Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
9/29/14 1:08 p.m.

Old-car buffs and train buffs have a lot in common, since both hobbies include classic machinery in motion. Did you know there’s a way to combine them? It’s called the Auto Train, and it runs every day between Sanford, Florida, and Lorton, Virginia—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.

Since Classic Motorsports headquarters is just 45 minutes from the Auto Train terminal in Sanford, we had no problem justifying a trip aboard the rails when we needed to take our Sunbeam Tiger north to attend the Tigers East/Alpines East United meet in St. Michaels, Maryland. Any lingering doubts were erased by the fact that Amtrak prominently features 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. We found that if you go against the grain and travel north in October, a one-way ticket that includes the smallest sleeping accommodations is only about $400. This includes passage for two, a mini-sleeper (called a Roomette) that converts from two comfy facing recliners in the daytime to a pair of bunks at night, 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, we 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 you to your destination the next morning around 9 a.m., relaxed and rested.

As for your car, you do have to relinquish control to Amtrak personnel, but 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’re looking for a relaxing way to transport yourself and your classic, or just want to enjoy the romance of the rails, we 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, visit amtrak.com/auto-train.

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