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Difference between revisions of "Rail travel in North America"

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(Stay safe at the station: add little humor about about the punctuality of trains in the U.S.)
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[[Image:Amtrak 139 south across Central.jpg|thumb|400px|An Amtrak train.]]
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{{traveltopic}}
Although trains are not nearly as ubiquitous and convenient a mode of travel in [[North America]] as in [[Europe]], they remain popular with some travelers because of the spacious design of the cars, the scenic routes, and the overall comfort of the train ride. Some people prefer to take trains because they do not require long waits at security like at airports, or because they are uncomfortable with flying.  Train rides in the [[United States of America|U.S.]] often take longer than car rides and plane rides, but the unique experience can trump the long ride.
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This article has been separated into different articles please visit the respective articles.
  
All trains will have coach seats.  For longer rides many trains have sleeper rooms. The price of these rooms depends on the quality - whether or not there is a sink, or a private shower/toilet.  You will pay a supplement for this in addition to the regular fare.  If you are going across the country, you will most likely need to change in [[Chicago]]; any sleeper ticket can use the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago.  There are also Metropolitan Lounges you can use in [[New York (city)|New York]] Penn Station, [[Boston]] South Station, [[Washington (D.C.)]] Union Station.
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*'''[[Rail travel in the United States]]'''
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*'''[[Rail travel in Canada]]'''
  
==Peak periods==
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Rail travel in [[Mexico#By train|Mexico]] and [[Central America]] is explained on the corresponding articles.
  
The peak periods for most rail companies in North America is somewhere between March/April to August/September, however, you should check with the rail company.  In the off peak season prices drop significantly on most carriers.
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==International pass==
  
==Tickets and Passes==
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The North America Rail Pass has been discontinued.
Different passes are available.  There is the North American rail pass which is good for travel on VIA rail in [[Canada]] also.  It is for unlimited travel in a month, and travel within both the USA and Canada is typically required.  Foreigners may be able to get better deals.
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===Tips for tickets and passes===
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*Be aware that it can be very expensive in some countries to travel by train. Especially high speed trains can be as expensive — but more convenient — as flying.
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*If you can, book in advance. In many countries you may benefit from a substantial discount.  Reserving a seat, on the other hand, will usually incur a small surcharge - in these countries, you will have to decide whether or not the train will be empty enough for seats to be readily available.
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*There are a few passes, allowing several journeys to be made within a region. (for foreigners) and (for residents of North America. are good value for those who qualify and wish to travel extensively through North America. Otherwise, typically, the value gained from such a ticket is in inverse proportion to the area covered (unless you spend the whole period of the pass on trains).
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*Unless you are joining the train at a minor halt with no hint of ticket office or machine (or at somewhat more major stations, like [[Glacier National Park|Glacier National Park stations]]) or even an automated ticket machine please buy your ticket before joining the train or else you may have to pay a higher fare, a fine or even face imprisonment. Although prisons may offer free accommodation and catering, a stay in this form of government hospitality may not form an enjoyable part of your holiday.
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===Discounts===
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{{disamb}}
Passengers may be able to get discounts by checking websites, having an AAA or CAA membership, being a veteran, being a senior citizen, or have a student ID.
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Look out for the rail sale section of the website.  You can snag $70 one way coach fares between Chicago and the West Coast.  You may get a sleeper with these fares, upon paying the supplement, if they are available.
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{{related|Tips_for_rail_travel}}
 
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{{related|Rail_travel_in_Europe}}
Effective April 1, 2005 to obtain a discount on Amtrak trains passengers must reserve three days in advance on all trains.
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*[http://www.aaa.com/ AAA]
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*[http://www.studentadvantage.com/ Student Advantage]
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*[http://www.isic.org ISIC] is the '''only''' accepted form of student ID for VIA Rail and usually brings a 35% discount. However, those 17 and under need only have proof of age to qualify.
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*[http://www.narprail.org/ National Association of Railroad Passengers] Members of NARP receive a 10% discount on Amtrak tickets.
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==Stay Safe==
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When travelling, you need to watch your luggage ad stay alert. This is true when you're on a train as well. Theft is can be comparatively common on metros or trains with a lot of stops in short succession, since this will allow a thief to get off the train quickly. Trains that cover longer distances are usually safer; on high speed trains passengers routinely take laptops on their journeys. Late in the evening and on nights in the weekends, travel in well lit areas of the train and if possible in the same car as the conductor.
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In [[Eastern Europe]] there have been reported incidents of "gassings." This is when a theif enters a cabin and sprays a "perfume," which causes the inhabitants of the cabin to fall asleep and awake several hours later with the possessions stolen.
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Always, report suspicious characters to the conductor and move to a more populated and lit area.
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===Stay safe at the station===
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*Be on time, or early. Though trains have a reputation for running late, they always seem to run early when you are running late to catch them. If you have bought the tickets in advance turning up 10 min before departure is more than enough. Bear in mind that trains often close the doors a minute before the official time of departure.
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*Many trains (especially faster ones) call for very brief intervals at smaller stations. Sometimes as short as 30 seconds. Have all your luggage at hand and be prepared to board quickly. Tuck away loose pieces of luggage like drinks, maps, guidebooks and coats ''before'' the train arrives to ensure a smooth boarding procedure.
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*Please don't run if you can avoid it.
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*Do not walk on the tracks except at an authorised, controlled crossing or under the direction of staff. Look both ways before crossing, even if warning devices are not operating. Do not cross against warning devices.
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*Stay behind any yellow lines on platforms except when you are actually boarding.
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*Stand well back from the platform edge when express or through trains pass the station. They can generate a lot of suction as they pass.
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*Face the platform edge if you are wearing a backpack, so the pack won't be caught by a moving train.
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*Do not enter or leave any train that is moving or while the doors are closing. If someone is caught in the door, alert the guard or operate the emergency stop/door release lever/button if the train begins to move. (''Only do this in an emergency as once the train is stopped this way it may need to be inspected from end to end - which may cause a considerable delay. There are often fines for stopping a train inappropriately and you may be put off the train where it is stopped and handed over to the Police.  Missing your station is not a valid reason to stop the train.'')
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*Before boarding a train, ''wait'' until all passengers getting off at your station have unboarded. Trains will ''not'' depart if there are still people queueing to get on, even if it means they're a hour late.
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===Stay safe on board===
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* If you are on any [[Chicago]] bound or departing train you may find that all the seats (or at the very least most seats) will taken. Do the best you can to find a safe place to stand or squat. Do not occupy the roof, the toilet, the luggage racks or the space under the seats or tables.
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* Never leave valuables alone, always bring your valuables with you, even when only using the restroom.
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* Always report ''any'' package, suitcase, or backpack left by ''any'' passenger. After the [[Madrid]] train bombings travellers cannot trust anyone else to protect the security of the people fully, and thereby forcing passengers to be vigilant in ensuring their own security.
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===Stay safe on subways===
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* If possible place your hand on your wallet or purse in case a thief makes a grab for it you will be sure to feel the theif attempting this.
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* One common pick pocket situation, especially popular among British underground theives is having a group of three or four people distract the victim as they are being ripped off. It normally works like this - as passengers board an underground train a theif will push his/her way on board, while pushing the victim, another theif comes from behind the victim and picks the victims pocket. A third theif is often on hand to alert his partners in crime if the police are coming and or help his partners fight off any victims, who realize they are being ripped off.
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* Always report ''any'' package, suitcase, or backpack left by ''any'' passenger. After the London tube bombings in 2005 travellers cannot trust anyone else to protect the security of the people fully, and thereby forcing passengers to be vigilant in ensuring their own security.
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==On Board==
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*Depending on what train you travel, your ticket may show a seat reservation number and a carriage number. The numbers of the carriage are displayed on the doors; pay attention to these as the trains rolls in, so you can be at the right spot on the platform in time to get into your carriage. Some stations have indicators on the platform to show which carriage will stop where. If you sit in your reserved seat you're always safe. On some Amtrak routes you are not given an assigned seat, instead once you board you are given the task of finding a seat for yourself or your group then sit there until a conductor checks your seat, at which time the seat unofficially becomes yours.
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*Trains offer a wide variation of amenities; the longer the distance your train covers, the more facilities there will be. Some newer highspeed trains have airline style entertainment systems in first class, and usually on-board cafes. Classic locomotive-hauled long distance trains may still have restaurant cars with waiters. Some local trains on the other hand can be quite spartan, with a the closest thing you can get to food is a bag of chips and something that could hardly be called "food," simply because it is microwaved for a minute.
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*Toliets on most trains in North America are of significantly higher standard than the trains in Europe. While train employees do a good job keeping up on the cleanliness of restrooms your fellow passengers can often dirty up the toilets by splashing water when they wash their hands or fail to throw away paper towels.
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*During the summer, especially on long distance lines or overnight trains, one will often find a group on the middle of the platform. When boarding this entire group often gets into the middle 2 carriages like a herd of sheep and will stay there often completely overcrowded. It is always a very good idea to walk through the train to the front or back to see if there is more space. This may sound completely obvious but this happen over and over again, people apparently assume that if the carriage they're in are full then so must all the others be.
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==Passenger rail companies==
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*'''Amtrak''' http://www.amtrak.com
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*'''VIA Rail Canada''' http://www.viarail.ca
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*'''American Orient Express''' http://www.americanorientexpress.com
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==Routes/Lines==
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These are a few of many routes offered by a couple rail companies. The selection of routes was made by the criteria of popular destinations and routes that travel cross country. Additionally, historic routes like the Empire Builder were listed not only because of the destinations, but also because of the legacy of these routes left on tourism in North America.
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===Amtrak Routes===
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[[Image:Chicago sears tower at night from near south.jpg|thumb|375px|Chicago is the rail center of America, many routes converge on the Windy City and could require a passenger to change trains here, when traveling cross country.]]
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Amtrak offers 34 passenger train routes.
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Some of the more popular routes are the Cardinal Express, Empire Builder, City of New Orleans, Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Acela Express, and Capitol Limited.
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*'''Cardinal Express''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321680&ssid=134]. The Cardinal Express connects [[New York (city)|New York City]] with [[Chicago]]; via [[Washington (D.C.)]] and [[Cincinnati]], [[Ohio]]. The train operates three days a week. There is a snack car onboard.
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*'''Empire Builder''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&cid=1081256321887&c=am2Route&ssid=133]. The Empire Builder runs from [[Chicago]] to either [[Portland (Oregon)|Portland]], [[Oregon]]; or [[Seattle]], [[Washington (state)|Washington]] via [[Glacier National Park]].  This route operates daily and is a 46 hour ride.
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*'''City of New Orleans''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Vertical_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321831&ssid=136]. This route takes you from [[Chicago]], [[Illinois]] to the "Birthplace of Jazz" — [[New Orleans]], [[Louisiana]]; via [[Memphis]], [[Tennessee]]. The ride is 19 hours long and operates daily.
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*'''Sunset Limited''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&cid=1081442673803&c=am2Route&ssid=132]. Travels from [[Orlando]], [[Florida]] to [[Los Angeles]], [[California]] via [[San Antonio]], [[Texas]]. Service is three times a week and is a full 68 hours from start to end.
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*'''Southwest Chief''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081442673827&ssid=132]. The Southwest Chief travels from [[Chicago]], [[Illinois]] to [[Los Angeles]], [[California]] via [[Kansas City (Missouri)|Kansas City]], [[Missouri]] and [[Albuquerque]], [[New Mexico]]. Service on the 40-hour route is daily.
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*'''California Zephyr''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321209&ssid=137]. Amtrak's California Zephyr travels from [[Chicago]], [[Illinois]] to [[Emeryville]]/[[San Francisco]] (San Francisco is a short bus ride from Emeryville) via [[Omaha]], [[Nebraska]]; [[Denver]], [[Colorado]]; [[Salt Lake City]], [[Utah]]; and [[Reno]], [[Nevada]]. Service is daily and takes 51 1/2 hours to complete.
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*'''Acela Express''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Vertical_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1080772074490&ssid=134]. The Acela Express takes you from [[Boston]], [[Massachusetts]] to [[Washington (D.C.)]] via [[New York (city)|New York]] and [[Philadelphia]], [[Pennsylvania]]. There are multiple daily departures. Length of ride is seven hours.
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*'''Capitol Limited''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Horizontal_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321384&ssid=134].  Runs from [[Chicago]] to [[Washington (D.C.)]] via [[Cleveland (Ohio)|Cleveland]], [[Ohio]].
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*'''Coast Starlight''', [http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Vertical_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321841&ssid=132]. Runs from [[Los Angeles]], [[California]] to [[Seattle]], [[Washington (state)|Washington]] via [[Santa Barbara]], [[California]]; [[San Jose (California)|San Jose]], [[California]]; [[Emeryville]], [[California]] (a short Amtrak bus ride from [[San Francisco]]); [[Sacramento]], [[California]]; and [[Portland (Oregon)|Portland]], [[Oregon]]. Although the moniker is "Coast Starlight", the coast is visible for only a short while between Los Angeles and [[San Luis Obispo]].
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===VIA Rail Canada===
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*'''Canadian''', [http://www.viarail.ca/trains/en_trai_toja.html]. Runs from [[Toronto]] to [[Vancouver]] via [[Winnipeg]], [[Edmonton]], and [[Jasper]]. The complete route takes three days. Price is around $550 without discounts.
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*'''Enterprise''', [http://www.viarail.ca/trains/en_trai_onta_tomo.html]. An overnight train that runs from [[Toronto]] and [[Montreal]]. This train uses Renaissance Cars, which look spacious and comfortable that the famous Eurostar train that stops at London/Paris/Brussels could not use on the routes because of a change in plans. The Enterprise always leaves at 11:30 p.m. and arrives 8:00 a.m. (Montreal) or 8:20 (Toronto).
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===American Orient Express===
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The American Orient Express offers 9 routes, and several theme rail trips.
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Several of the American Orient Express' routes are listed below.
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The trains are designed to be a luxury. Each rider gets a bedroom therefore the prices for tickets is higher than most passenger trains.
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*'''Great Trans-Continental Rail Journey''', [http://www.americanorientexpress.com/html/tours/Great_Transcontinental.html]. This 10 day journey departs from [[Washington (D.C.)]] and visits [[Charleston (South Carolina)|Charleston]], [[South Carolina]]; [[New Orleans]], [[Louisiana]]; [[San Antonio]], [[Texas]]; [[Santa Fe (New Mexico)|Santa Fe]], [[New Mexico]]; [[Grand Canyon National Park]], [[Arizona]]; and [[Los Angeles]], [[California]]. Reverse itineraries are available. The lowest price for the ride $3,790 when reserved 180+ days in advance for the "Vintage Pullman" room. All rooms have a bed.
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*'''Antebellum South''', [http://www.americanorientexpress.com/html/tours/antebellum_south.html]. The Antebellum South takes passengers from [[Washington (D.C.)]] to [[New Orleans]], [[Louisiana]] via [[Fredericksburg]] or [[Charlottesville]], [[Virginia]]; [[Charleston (South Carolina)|Charleston]], [[South Carolina]]; [[Savannah]], [[Georgia (state)|Georgia]]; [[Vicksburg]], [[Mississippi]].  Reverse itineraries are available. Reserve 180+ days in advance and pay a discounted price of $2,690.
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Latest revision as of 20:35, 14 September 2010

    This article is a travel topic
This article has been separated into different articles please visit the respective articles.

Rail travel in Mexico and Central America is explained on the corresponding articles.

International pass[edit]

The North America Rail Pass has been discontinued.


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