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Amtrak and bikes?

Old 04-30-14, 12:37 PM
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Amtrak and bikes?

I am looking at doing a combo train/bike trip coming up. There is a big station I have to get to before I can catch the train out west. There is a local route that goes close to home that would get me to the main station but they show "no checked luggage" on their ticketing site.

What experience and knowledge can you share for navigating the train system? Ive never been on a train but the route to get to the main station is on an interstate track network so there have to be long-distance trains going through.

Thoughts? Ideas?
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Old 04-30-14, 12:49 PM
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Given: its come up before, and the past threads are saved, did you learn anything reading some of the other Amtrak related threads?

just curious..

Amtrak Emeryville California , to Eugene Oregon it was OK, it took 24 hours , one afternoon to the next.

I had to Buy their box, and To fit in the Box , take off my pedals and turn the handlebars .

you may have to start from a station that has the services you require , not all do, ... as you say ..

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Old 04-30-14, 12:53 PM
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Old 04-30-14, 03:00 PM
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Here is what I do:
1. Go to Amtrak.com and look at the overall route network. This tells me the likely train routes that come close to where I want to go.
2. Look up the particular route and download the link to the schedule. Look for the little suitcase icons. Those are stations that have baggage service along that route.
Once I figure out that I have a starting/ending stations with baggage service that make sense - I go back to the main Amtrak site and ask for a route schedule between those two stations. Look carefully however - since it will sometime suggest bus for some segments depending on timing (so I modify my times to make sure I stay on trains).

As far as Amtrak travel itself goes, I've ridden ~5 different Amtrak routes and they are somewhat different. Some of them like the Cascades has a separate bike car (and hence possible to get on/off w/o boxing the bike and also at non-baggage stations). However, most of them I've shown up at the train station somewhat in advance and then asked for a bike box. They've had them almost all the time though once I did end up with a recycled box. Amtrak boxes are big and hence removing pedals and turning handlebars (and for my large bike removing seat) are all that is needed. Check in the bike at baggage and it will get transferred as long as your tickets also connect you.

Otherwise, easy and relaxing way to travel. On-time reliability varies between routes and I found it to be less on-time if you are at end of a route and delays have accumulated. I also noticed that sometime when it is late - it can be very late (e.g. 8 hours once on Starlight in Pacific Coast since train ran into a huge tree stump at middle of the night in narrow canyon near Lake Shasta - and ~7 hours once in East Coast when storms knocked out the signaling system). However, approach the train travel as part of the overall adventure and it has usually worked out fine with that attitude.
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Old 04-30-14, 03:28 PM
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+1 for checking out some of the many AMTRAK threads on this forum. We ALL wish AMTRAK would make traveling with bikes more convenient!
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Old 04-30-14, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
I am looking at doing a combo train/bike trip coming up. There is a big station I have to get to before I can catch the train out west. There is a local route that goes close to home that would get me to the main station but they show "no checked luggage" on their ticketing site. What experience and knowledge can you share for navigating the train system?
It would help us out more if you were more specifics, rather than the vague "big station" and "local route".

But you should still check out Amtrak's bike policy, straight from Amtrak.
Amtrak - Plan - Onboard - Bring Your Bicycle Onboard
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Old 05-01-14, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Here is what I do:
1. Go to Amtrak.com and look at the overall route network. This tells me the likely train routes that come close to where I want to go.
2. Look up the particular route and download the link to the schedule. Look for the little suitcase icons. Those are stations that have baggage service along that route.
Once I figure out that I have a starting/ending stations with baggage service that make sense - I go back to the main Amtrak site and ask for a route schedule between those two stations. Look carefully however - since it will sometime suggest bus for some segments depending on timing (so I modify my times to make sure I stay on trains).

As far as Amtrak travel itself goes, I've ridden ~5 different Amtrak routes and they are somewhat different. Some of them like the Cascades has a separate bike car (and hence possible to get on/off w/o boxing the bike and also at non-baggage stations). However, most of them I've shown up at the train station somewhat in advance and then asked for a bike box. They've had them almost all the time though once I did end up with a recycled box. Amtrak boxes are big and hence removing pedals and turning handlebars (and for my large bike removing seat) are all that is needed. Check in the bike at baggage and it will get transferred as long as your tickets also connect you.

Otherwise, easy and relaxing way to travel. On-time reliability varies between routes and I found it to be less on-time if you are at end of a route and delays have accumulated. I also noticed that sometime when it is late - it can be very late (e.g. 8 hours once on Starlight in Pacific Coast since train ran into a huge tree stump at middle of the night in narrow canyon near Lake Shasta - and ~7 hours once in East Coast when storms knocked out the signaling system). However, approach the train travel as part of the overall adventure and it has usually worked out fine with that attitude.
One caveat... make sure you check the baggage service by train as well as station. I have ridden trains going into Philly that had baggage service as well as some that did not.

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Old 05-01-14, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
It would help us out more if you were more specifics, rather than the vague "big station" and "local route".
+1.

OP: Details, boy. Details. The local service may allow bikes like Metro-North, SEPTA and NJT do. We cannot help you if you don't help us.
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Old 05-01-14, 05:49 AM
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Are there any bus companies in the area, if so will they take your bike? If so, does it have to be in a box - and how close is the bus stop to Amtrak station?

Later this month I expect to pay $70 for a taxi ride to an Amtrak station that handles luggage. The cab company that I called for a price quote has bike racks on their taxis - which is why I called that particular company.

I always suggest that someone going on Amtrak with a bike pull their pedals off the day before they leave, just in case your pedals are tighter than you expected. Also, it may be prudent to call the station a few days in advance to make sure that they will have bike boxes in stock.
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Old 05-01-14, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I always suggest that someone going on Amtrak with a bike pull their pedals off the day before they leave, just in case your pedals are tighter than you expected. Also, it may be prudent to call the station a few days in advance to make sure that they will have bike boxes in stock.
Agree with the above.

Also you may have trouble getting anyone at the Amtrak station to answer the phone...unless you make sure you check the times when they are open (posted online), call during those hours. Some stations are open only limited hours. My one experience so far was very favorable for AMTRAK (San Antonio to El Paso). There is a link to my journal posted earlier in this thread....more details there.

I'll use Amtrak again when the opportunity arises.
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