About Amtrak Trains

Trains have been romanticized since the first steam locomotive, “Tom Thumb,” pulled a carload of passengers in 1830. Once the preferred mode of transportation, trains were rarely chosen for passenger travel by the 1960s; individuals opted instead for airplanes and automobiles. The environment suffered and roads became congested. Rail transportation was revitalized with the advent of Amtrak in 1970.

  1. Origin

    • Congress passed the “Rail Passenger Service Act” in 1970 and created Amtrak, a nationwide rail system designed to service passengers. Previously, private railroad companies had operated the services at a net loss of millions of dollars. The term Amtrak derives from a blend of the words “American” and “track.” The official name of Amtrak is “National Railroad Passengers Corporation.” The first formal Amtrak run occurred on May 1, 1971, when the train traveled from New York to Philadelphia. At that time, there were 184 trains serving 314 destinations.


    • More than 27 million passengers – the greatest number in history – rode the Amtrak rails from October, 2009 to September, 2010. Amtrak supports 500 destinations in 46 states (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota and Wyoming) and three Canadian provinces. Over 78,000 passengers ride more than 300 trains daily. If Amtrak were ranked with American airline companies, it would be the 8th largest in terms of number of passengers. The busiest stations in 2010 were in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston South and Sacramento. Each of those stations serviced in excess of a million passengers, with New York ridership topping 8 million.


    • Most Amtrak trains offer various seating options. On longer rides, seat reservations are generally required. Coach seating is standard, but can be upgraded to include leg rests and roomier space. First class and business class seating is typically available; it includes extra at-seat amenities and more leg room. Passengers who wish to relax and get away from noise can request “quiet cars.” Passengers in quiet cars may not use handheld devices, laptops or cell phones.

    Sleeping Accommodations

    • Passengers can opt for sleeping services on longer train rides. Sleeping services vary by train type; inquire when you make reservations. Sleeping quarters range from “roomettes” to bedroom suites. Family rooms are available for two adults and two children. Some rooms include toilets and showers; however, smaller areas often do not include these extras. Sleeping car passengers receive amenities similar to those expected at a hotel: fresh linens, bottled water and daily newspaper delivery.

    Food and Beverage

    • Amtrak trains are equipped with lounge, café and dining cars for overnight trips. Passengers may enjoy beverages in the lounge and can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining car. These areas generally boast ankle to ceiling windows for guests’ viewing pleasure. Patrons may bring their own food aboard; however, due to federal health regulations, employees may not handle the food or refrigerate or microwave it. Private selections of alcohol can be consumed only in private sleeping quarters.

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