Amtrak runs a special Auto Train service that allows its passengers to take their vehicles ? be they cars, vans, SUVs, motorcycles, boats, or jet-skis ? along with them when they travel along the east coast. This service is convenient for passengers who like to drive themselves around in Florida, as well as for passengers who need to hop around a lot but do not want to spend a lot of money on taxis or tourist vehicles. The Auto Train travels nonstop between Lorton (Virginia) and Sanford (Florida).
Passenger service in the United States was greatly improved during the 1930s, when lightweight, streamlined cars, air conditioning, and faster schedules were introduced. Following World War II, however, the passenger train began a long decline in popularity. By the late 1960s, after the railroads lost almost all mail and express business, the end of passenger service appeared near.
Congress responded by creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) in 1971 to assume responsibility for intercity passenger trains throughout the United States. By most standards, Amtrak succeeded in reviving passenger train service. The number of passengers carried annually rose from 16.6 million in 1972 to 20.2 million in 1986. By 1982, Amtrak had replaced almost all of the aging passenger cars and locomotives it had inherited from several railroads with new or completely rebuilt equipment. Besides owning the rolling stock, Amtrak employs most onboard personnel and pays railroads for the use of their tracks and facilities. Deficits amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year are met by congressional appropriations.
In 1976 Amtrak purchased trackage between Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., from what was then the Penn Central and began to upgrade the property for speeds of at least 190 km/h (about 120 mph). By 2001 Amtrak operated some 440 locomotives and almost 2,200 passenger cars over more than 35,000 route km (22,000 route mi) across the United States.
Amtrak carried over 24 million passengers in 2001. A typical overnight Amtrak train includes a baggage car, several coaches, one or more sleeping cars, a dining car, and a lounge car, or a car that combines both dining and lounge facilities. In the western United States, most Amtrak cars contain two levels of coach seats or sleeping space.
Commuter train service around such cities as Boston, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco also underwent a renaissance in the 1970s. Old cars were replaced, ridership increased, and most railroads were relieved of responsibility for operating deficits by public agencies.
Amtrak todey offers food in a cafe or dining car on most long haul trains, as well as observation cars and places to buy booze. Most long haul Amtrak trains have a few cars: coach (where economy seats are located), sleepers, a dining car, and an observation car.
The observation car's upper half is called the Sightseer Lounge and has massive windows. Any passenger can sit in here and watch the views roll by. On some trains, volunteer rangers provide amplified narrative along the routes as part of a cooperative effort with the National Park Service. A bar or a "club car" may be part of this lounge; you can buy booze here and observe fellow passengers. And for more observation, the lower level is a cafe of sorts, selling snacks and beverages and with tables, (sometimes) a pay phone, and movie screenings.