Monday, May 21, 2012

Freakin' Amtrak

I haven't ridden Amtrak in years, but 6 weeks from today it might be convenient for me to do so.  Unfortunately I'm one of those people who reads the fine print, and the fine print regarding luggage is ridiculous to the point of being stupid.  Here's the email I just sent Amtrak:
From the Amtrak web site:
Size Limit: Each carry-on bag may not exceed 28" x 22" x 14" in size...

I want to take Amtrak from Sacramento to the Bay Area to begin my trip to Europe.  I'll be gone for two weeks and my suitcase has dimensions several inches larger than those above, as I'll be gone for two weeks.  How rigidly is this baggage size rule enforced?  I can't take the train if I can't take my luggage with me.
There is no checked baggage on this particular route, so I would have to carry my bags on.

I'll try to remember to post Amtrak's response when I get it.

Response #1:
Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Amtrak. We respond to online inquiries 7 days a week between the hours of 8 am and 11 pm (ET). E-mails are answered in the order that they are received. We will respond as soon as possible.

Please do not reply to this message.

Amtrak Customer Service
Response #2, 5/24/12:
Thank you for contacting us.

The following guidelines apply to baggage you check, and which is stored in separate baggage storage areas on a train.

*Three-Piece Limit: Each ticketed passenger may check up to three pieces of luggage at no charge. You may also check up to three additional pieces upon payment of $10.00 per piece.

*50-Pound Limit: Each checked bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs. We will not accept heavier pieces.
Size Limit: Each checked bag may not exceed 36 x 36 x 36 inches in size.

*Suitable Bags: Please be sure to pack your baggage using sturdy luggage or containers that are capable of withstanding normal handling. Please note that we do not accept plastic storage containers, lightweight suit bags, and other similar items as checked baggage.

*Baggage Tags: Attach your name and address to each item. Free identification tags are available at stations or from crew members, or you may use your own.

*Where Available: Checked baggage service is available at many stations and on many trains and Amtrak Thruway buses throughout the country. See individual station pages on this site, available from the 'Stations' section, for more information.

*Check-In Time: Please check all baggage at least 30 minutes prior to departure, and longer for special items. Baggage checked less than 30 minutes prior to departure may be delayed.

*Claiming Checked Baggage: Checked baggage will be available to be claimed within 30 minutes of arrival. Always identify your baggage by the claim check numbers. Storage charges apply to baggage not claimed within two days of arrival.

*ID Required: To check baggage, you must have a valid photo ID. For more information about ID requirements, please see our Passenger Security and ID page.

*Special Items: Amtrak accepts a number of special items such as baby strollers, bicycles, golf bags, musical instruments, and skis. In most cases there is a handling charge of $5.00 per special item.

Each ticketed passenger may also carry-on up to two (2) pieces of luggage on board. Not included in this limit are personal items such as briefcases, purses, laptops, and infant paraphernalia such as strollers, diaper bags and car seats.

Each carry-on bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs. and may not exceed 28x22x14 inches in size.

If space allows, a passenger may be permitted one carry-on bag that is larger than the acceptable per unit dimensions. However, this bag may not exceed the dimensions of two suitcases of the allowable size.

Each carry-on bag must be visibly tagged with the name and address of the passenger. Passengers may use their own personal identification tags, or may obtain Amtrak baggage identification tags at station ticket offices, or onboard trains from a member of the train crew.

For more information on what can and cannot be carried onboard our trains, please select Baggage Guidelines listed under the section Rider's Guide on

If you have other concerns regarding these guidelines, let us know. If you prefer you may call us at 1-800-USA-RAIL (872-7245). Enter zero to bypass the automated system.

We hope that this information will be helpful and we look forward to serving you on board Amtrak.
This isn't entirely clear:  since there's no checked baggage, can I carry what would have been checked baggage on board?   My suitcase meets the requirements for checked baggage dimensions.  Or is it all considered carry-on baggage on this train? 

I'm probably safe just carrying my bags on board, but it would be nice not to be faced with uncertainty.


Jean said...

We rode Amtrak several years ago to visit friends. It was a lot of fun, but don't use it if you're on a tight schedule and have to be at your destination exactly on time. Passenger trains are a low priority and get shoved to the side in favor of freight--we were 4 hours late, and the trip was from Sac to Reno! If you are in Zen mode about your arrival, it's great.

Bill Beeman said...

Looks like government monopoly in action. Some bureaucrat reading a report where a huge suitcase caused an issue, and whipped up a new rule to solve that issue....without pausing to think that they have earlier dropped baggage check.

How to move your customer to another mode of travel....

No wonder Amtrak can't break even.

Darren said...

It takes just over 2 hrs to drive from Sacramento to Reno. It would take 90 min to drive from Sacramento to Emeryville, but I'm willing to take 3 hrs on the train--if I can take my suitcase with me.

allen (in Michigan) said...

To bad Big Bus doesn't operate on the west coast yet.

New York to Washington D.C. for a fraction of the cost of Amtrak, just about as quick, from locations all over New York with a lot more departure times.

Jean said...

Well I have to say that I used to take the train from Sac to Richmond and it was always fine. But that was in the early 90s, so you'd need to check.

Scott McCall said...

I took Amtrak from Chicago to Lansing Michigan. My bag was much bigger than that and so were the bags of most passengers, no one stopped me.

Anonymous said...

I ride Amtrak all the time. I have traveled with a lot of luggage, my daughter has come home from college for break with tons of stuff. If you can get it on and off by yourself and not slow them down, no one is going to say anything. All rules are created because someone caused problems, I personally know some of the conductors and only a few wont help at all, usually they are the old time employees, that feel they are above helping, really they just want to retire and get paid.
You will be fine, they usually have plenty of storage of luggage on the train. Have a fun trip!

Anonymous said...

So glad I don't have to ride on the Amtrak! Sounds like a nightmare, especially if you have carry on luggage.