All aboard! Shortly after the start of operations on May 1, 1971, Amtrak handpicked approximately 1,300 cars from a total pool of 3,000 held by the two dozen private railroads that had turned over their passenger services to the new company. Most were either constructed of, or sheathed in, stainless steel, which meant lower maintenance costs. Amtrak soon began a program to refurbish and paint the cars in its red, white and blue color scheme. These cars prominently display the inverted arrow, Amtrak’s first service mark.
Early promotional material showcased the types of cars that could be found on Amtrak trains, such as this drawing of a tavern lounge. Amtrak noted that its “informal atmosphere” was perfect for “a relaxing drink, a snack and perhaps a game of cribbage or bingo.”
Aboard the Montrealer (Washington-Montreal), the cozy “Le Pub” tavern-lounge was a key attraction for skiers during the winter season – especially for “après-ski” festivities. Amtrak described Le Pub as a “dimly-lit, romantic cocktail lounge ... where you can gather with new friends and old acquaintances ...” Stories abound of late-night sing-alongs around the piano. Today, the Vermonter (Washington-St. Albans, Vt.) still provides access to top Vermont ski spots.
The North Coast Hiawatha (Chicago-Billings-Seattle) carried this "ranch-dorm" car that included a diner section seating 23 customers (shown here), a counter with eight seats, dome seating for 24 and a crew quarters. It was originally built by the Budd Company in 1956 for use on the Denver Zephyr (Chicago-Omaha-Denver) operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Complementing the Western "chuck wagon" theme are wall panels by sculptor Lorn Wallace depicting roundup activities out on the range.
When the steward plays the chime, it’s time to dine. This ex-Southern Pacific, three-quarter dome-lounge car was retired by 1981. Today, Amtrak has one dome car, originally built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Great Northern Railway, that is especially popular with fall foliage watchers in the East.
Amtrak refurbished this dome car with new tables and chairs, which were upholstered in vibrant shades of purple, orange and pink. In the distance is a staircase leading up to the seating area under the dome, which allowed all-around views of the passing landscape; there is also a piano for entertainment in the back.
Travel whet your appetite? While relaxing in a lounge car in summer 1977, you could have ordered from this menu, which offered sandwiches, snacks and beverages; a full meal could be enjoyed in the dining car. Turkey on whole wheat was $1, while a cup of piping hot coffee cost $0.30. The café car is still one of the most popular places on the train and carries a variety of snacks and beverages from leading brands. Last year, Amtrak introduced Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on trains in the Northeast.
The Metroliners, introduced in 1969, were high-speed Budd electric cars designed for use on the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) between New York and Washington. Luxurious interiors and fast running times made the Metroliner Service a viable competitor to airlines. Under Amtrak, which took over the Metroliner Service in 1971, frequencies increased to keep up with demand. In this photograph, Metroliner car No. 816 still sports the logo of Penn Central (successor to the PRR), indicating it was likely taken soon after Amtrak began operations.
Metroliner snack-bar coach No. 856 and club car No. 886 show off the bold, graphic paint schemes Amtrak introduced in the late 1970s. At that time, the company began refurbishing and reconfiguring the cars - electrical components were moved from the underside of the floor to a new compartment on the roof.
This image shows the interior of a Metroliner club car - known as Metroclub. The first class Metroclub had roomy, individually reclining swivel parlor chairs; there was also a phone booth available to customers. A service attendant provided food and beverage service at one's seat. A close equivalent today would be first class on Acela Express (Washington-Boston), where customers enjoy premium amenities, spacious two-by-one seating, complimentary onboard food and beverage services and access to ClubAcela lounges at major stations.
Starting in late 1973, Amtrak ordered the first of what were eventually 492 modern, single-level Amfleet I cars. Manufactured by the Budd Company, the tubular, stainless steel, all-electric cars were designed to reach speeds of up to 125 mph. They began to enter service in 1975, and about 450 cars are still used today, particularly on routes east of the Mississippi River. Here F40PH locomotive No. 211 leads the northbound Minute Man (Washington-Boston), which is largely made up of gleaming new Amfleet I cars.
Early advertisements touted the Amfleet’s “dual temperature control system ... plush carpeting ... and wider, more comfortable reclining seats to relax in.” Drop-down tray tables allowed passengers to “ ... eat, drink or even get some work done, right at your seat.” The club car section shown here, also known as Amclub, was staffed by an attendant who provided at-seat food and beverage service.
This poster referenced the oil shortages of the late 1970s to promote travel on Amtrak. Rushing out of the medicine bottle is a train led by F40PH locomotive No. 215, dressed in the Phase II paint scheme introduced in 1975. The train is made up of then-new Amfleet cars. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Energy data, Amtrak is 30% more efficient than traveling by car and 8% more efficient than domestic airline travel on a per-passenger-mile basis.
This colorful promotional button marked the introduction of modern new RTG Turboliners on the Chicago-St. Louis route in 1973; they later spread to other routes out of Chicago. Amtrak initially leased two French ANF gas-turbine T 2000 RTG "Turbotrain" trainsets, which could reach speeds up to 125 mph. "You glide down the track so smoothly you can scarcely feel the rails ... [while] interiors feature French styling in simple sunny colors,” Amtrak enthused.
In 1976-77, Amtrak introduced the modern gas-turbine RTL Turboliner trainsets for use in upstate New York on the Empire Service (New York-Albany-Buffalo) and Adirondack (New York-Montreal). They were modified from the earlier RTG Turboliners to include American couplers and standard 480 volt head-end power. The RTLs were also equipped for third rail electric operation so they could access Grand Central Terminal, which Amtrak served until 1991 when it consolidated all New York City services at Penn Station.
Ticket, please! Amtrak promoted the RTL Turboliners for their "smooth, quiet ride in an air-conditioned, entirely carpeted interior (walls and ceilings as well as floors).” The all-reserved first class Turboclub car, unlike the coach shown here, featured spacious two-by-one seating and "luxurious velour” upholstery, as well as a dedicated attendant who saw to the customers’ needs.
Amtrak’s famed Auto Train crosses Neabsco Creek south of Woodbridge, Va., on its daily, 855-mile run between northern Virginia and central Florida. It’s the only passenger train in the U.S. to transport customers and their motor vehicles (car, van, motorcycle, SUV, small boat, jet-ski or other RV). Amtrak launched the Auto Train in October 1983, and it is considered the longest passenger train in the world when counting its auto-rack rail cars. The service has used bi-level Superliners since 1996, so this image showing single-level equipment, including dome cars, likely dates to the 1980s.
The daily Broadway Limited (New York-Chicago) took its name from an earlier train operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It is shown passing over the famous Horseshoe Curve, completed in 1854 west of Altoona, Pa. Led by F40PH locomotive No. 366, the train is made up of a variety of pre-Amtrak sleeping, dining and baggage cars, as well as more modern Amfleet coaches. The Amtrak Broadway Limited was discontinued in 1995, but customers can still experience the curve aboard the daily Pennsylvanian (New York-Pittsburgh).
Many of Amtrak's early sleeping cars had 10 Roomettes and 6 Double Bedrooms, and were commonly known as "10-6 Sleepers." Roomettes such as the one shown here in 1983 were intended for one person. They included a chair, toilet and washing facilities; the bed folded down from the wall. Amtrak car No. 2463 was originally built by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1952. Known as the Silver Dale, it was used on the American Royal Zephyr (Chicago-Kansas City). The last pre-Amtrak sleeping cars in the passenger car fleet were retired in 2001.
Introduced in October 1981, Metroliner Express Service built on the trusted Metroliner brand; by only stopping at Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City, the trip time was brought under three hours – which Amtrak capitalized on for this advertisement aimed at business travelers. By early 1982, the original Metroliner cars were removed from Metroliner Service and replaced with Amfleet coaches and AEM-7 locomotives. Metroliner Service was gradually phased out after the launch of the sleek, high-speed Acela Express (Washington-Boston) in 2000.
The Amfleet I cars Amtrak ordered in 1973 were based on the design of the popular Metroliner cars. The Amfleet cars came in five configurations, including the Amcafe shown in this photo. Weighing in at 110,000 pounds, the Amcafes included a food service counter in the center of the car and seating for 56 customers.
Amtrak ordered the Amfleet II cars in 1980 for use on overnight trains. Built by the Budd Company at its Red Lion Plant in northeastern Philadelphia, the 125 coaches and 25 food service cars were similar in exterior appearance to the earlier Amfleet I, but were modified for a more spacious layout and had larger windows. The food service cars had a cafe counter in the middle; one end had tables and booths, while the other featured the informal lounge seating shown here. This area now features booth seating too, and is a great place to hang out and meet other travelers.
The bi-level Amtrak Superliner, whose layout was inspired by the popular Santa Fe Railway "Hi-Level" cars, entered the development and design phase in 1973. The Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle), whose route is shown on the bottom of this poster, was the first train to feature full Superliner service in October 1979. To mark the occasion, “Champagne was offered to adult passengers ... and buttons and other souvenirs were distributed.” Superliners are still found on most overnight trains that depart from Chicago, including the City of New Orleans (Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans) and the Southwest Chief (Chicago-Albuquerque-Los Angeles).
Time for some Zzzzzzs…The Superliner family bedroom (left), shown in its original upholstery, has a sofa and two reclining seats that convert to beds and two upper berths that fold down from above. Located on the lower level of Superliner sleeping cars, a family bedroom can sleep two adults and two children. A roomette (right) has seats that convert to a single bed and a berth that pulls down from above.
A good night’s rest: Humorous illustrations depicting the insides of the new Superliner cars were used on menus in 1979-1980. This one shows a sleeping car with bedrooms and roomettes. The former have private, self-enclosed restrooms with toilet, sink and shower, while passengers in the latter share restrooms and showers on the lower level that are located near additional baggage storage.
The 284 bi-level Superliner cars were built by Pullman Standard at a plant in Hammond, Ind. The order included 102 coaches, 48 coach-baggage cars, 25 café/lounge cars, 70 sleepers and 39 diners. Built to be pulled at speeds up to 100 mph, the cars measure 85 feet long, approximately 10 feet wide and 16 feet high. This Superliner stainless steel car shell would eventually be outfitted with two-by-two seating, carpeting and curtains along the windows.
The upper level of a Superliner coach features seats in a two-by-two configuration, while the lower level, shown here, includes seating, restrooms and mechanical equipment. Today, Superliner coaches are known for their comfortable reclining seats with ample legroom; travelers also have an individual fold-down tray, reading light and 120v electric outlet. Best of all, there’s no middle seat!
In this 1980s image, a young traveler gazes out the windows of a Superliner Sightseer Lounge car while listening to the hits on his Walkman. The Sightseer Lounges have an upper level with generous wrap-around windows perfect for taking photos of the landscape. Comfy sofas and chairs mean you can relax with a sketchpad, play a game of cards or talk with fellow travelers; if you’re hungry, head downstairs for a snack in the café.
Today you can go to the lower level of a Superliner Sightseer Lounge car to pick up a snack or beverage – café seating is located at the bottom of the stairs. When the cars first rolled off the production line at Pullman Standard, they included a small piano lounge across from the café. Cozy seating was arranged around an electric piano, and decorative panels depicted aspects of railroading.
In the late 1980s - early 1990s, illustrator Nathan Davies created a series of imaginative travel-themed graphics for use on timetables, postcards, posters and more. Based on the desert landscape depicted, complete with towering rock formations, flowering cacti and what might be a desert pocket gopher, the train shown is probably meant as a general representation of the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-San Antonio-Los Angeles) or the Southwest Chief (Chicago-Albuquerque-Los Angeles), which offer travelers breathtaking views of southwestern desert landscapes.
This image of the Desert Wind (Ogden-Las Vegas-Los Angeles) from the early 1980s gives a broad overview of Amtrak’s then-existing passenger car fleet. The train includes two locomotives followed by two single-level cars Amtrak had purchased from the predecessor railroads, a single-level Amfleet car first introduced in 1975, a 1950s bi-level Hi-Level car purchased from the Santa Fe Railway and at least four bi-level Superliners that Amtrak introduced in 1979. The equipment wears the Phase II red, white and blue paint scheme introduced in 1975.
We’ve been working on the railroad ... In this view from the late 1970s or early 1980s, employees at Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Ind., heavy maintenance facility perform maintenance and overhaul work on a variety of cars that the company had purchased or leased from predecessor railroads. Amtrak bought the Beech Grove shops from the Penn Central Transportation Company in April 1975. Today, more than 500 skilled employees continue to rebuild and overhaul various cars and diesel locomotives used across the Amtrak system.
In 1982, Amtrak laid the foundation for development of a new single-level, long-distance car – later known as the Viewliner – to replace older equipment. The Budd Company, which had produced the popular Amfleet cars in the mid-1970s, manufactured prototype car shells for two sleeping cars and one dining car. Here the dining car shell is shown at Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Ind., heavy maintenance facility in March 1986, waiting for employees to install the interior modules, wiring and car systems.
As Amtrak explored the development of high-speed rail in the early 1990s, it leased two European high-speed trainsets for testing in the Northeast: the German Intercity Express (ICE) and the Swedish X2000. The equipment was also displayed in cities across the country, such as this exhibit of the X2000 at Red Wing, Minn., in July 1993. Designed and built by Asea Brown Boveri, Inc. for the Swedish State Railways, the X2000 was tested by Amtrak because it could travel at higher speeds than conventional trains on existing track. Red Wing is served twice a day by the Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland).
Here the westbound California Zephyr (Chicago-Denver-Emeryville) passes near Granby, Colo. This image clearly shows a transition in Amtrak’s paint schemes: the P42DC locomotives wear the bold Phase III livery, introduced in 1979, while the bi-level Superliner passenger cars wear the more subdued Phase IV scheme introduced in 1993. The California Zephyr is considered one of the most beautiful train trips in North America, taking customers across the Great Plains and high into the Rockies and the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas.
In 1995, Amtrak received the first of 50 new Viewliner sleeping cars intended for use in the East where tunnels and other infrastructure are too low for the bi-level Superliners. This promotional image shows an accessible bedroom, which can accommodate up to three adults and includes a sofa with seating for three, an upper and lower berth for sleeping, and a wheelchair accessible restroom with sink, vanity, toilet and shower. The Viewliners are known for their two rows of windows, which create a bright and airy interior.
Capitol Corridor trains in central California generally employ bi-level "California cars" with a distinctive blue, orange and gold paint scheme. Conductor Ralph Copeland looks down the platform before signaling the engineer to depart the station. The conductor is responsible for the safe movement and operation of the train, the collection of tickets and the conduct of the operating and on-board service crews. “Most of the people, especially on the early trains, I see every day," says Copeland. The Capitol Corridor route is primarily financed in partnership with the State of California and is managed by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.
Amtrak inaugurated the Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo-Los Angeles-San Diego) in 2000 to replace the San Diegan, started by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1938. The name change was a way to rebrand the service after an intense period of investment that included refurbished tracks and stations, new cars and increased frequencies. The trains’ bi-level California Cars wear a distinctive silver and blue livery, and they welcome surfboards! The Pacific Surfliner is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California and is managed by the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority.
The newly branded Amtrak Cascades service debuted in 1998. Funded in partnership with Washington State and Oregon, multiple daily frequencies connect Seattle and Portland, with service as far north as Vancouver, B.C., and south to Eugene, Ore. The Amtrak Cascades features sleek, European-style, articulated trainsets designed by the Spanish firm Patentes Talgo SA. They use passive tilt technology to produce a smoother ride. One of the highlights of the journey is a visit to the bistro car, which features products grown and made in the Pacific Northwest.
A Piedmont train heads south from the Raleigh, N.C., station on its way to Charlotte. Out of sight is the busy Boylan Wye, a crucial piece of railroad infrastructure where lines owned by CSX, Norfolk Southern and the North Carolina Railroad meet. Amtrak operates the Piedmont trains under contract with the state, which also owns the refurbished equipment. The distinctive livery, which incorporates red, white, blue and gold, echoes the colors of the state flag. The locomotives are named for cities along the route; No. 1797, shown here, is known as the "City of Asheville."
In July 2010, Amtrak awarded a contract to CAF USA to manufacture 130 new single-level, long-distance cars – including sleeping and baggage cars – intended for use on eastern routes like the Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston-Chicago). Work continues in Elmira, N.Y., and parts have been sourced from more than 120 suppliers in 25 states. Known as Viewliner II, the stainless steel cars are supplementing the existing fleet to support growth across the national passenger rail system.
New Viewliner II baggage cars can now be found on most Amtrak overnight trains – replacing equipment dating to the mid-20th century. In addition to providing space for luggage and Amtrak Express shipments (small package and less-than-truckload shipping), the baggage cars include bicycle racks. In collaboration with cycling advocates, Amtrak has increased the number of trains that offer carry-on and trainside checked bicycle service – allowing you to take the train to your next biking adventure!
The famed Auto Train transports customers and their motor vehicles. Once at the Auto Train stations in either Lorton, Va., or Sanford, Fla., passengers drive through a vehicle gate, receive a claim-check number which is also affixed to their vehicles, and then proceed to the loading area. Customers continue on foot into the station with their overnight luggage while the vehicles are video-documented and driven into the bi-level auto carriers, which are split up onto several parallel tracks. By choosing Priority Vehicle Offloading, you can ensure your vehicle is one of the first offloaded from the train.
Amfleet coach cars used in the East and Midwest feature comfortable reclining seats with ample legroom, fold-down trays, individual reading lights and 120v electric outlets. Many trains offer complimentary Wi-Fi to help you stay connected to work and home. The coach car also has plenty of room for dogs and cats up to 20 pounds for trips of up to seven hours. Pet reservations are available for most trains on a first-come, first-served basis, and each customer may book one pet.
Amtrak is investing in an extensive overhaul of the interiors of its Amfleet I cars. First introduced in 1975, the more than 450 Amfleet coach and cafe cars are found on popular trains including the Northeast Regional, Carolinian and Illinois Service. Through a close study of customer feedback, the Amtrak design team zeroed in on a crisp, modern look and cleaner restrooms. Refreshed coaches such as this one include brand-new seat cushions, carpeting, LED lighting and flooring in restrooms.
Intended to compete with airlines for travelers in the Washington-New York and New York-Boston markets, the Acela Express trains entered service in December 2000. Each of the 20 trainsets includes five coaches and a café car between power cars at each end, and can reach top speeds of 150 mph. Here an Acela Express train exits the Union Tunnel east of Baltimore Penn Station. Measuring 3,410 feet long, the tunnel was completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1873.
Acela Express offers hourly downtown-to-downtown service between New York City and Washington, D.C., and intermediate cities, as well as many convenient round-trips between New York and Boston. Customers enjoy superior comfort, upscale amenities and polished service whether they’re working at a conference table, relaxing in the Quiet Car or having a bite to eat in the cafe. Since its launch in late 2000, Acela Express has carried more than 49 million customers.
In Oct. 2017, Amtrak revealed the exterior paint scheme for the 28 next-generation high-speed trainsets that will replace the equipment currently used to provide the premium Acela Express service. Amtrak has contracted with Alstom to produce the next-generation trainsets, which will provide 40 percent more trains, one-third more passenger seats with the same personal space and high-end comfort, more service, better amenities and a smoother ride. All trainsets are expected to be in service by the end of 2022.