Worth the Ride: America's Trains Offers Luxury Rail Travel
By Jennifer Bellenoit
Remember when trains were the most popular means of travel? Remember the romance of the exquisite finishing of a rail car seen in old black and white movies? The slow chugging rhythms of the locomotive? The deep lull of the wheels running over the tracks?
Today, train travel in the US only appears to exist as a memory. That is unless you are grabbing the 2:15 pm Amtrak from New Haven to New York City. Getting there is more important than the actual ride itself.
America's Trains Inc is offering guests the same luxury travel and private rail cars that used to be reserved for only the wealthiest of Americans. The train travel will begin in December 2017, according to the company website.
Barry Jones from America's Trains stated present demand already ensures that full occupancy will probably occur, keeping in mind that the relatively long average lead time between when a Journey passenger makes a reservation and the departure date, is over eight months.”
The trips aren’t cheap, but they are a serious throwback to the grand old days of railroad travel. You'll feel like a robber baron in your own private car!
The train cars are part of Amtrak trains. They include “Train Sets” which are multiple cars traveling together that provide bedrooms, dining, lounge and bar facilities. America's Trains also provide “Private Cars” that include two or three bedrooms, dining and lounge facilities which operate as part of the Train Sets or just alone.
More than Repainted
America's Trains rail cars are not older units with new paint and furniture, by the way. They are fully rebuilt, redesigned and refurbished to exceed Amtrak mechanical specifications and to meet the desires of discriminating luxury consumers. "We are not trying to replicate antiquated capabilities that were in vogue when trail travel was at its peak. Instead, the best of these features are combined with modern conveniences and systems that make the cars the best in America and equal to the world's finest," Barry said.
Train’Share, as in Timeshare
America's Trains offer two methods of travel which include Journeys by Rail (typical commercial train vacations) and Train’Share (rail car timeshares). Travelers have the option to reserve trips on a timeshare basis which “makes up the fastest growing segment of leisure travel,” according to Jones.
Guests have the option to take the journey by Rail vacations at a lower cost than most commercial luxury train vacations, while also having the option to exchange a Journey (train vacation) for a vacation at a wide selection of the world’s best resorts. You can even exchange them for a cruise.
According to the America's Trains website, buyers can purchase an “initial term” of 10 years and have the option to extend to 10 more years or have the option to extend to a "perpetual term" with "never-ending additional years.”
Some of the best benefits include special events and parties, pre- and post- land vacation opportunities, an owner’s newsletter and special predetermined preferences such as activities and drinks.
Those who have a Train'Share and use a Private Car have the opportunity to choose the destinations and routes. Train’Share owners are allotted an enormous amount of power and opportunity in Train'Shares Inc. You also become a member in the Train’Share Association which gives owners more benefits such as train, rail and travel related items at discounted prices. Unlike traditional timeshares, Train'Share owners don't have to pay fees if a scheduled journey by Rail is not used and America's Trains will buy the Train'Share back without financial loss to the owner.
Visit their website for a more in-depth list of the benefits.
Train Car Options
America's Trains first train sets will include about 13 rooms, all with full bathrooms and private showers. There are usually two people to a room, some with a third bed. The Train sets are kept small to accommodate passengers activities such as lectures, cooking classes, dancing, table games and other small group activities.
According to Jones, the biggest advantage to the small number on board is “the rapport and camaraderie that occurs when a small group of like-minded travelers get together.”
Or, if you desire a completely private experience, Private Cars includes two double rooms, a lounge, dining room and kitchen. All three bedrooms have private bathrooms with showers. Private cars have separate crew quarters and travels with a porter or a steward or both. Up to six passengers can occupy the car. Private cars do not cater to children.
Dining on the Rails
Guests will be spoiled rotten by the fine dining. With an impeccable staff, ready to meet every personalized need, you will be served the finest and healthiest North American cuisine with fresh, local ingredients.
Guests even have the option to request special beverages before departure. The trains are usually open dining seating, or you can make a reservation. Lighter dining is available in lounge and bar areas.
Sleeping on board
Fully equipped with comfy pillows, fine linens and hair dryers, the rooms also come with personal on-call steward service. The beds are either single or extra large queens with plenty of room. The rooms are not your typical sleeper car. Due to the small group advantages, more detail is provided by crew to ensure you the best possible comfort.
Journeys and Routes
There are nine active routes and 13 that are coming soon. One train vacation is often a week long. Similar to a cruise vacations, Journeys by Rail offer “ports of call” which allow guests to disembark and explore the museums of Washington D.C or enjoy the vastness of the Grand Canyon.
Ports of call vary from more than a full day down to about eight hours and are designed to ensure that passengers have enough time to fully enjoy each point of interest.
Most of the routes are one-way and guests are responsible for airfares to these ports. However, arrangements are made for connecting travel via Amtrak train where appropriate.
Some routes do return to the original port. The Canadian Falls route departs from Washington D.C and makes stops in Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Buffalo before returning to Washington D.C as its final destination.
An example of a route is Journey Southwestern Eastbound which departs from Los Angeles and ends in Chicago on Day 8. At 6:40 pm the train leaves and by Day 2 at 12:40 pm, you are staring into the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon. After an overnight in the Grand Canyon the train departs for an overnight in Williams AZ at 4:30 pm.
Day 4 consists of an overnight exploring the southwest city of Albuquerque before departing for Kansas City on Day 5. During this day, the train will pass through the jagged, snow top hills of the Rockies and eventually make its way to the smooth, vast prairie lands of Kansas.
Guests will have the opportunity to view the wonders of the west from the comforts of the gentle moving train. This is why train travel is the best way to see America. After an overnight in Kansas City the train will depart for its final destination: Chicago.
The beginning cost for a room aboard the American Traveler is $5,900 per person. A private vacation aboard the Abraham Lincoln costs approximately $24,900 per party.
Although the costs may appear a bit pricey, the journey fares are very competitive with comparable luxury train vacations. By selecting an America's Trains timeshare basis, the price of a Journey is less than 1/3 of the normal commercial Journey fares. See the America's Trains website for a comparison of prices.
Some things remain during a weak economy: dining, movies and especially now, travel. Train vacations have always stood firm as the best way to see America, says Jones. Train vacations have “strengthened among more affluent consumers and reaffirms significant interest in the type of vacations being offered.”
It is definitely not the destination but the journey itself that makes it worthwhile.