Behind the Scenes with Amtrak Wi-Fi

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We can tell from your tweets that you really love free Wi-Fi on our trains. A lot.

You’ve also had a lot of questions about the service. Why it doesn’t work like your Internet at home or just how Amtrak Wi-Fi works in general.

WiFi InstallationSo we went behind the scenes at our maintenance facility to show you everything that goes into wiring up your cars. These hard-working Amtrak employees go to great lengths (literally!) to bring you your email and even your online shopping. Next time you turn your seat into a hot spot, thank them!

Here’s how we install wireless Internet on select trains.

First, crews have to prep the roof of the communications control car, typically the food service car, on the train. That’s where the antennas will be mounted to capture the signal from nearby cell towers. We call this equipment the ski rack. It’s attached to the roof of the car.

The antenna is connected to a CCU or “brain,” as it’s appropriately called by insiders. The brain is inside the train, protected from the elements and connected to the antenna with special cables.

Throughout the entire train there are access points. These connect your device wirelessly to the Internet. There are two of them on every car with Wi-Fi, and they all have to be connected to each other and eventually the brain for the network to function.

In order for the access points and brain to communicate, special cables run above the ceiling panels inside the train. That way they’re out of sight and don’t cause any hazards for customers.

Before the train cars even leave the maintenance facility and are subject to testing out in the real world, a special series of checks is performed. This is called “commissioning the cars.” It lets our employees know that everything is working properly or where there might be problems.

When you go to use Amtrak Wi-Fi, here are some insider tips for making it a great experience. Go here to see how to make the most of your onboard Wi-Fi.

And most importantly, sit back, relax and enjoy the Wi-Fi!

What other behind the scenes posts would you like to see on the blog? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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