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Un-manned Amtrak stations......how do you know what to do?


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#1 Guest_ValC_*

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 02:31 PM

I'm taking my first trip on Amtrak in a couple of weeks. I'm scheduled to board late in the evening at a station where there is no baggage service, no passenger assistance, no anything! How will I even know what train to get on? And once I find my train, how will I find my car and sleeping compartment?

I'm a little nervious and envisioning myself getting on the wrong train. Can someone please let me know what to expect at an Amtrak station that has a waiting room and nothing else?

Thanks for any advice offered.

#2 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 02:35 PM

What station are you getting on? I'm guessing there will be only one train around the time you're planning to be there, but knowing what station will help us help you.

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#3 Shortline

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 02:36 PM

I'm taking my first trip on Amtrak in a couple of weeks. I'm scheduled to board late in the evening at a station where there is no baggage service, no passenger assistance, no anything! How will I even know what train to get on? And once I find my train, how will I find my car and sleeping compartment?

I'm a little nervious and envisioning myself getting on the wrong train. Can someone please let me know what to expect at an Amtrak station that has a waiting room and nothing else?

Thanks for any advice offered.


Just curious, what station are you boarding at? Unless you are in the North East, or certain corridors out of Chicago, it's really very simple, since many routes only have one or two trains a day. Basically, you go to the station, and wait-When the train arrives (hopefully on time or close to it) you show your e-ticket to the conductor who will open the train door, and he/she will point you in the right direction on the train.

To see if your train is on time, or if late, by how much, you can always go online to check the train status, or call 1-800-USA-RAIL for an update. Good luck!

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#4 Cho Cho Charlie

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 02:37 PM

Ask the Amtrak person who's at the door to greet you, into the train car. He/she will certainly be able to confirm its the correct train, and if he/she isn't the best person, tell you who will show you where your sleeper compartment is located.

Just because the station is not staffed, doesn't mean the train isn't staffed either.
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#5 oregon pioneer

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 05:32 PM

I usually board at Chemult, Oregon, an unmanned station, so I have some personal experience with this. I have arrived at the station both by personal car, and by Amtrak-operated shuttle bus. If I'm on the shuttle bus from Bend, it's super easy. The bus driver is in contact with the conductor, and knows exactly when the train will arrive (even if it is late). If the train will be late, the driver takes us to a local truck stop to hang out, and then collects us as soon as the conductor calls him/her to let them know the train will be arriving soon. They then take us across to the platform by bus, and help get everyone onto the platform, and wait with us till the train arrives (as there are often de-training passengers for the bus as well).

If I arrive by personal car, it's very handy to have checked the Amtrak site at the latest possible moment before getting in the car, so I know roughly how late the train currently is. Then I just have to go up the ramp to the platform when I expect the train. It helps if I've seen the shuttle bus arriving!! I've only left my car there once, as the shuttle bus proved to be lots more convenient and I never had to worry again about finding my car buried in snow upon my return (it's usually winter when I have time to travel, ha, ha!).

Since you've bought your tickets in advance, they know you will be boarding. The train will stop, and one or two doors will have attendants or the conductor hanging out the window. They'll open their doors and announce coach and sleeper passengers, and which car to go to. They will only open up the doors for cars that are boarding, and they will make sure everyone on the platform is expeditiously taken care of, then off you will all go.

I am lucky, there is only one Amtrak train in each direction per day at Chemult. It is always the Coast Starlight.

#6 me_little_me

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 05:56 PM

I'm taking my first trip on Amtrak in a couple of weeks. I'm scheduled to board late in the evening at a station where there is no baggage service, no passenger assistance, no anything! How will I even know what train to get on? And once I find my train, how will I find my car and sleeping compartment?

I'm a little nervious and envisioning myself getting on the wrong train. Can someone please let me know what to expect at an Amtrak station that has a waiting room and nothing else?

Thanks for any advice offered.

I have taken multiple trips from multiple unmanned stations and in all cases the biggest problem is a late train. In every case but one, there were others also waiting so it isn't like you will likely be alone.

The train comes in; the conductor and/or train attendants step off; you walk up to one of them; they tell you what to do.

As I mentioned, if the train is late, you have nobody to ask. Before hand, find out the name of nearest manned station prior to your and check by phone to Amtrak when the train leaves that station. With a schedule in hand, you can estimate how long it will be before the train arrives.

Once you do it the first time, you will never again worry.

#7 zephyr17

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 06:09 PM

As others have pointed out, many stations have only one train a day each way. Even if there are more, outside the NEC, there still will only be one at the scheduled time. So the short answer is is go to the station, stand on the platform and get on the train when it shows up.

Slightly longer answer is they will open a door for coach passengers, another door one sleeper(s) with passengers boarding at that station. They conductor and attendants will call out coaches and sleeper. Whichever sleeper door is open is probably your car. If multiple sleeper doors are open, each will have an attendant by the door with a manifest. If it isn't your car, they'll direct you to the right car.

Some stations' platforms are too short to open both coach and sleeper. In that case, they will do a double spot, which means they'll load the sleeper (or coach) pax, then pull forward spotting a different car at the platform and then load the remaining pax. It is too bad you are not telling us the station, as someone here could almost certainly tell you if your station usually requires a double spot.

When the attendant or conductor greets you at the door, they will give you directions to your room.

As an aside, it is almost sad how air travel has conditioned people to complexity. So that people who aren't familiar with rail travel expect some complicated procedure, instead of simply waiting for train at the station and getting on when it arrives.
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#8 jdcnosse

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 06:09 PM

If the route originates there, then there will be a couple crew members when they train arrives but not too much before. This is what happens with the Pere Marquette when it originates at GRR.

But otherwise, yes there is usually more than just you boarding, And there might even be a caretaker of the building (unless it's just a concrete slab lol)

If you have a smartphone you can check the status of the train on Amtrak.com, otherwise the calling option always works too.
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#9 PaulM

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 07:30 PM

With all the good advice, no one mentioned the problem you have if there is double track. Which side do you board on? Case in point is Kee (Kewanee, IL) where normally trains will come in on the right hand side. If the train has been switched over to the left hand side, the engineer will slow down a hundred yards or so before the station and sit on the horn, hoping the passengers will hurry over to the other side.

#10 MARC Rider

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:23 PM

Some "un-manned" Actually have a caretaker on site. I've seen this at Essex Jct. and White Rver Jct. VT and Huntingdon, PA. They have a waiting room and someone on duty who is on contact with the train and can tell you whether pr not it's non time, and what the estimated arrival time is. They just don't sell tickets or deal with checked baggage. On the other hand there are some stations (Like Waterloo, IN or Alliance, OH) that are little more than bis stop shelters by a platform along the tracks.

#11 SubwayNut

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:25 PM

Kewanne is exactly what I was thinking. Do trains alway's wrong rail there, as in left hand running? I have boarded the Carl Sandburg headed to Chicago twice there (with by bike after RAGBRAI) never alighted, nor made the intermediate stop (no other rides on the Illinois Zepher or Sandburg) and the train came in on the north, left hand running track, opposite the station (in 2011 the brick AmShack, 2012, a nice modern glass station). Both times we all had to run across as the locomotive stopped ten feet before the station's grade crossing to wait for us to do that. After leaving Kewanne at least this past July we soon passed the Quincy-bound Illinois Zephyr that was also wrong-railing.



On my last trip when we arrived in Princeton (I think) which I know is at least listed as unstaffed we were still on the northwest track with a crowd of passengers waiting for us there (does it have a remotely operated PA System?). There was one lady who was on the south 'wrong side of the tracks' and the crew opened a door facing her at the grade crossing to let her on. She looked quite grateful.

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#12 calwatch

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:43 AM

Pomona, on the Sunset Limited, is another one. Recently Amtrak installed signage on both the north and south tracks, and installed the shelters for the portable lift on the north and south tracks, but historically the Sunset has always stopped on the north tracks, while Metrolink stops on the south. There is nothing denoting this, however, so you just have to know. The north tracks were the former SP and the south tracks the former LA&SL, then UP, and up until recently there was no connection between the two. One time the train did stop on the wrong track, but the conductor waited until everyone walked over the bridge to the other side before leaving.

#13 cirdan

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 04:30 AM

On my last trip when we arrived in Princeton (I think) which I know is at least listed as unstaffed we were still on the northwest track with a crowd of passengers waiting for us there (does it have a remotely operated PA System?). There was one lady who was on the south 'wrong side of the tracks' and the crew opened a door facing her at the grade crossing to let her on. She looked quite grateful.


I trust the train crew checked there was no other train coming on the other track, as if somebody opens a door on the wrong side and invites you across you can easily assume it's safe and then step out onto the tracks without double checking.

#14 RyanS

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:42 AM

Before hand, find out the name of nearest manned station prior to your and check by phone to Amtrak when the train leaves that station. With a schedule in hand, you can estimate how long it will be before the train arrives.


No need to do that, just call the 800 number and talk to Julie, she'll give you the most up to date information available.
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#15 amamba

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:47 AM

I often board in WFD, which is an unmanned station in Connecticut. It is not a big deal at all - there is only one train scheduled to arrive at a time, so its show up, wait, and board the train when it arrives.

#16 AlanB

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 12:52 PM


On my last trip when we arrived in Princeton (I think) which I know is at least listed as unstaffed we were still on the northwest track with a crowd of passengers waiting for us there (does it have a remotely operated PA System?). There was one lady who was on the south 'wrong side of the tracks' and the crew opened a door facing her at the grade crossing to let her on. She looked quite grateful.


I trust the train crew checked there was no other train coming on the other track, as if somebody opens a door on the wrong side and invites you across you can easily assume it's safe and then step out onto the tracks without double checking.


The crew will always request protection from the dispatcher in such a situation, meaning that the dispatcher will shut down all traffic on the other track.
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#17 benjibear

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:13 PM

At a station that has double track, often the tracks will be labeled as eastbound and westbound for example. On the Keystone at Elizabethtown, the stairs were and may still be labeled as "Trains to Harrisburg" and "Trains to Philadelphia". So it helps to know which way you are traveling and what city you would be headed towards.

#18 rrdude

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:40 PM

If you really want to make sure the train stops, bring an illuminated red lite, and when you hear the train coming, step into the middle of the tracks, face the train, and swing the red light, (turn it on first) from left-to-right in front of your body. Of course they call the local authorities, and have you arrested, but you can still say that you "stopped the train".........

#19 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:48 PM

If you really want to make sure the train stops, bring an illuminated red lite, and when you hear the train coming, step into the middle of the tracks, face the train, and swing the red light, (turn it on first) from left-to-right in front of your body. Of course they call the local authorities, and have you arrested, but you can still say that you "stopped the train".........


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#20 Guest_ValC_*

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 08:16 PM

I'll be boarding in San Bernardino, California at 7:59 pm.



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