New Baggage Cars Coming Soon

First we gave you a sneak peek at our new long distance equipment and now it’s time to talk testing! Today, we're happy to announce that our new baggage cars begin the testing phase of their new equipment journey to the rails.

During  field testing, the baggage cars will travel to Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and along the Northeast Corridor to undergo testing for speed, stability, braking and baggage handling.

Amtrak riders like you, enjoy the convenience of seamless intercity travel and we get that. Our investment in new long distance equipment is in response to those exact needs. By the end of 2016, our long distance routes will see the addition of new diner, sleeper and bag-dorm cars, making for a more modernized travel experience for our riders.

“It’s clear that Americans want a national system of intercity passenger rail and Amtrak is moving ahead to build new equipment to meet customer demand,” said Amtrak President and CEO, Joe Boardman.

The new baggage cars will be used on all 15 long-distance routes, which means the benefits of improved reliability and an enhanced climate-control environment for baggage will be available to our  long distance customers by the end of 2014 . Also, the new cars will be equipped with built-in luggage racks that will be able to secure unboxed bicycles (hooray!).

We’re excited for this next phase of the new equipment journey into revenue service and hope you are too. Check back this summer for more news, photos and information on our new long distance equipment.

What will the addition of the new equipment mean to your Amtrak journey? Let us know in the comment section below.

96 comments
Leo Genest
Leo Genest

Are there bike racks on the Coast Starlight, from Seattle to LA? California Zephyr to Denver?

barton814
barton814

Terrific!  Please make sure that these cars are available on the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Pittsburgh...this is probably the most popular long distance bike trail in the country, and a fantastic opportunity for both Amtrak and customers to use the bike racks along this route.

AMTK207
AMTK207

Herb,

These are single-level cars. Bilevel trains already have a pool of dormitory cars they can use, not to mention sleepers and diners. This equipment aims to replace and then augment the current single-level baggage and dining cars, which were built when Dwight Eisenhower was president. Single-level trains have not had dormitory cars since February of 2007 when the existing ones were removed from service. Evidently, at that time it made no fiscal sense to spend the extra cash (in diesel fuel) to run an additional railcar for the crew, so they have since then occupied part of a sleeping car, making those rooms unable to earn revenue. Baggage dorms also give flexibility to multi-section trains, allowing checked baggage to still be offered, but not committing a full railcar to it where the demand may be lacking. One great example of this is the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited. It doesn't need a full baggage car, but it runs with one now in order to offer the service. When this section combines with the other Lake Shore section at Albany-Rensselaer, the second baggage car becomes mostly redundant, and the crew occupies a good portion of one sleeping car, canceling out many rooms which could otherwise generate revenue. Putting the crew rooms between the rest of the train and the baggage space adds another layer of security for baggage as well. So after the new cars come on line, baggage service will be retained, more sleeper rooms will be available for sale (meaning the train won't sell out as quickly, and sleeper fares should stay in lower price brackets/buckets for longer), and the trailing weight of the train should remain roughly the same. The sleepers will augment the existing Viewliner sleeper fleet, and the dining cars will allow the painfully-expensive-to-maintain hand-me-downs to be retired. The full baggage cars will be deployed to the nationwide long-distance trains as a start, and (not committing to anything nor putting words in anyone's mouths) may allow the expansion of baggage services where practical, sensible and in demand. One ancillary benefit of removing the older equipment from service will be allowing long-distance trains which traverse the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington DC to operate faster, as the older equipment has speed restrictions placed on it. When trying to utilize as much of the potential capacity of the corridor, one slower-moving train on occasion is an operational migraine, like driving a tractor trailer on an interstate well below the median or posted speeds, and forcing everyone else to go around.

I for one cannot wait to see the new equipment. Although the future is currently represented by one baggage car with messed up lettering, the future isn't going to stay away forever. For the time being, though, my folding bike will keep seeing the miles.

HerbMcLane
HerbMcLane

The dorms are for the Amtrak train personnel and then baggage is luggage. I'm not sure if it's two story, baggage and bikes down stairs and dorms up stairs or a single level car.

WillvK
WillvK

@Amtrak Thanks for this blog post.  Now there are 90 comments, many with questions, and none have been answered.


Here's one that several have asked:  Will the baggage car racks accommodate longer bike types such as tandems?

baruchbrodersen
baruchbrodersen

So frustrating not to be able to roll my bike on from Route 128 (near Boston) and get off at New London CT or Bridgeport CT to take the ferry across to Long Island and ride into NYC and back. Ditto with jumping on a train with the bike to visit family in DC from Boston.

I was able to do this on the West Coast (Oregon CIty to Olympia), both stations that did not check baggage. It was wonderful. Please make this a reality for us heavy Amtrak users here in the NE Corridor.

WillvK
WillvK

This would be great for us in Northern California if we could take our tandem.  There seems to be plenty of vertical space, with the front wheel potentially extending above the rack.  There may need to be an accessory to the rack for tandems.  If Amtrak is going to all this trouble, then might as well take it the whole way to accommodate different bike types (tandems, recumbents) much more likely to be used in touring.

JPoisl
JPoisl

I'm assuming this is not happening on the Hiawatha Milwaukee to Chicago line? I'd love to be told otherwise. Being able to bring my bike on the train for my daily commute would be incredibly helpful. I know there would be other people that ride the Hiawatha who would really appreciate being able to bring on their regular non-folding, non-boxed up bikes on the train. 

AMTK207
AMTK207

It is much safer to assume a train does not accommodate unboxed bikes unless told otherwise. Some routes in the midwest have them, some do not. The Downeaster service between Boston and the state of Maine has it. I am amazed at how many people ride to a station and demand a service that is not offered there, often at the last minute. Trains sell out, especially this time of year. The existing baggage cars date to the Eisenhower administration, and they have been taking themselves out of service even on the long distance trains. Please check the national timetable, or look at the website, or call the 800 number, or talk to a station agent in advance. Previously, baggage cars with bike racks dedicated to the Vermonter, Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express, were discontinued because they ran empty. Granted, gasoline was a buck and a quarter a gallon, but still, the service needs to be used. With more new cars ordered than existing needs demand, it is implied that baggage cars may he added to routes with high tourist potential where the service does not exist now, such as the three medium-distance trains listed above. Yes, there are procedural issues to work out, especially on the Adirondack, which has to pass customs inspections. However, as hinted by trial runs performed last fall, and judging from which trains offered unboxed bike carriage in the past, Amtrak knows where the demand is. Their first priority will undoubtedly be to supplant the existing baggage car fleet, but I doubt they'd put out a front-and-center blog post if they did not plan to expand bike carriage as soon as their equipment availability will allow.

It still may be worth getting in touch with your state transportation department to let them know you are a potential user of this service, should they offer it on their state corridor trains. Politicians are mindful of what they hear from constituents, so communicate with them, especially state politicians who control funding to corridor trains within their own state. Nothing is guaranteed until it happens. I am glad the cars are scheduled to be released, but I won't rest until the entire order is delivered, proven, and placed in service.

westbradford
westbradford

In northern New England we only have baggage services in Boston and Springfield. Whether the bikes are boxed or not, what we need is the ability to get bikes on the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen, i.e. the ability to get in or out of northern New England with our bikes.

laypyth
laypyth

If I can take my bike, Amtrak would become my primary means of long distance travel. I look forward to a time when we can see online what routes are carrying bike baggage cars. I wonder if there are specific guidelines for recumbent or tandem bikes?

ChicagoFire
ChicagoFire

I too am interested in traveling with my bicycle from Chicago to points in Michigan and from Chicago to La Crosse and the Pacific Northwest.

als030711
als030711

Because these are only for long distance does that mean I won't be able to take my bike on a shorter line to transfer to the long distance line? If I'm even speaking correctly, what is considered a long and short distance railway? Planning a trip from Michigan out to SoCal next year.Thekids and I would love to take our bikes on shorter trips to Chicago.

mind the GAP
mind the GAP

This will address an important, longstanding need that is well documented.  If implemented well, it could transform both Amtrak and the touring preferences of many active people, increasing ridership and acceptance of Amtrak as a viable option for touring.  Handling convenience and workable schedules will be important elements.  I await the arrival of this service on the Capitol Limited, where it will be hugely welcome and popular.  Please ensure that initiation of this service receives ample publicity, as I am ready to use it now.

AMTK207
AMTK207

What will the addition of the new equipment mean to your Amtrak journey?

Simple, fewer miles on my folding bike.

It is difficult to see the majority of commenters assuming or at least implying this is going to be customer-serviced roll-on/off service. I highly doubt it, although I have been surprised in the past. Baggage cars are home to personal belongings for all passengers, not just cyclists. Besides, thanks to a political tirade a few years back, baggage cars have to accommodate firearms now, so you can pretty much bet that baggage cars will remain off limits, and the customers will relinquish their bikes at trackside when the train arrives. That also means the passenger will be able to claim the bike at the station, although how this is all supposed to happen is still being worked out. It appears to me that the racks will work on anything with a front wheel, so recumbents and trikes may see accommodation, but tandems still may require boxing.

These cars will be assigned to the long-distance trains. For all who wish to see roll-on bike service on their local corridor services where none is offered now, you need to contact your state-level politicians and transportation department people, now that states have to pay for corridor services. After the new cars are built (only one has been released for preliminary testing so far, kinda jumping the gun a bit I think) the lack-of-servicible-equipment excuse ought to go by the wayside. And even if the new cars all go on long-distance routes, your state could pay to modify and use one of the existing baggage cars, assuming any are left by then. The existing cars have been around the block a few times.

As it turns out, the standard Amtrak bike box was about two inches too short for my mountain/touring/commuter bike anyway. Somewhere between New York and LA one end of the handlebars poked through the top of the box. No harm done, no damage to the bike, but it wasn't a huge bike with elaborate handlebars, so I was concerned.

I wouldn't recommend bringing a hyper-expensive high-end bike on a tour anyway, much less one involving a train ride. Amtrak baggage service is light years ahead of intercity bus and definitely airline baggage, where airline handlers try to kill your bike, but the Amtrak crew isn't going to kiss your bike and talk nicely to it either. In short, if it's that breakable, you should not have it on a tour anyway.

I look forward to seeing some made-in-New-York cars in service soon, and I will continue to use the services offered by Amtrak.

sschnitker
sschnitker

Okay! Hope to use the service for our bike club tour to Creston, IA.

Omaha Pedalers Bicycle Club

David Lenowitz
David Lenowitz

Hey Amtrak,

Thanks for responding to the latent demand.  Particularly on the North East Corridor, there are fabulous opportunities for bike tours which begin at any of the large stations (DC, Balt, Phlly, NY,) and head north to upstate NY and New England.  I have done several of these and tried to use Amtrak but was unable.  Could you please provide more details of the planning so we can have a better idea of what opportunities will be available.

MichalLeahKanovsky
MichalLeahKanovsky

You let me take my bike on and I will ride your trains.  And pay for that ride.  I'd even pay extra for the bike.  When i was in Budapest, they charged an extra fee for bringing bikes on trains.  That makes sense, I'm willing to pay for the extra space my bike takes up and I recognize that it's an inconvenience to others, so charge us, we'll pay, you'll make money, and everyone will be happy. 


Elliot Novak
Elliot Novak

I am taking my bike (in a box) on the Empire Builder this Sunday. While a bike-train-bike tour isn't something I will be able to afford every year (so I may not use it the first year/2016), please know, Amtrak, that I applaud this and will use it in the future. I live by/use the MSP station.

granvillegravel
granvillegravel

Hooray!  I've been waiting for this on the Capital Limited for years ... will now go ahead with my bike trip along the GAP.  Please allow roll-on service on non-baggage stops.  I hate flying with a bike so much that I did 40 hour and 26 hour driving trips last year; would have taken the train instead.  

CatrionaZerfahs
CatrionaZerfahs

This would be great for our cycling the Pacific Coast next year - might this be available from Los Angeles to Seattle/Vancouver by summer 2015 please?

TakesTwo2Ride
TakesTwo2Ride

This is great news for all unless you're a tandem rider. My wife and I prefer to travel with our tandem and if it's an extended tour we will bring the BOB trailer to haul our gear. Anything that accommodates us works for us. But I expect we will still have to split the tandem and box everything. But more bikes on Amtrak is the way to go.

RachelKauff
RachelKauff

Thank you Amtrak! Helps eliminate a car ride between the station and destination. 

SarahMcGregor
SarahMcGregor

We can't wait! We love Amtrak and we love bicycling. We are retired and do two long distance tours a year, involving sometimes difficult logistics getting to our start points. This service will greatly expand our options.

adron
adron

 How can I keep track of this and find out when the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight will be equipped? This service will more than double my current Amtrak usage of 2-4 trips into at least 4-10 trips per year. Right now I regularly travel to Whitefish, Spokane and other points on the Empire Builder and would love to be able to get to Oakland, Emeryville (for San Francisco) and San Jose without worrying about the boxing requirement. To be able to bike up and stow and then ride away from the station without the giant box would save me a ton of time and make things a ton easier!


Any list or sign up I can get on to find out?


Also with this, I may be able to finally start putting together some serious tour trips too. With a bike crew of 8-12 that would start in Seattle and travel down to major points with their bikes... Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco and of course Los Angeles & San Diego!  :)

SarahFalkner
SarahFalkner

This makes me so happy! I have traveled by train with a bike throughout England and Germany where these storage cars are on most trains and it is fantastic; I don't drive a car and I use a bike as my main transportation. I live in the NE Corridor but if I want to take a bike into NYC I have to drive south to a Metro North station. If I could take my bike on Amtrak I would travel even more on it, both weekly commutes and longer journeys. Especially in NYC cycling is more popular than ever and many people I know would be very happy to leave their car at home and get on the train with their bike to go down to NYC.

Finley C
Finley C

I wonder if the racks will work with long wheel base recumbent bikes and tandem bikes?

Drew Carlsn
Drew Carlsn

I'd just like AMTRAK to be consistent with policies towards cyclists.  More cyclists will use AMTRAK if it's not necessary to box the bike.  On my trips to the SF bay area, I don't need a box, but when I go south down the California coast (Coast Starlight), I'm required to box.  Looking forward to AMTRAK making travel by bike and train an easier option.  Seems like cyclists and train travel are meant for each other!

gcarey3
gcarey3

I haven't considered using Amtrak for travel because of the bicycle policy. Now it's a valid travel option for me.

hackybiker
hackybiker

I'm a cyclist who would definitely use the roll on bike storage between Philly and several other cities (Pittsburgh, NYC, D.C.). And I know many others who have been waiting a looong time for easier travel on Amtrak with a bicycle! This is great news.

WiscBikeGal
WiscBikeGal

Yup. That's the problem. You ca  get on the WB train, but the bus back to Madison leaves 1/2 hour BEFORE the trainis supposed to arrive. But with my bike, I could ride home.

WiscBikeGal
WiscBikeGal

Yup. That's the problem:You can on the westbound train, but the bus back to Madison leaves 1/2 hour BEFORE the train is supposed to arrive. (Of course, we could have had rail service in Madison, and soon on  to the Twin Cities, if our Gov wasn't so against anything but highways.)

meade anderson
meade anderson

This will made both business and pleasure travel much more convenient, multimodal, and fun....

HerbMcLane
HerbMcLane

I'm not sure, about hoe the bikes will get on the train. I wish they had done a little video of a passenger with bike getting on the train. It seems that the bikes will be handed over to a Amtrak employee, who will the load the bikes. Then at your destination the Amtrak employe will unload the bike and the passenger will retrieve it from the baggage area. Cumbersome!!! It would be best if the bike rider could stow the bike and then retrieve it before the train stops. On the City Night Line from Stutgart yo Amsterdam that was the way it was done. The lone employee just made sure the doors were open and the train didn't leave before all the bikers were off.

TheSpokeCyclery
TheSpokeCyclery

YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU!!!! Travel with a Bike just got way better, and Amtrak is gonna get much more of my travel $$s.  Thanks for listening!

ryanmarie
ryanmarie

I was so excited to read about the new bike racks! No bike boxes make it 100 times more likely that I will choose to take the train. But not being able to remove my bike at a town with no luggage service? Sad. Most of the reason I want to travel with my bike is for trips to small towns where I don't need or want a car.


I already have to board the westbound train at 1am - don't make it even harder to choose train travel.

HerbMcLane
HerbMcLane

Yes, you have it right! Amtrak needs to adapt to new ways. These new cars are a step in the right direction on the long distance trains, but Amtrak needs to realize that bike rides get on and off at more than baggage stops!! My closest station is Dunsmuir CA, which is not a baggage stop, so I won't be able to use the new cars on the Coast Starlight!

The City Night Line train from Munich to Amsterdam has passenger roll on and off cars, Amtrak needs to use that design!!

jbs319
jbs319

@JPoisl the Talgo trains that were supposed to be part of the Madison extension of the line would have had roll-on bike service much like the ones in the Pacific Northwest. However, the Governor of Wisconsin cancelled the service expansion and did not accept the trains into service upon their delivery. Wisconsin also was not part of the midwest Bilevel order which has bike racks on the lower level of the coaches.

jbs319
jbs319

@AMTK207 the Adirondack won't be as much of an issue when the new customs facility opens up at Gare Centrale in Montreal. This would also allow the Vermonter to be extended into Montreal from its current terminus. Baggage cars will not disappear on overnight long distance trains, but like you said, for the medium distance trains (Adirondack, Vermonter, Pennsylvanian, Carolinian, Palmetto, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allan Express) if the service isn't used, the service will be pulled.

jbs319
jbs319

@ChicagoFire the Empire Builder will have the new baggage cars for sure. Build in an extra day of travel, though, as the Builder has been performing about as reliably of the Sunset Limited of old.

jbs319
jbs319

@als030711 check to see if your line from Michigan to Chicago has baggage/bike service. Some do and some don't. The Southwest Chief would have bike service with these new cars, and the trains in California all have bike racks in certain coaches. Also, Michigan has new bilevel cars coming online in the next few years, and those will have bike racks in coaches like the ones in California. Currently, the only place that does not have bike racks coming their way is the Northeast.

DougSinger
DougSinger

@HerbMcLane it might be a factor whether or not the baggage car floor is level with the platform at the stop... many Amtrak stops the platform is at true ground level and the floor of the baggage car is about 3 feet higher.

sgdoerfler
sgdoerfler

@HerbMcLane It sounds like they haven't decided exactly how it will work yet. But when they tested roll on service on one train on the Capitol Limited last year (one of the routes getting the new baggage cars), passengers were allowed to stow their bikes themselves. And that's how it works on the few Amtrak routes that have had bike service for some years. So hopefully it'll work the same on these new routes too.

WillvK
WillvK

@HerbMcLane "The City Night Line train from Munich to Amsterdam has passenger roll on and off cars..."


Do these cars have racks that accommodate tandems/recumbents?


JPoisl
JPoisl

@jbs319 Oh I'm well aware of the Talgo train situation, which was hugely disappointing. I've been commuting for 8 years on the Hiawatha, those Talgo Trains would have been a wonderful update. Unfortunately parts of our population don't see the value in paying for any sort of public transit. I didn't know about the bilevel order, that's a bummer too.

WiscBikeGal
WiscBikeGal

@jbs319 @JPoisl Since those Talgo trains are now going to Michigan, it looks like the semi-local trains to there from Chicago might have this service. That would make the likelihood of me visiting Michigan much greater. 


Driving all the way around the lake -- and through the Chgo-Ind mess -- is just too much to bear, and the ferry service is quite expensive. If I could take my bike with me, that would solve the transportation issue on the Michigan end that currently makes non-car travel to MI sort of unattractive.


As a Madison, WI resident, I will withhold my NSFW comments about losing that Amtrak service because of our Gov. 

AMTK207
AMTK207

I am familiar with the policy. I'm saying when the new equipment goes into service the regulations may change. The 50 pound weight limit may remain, but that comes from OSHA.

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