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Amtrakking it to Maine from Chicago -- logistics questions

Old 07-03-13, 11:28 AM
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How do I get me/my gear to the starting point?

Hey all, I'm starting to hammer down concrete details for my planned 6-month cross country trek, leaving next April. I could use some advice in how to get to me and my gear to the starting point -- Maine.

Right now, I'm looking to take the train/bus to Bangor, Maine and hook up with the Atlantic Coast ACA route.

Here's what the first train itinerary I found would look like:



I'm up for the 40 hours or so on a train, but am worried about the lack of checked baggage for the latter half of the trip. I don't know what the best way to get my stuff, bike included, out to Maine.

How do people usually get all their stuff to a starting point of a long trip? FedEx it all to a friendly address? That seems expensive, and could nullify the savings of a train ride. I've never had to ship anything to myself before, let alone a large quantity of gear, so if anyone has experience in the matter I would appreciate it.
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Last edited by perspiration; 07-03-13 at 04:17 PM. Reason: trying to get my thoughts straight
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Old 07-03-13, 01:40 PM
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You can take the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston South Station. From Boston you can take a bus, Concord Coach Lines will accept bicycles if there is space after ordinary luggage.

Last edited by Bezalel; 07-03-13 at 01:46 PM.
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Old 07-03-13, 04:16 PM
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You can take the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston South Station. From Boston you can take a bus, Concord Coach Lines will accept bicycles if there is space after ordinary luggage.
I'm going to check into this. What happens if I get to the bus and can't get the bike on, though?

*edit*

I did some editing to the first post of the thread as it was kind of all over the place.
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Old 07-03-13, 04:23 PM
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I am baffled by the notation that train 66 (DC to Boston) doesn't have checked baggage. The current timetable says it does. That train has run with a baggage car for decades.

Also, the Downeaster takes carry on bikes for $5 from Boston to Portland and Brunswick. Reservations required: https://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/on-board/bicycles

Even if train 66 doesn't have a baggage car, check the bike at Chicago anyway, and it can be routed to Boston on train 448, the Lake Shore Limited, which *does for sure* have a baggage car and baggage service between those two points. Claim the bike at South Station, ride it over to North Station, then carry your bike aboard the Downeaster to Brunswick or Portland. Many Thruway buses allow bikes in the baggage compartment.

Bottom line is that your bike can get to Maine from Chicago via Amtrak -- check it to Boston, and carry it on the train to Portland/Brunswick (as long as you get a reservation for the leg to Portland/Brunswick).

Amtrak is an easy way to take your bike.

If you have friends in Boston, consider taking train 448 to Boston from Chicago -- only one night on the train, and stay a night in Boston and take a Downeaster train to Maine the next day.
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Old 07-03-13, 04:24 PM
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You also could take 448 to Boston, and take the last Downeaster to Portland, though that would land you in Portland quite late at night.
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Old 07-03-13, 04:29 PM
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That's fantastic news, OldZephyr. Thanks so much for this information.

If you have friends in Boston, consider taking train 448 to Boston from Chicago -- only one night on the train, and stay a night in Boston and take a Downeaster train to Maine the next day.
With how simple this is, and considering that the itinerary I posted has me going to Boston anyway, it seems silly that they aren't telling me to take the 448 in the first place.

*edit*

Do you know what checking bikes is like on the train/bus? Do I need to pack it in a box or do any deconstruction?
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Old 07-03-13, 04:55 PM
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There are a number of threads discussing using Amtrak, but I'll just say that checking a bike on Amtrak is a snap. They have huge bike boxes for checked baggage -- you don't even have to take off a wheel. All you need to do to fit your bike in the box is to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars. They supposedly charge for the bike box, but I have never had to pay anything for them. The fee to check the bike is maybe $10. Really reasonable. But get to the station at least 90 minutes before the train leaves to give yourself enough time to take off the pedals, turn the bars, tape up the box, check the bike at the baggage counter, etc.

*edit*

So, here you would check the bike from Chicago to Boston, get it out of the box at Boston, put the pedals back on, turn the handlebars, ride it to North Station, and then roll the bike onto the Downeaster. Sorry, I don't know how bikes are put on the Downeaster or the connecting buses. Maybe just use the other bus suggested by another poster.

Some Amtrak trains allow you to roll the bike on the train -- and that includes the Downeaster. I haven't been on that one. I have used the trains in Illinois (both Metra and Amtrak) that allow you to transport bikes that way. Here's a journal describing a trip we took doing just that: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?..._id=10337&v=9E
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Old 07-03-13, 06:47 PM
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Concord Coach Lines is an unusually laid back, accommodating bus company. I live in a town on a NH route. Here is their bike policy. They can't promise room for the bike but will take it if at all possible ...

https://www.concordcoachlines.com/ind...cle-on-the-bus

Their terminal is at South Station in Boston where your train comes in. (Tickets at Dartmouth Coach booth) Hopefully you can find a train with a baggage car as others have suggested. If you can find a cart or porter just leave the bike in your Amtrak box and wheel it to the bus terminal area for the trip north. I took a bus north from there recently without bike. Driver told me that earlier buses have more room than those in the evening.

I have a friend who regularly travels Concord Coach Lines Boston to NH with un-boxed bike.

Train 66 from DC as suggested is an overnighter leaving DC at 10:10 PM with baggage car arriving Boston at 8 AM. Might be a challenge connecting that with a train from Chicago without a lengthy layover in DC but there's a lot to see there. Lake Shore Limited #448 indeed goes right to Boston arriving at 9:10 PM with baggage car.
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Old 07-04-13, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by perspiration
With how simple this is, and considering that the itinerary I posted has me going to Boston anyway, it seems silly that they aren't telling me to take the 448 in the first place.
That's because the 448 stops in Boston South Station and they needed to get you to Boston North Station.
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Old 07-04-13, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by OldZephyr
I am baffled by the notation that train 66 (DC to Boston) doesn't have checked baggage. The current timetable says it does. That train has run with a baggage car for decades.
The web site is saying no. As the old baggage cars Amtrak inherited get even older, they get more expensive to maintain. Eventually, they are retired and not replaced because of the cost. (Remember that, aside for certain items like bikes, Amtrak, unlike most airlines, does not charge for checked baggage.) Over the years, the number of available cars has shrunk.
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Old 07-04-13, 03:44 PM
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Train 66 from DC at 10:10 PM indeed shows the icon for "checked baggage" along with "snack car" "quiet car" and "wi-fi" in column 4. You have to click to the second page of choices and scroll to the last one, result 18 of 18.
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Old 07-04-13, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
The web site is saying no. As the old baggage cars Amtrak inherited get even older, they get more expensive to maintain. Eventually, they are retired and not replaced because of the cost. (Remember that, aside for certain items like bikes, Amtrak, unlike most airlines, does not charge for checked baggage.) Over the years, the number of available cars has shrunk.
There's an order for Viewliner baggage cars and Viewliner baggage/dorm cars. Not sure about delivery date, but I have read that the plan is that the current baggage cars will soldier on until the new ones are delivered. Some sources report the new baggage cars will have bike racks. I hope so.
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Old 07-04-13, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Bezalel
That's because the 448 stops in Boston South Station and they needed to get you to Boston North Station.
No, both 66 and 448 terminate at South Station. The reason that Amtrak routed the OP via DC is to make a reasonable connection to the Portland - Bangor Thruway bus. Taking 448 to Boston allows a connection to the last Portland train of the day, but the arrival in Portland is in the wee hours of the morning, and a long wait (the rest of the night) for the Thruway bus to Bangor.
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Old 07-04-13, 06:26 PM
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Looking at the OP's itinerary I'm guessing Amtrak said no checked baggage on Train 66 because of the "self transfer" from Back Bay Station to North Station where Amtrak can't handle baggage. If you do that itinerary again ending the trip at South Station I think it will show that both 66 and 448 have checked baggage service. Cycle over to North Station as OldZ suggests or try the Concord Coach which will take you all the way to Bangor.

The downside of taking the Downeaster to Portland or Brunswick is that if you throw away your box to cycle between Boston stations, you may need one again to board a bus further north to Bangor. If you can take the Concord Coach, the same box stays with you from Chicago all the way to Bangor. I suppose you could just FedEX the bike to a bike shop, but that would be too easy and would take all the fun out of it!

Last edited by BobG; 07-04-13 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 07-04-13, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by OldZephyr
No, both 66 and 448 terminate at South Station. The reason that Amtrak routed the OP via DC is to make a reasonable connection to the Portland - Bangor Thruway bus. Taking 448 to Boston allows a connection to the last Portland train of the day, but the arrival in Portland is in the wee hours of the morning, and a long wait (the rest of the night) for the Thruway bus to Bangor.
I didn't realize that 448 stopped at Back Bay.

This is geniusly stupid, in order to make a reasonable layover time in Boston, Amtrak is making him leave earlier from Chicago to arrive later in Boston.

I also noticed that if you take route 48 to Albany and switch to 448 in Albany it's cheaper than going directly with 448.

Another useful tidbit: Amtrak route 8264 is Concord Coach route 52.
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Old 07-04-13, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by BobG
The downside of taking the Downeaster to Portland or Brunswick is that if you throw away your box to cycle between Boston stations, you may need one again to board a bus further north to Bangor. If you can take the Concord Coach, the same box stays with you from Chicago all the way to Bangor. I suppose you could just FedEX the bike to a bike shop, but that would be too easy and would take all the fun out of it!
Although I prefer trains to buses in most cases, BobG makes a good point about taking a bus directly to Bangor from South Station. Doing that also eliminates 2 transfers (one in Boston and one in Portland).
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Old 07-04-13, 10:24 PM
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Although I prefer trains to buses in most cases, BobG makes a good point about taking a bus directly to Bangor from South Station. Doing that also eliminates 2 transfers (one in Boston and one in Portland).
It also saves about 9 bucks, haha! Fedexxing my stuff seems like it'd add another fairly large cost on top of the rest of the trip, unless there's something I don't know.

I also noticed that if you take route 48 to Albany and switch to 448 in Albany it's cheaper than going directly with 448.
What is this logistical witchery? I just queued this up, and it saves 20 bucks AND and almost an hour? How is that even possible?
*edit*
Actually I think I did it wrong, I'm seeing the 448 from Chicago to Boston is $107 and the 48/448 switch would be something like $121.
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Old 07-05-13, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by perspiration
What is this logistical witchery? I just queued this up, and it saves 20 bucks AND and almost an hour? How is that even possible?

Maybe the price depends on the day. The transfer in Albany is the next day so they might be using a different fare. The departure and arrival time is the same becase the 48 and 448 are coupled together from Chicago to Albany. The time saving is because they don't count the time in Albany as travel time.
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Old 07-09-13, 01:16 PM
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FYI, this person checked her bike on train #66 to Boston as recently as June 23, 2013: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p..._id=333515&v=p

Also, if the OP decides to take 448 direct from Chicago to Boston, and is staying overnight in Boston (with a bus ride the next day), he can decide to *not* immediately claim his bike -- Amtrak typically will give you 24 hours to claim it. Leave it with the baggage people at South Station overnight if staying with friends, then claim it the next morning rather than schlepping it around at night.
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Old 12-07-13, 04:26 PM
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Ok guys, I'm back to necro my old thread as the date is getting closer and I really need to get details down. Still working on the "getting out there" part.

Here's the current plan I have:

Take the 448 Lake Shore Limited Amtrak from Chicago to the South Shore Boston station, arriving at 9pm.
Spend the night at a friend's, or find a hostel or some such, leaving my bike at the Amtrak station (I hear they let you keep it there 24h, details needed)
Take the Concord Coach from Boston to Bangor, ME the next morning. https://www.concordcoachlines.com/ind.../bangor-boston
Once in Bangor, take the shuttle to Bar Harbor, where I'll start the TransAm Atlantic Route and head westward. Shuttle site:https://barharborshuttle.net/scheduleratesreservations

how's this look? Total price will be about $200, I believe.

(double posted this in another thread in the regional board)
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Old 12-07-13, 09:57 PM
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I took that Bus (Bangor to Boston) as part of my return trip on my NJ to Newfoundland Tour. It worked out very well for me. I met an Amish gentleman on the bus and enjoyed our discussions. Having Wi-Fi was also very nice.

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Old 12-08-13, 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by BigAura
I took that Bus (Bangor to Boston) as part of my return trip on my NJ to Newfoundland Tour. It worked out very well for me. I met an Amish gentleman on the bus and enjoyed our discussions. Having Wi-Fi was also very nice.
How was ti to load your gear and such onto the bus? Any hassle? Did you have a lot of stuff?
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Old 12-08-13, 07:49 AM
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Personally, if the logistics from Boston to Maine are a pain, I would start pedaling in Boston. It's challenging enough without making it a real headache.

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Old 12-08-13, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by perspiration
How was ti to load your gear and such onto the bus? Any hassle? Did you have a lot of stuff?
I packed the bike and my camping gear into a large bike box. I carried one pannier with clothes and my ultralight sea-to-summit backpack with other personal items.

I loaded and bike box myself after asking the bus-driver his suggestion for the "safest" spot. I always try to show the bus-driver the same respect I would for a plane's pilot or a ship's captain, they usually appreciate it and in turn watch out for your bike.
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Old 12-08-13, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by perspiration
That's fantastic news, OldZephyr

Do you know what checking bikes is like on the train/bus? Do I need to pack it in a box or do any deconstruction?
Putting the bike on the Lakeshore Limited is really easy.

https://wheelsofchance.wordpress.com/...ra-day-eleven/

you'll get into Boston late so you will need somewhere to stay. The next day you can either take the bus to Bangor or the Downeaster to Brunswick (you can take your bike on without a box for $5, but you must reserve) and just ride from Brunswick.
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