This article is about overnight trains that run in the United States and are operated by Amtrak. The author has traveled on Amtrak trains since the mid-80s. The typical overnight train begins between 4 and 10 pm in one major city and ends in a second major city between 8 am and 12 noon the next day. Usually the train has two levels. The top level has the passenger seats. There are seats on the lower level if a person finds it's difficult to climb stairs. Also the lower levels have luggage areas and the restrooms.
Tickets are sold at the website Amtrak.com. Most tickets can be printed on a computer printer. It is best to reserve train three months in advance. Depending on time of year and the number of reservations, tickets prices can increase as the departure date approaches. The traveler might need to buy separate tickets to get to and from the major city station and a local station. Also the tickets are considered electronic tickets. The ticket is scanned and the information about the traveler is received from a computer and not the ticket itself. Because of this the traveler can lose the ticket, and still travel after identifying himself.
Be aware if your luggage can be checked. This is found at the website when the ticket is purchased. In major cities train stations, there are luggage storage areas. A charge of 3 dollars per hour is common.
The conductor will tell the traveler where to sit when boarding. After the tickets are scanned the passenger is free to sit in any other available seat. A paper stub is placed above each seat that is taken.
There is an overhead area for carryon bags. Even with this there is more space around and above you then on a bus or an airplane.
There are electrical outlets at the seats for computer tablets and other devices. Earphones should be used for audio. Food and drink is permitted to be taken on the train. The passenger is to pick up trash from around their seat and put it in the receptacles.
The traveler can walk from car to car on the top level but not on the bottom level. The train has an observation car, a cafe car, and the lower levels. All are places to walk to if the traveler gets bored from sitting.
Also there are smoke breaks at certain stations. These breaks are for any passenger who feels like getting off the train.
Sleeping in the train
There is a quiet time on trains typically from 10 pm to 6 am. During this time the lights are lowered. The observation car and the cafe car are for the passengers who want to be awake and talking.
For safety, lights between car doors and at the top of the stairs remain on. Because of these lights, the best place for sleeping is towards the back of the car.
The seats lean back and have a leg rest in the front that is pulled up. Also there is a pull up foot rest on the back of the seat in front of the traveler.
A light weight blanket makes it easier to sleep. Also, since a train can have jerky movements at times, it's good to have a travel neck pillow.
It is possible for a train to arrive in the morning around 8 am and the connecting train will leave at 4 pm. For the traveler, this is the equivalent of making a separate daytime trip and not paying the transportation expenses.
Plan ahead, for that days expenses, and use this eight hours as a vacation. The traveler can take a sightseeing bus tour, eat at a restaurant, go to a shopping area, take a three hour cruise and do other things of interest.
About Author / Additional Info:
I travel both in the United States and the Caribbean.