Travelling By Amtrak

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Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:34 pm

Hopefully I haven't missed this topic being covered previously - couldn't find anything through search.

I'm taking my first train ride via Amtrak in a week and a half, and after having gone over the baggage policies, I'm a little hazy on a few things. Hoping that those of you with experience can help clear things up.

I'm traveling from Lafayette, IN, to Chicago (Union Station). I'll only have a couple carry-on's - a bag with my laptop, first aid kit, some clothes and a shower kit, and my backpack, which also serves as my GHB. My GHB has a PSK attached. There are a couple multi-tools between my GHB and PSK, a couple small pocket knives, a few lighters, and I EDC a Gerber Paraframe II and a Zippo (as well as other stuff, but these are the things that I'm most concerned with). Going strictly by the baggage policy on the Amtrak website, it appears that I need to strip all of these items from my pack/person before traveling. I'm not a fan of the idea of traveling without at least my Gerber and my Zippo, but I'd rather leave them home than risk confiscation/trashing them.

Am I interpreting this right? I'd rather err on the side of caution, but if I can leave my packs intact I'd like to do so; if I can at least keep my usual EDC on me, I'd like to do so.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by majorhavoc » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:41 pm

Tagged for interest.

I too will be traveling by Amtrak for the first time in years this February. I wasn't aware of TSA-style restrictions on trains, but nothing surprises me anymore.

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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by ineffableone » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:14 am

Pocket Knives etc can be in checked bags but not in carry on bags. Though depending on your local security, they may or may not actually check your bags. So it can be a little frustrating to go through a lot of precautions to find out you could have just walked on to the train without any security check.

Zippos, are sort of a iffy area, and I would suggest contacting Amtrak about it. Lighters are allowed, but flammable liquids are not, so Zippos are up for interpretation on which it is.

Sadly not long ago you could still carry knives on Amtrak with no worry, but those days are past.

Many of the train security have even gotten as bad as airport, including the backscatter machines to see you without your clothes. They aren't everywhere yet, but they are working on it. These are even being added to bus stations like Greyhound. Seems someone really wants to see us all naked.

So a lot of this will come down to what sort of security your local Amtrack has. You could visit your local station and find out if you have to go through security checks or just walk on the train. Yep some you have airport like security checks and others you literally just walk on with no checks.

Considering your route, I would say your more likely to have issues on your return than the trip in. So be sure to check into any differences from the Chicago side.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by cv66er » Thu Dec 05, 2013 8:16 am

Lafayette doesn't do checked baggage, so everything you have will be carry-on.

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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Mikeyboy » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:32 am

Since checked bags are not an option, I don't know if this would help but you can always Fed-ex your pocket knife and multi-tool to your location in Chicago, and then ship them back home when you leave. Just make sure the items are legal in Chicago. If you are staying in a hotel the front desk will hold it for you, just let them know its coming in advance.

With the zippo I would check with Amtrak. I remember with airline flights (I don't smoke so I don't know if this has changed since) you can bring a book of matches, but not a lighter. I think shipping a lighter fluid filled zippo is a no go. You could just carry matches, and there are probably plenty of newsstands in Union Station to buy a bic lighter when you get into the city.

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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:09 am

cv66er wrote:Lafayette doesn't do checked baggage, so everything you have will be carry-on.
My plan was carry-on anyway. What is the security check process there?

I'm told that leaving from Union Station in Chicago on the way home there aren't screenings/searches. I'll be coming home by car, though, so that's not as big a deal for me. At least, not this trip.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by itzybitzyspyder » Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:02 am

I ride Amtrak all the time. You can have your lighter since the trains make stops where you can smoke cigarettes. Keep your laptop bag on your person. There is a place to put your other bags, but it's not secure and every station stop I stand by the luggage stow just to be sure. You can charge and use your laptop on the viewing car. The dining car is great for schmoozing some tail, but the food is terrible. I recommend the microwave kosher franks at the concession area under the viewing car. Great with Blue Moon, which they also serve. You can walk around and stretch your legs, too. You meets lots of interesting people when traveling by train. Laid back people who aren't in a hurry. *edit Grab a Chicago dog while your at Union Station. I have never had my bags searched, but the last time I used Amtrak was just over a year ago (pre-Sandy Hook).
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by cv66er » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:43 pm

Rob Salem wrote:
cv66er wrote:Lafayette doesn't do checked baggage, so everything you have will be carry-on.
My plan was carry-on anyway. What is the security check process there?
Like itzybitstspyder said, my information is old and I'm not sure about Lafaette, but for some of the smaller stations, it used to be that you'd just board. There was nobody there to do any security.

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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by ineffableone » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:09 pm

To sort of explain how confusing the train security can be. While not overly common there have actually been security searches not before you board or while on the train, but after you get off the train. Just ridiculous.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by cauldron » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:14 pm

I prefer to travel by train. The observation car is near the center of the train, with a place to buy junk food and beer under it. (If there is one on your train). The bathrooms are ok. The dining car is a little over priced, but the breakfast I can never pass up. There are 120 volt outlets everywhere.

You can move around. Don't leave stuff out at your seat. Changing seats is usually alright, but take the little piece of aer they stick over the seat with you. Try not to change cars, as not all of the cars end up at the same place on long trips.

Cell coverage can drop off, there is no Wi-Fi. The lounge car is a good place to meet people, or take a laptop and watch a movie.

The security is weird. There isn't a metal detector, or anything like that in Chicago as of three weeks ago, but the Chicago transit stuff uses the same station as Amtrak. So what they did while I was there was to set up a folding table, and pull some people out of line. They asked them questions, and went through their bags. Stayed for ten minutes, and then packed up and left. I think it's also possible for TSA to do the same thing, but so far I've never seen it.

I carry a knife. I carry a zippo. Guns have to be checked like at an airport.

Here's the thing... If you get searched by transit police, and they find stuff, you are boned. Amtrak can only kick you off at the next stop, or not allow you on. They don't frisk you, just look through your bags. That could change any second though.

Refusing the search by Amtrak gets you a full refund, and kicked off. Not sure what refusing the transit cops gets you. I had three people pulled out of line behind me in Chicago. I was going to refuse and get stuck in Chicago...
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:37 pm

cauldron wrote:

I carry a knife. I carry a zippo. Guns have to be checked like at an airport.

Here's the thing... If you get searched by transit police, and they find stuff, you are boned. Amtrak can only kick you off at the next stop, or not allow you on. They don't frisk you, just look through your bags. That could change any second though.

Refusing the search by Amtrak gets you a full refund, and kicked off. Not sure what refusing the transit cops gets you. I had three people pulled out of line behind me in Chicago. I was going to refuse and get stuck in Chicago...
I'm not carrying any firearms, so I'm not worried about that. No plans on taking anything I shouldn't, legal or illegal - trying to avoid having something I shouldn't.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by cauldron » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:22 am

My handgun was checked properly. (They are new to the whole checked gun thing, and last time needed help with the process.)

I didn't have or do anything illegal, and wasn't alluding to that. I stopped flying because it was a pain in the ass to get through the airport and get on the plane, and if trains become the same way, I'll start renting cars.

Anyway.. Have a good trip, it's a fun way to travel.

Two last things:

Your laptop, bedding, diaper bag, and such don't count as carry-ons.

Bring a travel mug and some tea or coffee. (and sugar) most times they will microwave water for you for free. Drinking water is available.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by crypto » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:27 am

Take a good pair of earplugs, you'll thank me later.

If you ever want to know why airlines still wont let you yack on your cellphone in a plane even though the FCC and FAA say there's no technical reason not to, just get on a train sometime. You will immediately long for the relative peace of an airline cabin.

Last time I was on Amtrack I had to deal with 8 hours of some chatty cathy yelling into her phone the whole time. The only time she was wasnt talking was when she was downloading ringtones and loudly testing them out.

And my car smelled like a dead mouse.


And I was 3 hours late to my destination.


And it cost more than flying Southwest.

So yay trains.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by cauldron » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:05 am

crypto wrote:Take a good pair of earplugs, you'll thank me later.

If you ever want to know why airlines still wont let you yack on your cellphone in a plane even though the FCC and FAA say there's no technical reason not to, just get on a train sometime. You will immediately long for the relative peace of an airline cabin.

Last time I was on Amtrack I had to deal with 8 hours of some chatty cathy yelling into her phone the whole time. The only time she was wasnt talking was when she was downloading ringtones and loudly testing them out.

And my car smelled like a dead mouse.


And I was 3 hours late to my destination.


And it cost more than flying Southwest.

So yay trains.
Replace 'train' with 'bus' for me, and we agree on everything.. :)
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by the_alias » Fri Dec 06, 2013 9:26 am

I took Amtrak last on the east coast from NYC to Boston and Boston to DC.

I've also done NYC to Chicago (23 hours) and NYC to DC (25 hours)

This was between 2008 - 2010 and there was no security nonsense.

I find it amazing that you will tolerate this security nonsense on your trains and buses. I suppose it will continue because someone gets rich off of it...

My only fear traveling on the train was derailment or crashes - which seem to happen. Maybe people will realise that instead of joke security they should spend on infrastructure.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by 74 or more » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:48 am

I've taken the train between DC and NYC/upstate NY a bunch of times. I've never encountered security of any kind. I always have a pocket knife on me and a multi tool in my bag.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:53 pm

cauldron wrote:My handgun was checked properly. (They are new to the whole checked gun thing, and last time needed help with the process.)

I didn't have or do anything illegal, and wasn't alluding to that. I stopped flying because it was a pain in the ass to get through the airport and get on the plane, and if trains become the same way, I'll start renting cars.

Anyway.. Have a good trip, it's a fun way to travel.

Two last things:

Your laptop, bedding, diaper bag, and such don't count as carry-ons.

Bring a travel mug and some tea or coffee. (and sugar) most times they will microwave water for you for free. Drinking water is available.
Thanks for the input. And I wasn't meaning to imply that you were alluding to anything illegal - just trying to clarify that I'm trying to make sure I play by the rules and make the trip as smooth as possible for myself.


And yeah, I'll have earphones and my mp3 player to get me through the trip. Looks like it's around 3 hours. Kinda looking forward to it, just want to be prepared. ;)
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:53 pm

majorhavoc wrote:Tagged for interest.

I too will be traveling by Amtrak for the first time in years this February. I wasn't aware of TSA-style restrictions on trains, but nothing surprises me anymore.
I'm not sure where you'll be traveling to and from, but I'll be sure to share my experience. I'm only taking the train into Chicago, will be traveling back home by car. I should be able to update Monday or Tuesday.
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Re: Travelling By Amtrak

Post by Rob Salem » Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:10 pm

Promised update:

Took the Cardinal 51 from Lafayette, IN to Chicago this morning. Train was almost 30 minutes late departing, but got to Chicago pretty much on time.

I experienced zero security checks boarding, traveling, or coming off the train. No issues of any kind, other than my train arriving and departing my boarding station late.
In conflict, we do not rise to the level our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. - Archilocus, 650 BC

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