PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

Amtrak Auto Train

After a period of 22 months without service, the service was revived by Amtrak, which operates most intercity passenger trains in the United States. Amtrak acquired the terminals in Lorton and Sanford and some of the Auto Train equipment. On October 30, 1983, it introduced its new version of the service (under the slightly modified name "Auto Train") on a triweekly basis. Daily service was introduced a year later.


Amtrak continued to use the bi-level and the tri-level autoracks that Auto-Train had used. For passenger equipment, it initially used a mixture of former Auto-Train railcars and mid-century long-distance railcars from Amtrak's general fleet, all rebuilt to Amtrak's "Heritage Fleet" standards. In the mid-1990s, Amtrak replaced all these passenger railcars, which were of the conventional single-level type, with its newer, bi-level Superliner I and II equipment. In 2006, the aging bi-level, tri-level, and "van" autoracks were phased out and replaced with 80 new autoracks. Unlike the old racks, the new racks have uniform heights, and are most similar to the "vans" of the previous fleet. As of 2018, an Auto Train consist is normally made up of two General Electric P40 locomotives (and sometimes a third engine) and up to 50 railcars (passenger and autorack), for a total length of 3⁄4-mile or more. A typical train has one transition sleeper (for the crew), six sleepers (including two with all Deluxe Bedrooms on the upper level), one diner and one lounge for sleeper passengers, four coach cars and a cafe for coach passengers, and 20–30 autoracks. The Auto Train is often said to have the longest passenger train in the world, although (as mentioned previously) it may be best regarded as a mixed train, rather than as a pure passenger train.

There are two Auto Train consists in simultaneous operation each day. At 4:00 pm, the trains depart from their terminals in Lorton and Sanford. They make one scheduled stop each for servicing only (passengers cannot board or disembark) at the approximate midpoint of the 855 mi route in Florence, South Carolina, where the engines are refueled and a new operating crew boards (engineer and conductor). Southbound #53 arrives the next day in Sanford at 8:58 am, and northbound #52 in Lorton at 8:59 am, for average speed between termini of approximately 50 mph.

Auto Train operates on the same route it and its predecessor have always used, with a majority of the route owned by CSX Transportation and 16 miles of track being owned by SunRail. The trains are known by their route numbers (53 southbound and 52 northbound) internally by Amtrak. When communicating on the CSX road channels, they are known by their CSX designations: P053xx and P052xx, where xx is the 2-digit date at which the train departed its origin station. For example, a southbound train that departed on the 23rd of the month would be known as CSX P05323 on the road channels. This allows for unique identification in the event that two trains on the same route are operating simultaneously.

In the January 2011 issue of Trains magazine, this route was listed as one of five routes to be looked at by Amtrak in FY 2012, like others (Sunset, Eagle, Zephyr, Capitol, and Cardinal) were in FY 2010.

The Auto Train was the last Amtrak service to permit smoking on board. Amtrak discontinued the practice on June 1, 2013.


May 2000

2 Genesis P42's
39001 Transition Sleeper
32116 Sleeper W.V.
32089 Sleeper Mass.
32501 Deluxe Sleeper Palm Beach
33034 Sightseer Lounge
38053 Dining Car
32503 Deluxe Sleeper A. Philip Randolph
32087 Sleeper Maine
38047 dining Car
34125 Coach
34130 Coach
34121 Coach
38029 Sightseer Lounge
34127 Coach
34126 Coach
34123 Coach
38067 Dining Car
23 Amtrak Auto carriers

40 car consist with 2 Genesis P 42 Locomotives

Courtesy of Model Railroader Magazine; May 2000


autotrain train


April 21, 2003: Train #53
at Lorton, VA
↑ Sanford, FL

P40 Locomotive 832
P40 Locomotive 834
Dining (Superliner II) 38052
Lounge (Superliner II) 33101
Coach (Superliner II) 34130
Coach (Superliner II) 34128
Coach (Superliner II) 34131
Coach (Superliner II) 34118
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32087
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32108
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32505
Dining (Superliner II) 38051
Dining (Superliner II) 38053
Sightseer Lounge (Superliner II) 33047
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32503
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32114
Sleeper (Superliner II) 32101
Crew Sleeper (Superliner II) 39001
Auto Carrier #1 9109
Auto Carrier #2 9104
Auto Carrier #3 9105
Auto Carrier #4 9101
Auto Carrier #5 9115
Auto Carrier #17 
Auto Carrier #18