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Taking your bike on the Amtrak

Old 10-12-14, 10:37 PM
  #1  
jargo432
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Taking your bike on the Amtrak

Does anyone know if you can take your bike on the Amtrek train without boxing it up?
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Old 10-12-14, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by jargo432 View Post
Does anyone know if you can take your bike on the Amtrek train without boxing it up?
There is no one "Amtrak Train" but rather many different ones which have varying rules with regard to carrying regular bikes (although last I heard they were all supposed to take folding bikes - unfortunately some conductors don't know that). Some trains have hooks at the end of the regular cars for hanging bikes and therefore you just roll your bike aboard at any station and hang it up. However, other trains require bikes to be carried in the baggage car and therefore to be checked - and only some stations are equipped to handle checked baggage. The old baggage cars required that bikes be boxed and some of these are still in use. This year the baggage cars started to be redesigned with racks for regular bikes and therefore no longer a need for boxing:
New Baggage Cars Coming Soon |
Better check with Amtrak for your specific train and stations.

Last edited by prathmann; 10-12-14 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 10-13-14, 03:33 AM
  #3  
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
There is no one "Amtrak Train" but rather many different ones which have varying rules with regard to carrying regular bikes (although last I heard they were all supposed to take folding bikes - unfortunately some conductors don't know that). Some trains have hooks at the end of the regular cars for hanging bikes and therefore you just roll your bike aboard at any station and hang it up. However, other trains require bikes to be carried in the baggage car and therefore to be checked - and only some stations are equipped to handle checked baggage. The old baggage cars required that bikes be boxed and some of these are still in use. This year the baggage cars started to be redesigned with racks for regular bikes and therefore no longer a need for boxing:
New Baggage Cars Coming Soon |
Better check with Amtrak for your specific train and stations.
Everything here is dead on. They do take folding bikes in lieu of one piece of luggage, but carry a printed part of that policy with you because many station and train personnel don't know that. Here in the Midwest, I know one train in Michigan is equipped for roll on service, all the trains in Illinois have been for years and some in Missouri. You just have to check.

Marc
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Old 10-13-14, 05:18 AM
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Thanks
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Old 10-13-14, 06:56 AM
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You could try looking at their web site, where everything is explained.

FYI...The new baggage cars coming on line will only be used on "long distance" trains, whatever that means. The real question that has not been answered is whether the addition of those cars will do away with the most limiting rule, which is that, with a few exceptions, full-size bikes may only be transported between stations with checked baggage service. Unfortunately, I think that rule will remain in place.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:01 AM
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& services available at any given Station varies .. I have never boarded with my bike without needing to buy a box from the Station .

But I only traveled on the Coast Starlight Route Between Emeryville (SF, Eastbay & Eugene Oregon)

[+ Portland OR to Olympia WA, but, I was just backpacking to join a boating friend there.]

Last edited by fietsbob; 10-13-14 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 10-13-14, 09:43 AM
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If you need to box it, I suggest you pull your pedals off the day before to make sure you can get them off.

I loaned some pedals to a friend, he had a bike shop put them on. A few months later, I was unable to get the pedals off his bike because the shop put them on so tight.

And if you have to box it, plan to spend some quality time doing so.

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Old 10-13-14, 11:13 AM
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Could someone please elaborate a bit about the "roll on service"? How exactly does that work? I live in Illinois, so our trains should have it.
Thanks.
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Old 10-13-14, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by sknhgy View Post
Could someone please elaborate a bit about the "roll on service"? How exactly does that work? I live in Illinois, so our trains should have it.
Thanks.

It's all on the web site:

Amtrak - Plan - Onboard - Bring Your Bicycle Onboard

There are select routes that allow roll-on service (they actually call it "walk-on" service). The list is short.

According to the latest edition of "Adventure Cyclist," the Capitol Limited is expected to fianlly start walk-on service next spring to aid people riding the GAP trail.
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Old 10-13-14, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sknhgy View Post
Could someone please elaborate a bit about the "roll on service"? How exactly does that work? I live in Illinois, so our trains should have it.
Thanks.
Amtrak Cascades between Eugene and Vancouver BC my experience was the following:
1. There are a limited number of hooks, so when making reservation I also specify a bicycle.
2. At a station such as Portland, OR, go to where they handle baggage and pick up a baggage tag for the bike. Smaller stations like Salem, it is all at same place.
3. When train arrives, go to the front of the train with the bike, hand it to someone who takes it in the baggage car and hangs it on the hook; go back to board at my assigned seat.
4. When leaving the train, go to front of the train at the baggage car and have someone hand my bike.

I did this with multiple stations on the Amtrak Cascades line. Living in Portland so that most often, but also got on/off in Eugene, Salem, Tukwilla, Seattle and Vancouver on different trips. It was pretty convenient since I could take the bike "as is" and not have to put it in a box.

I had slightly different experiences on the Pacific Surfliner train. I took that one between LA and San Diego a few times - and remember not necessarily having a separate baggage car (except for cases when I connected to another train in LA - in which case it was in baggage car and boxed).
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Old 10-19-14, 10:16 AM
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On the "Downeaster" out of Boston, the conducter rolled my fully loaded bike into the baggage car. The car had slots to lock the wheels in place. Got off in Brunswick Me. and just road away. $5 for the bike
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Old 10-22-14, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by sknhgy View Post
Could someone please elaborate a bit about the "roll on service"? How exactly does that work? I live in Illinois, so our trains should have it.
Thanks.

Here's a link to our trip where we used Amtrak's roll on service in Illinois to take advantage of some dandy tailwinds: crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: Tailwind Ride in Illinois Using Amtrak "Roll-On" Service, by Aaron Bransky
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Old 10-22-14, 09:23 PM
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this is pretty well explained in the Amtrak site. If the route is listed as roll-on roll-off you can park your bike in the baggage area and board. Route must be listed as roll-on service though for this. If not you have to be boarding and leaving from checked baggage stations and use the box (which they give you for free if they have used extra ones). The boxes are really big though and can be used if you remove pedals and turn handlebars. We got two boxes for each of our tandems last trip and taped them together for one double box for each tandem. Boxes were free and I think it was $5 per tandem to check them. Not all stops allow baggage removal though; there are no baggage stops between Pittsburgh and DC so you have to go all of the way to uncheck your bike.
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Old 10-23-14, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
there are no baggage stops between Pittsburgh and DC so you have to go all of the way to uncheck your bike.
Word 'round the campfire is that roll-on service on the Capitol Limited will start next year (see post #9 in this thread), but I wouldn't hold my breath.
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Old 10-23-14, 08:35 AM
  #15  
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I took Amtrak from Albany, NY to Denver, CO and Amtrak "lost" my bike in the layover in Chicago. most Amtrak layovers are several hours; use those hours to track down the baggage car for your next trip and make sure, in person, that your bike makes the jump, too.

Amtrak got the bike out the next day (which was a huge inconvenience, but better than nothing) and then paid my ticket home as compensation, so they're tentatively ok in my book. At least better than airlines.
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Old 10-23-14, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
I took Amtrak from Albany, NY to Denver, CO and Amtrak "lost" my bike in the layover in Chicago. most Amtrak layovers are several hours; use those hours to track down the baggage car for your next trip and make sure, in person, that your bike makes the jump, too.
+1. I twice crossed the country on Amtrak with my bike, with long layovers in CHI. I got back to the station with enough time before boarding to speak with people in the baggage area to make sure my bike had been loaded on the CHI to Seattle train.

And not to scare anyone, but there is at least some chance that a baggage car will not be available on the day you travel. That happened to me the second time I went out west. My train from PHL to CHI was at around 3 p.m. I went to the station, which was not that far from my house, that morning to box the bike and get in the pipeline. Good thing I did. The baggage car for my train had to be shopped. Fortunately, I had gotten the bike to the station early enough that they could put it on an early afternoon train to D.C. and then on an overnight train from D.C. to CHI so it would arrive the same day as my overnight train from PHL to CHI. With the new baggage cars coming on line, I hope the chance of that happening again are slim to none.
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