AutoTrain Departure from Florida

Sanford Travel Blog

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Sanford AutoTrain Terminal

Following a trip to DisneyWorld, we had decided to try taking AutoTrain on the return to Virginia rather than drive I-95. The service enables rail passengers to take their vehicles along with them, as the name implies. AutoTrain has been in operation since the 1970s, first under a private operator and since 1984 as a unit of Amtrak. Passengers must have a motor vehicle (car, minivan, motorcycle) with them to ride this train. (Amtrak also operates two conventional passenger trains between cities in the Northeast and points in Florida.) 

We arrived at the Sanford terminal before 1:00 p.

AutoTrain locomotives
m., well in advance of the 3:00 p.m. vehicle check-in deadline. (Minivan check-in deadline was 2:00 p.m.) Sanford, Florida, is convenient to Interstate Highway I-4, about 30 miles from Orlando. After check-in there is a wait before boarding the train. (Vehicles have to be loaded and secured in the "auto-rack" cars and then the train assembled.) The terminal had a waiting area and a small gift shop, but no formal food service. I walked around outside to look at the scene and take photos. None of the other passengers seemed to want to do this, so, that is why there appears to be no one around! Boarding began at 2:30. The train consists all of high-level Superliner equipment, providing seating and dining on the upper level. Coach and sleeping car accommodations are available. We opted for reclining coach seats. (Much more legroom than on an aircraft.)

The train left right on time at 4:00 p.

On the platform at Sanford
m., sharp. Swinging out onto the mainline, we passed the Sanford depot used by the regular Amtrak trains. Then, I settled in to watch the Florida scenery roll by. As we passed small towns, I noted houses with palm trees and pink flamingo lawn ornaments and roadside advertisements for alligator viewing. The traditional Florida of the imagination!

We passed Jacksonville, Florida, about dinnertime and made our way to the dining car. At bit later at Folkston, Georgia, I noted the official train-watching platform. The railway line here is known as the "Folkston Funnel" as all north-south rail traffic along the Eastern seaboard between Florida and points in the Northeast passes this spot. Railway enthusiasts gather here for photography and train watching. (The observation platform was featured on a segment of the CBS Sunday Morning program.) 

There are no intermediate passenger station stops between the Sanford and Lorton, Virginia, end points. The train makes a technical stop in Florence, SC, in the middle of the night for a crew change and servicing. I was awake for this, of course. Amid the activity, a freight train silently passed us in the darkness.

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Sanford AutoTrain Terminal
Sanford AutoTrain Terminal
AutoTrain locomotives
AutoTrain locomotives
On the platform at Sanford
On the platform at Sanford
Superliner coaches
Superliner coaches
AutoTrain coaches
AutoTrain coaches
Sanford
photo by: Andy99