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What’s New in Train Travel in the U.S.

Passengers can enjoy a new route and new overnight train accommodations this year

spinner image dining seating options with Amtrak's 400 bilevel Superliners
Amtrak is modernizing the interiors of more than 400 bilevel Superliners, including sleeping and dining cars.
Courtesy: Amtrak

Few means of transportation are as relaxing and enjoyable as traveling by train. The hypnotic rhythm of the tracks combined with the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of beautiful natural landscapes makes train travel a great way to get where you’re going.

This year, passengers can find new routes and new overnight train experiences across the U.S.

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Amtrak recently added new rail cars to the San Joaquin Valley service in California and plans to roll out new cars in the Amtrak Midwest network — which includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Illinois — throughout the year.

Here are more updates to consider when planning a train trip this year. Fares vary depending on timing and accommodations.

Gulf Coast service, Amtrak

Route: Between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama (with connections to routes serving other parts of the country)

Travelers along the Gulf Coast will see the long-awaited return of Amtrak service to the region for the first time in almost 20 years.

Marc Magliari, senior public relations manager for Amtrak, says the company plans to add the service in the fall. It will be the first time passenger rail service will be available in that area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “The service we had before only ran three times a week and always overnight. This service will be twice daily, leaving at each end in the morning and afternoon.”

Although the route technically won’t offer overnight service, Amtrak plans this service to feature connections to the Sunset Limited train, which offers overnight train travel to destinations between New Orleans and Los Angeles, and the Crescent train, which includes overnight travel from New Orleans to New York City

Cost: Fare details are still in the works; Amtrak offers a 10 percent discount on all routes for people 65 and older.

spinner image Amtrak’s Auto Train
Travelers will find new seating cushions and other upgrades aboard Amtrak’s Auto Train.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Auto Train, Amtrak

Route: Nonstop between Sanford, Florida, and Lorton, Virginia 

If you’re not familiar with the Auto Train, this Amtrak option is unique because you take your vehicle with you. Cars, trucks and motorcycles are loaded into train cars specially designed to transport vehicles — and these cars are then connected to the passenger cars. 

The coach cars on the Auto Train recently got a refresh including new seating cushions, upholstery, carpeting and window curtains. Or you can choose from private accommodations including a roomette or bedroom with upgraded bedding, pillows, towels and linens.

Cost: Prices start at $95 for coach seating with a complimentary continental breakfast, plus the cost of your vehicle: starting at $285 for a standard vehicle, $325 for extended vehicle and $155 for a motorcycle. 

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spinner image Amtrak’s Silver Service and Palmetto trains departs from New York City
Passengers can enjoy refreshed cars on Amtrak’s Silver Service and Palmetto trains departing from New York City.
Getty Images

Silver Service and Palmetto, Amtrak

Route: New York City to Miami

This New York-to-Miami route is serviced by three trains: the Palmetto (NY to Savannah), plus the Silver Meteor and Silver Star (a pair of trains together known as the Silver Service). Going from the metropolitan cities of the Northeast, the trains wind down along the East Coast through the Southeast, where you enjoy views of cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. The Silver Meteor and Silver Star continue service to the warm beaches of southern Florida, before eventually ending up in Miami. If you want to hop on and off to explore the destination along the way in the Southeast or around the country, you’ll need to buy a USA Rail Pass for coach travel ($499) or purchase tickets with individual stops.

As part of Amtrak’s multiyear project to update its long-distance routes, totally refreshed coach and café cars — featuring upgraded curtains, seating/cushions, carpeting and reading lights — have been incorporated into the fleet for these lines. In addition, the company has refreshed sleeping cars on the Silver Service route and modernized interiors of four types of bilevel cars used in long-distance routes.

Cost: Cost varies depending on timing and whether you’re making the complete trip or only going to one of the locations along the way. Check the Amtrak website for deals and promotions. Amtrak offers a 10 percent discount for people 65 and older.

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