Auto Train Voyage #20 was Northbound from Sanford to Lorton aboard #52 (29 JAN).
This was part of a six day trip that I must acknowledge was four nights “on the road” and the remaining two were in Florida. That Sunday, January 29, had me leaving The Villages for a Lunch time meet up in Bellview. After our Lunch, it was time for a leisurely drive over to Sanford (65 miles) arriving there at 230P for the 3PM closing.
This journey was not going to be a moneymaker for Amtrak, as "the count" which always announced on-board was only 109 auto and 219 passengers. However, the consist was its usual sixteen cars. My auto was aboard within five minutes of surrendering it, and there was no line whatever when I checked in. While checking in, I learned the term “fare Bucket’ is official Amtrakese; previously I thought it was only “fanese”. I was surprised to find that no longer tickets are printed for the AT - or at least at Sanford. The necessary info such as accommodation and vehicle load number is recorded by hand on to the Auto Train folder. Personally, I would like to have a ticket, but then the majority of people nowadays apparently simply do not care, as I have learned that only a fraction of people using a credit card for a purchase will even retain their Customer Copy, if in fact the merchant even tenders one..
Well to the train; this journey was to be in Bedroom C of 10BR car “W Graham Claytor”. Conveniently the car was A End forward which meant a forward ride - a “plus” with me as I would guess anyone else here at the Forum.
The wine tasting started promptly at 3PM, and can be a “wine chugging” if one is into that. To my surprise, there still remains one Sightseer car, 33043, assigned to the AT. The car has been reconfigured with all tables upper level with the Smoking Lounge ‘down below’. The latter “did its job”, or maybe no one was smoking any time I was in the car. Reportedly, all of the 3310X damaged at Crescent City have been returned to service; there should be one available as a spare. Therefore with the “if you’ve seen one Pine Tree, you’ve seen ‘em all” scenery along the route, it appears a waste to have a Sightseer permanently assigned to AT.
Departed Sanford at about 350P.
First serving of Dinner started promptly at 5PM; the Beef Tournedos were prepared exactly as ordered, all service other than dessert were with metal, glass, and ceramic ware - and the “comp” wine “flowed”. Somehow, I don’t think there are too many Food & Beverage sales in the Lounge car - maybe in the Coach Lounge, but not in Sleeper.
Movies are still shown after Dinner, and evidently since all Lounges have been upgraded with flat screen monitors, they are not about to go away.. But then, that is why I had a Bedroom - and for that matter, an unread Sunday New York Times.
About the only minor incident that took away from the pleasure of the trip occurred when I started to do a walk through the train. So far as I knew, Sleeper passengers have the “run of the train..’ Well, I got kicked out of the Coach diner (courteously but still assertively… “your Lounge is back in the Sleepers, sir‘). Then if that wasn‘t enough the two Conductors were sitting in an empty Coach and said to me “you must be some kind of company spy“. “Well I was with a railroad thirty years ago, but I‘m a paying passenger; here‘s my ticket“. “Well, you sure know how to walk aboard a train, and not too many around here do‘. So what am I going to do, forget how to walk on a train? “Have a good evening , sir“.
Oh well, time for The Times, then bedtime.
Aside from a minor issue requiring a stop to “reboot’ one of the locomotives, all went well.
“Continental Breakfast’ was served for me passing through Richmond; if there is any scenery on the route, it is on the RF&P. Arrival in Lorton was about 950A or 20min off. My auto was about first off; in fact I was talking with some travelers I had met in the Lounge earlier that morning. Nice people, so my auto sat out there for some fifteen minutes.
My autos are used to being last off - and I have two “consolation prizes“ in my collection for being such.
Otherwise, the drive home with an overnight in Akron was essentially without incident.
I still hold that along with Acela First, Auto Train is Amtrak’s “best foot forward’, Voyage 20 affirms my “more positives than negatives” overall rating of my Amtrak travel experiences.
So far as I'm concerned, I got value for the $610 total fare paid.
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