The Auto Train is Even Cooler Than You Think

auto trainTraveling non-stop between Washington D.C. and Orlando, the Auto Train is the only Amtrak service that gets passengers and their cars, motorcycles, small boats, jet skies – you name it! — to where they want to be.

But, news alert: the idea of the Auto Train didn’t actually originate with Amtrak. Here’s the story: In the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) was thinking about replicating the European auto-ferry service, and although their studies suggested it would be successful in America, governmental officials deemed it a better fit for a privately owned company.

So, a prior employee at the U.S. DOT, Eugene K. Garfield jumped on the bandwagon and founded the Auto-Train Corporation in 1969. Two years later (and exactly six weeks after Amtrak took over most of the passenger train services nationwide), Garfield’s company went public and raised $7 million dollars to invest in equipment; thereafter, the first common carrier to be launched in over 50 years began making daily trips on December 6, 1971. But, due to train malfunction issues, Garfield closed down his company a decade later.

Amtrak swept in in 1983 to restore the Auto Train and quickly received more than 400 reservation requests. Talk about back by popular demand! And clearly, Amtrak passengers were very happy once the train launched – a customer survey illustrated that 96% of passengers named the Auto Train was “excellent.”

And today, we think it still is. In 2011, about 260,000 passengers traveled on the Auto-train along with 126,000 vehicles – now that’s a ton of cars saved from traffic by Amtrak!

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