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Checked baggage dropped from two Amtrak trains (corrected)

By Bob Johnston | September 26, 2022

Notice saying Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited will also see cuts is in error, company says

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Train arrives at station with baggage cart in foreground
Train arrives at station with baggage cart in foreground
A cart full of checked baggage awaits the northbound Carolinian as it approaches the former Raleigh, N.C., station on Sept. 18, 2015. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Amtrak says checked baggage service is being dropped this fall from two state-supported routes “due to equipment shortages” — even though the company received 70 new baggage cars as part of its 125-car Viewliner II equipment order from CAF USA in 2014-15.

The company now says, however, that a notice posted in at least one station saying the Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited are also affected is erronious.

The trains affected are the Carolinian and Pennsylvanian. An advisory in the “service alerts” section of Amtrak’s website explains the Carolinian will continue to accept carry-on bicycles, but neither checked baggage nor checked bicycles are being offered on the Pennsylvanian’s New York-Pittsburgh route. The cutbacks begin Oct. 3, with “service expected to resume on or about Nov. 17.”

Notice posted in station window with details on cuts in baggage service
An advisory posted at Pittsburgh’s Amtrak station on Sept. 25, 2022, explains the baggage reductions. Amtrak says this notice was posted in error. Russell Sharp

No similar alert shows up on the website for those attempting to book tickets for the Chief and Capitol, but the advisory at right, photographed in Pittsburgh, includes those trains and says the company “may occasionally suspend checked baggage and bicycle service along the route, due to equipment shortages.”

A Trains News Wire spot check when attempting to add a bicycle to a Chicago-Albuquerque, N.M., or Pittsburgh-Washington, D.C., booking revealed no checked-baggage prohibition on either train for the week beginning Sept. 26. Two bicycle slots at $20 each were available for every Southwest Chief departure, but all bicycle availability showed “sold out” on the Capitol Limited all week.

Historically, the North Carolina-sponsored Carolinian has always carried a baggage car, but Pennsylvania only recently paid to add on to the Pennsylvanian, whose clientele often includes college students.

Each of these trains has operated with a Viewliner II baggage car, although in recent years the Capitol carried both checked baggage and bicycles in the lower level of a Superliner coach-baggage. That reduced capacity was what was rectified for the summer of 2022.

The service reductions join suspension of three Midwest Corridor round trips this fall in citing lack of equipment as a reason for the temporary elimination [see “Amtrak suspensions bring brief relief …,” News Wire, Sept. 19, 2022].

However, the root cause is depletion of the maintenance forces that keep cars and locomotives operational. Of the 70 Viewliner II baggage cars, only five are reportedly out of service, according to the online component of the book “Amtrak by the Numbers,” by David C. Warner and Elbert Simon.

Meanwhile, the first Seattle-Vancouver, B.C., Amtrak Cascades round trip since March 2020 is set to resume today (Monday, Sept. 26). The bicycle charge is $5.

— Updated at 8:37 a.m. CDT with Amtrak saying advisory including Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited in baggage cuts is in error.

11 thoughts on “Checked baggage dropped from two Amtrak trains (corrected)

  1. Having ridden both the Pennsylvanian and Capitol from Pittsburgh, I’m more inclined to think it’s a staffing issue. I’ve seen Pittsburgh station with just two total station personnel trying to handle the luggage and passengers for those trains.

    1. My last trip into Detroit New Center, a decade ago, there was one station agent and one rent-a-cop. No checked baggage, then or now, into Michigan.

  2. As a former engineer and current rail enthusiast, it breaks my heart to witness the slow death of passenger travel in America due to mis-management resulting in starvation. I recently stopped using the Amtrak credit card, suspecting that there won’t be any trains left to ride when I finally accumulate the quarter million points needed for a long distance round trip. If there are any Amtrak directors reading this post I say congratulations! You’ve officially driven a loyal, long time customer away. Pat yourself and your colleagues on the back.

  3. The sad part about all these Amtrak issues in the news, is that really no one cares and those in charge are effectively not accountable to anyone who really does care.

    1. I will tell you who DOES care, the approximately 340 Million Americans who never ride Amtrak and never will. The relative handful of Americas who do ride Amtrak (such as me) are rapidly being turned off.

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