7 November 2013

You can ride the rails with your collector car

Old-car buffs and train buffs have a lot in common, since their hobbies both include classic machinery in motion. So how perfect is it that there’s a way to combine the adventure of classic car travel with the romance of the rails? It’s called the Auto Train, and it runs every day between Sanford, Fla., and Lorton, Va. — basically between Orlando and Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1971 as a private corporation and operated by Amtrak since 1983, the Auto Train is the only car-carrying passenger train in the U.S. In addition to the auto carriers, it uses Amtrak’s deluxe Superliner passenger cars.

Tim and Marjorie Suddard, publishers of Classic Motorsports magazine, live just 45 minutes from the Auto Train terminal in Sanford. So they had no problem justifying a trip aboard the rails when they needed to take their Sunbeam Tiger north to attend the Tigers East/Alpines East United meet in St. Michaels, Md. Any lingering doubts were erased by the fact that Amtrak uses the image of a Sunbeam Tiger in its Auto Train marketing.

Tickets are easily purchased online, and the cost can be extremely reasonable depending on the direction of travel. As one might imagine, pricing is highly seasonal, since the service was designed to facilitate snowbird travel between the Northeast and Florida. The Suddards found that if you go against the grain and travel north in October, a one-way ticket including the smallest sleeping accommodations is only about $400. This includes passage for two, a two-bunk mini-sleeper (called a “Roomette”), a wine and cheese reception, dinner, breakfast, and even a movie after dinner. Add another $179 to take your car with you.

“The food was good, the wine was served with good cheer in the Lounge car, and on our trip they showed ‘Casablanca,’ which seemed appropriate,” Tim Suddard reports, “although maneuvering in the Roomette at night is tricky.” Overall, the Suddards say they found the whole experience very upscale, fun, and way more relaxing than towing a car to an event over busy interstates. No matter which direction you travel, the train leaves at 4 p.m. and gets to your destination the next morning around 9 a.m., relaxed and rested.

As for your car, Suddard cautions that you do have to relinquish control to Amtrak personnel, but says, “We encountered no problems and no damage, and the autos are transported in covered cars. Classics are photographed by staff and treated with kid gloves.”

If you are looking for a relaxing way to transport yourself and your classic, or just want to enjoy the romance of the rails, both Suddards say they would highly recommend this experience.

Now if only Amtrak would offer this service on an East/West route so we could get our cars to Monterey and Scottsdale! For more details contact: http://www.amtrak.com/auto-train

Sidebar:

Ever Notice the Tiger on Amtrak’s Posters?

If you look around any Amtrak station or glance at their marketing materials, you will no doubt notice the gorgeous, highly stylized illustrations featuring a Sunbeam Tiger. As you might expect of something depicting such a rare vehicle, this was no accident.

San Francisco-based graphic artist Michael Schwab designed the posters, and when Tim Suddard tracked him down, he readily admitted that he is a Sunbeam Tiger fanatic. While Michael doesn’t own a Tiger himself, he says a local friend with a Tiger allowed him to borrow the one featured.

Schwab says the folks at Amtrak asked for a couple of alterations to make the car more generic, but there is no disguising the Tiger’s distinctive lines, grille and chrome side trim. The poster is available on Michael’s site at http://www.michaelschwab.com/ — and yes, we have already ordered ours.

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