it's cheaper to fly than take Amtrak.
An Amtrak person at the local station has been telling us that bike racks will be fitted in the Amtrak train that runs between New Orleans and New York due to the number of bike paths and rail trails along that route. I'm not holding my breath on that one!
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Old 02-01-08, 10:21 AM   #7
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I've been on three train trips of over 24 hours, as well as a few shorter trips, and I've never been delayed by more than an hour. I've heard some horror stories, but trains do run on time more often than not.

But yes, this specific train does require that all bikes be boxed.

Although I did meet a couple of guys that took a train from Cincinnati to West Glacier with their bikes and touring equipment stowed in big hockey gear bags, thus avoiding the additional bike box fee.
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Old 02-01-08, 12:09 PM   #8
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+1 for a one-way car rental, I've done this a few times with friends of mine and it was great because of the minimal dismantaling of the bike, low cost, faster transit, and I would bet, similar or less fuel used en route (please someone chastise me if I'm way off on this). Plus then you can stop at a market and get some actual food for way cheeper than Amtrak Crap or that bag of salt and wheat on a plane.

As for sneaking your bike in a big bag, I've done this with a smaller frame (mine would be way too big) inside of a big golf bag. It's all steel, right? Wheels can be tricky, but I've fit some in either very large luggage, or one of those fold-in-half-carry-your-suit-bags. Just know that if anything gets damaged, you're SOL, plus starting off a tour with a major bummer. My Amtrak from Salem to Seattle was very bike-friendly, the handlers were proud to say that they're commuters (well, not everywhere is Portland or Seattle, unfortunately) and they had the bike hanging from the front wheel and strapped to the wall.

Have a fun tour! Great Divide Trail?
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Old 02-01-08, 04:44 PM   #9
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The Capital Corridor trains in northern California (San Jose to Sacramento) have bike racks that you can just hang a bike on. I would be worried about people just grabbing my bike and leaving the train with it at a station stop, though.

After riding trains in Europe, Amtrak just seems so incredibly ****ty that I would rather rent a car.
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Old 02-01-08, 06:12 PM   #10
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My bike/Amtrak experience has varied quite a bit over the last 35 plus years. Great on time service and treatment by train staff several times and then to have travel times almost double the next time to over forty hours from Santa Barbara to West Glacier, Montana. I like trains and just wish they were run here like those in Europe and Japan.

I once had to force Amtrak to carry my tandem by having the Congressional Liaison for Amtrak call the stationmaster involved directly. The stationmaster did not like tandems and wrote his own local rule book excluding tandems.
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Old 02-01-08, 06:40 PM   #11
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Sometimes you just have to be a little creative, like St. Louis to KC, MO this past summer

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Old 02-01-08, 08:13 PM   #12
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Sometimes you just have to be a little creative, like St. Louis to KC, MO this past summer

WOW! You were lucky the conductor didn't toss you off the train for that one! First, you are only allowed one seat and you were taking two. Then there's all the grease they could have said would damage the seats. I think you got lucky.

I've never had any trouble on Amtrack but then aagain, I only use folders.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:02 PM   #13
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I too have been on Amtrak several times and have never had to box my bike. However, when I compare my travels with someone who has had MUCH more experience (Machka), I realize my trips were short by comparison. And that may be why.

The pic above is exactly what the conductor did with my bike. I did pay a $10 fee for the bike on top of my seat fare. I have more touring this year that requires me to find my way to the 'starting point'. I was considering Amtrak but I'm finding out it is much more expensive than I thought. I'd better do some more digging!!

It seems to be a little inconsistent when it comes to Amtrak's rules for bikes.

Jerry H
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Old 02-01-08, 09:29 PM   #14
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I have taken my bike on Amtrak for something like twenty - maybe thirty years.

A couple of things.
The policies vary from route to route making cordination difficult.

On most long-distance trains with baggage cars, bikes must be boxed and checked as baggage. $10 extra. That wouldn't be too bad except that Amtrak is operating fewer and fewer stations with baggage service. I think the Sunset route from New Orleans to Los Angeles only includes the endpoints, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, and Phoenix (Maricopa). Plus the Sunset only runs three days per week in each direction.

Local state-supported services often have bike racks that accommodate two to four bikes per train. These runs are in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the Northeast. Problem is - if you are coming or going on a train that requires the bike to be boxed then you have to unbox and switch to the rack system. Since Amtrak serves so few destinations, you often have to connect with Ambus or Greyhound - which requires the bike to be boxed.

If you are going from Chicago to Seattle on the Empire Builder or on any route that just happens to have good service and bike/baggage options - then, yes, Amtrak is really nice. But you have to be going their way and all the ducks have to line up.

Moral of the story - with Amtrak check your ducks.
And plan on being late getting there.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:49 PM   #15
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WOW! You were lucky the conductor didn't toss you off the train for that one! First, you are only allowed one seat and you were taking two. Then there's all the grease they could have said would damage the seats. I think you got lucky.

I've never had any trouble on Amtrack but then aagain, I only use folders.
I didn't select this option, they did. I had planned on placing it in a baggage car but supposedly there was none. I did pay $10-20 more for the bike and actually I used three seats for this trip, one for me and two for the bike and bags. The one staff wanted me to put the bike in the overhead campartment but that would have been near impossible without more time to tear the bike down. I was left with no other option other than to leave it in the aisle and she would have none of that but surprisingly she was quite content with the bike positioned in this manner. I've found every Amtrak is a crap shoot even if they say that bike carry is quite common and they're set up for it.
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Old 02-08-08, 01:36 AM   #16
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If a station does not have baggage service does that mean you can't take your bike off? Conversely, if a station has no baggage service can you put your bike on the train?
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Old 02-08-08, 05:53 AM   #17
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I believe you can -or at least I was informed I could between certain stations (E.g. Boston South Station to Albany, NY I think). Of course the problem was I didn't want to get on at South Station, nor did I want to get off at Albany, NY.

Experiment ended..... Based on this, I'll consider Amtrak as a last resort as chances are the station I want to get on with a bike and the station I want to get off at are both highly unlikely to be those of the stations Amtrak deems open for bicycles.

I wish they were more bike friendly. I'd love to use the train, but I guess they don't want the business.
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Old 02-08-08, 05:57 AM   #18
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I was told (phone call after reading web site) you had to use a station that was designated a station that could board/unload bicycles. So I think the answer is no -although it may well depend on the station and how strictly they wish to adhere to policies. I wasn't willing to take that chance.
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Old 02-08-08, 07:34 AM   #19
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If a station does not have baggage service does that mean you can't take your bike off? Conversely, if a station has no baggage service can you put your bike on the train?
No baggage service means carry-on bags only can get on and off the train. Checked bags = bikes = no.
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Old 02-08-08, 08:44 AM   #20
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Hi All,

Can you take your bikes on an Amtrak train? We would be heading to Seattle from East Glacier, or Cut Bank Montana.

Thanks,
Tom
Check with Amtrak. Here's their policy on bicycles. Mostly I read it as "it depends". Best to call and ask.
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Old 02-08-08, 09:09 AM   #21
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I always thought that Amtrak should be a great way to get to and from a tour, but everything I have read makes me think the whole thing is way too "iffy" to depend on.
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Old 02-08-08, 11:54 AM   #22
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Granted it's been about 20 years since I did it, but I went from Mpls to Portland OR and East Glacier on two separate trips and had no problems. The depot had big tall boxes ($5) so the break down was minimal and there was no extra charge at the time. On the trip to Portland they even stored the boxes so we could use them on the return trip.

You definitely do need to verify a baggage check at your destination and I'd also make sure there is box availabilty at the stations you are starting from. The trip to E Glacier was supposed to go to Whitefish but because the station was temporarily closed for baggage checks, we had to get off at E Glacier. That made for a few extra miles but the trip accross the divide on Hwy 2 was very nice.
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