the-amtrak-auto-train-throughout-the-yearshttps://www.trains.com/trn/railroads/history/the-amtrak-auto-train-throughout-the-years/The Amtrak 'Auto Train' throughout the years | Trains MagazineHow has the Amtrak Auto Train evolved over the years? Read a brief explanation followed by photos and links to several articles on this traveling wonder.https://www.trains.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/TDC-Auto-Train-August-1998-Michael-Murray.jpgInStockUSD1.001.00historyrailroadsarticleTRN2024-01-152023-12-04metered,subscription-trn18784
Website maintenance on Trains.com is now complete and action may be required on your account.Learn More.
Today’s Auto Train is a stellar option for people looking to travel long distances with their car in tow between northern Virginia and central Florida. Amtrak’s marketing slogan on its website is “Take Your Car on an Auto Train Road Trip.” Those traveling in sleeping cars receive traditional dining-car meals, along with complimentary wine. Coach customers are given a complimentary breakfast and are able to purchase food and beverages while en route from the Cross-Country Cafe. Free WiFi access is available for all travelers.
But today’s Auto Train is only the latest installment of a unique service that dates to 1971. Amtrak didn’t always own this “classy hotel on wheels,” as Trains Correspondent Brian Solomon refers to it in his travel column [see “Travel: Amtrak’s most unusual train”, Trains.com, Dec. 10, 2023]. The original, privately owned and operated version, Auto-Train, was created by businessman Eugene K. Garfield and spawned by the availability of surplus passenger equipment at Amtrak’s inception. It went bankrupt in 1981, expiring after the launch of an ill-fated second route serving Florida from Louisville, Ky., and several derailments.
Amtrak’s own Auto Train (minus the hyphen) began on Oct. 31, 1983. It was resurrected by W. Graham Claytor Jr. — Amtrak’s fourth president — when the arrival of Superliners created another pool of hand-me-downs to launch what has become a massive success. Originally run triweekly, it’s now offered daily.
As you’ll see in the photos below, showing how the train evolved over the years, it has a long history with General Electric diesels dating back to the original, privately operated train.
For more on the history of the Auto Train, read the print feature, “The Train With Two Lives,” by Al DiCenso, in the January 2013 issue of Trains.