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Moving by Amtrak


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#1 darien-l

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 10:44 AM

Hi all,

In a few days my wife and I will be doing a big move from Denver to Syracuse on Amtrak. We're using the luggage allowance to the full -- 6 boxes (3 for free and 3 more at $10 each) and 2 suitcases per person, so we're at a total of 12 boxes and 4 suitcases now. The thing is, we have about 18 boxes that need moving. Something just occurred to me -- what if we add a non-existent third person to our bedroom -- would that increase our baggage allowance? We're traveling on an AGR award so adding a third person should be free, right? The tickets haven't been printed yet, so this is probably something that can be done with a phone call. Amtrak says the baggage allowance is per passenger, so really the only thing I'm worried about is whether the folks at the baggage office would want to see this non-existent third person. We're thinking of saying that the third person is a small child and we didn't want to drag him around. Do children (2 to 15 years) get the same baggage allowance as adults? The Amtrak website is unclear on this point.

Thanks!

#2 Rafi

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 11:00 AM

Hi all,

In a few days my wife and I will be doing a big move from Denver to Syracuse on Amtrak. We're using the luggage allowance to the full -- 6 boxes (3 for free and 3 more at $10 each) and 2 suitcases per person, so we're at a total of 12 boxes and 4 suitcases now. The thing is, we have about 18 boxes that need moving. Something just occurred to me -- what if we add a non-existent third person to our bedroom -- would that increase our baggage allowance? We're traveling on an AGR award so adding a third person should be free, right? The tickets haven't been printed yet, so this is probably something that can be done with a phone call. Amtrak says the baggage allowance is per passenger, so really the only thing I'm worried about is whether the folks at the baggage office would want to see this non-existent third person. We're thinking of saying that the third person is a small child and we didn't want to drag him around. Do children (2 to 15 years) get the same baggage allowance as adults? The Amtrak website is unclear on this point.

Thanks!

Darien,
You're clearly running a risk on showing up at the Denver station, trying to check the bags and boxes for the third person, and finding that they want to actually see that person. I think it's a low risk, but given that you'd be stranded, it's a risk worth evaluating.

Another alternative is to simply pay Amtrak to ship the boxes for you via their Express shipping service. The rates are generally much cheaper than UPS and FedEx, and you'd basically just be checking them on the same train, but paying for it to be legit.

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#3 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 01:31 PM

Why not find a good friend and give them a gift?
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#4 RTOlson

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 07:54 PM

I would personally feel it's unethical to claim a fictitious person.

I would take advantage of Amtrak Express for additional boxes. Additionally, you can ship media (books, CDs, DVDs, etc. -- anything without ads) via the Postal Service's media mail and ship it to your destination. That's one of the lowest shipping rates from the mail service.

#5 sechs

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 12:32 AM

Is it actually cheaper to buy another ticket versus sending the boxes express?

#6 RTOlson

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 04:00 AM

I don't know for sure, everything I read about rate information tells the reader to call 1-800-377-6914 for a quote. Everything I've heard (which is not much) seems to infer that Amtrak's shipping rates are competitive with commercial shippers.

Edit I: I don't know when you're departing, but a coach ticket from DEN to Syracuse, NY on June 6 is now $228.

Edit II: I found an article from KOVR (Sacramento's CBS affiliate) about shipping Amtrak. A 100-pound parcel from Sacramento to LA was $32.50 -- about half the cost from other shippers.

I don't know how this would translate exactly for your cross-country trip. I do wish you the best of luck in moving in this unique method.

Edited by RTOlson, 03 June 2008 - 04:07 AM.


#7 jackal

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 05:51 AM

Please post a "trip report" about your Amtrak Express shipping experience (if you choose to go that route)! I've been curious about the service, and, like RTOlson, haven't heard much about it.

I wanted to check some sample prices to see if they truly were much cheaper than other shipping methods, but as they don't have any automated quote information on their website and they force you to call (and I didn't want to make up a fake package's dimensions and weight and call it in and then potentially deal with a salesperson who wouldn't let me hang up the phone until I confirmed and paid for my nonexistent shipment), I never got around to it.

So it's nice to see the link to the story from KOVR quoting a 100-lb box being shipped approximately 350 miles (500 Amtrak route miles) as being $34.

Dave, the reporter, included quotes from UPS, FedEx, and DHL, but he left the Postal Service out of the mix. Perhaps that's because the Post Office doesn't ship anything over 70 pounds (making Amtrak Express a good option for large, heavy items the Post Office won't take). But for comparison purposes, I checked the price of shipping a 70-lb box from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Parcel Post came out as $30.64, and Media Mail was $26.38. However, both of those options were scheduled to take 5 days--compared to Amtrak Express's 24-hour service. (I assume the item would travel on the Coast Starlight and would be available roughly around the same time as a piece of checked baggage would be, so it could be less than 24 hours, depending on when the package was dropped off and picked up.)

For a move Denver-Syracuse, I would expect Amtrak Express's time factor would be basically the same as a passenger making the same journey with his or her checked luggage--a journey time of 38 hours. The Postal Service wants 7 days. Winner: Amtrak. And as far as cost, the same 70-pound box would cost $45.63 with the USPS (Media Mail stays the same--it must be based solely on weight with no regard to distance). Now the question becomes: how much would Amtrak charge to ship that same hypothetical box? Amtrak is more fuel-efficient than the USPS's contracted trucks, and Amtrak isn't paying delivery carriers to pick up and drop off the boxes, so it should be less. I doubt it is, though, so winner: probably the Post Office. Still, I might be willing to consider Amtrak Express over the USPS because of the speed factor: 1.5 days versus 7.

That speed also compares favorably with UPS, who wants $285 for the same two-day service. However, Amtrak should be careful, because UPS only charges $58 for four-day ground service DEN-SYR (which also travels mostly by train--UPS Ground is my preferred shipping method!). I'm not sure I'd spend much more than that with Amtrak to gain only two days of speed.

Another thing that occurred to me is that Amtrak Express really compares to and competes with air freight companies more than small package delivery companies. Northwest, Delta, United, Alaska, etc. all offer cargo services at fairly good rates, but you have to have someone drive all the way out to the airport to drop something off at their cargo ports and you have to go to the airport to pick it up (or vice versa). Amtrak beats these guys on two counts: one, Amtrak stations are more centrally located than airports (usually), making pickup and dropoff less of a hassle, and two, especially for bigger, heavier, bulkier items, Amtrak is probably far cheaper. The fact that they beat small-package delivery services for express service and compete favorably with the time and cost of their ground services (though less so with the USPS, especially Parcel Post, which remains the cheapest option for those in no hurry), is almost coincidental.

These are just random mumblings that really are entirely meaningless...I'm just too tired to really think about what the heck I just typed! Sorry if it makes no sense...there was no real point to what I said other than just to sort of think about the subject out loud...
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#8 Walt

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:24 AM

We're traveling on an AGR award so adding a third person should be free, right?


Well, not exactly free. It would take more points. As many points as each of you took.

#9 Walt

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:28 AM

Just what would the people at Baggage Check-in, do when someone shows up with 18 boxes plus suitcases? :unsure:

#10 Rafi

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:41 AM

We're traveling on an AGR award so adding a third person should be free, right?


Well, not exactly free. It would take more points. As many points as each of you took.

Actually, that would be true if they were traveling in coach, Walt, but the OP is in a bedroom, which is a one-award redemption, regardless of the number of people in the room.
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#11 Rafi

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:42 AM

Just what would the people at Baggage Check-in, do when someone shows up with 18 boxes plus suitcases? :unsure:

Well, people do that sort of thing, believe it or not, but I think it heightens the likelihood that all three people will need to be present. The more I think about it, the more I really think some of those boxes need to be shipped via Amtrak Express.

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#12 caravanman

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:13 AM

Dont pack the china!
Two things..
I was on an Amtrak train and got chatting to a carpenter. He said he wasn't allowed to check his tooks as baggage but had to send them Amtrak express.
He mentioned 100lb weight costing $50 to send from LA to Carbondale. That might be a premium price for a valuable shipment.
The other thing is that while I was sitting on the Amtrak thruway bus at LA, waiting to head off to Bakersfield,I had a birds eye view of the Amtrak baggage handlers putting the "checked baggages" onto the far side of the bus..
There was a competition to see who could hurl the bags with the greatest force. It was quite stunning to see the savage glee on their faces as they trashed each bag. This was just one day after National Train Day, I guess it was back to Annoy the Train Passengers Day!

Ed B)

#13 Amtrak OBS Gone Freight

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:45 AM

Hi all,

In a few days my wife and I will be doing a big move from Denver to Syracuse on Amtrak. We're using the luggage allowance to the full -- 6 boxes (3 for free and 3 more at $10 each) and 2 suitcases per person, so we're at a total of 12 boxes and 4 suitcases now. The thing is, we have about 18 boxes that need moving. Something just occurred to me -- what if we add a non-existent third person to our bedroom -- would that increase our baggage allowance? We're traveling on an AGR award so adding a third person should be free, right? The tickets haven't been printed yet, so this is probably something that can be done with a phone call. Amtrak says the baggage allowance is per passenger, so really the only thing I'm worried about is whether the folks at the baggage office would want to see this non-existent third person. We're thinking of saying that the third person is a small child and we didn't want to drag him around. Do children (2 to 15 years) get the same baggage allowance as adults? The Amtrak website is unclear on this point.

Thanks!



So as long as they are a "ticketed" passenger, then the baggage amounts stand as already outlined in the policy. But remember to read carefully about what is permitted in checked baggage. There are many prohibited items, that you must carry on board. And then there are many items not permitted on board the train at all (which should be common sense). But so as long as you have paid for a third ticket, then there is not really much the baggage folks can do about it, but they may take issue with it. So I would say it would be a good thing to nix that idea in order to keep things as simple as you can.

Aight, now from the railroad employee point of view....
Forgive me for my noseyness, but are y'all actually "moving" from Denver to Syracuse as in "relocating in order to live there permanently?" I have seen folks pull this sort of situation many times, only to find half of their belongs being left at the station because "that" third person should be there to be able to handle their belongings (unless of course they are a small child or infant which in most cases WILL BE WITH their party)! I apologize if I come across a little abrasive, but I personally can't understand why many folks use Amtrak as a moving company (if indeed that is your plans) when it is merely a transportation provider! Because these folks generally wind up needing more assistance with their stuff, and Amtrak is not an actual moving company in that sense. Now you use Amtrak's express shipping service to ship many packages! So in closing, I will reiterate what several of the other posters have said. I would think it would be easier to use Amtrak's Express (if available to you), UPS, FedEx, or hire an actual moving company to do that job for you.

OBS gone freight...

#14 Amtrak OBS Gone Freight

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:50 AM

Why not find a good friend and give them a gift?


Heh heh that's a good one, Lion.
Are you giving the "hint hint" to get them to take you on a free trip? Shoot, I'd be open for that as that is one route I haven't been on yet.
:lol:

OBS gone freight...

#15 Walt

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 12:02 PM

Actually, that would be true if they were traveling in coach, Walt, but the OP is in a bedroom, which is a one-award redemption, regardless of the number of people in the room.


Oh, AGR doesn't work like regular ticketing? With regular ticketing, each passenger needs a ticket, plus one passenger also gets the accommodation upgrade charge. With AGR, you don't need to use points for the bedroom, and then use points for a separate ticket for passengers?

#16 AlanB

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 12:51 PM

Actually, that would be true if they were traveling in coach, Walt, but the OP is in a bedroom, which is a one-award redemption, regardless of the number of people in the room.


Oh, AGR doesn't work like regular ticketing? With regular ticketing, each passenger needs a ticket, plus one passenger also gets the accommodation upgrade charge. With AGR, you don't need to use points for the bedroom, and then use points for a separate ticket for passengers?


That is correct Walt, you only need enough points to "pay" for the bedroom and then you can get as many tickets for passengers as you like, up to the maximum capacity for that room. In this case, that would mean three tickets. You don't also need points for each passenger, only the room.

Put another way, the OP needed 30,000 points for a bedroom only for his trip. If he puts one person in that room it's 30,000 points, two people still 30,000 points, and with 3 people it's still 30,000 points total. So in the last case, it's almost like he's spending just 10,000 points per person.
Alan,

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#17 Walt

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Posted 04 June 2008 - 06:44 AM

That is correct Walt, you only need enough points to "pay" for the bedroom and then you can get as many tickets for passengers as you like, up to the maximum capacity for that room. In this case, that would mean three tickets. You don't also need points for each passenger, only the room.

Put another way, the OP needed 30,000 points for a bedroom only for his trip. If he puts one person in that room it's 30,000 points, two people still 30,000 points, and with 3 people it's still 30,000 points total. So in the last case, it's almost like he's spending just 10,000 points per person.


Wow, cool.

I have enough points, then, for my next roomette! :D

I wrongly thought I need points for the room, plus points for each passenger.

PS: Sorry, I guess this tangent would have been more appropriate in the AGR section.

#18 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 04 June 2008 - 03:28 PM

OBS, I wasn't thinking of myself, per se, but if they would like some help moving, I'm availible, trust me! :lol:

Edited by Green Maned Lion, 04 June 2008 - 03:29 PM.

Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#19 darien-l

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 09:24 PM

Thought I'd post an update on how the big move went:

We did add a third, non-existent person to our reservation -- this was easily accomplished by calling AGR, and it increased our checked baggage allowance by 6 boxes (3 free and 3 at $10 each). I'd argue that this wasn't particularly unethical, because the award that we booked entitled us to 3 passengers and a corresponding baggage allowance. No one cared whether the third person was physically on the train with us. It definitely saved us a lot of money: cheap as the Amtrak Express rates are, shipping six 50-pound boxes would've been a lot more than $30 - more like $200.

After we finished packing everything, we realized to our horror that we had 30 boxes, around 20 of which were 50 lb monsters. We decided to check the heavier ones and ship the lighter ones by Amtrak Express. We arrived at Denver Union Station around 2 pm, during the between-the-trains downtime, in a rental truck. I went inside, got our tickets from a Quik Trak machine, and stopped by the baggage office to let the lady there know I was about to bring in a lot of boxes to check and ship. She was friendly and helpful from the start, and suggested that I park my truck as close to the outside baggage office door as possible and even loaned some luggage carts. This really expedited the unloading, and I was done in no time. During unloading, I separated large, heavy boxes meant to be checked from the smaller, lighter ones we were going to ship.

At this point, another baggage worker entered the room, and nearly had a cow when he saw 30 boxes, some of quite substantial size, taking up most of the space. The first words out of his mouth were "we can't take all this! We're not a moving company!" I explained that we were going to check only what we legally could and ship the rest. He did not seem convinced: "we have size and weight limitations, and most of these boxes are too big!" Fortunately, I had a printout of Amtrak's baggage policy with me, and politely showed him that boxes up to 36" on the side were allowed. He stared at it in disbelief, mumbled that "no one told me about this" and left the room for good.

Somewhat to my surprise, the lady (sorry, I didn't catch her name) then proceeded to weigh every one of the large boxes we were going to check. I weighed all the boxes before we left home, and was aware that a few of them were a few (1-5) pounds over the 50 lb limit, but was pretty sure Amtrak would let it slide. Not so. She found 7 boxes that were overweight, and marked the number of pounds that needed to be removed. She was very nice about it though, and provided us with free boxes to put the excess weight in, packing materials, and a lot of help. She was apologetic about making us do this and said that normally she wouldn't care about a checked piece being a couple of pounds over, but because this was such a huge load whoever ended up loading and unloading it would be looking for any reason to complain, and she would get the blame. I ended up tipping her $20 for all her help.

After dealing with checked luggage, she placed all the boxes we were going to ship onto the scale and weighed them in bulk. It came out to about $150 to ship 14 boxes which totaled about 250 lb. She sent us to the ticket office to pay the Amtrak Express shipping bill, plus the $90 in excess baggage fees. We specified "Syracuse Amtrak Station" as the shipping address, to get everything in one place. The ticket agent did warn us that Amtrak Express shipments had the lowest loading priority, so even though we were shipping everything a day ahead of our departure, there was a chance that the boxes wouldn't be waiting for us in Syracuse when we arrived.

Fortunately, that was not the case. When we arrived in Syracuse, we immediately went to the baggage office and were happy to discover that all of our boxes (checked and shipped) were waiting for us there in good shape. The guy who worked there told me to pull my truck up to the loading area, and then helped me load all the boxes. We were done in less than 10 minutes! Another $20 tip, and a smooth move thanks to Amtrak.

#20 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 11:06 PM

I still say you are being unethical, and I personally think you should have given Amtrak the extra $200 they deserved.
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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