I was thinking of taking the train from Union Station in DC to Charleston on the "Silver Service" line... it takes nine hours but I think it might be a nice way to see part of the country on the way down. Bring a picnic, some wine, a book, and relax. That sort of thing.
I have taken a lot of long train trips in Europe and I like traveling that way. However, I have read that Amtrak has a lot of delays, that it is not so great, etc. etc. So I am looking for some first hand experience, if anyone has any.
Has anyone traveled this particular route, or part of it? Is it a nice journey? Or a pedestrian one?
I could also fly, but thought I might try to do something out-of-the-box and also, there are no direct flights (that I have found) so it still takes the better part of a day to get from point a to point b.
Once I get to Charleston, I'll stay a few days and then take a bus down to Savannah for the Slowtrav gathering.
Since nobody has answered yet I will chime in with my limited experience. I have never taken the Silver Line, but I have taken Amtrak from DC to Baltimore and New York many many times and actually never had a delay. (I did it Easter Sunday last year, and while it was packed, there was no delay.) On the DC to Boston route there are no seat reservations at all, which I found a little annoying, but maybe the longer ones have them.
In general I have found Amtrak to be very comfortable (big seats, and they usually always face forward). The trains don't look new or anything, and they certainly are not high speed trains, but they work perfectly well. I am like you, I LOVE taking the train!
Posts: 1506 | Location: Washington, DC | Registered: 08 May 2005
However, I have read that Amtrak has a lot of delays, that it is not so great, etc. etc. So I am looking for some first hand experience, if anyone has any.
I haven't taken a long trip on Amtrak like you're planning, but I did ride it recently from Hartford, CT to Newark, NJ (about 3.5 hours). My trains (I changed in New Haven) were on time.
The train cars were clean and the seats comfortable - leg room! My god, compared to plane travel they were luxuriously spacious. There was room at the end of the car for luggage, as well as the overhead racks. The conductors were polite and helpful. I recommend Amtrak!
Posts: 16402 | Location: The Beautiful San Francisco Bay Area | Registered: 06 August 2001
However, I have read that Amtrak has a lot of delays, that it is not so great, etc. etc.
Delays are often caused by freight interference or graded crossings south of DC because the rails are owned by CSX (a frieght company), not Amtrak (like the Northeast Corridor). As such, delays can be a tad unpredictable.
I enjoy the view in the open countryside through the South. Though, I have not gone much further than Petersburg. Definitely pack a book or other amusement, as well as a good lunch.
Posts: 222 | Location: DC Metro Area - Virginia | Registered: 02 January 2008
While not the exact same route, two years ago I went from Richmond to Baltimore. It was December and I thought the scenery was beautiful. Sure there were some industrial areas, but the little train depots were charming to look at. I, too, found the train clean, comfortable and a nice change of pace.
Posts: 1582 | Location: Edmonds, WA | Registered: 01 April 2006
I've taken Amtrak only to DC and to Boston. The NY to Boston route often has delays; I don't think it's as likely going south.
At any rate, the seats were comfortable. But if you don't reserve a seat, you have the possibility of standing (as I saw a bunch of years ago when I went to DC). I gather that with the Silver Service you do get a reserved seat.
Shannon, my only contribution is from about 10 years ago. We took our friends who live near DC to the Charleston train station for I'm guessing a 9 pm train.
The station was grim. It was nowhere near downtown Charleston, we had some trouble finding it (no GPS yet), and it was probably a temporary structure. I think that once on the train they did okay. You might check out the location and any transportation options you may want.
Posts: 688 | Location: California | Registered: 29 December 2005
As you are traveling from DC, you have a lot more options as you are the hub for Amtrak in the South.
I was going to opt to use Amtrak to get to a trade show in North Carolina in April taking it to Columbia, SC where a friend and I would drive the remainder. The biggest plus for it was $85 round trip from Winter Park and only 1 hour longer than it takes me to drive it. Sounded like a winner BUT....
The outbound train to Columbia did not arrive there until 4:30 AM and as I need to be working the show that day, it really didn't give me enough time to rest. The original arrival was 1 AM.
However, I could dine on the train. Move to a quiet car to relax. ALL NON SMOKING now!! It really was a winner but the timing was poor.
You should do better..
Posts: 2354 | Location: Winter Park, FL | Registered: 18 May 2005