Commuting in the Northeast – Amtrak Sleeper Trains

Living in Washington DC, I travel up and down the Northeast Corridor quite a lot, visiting family in both Philadelphia and New York. In many cases, it’s more convenient than flying since the train stops locally. The Northeast Corridor is really considered anything from Newport News up to Boston, heavily used by commuters and day-trippers to major Northeast cities such as Richmond, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

In the Northeast, there’s really two “official” ways to get around by train between the major cities between Richmond and Boston.

  • Northeast Regional trains, which offer a Business Class. Northeast trains stop in local stations and serves as a “commuter/local” train.
  • Acela Express Trains, which offer a First Class. The Acela stops in major stations and serves as a higher-speed alternative to the Northeast Regional.

Here’s the downside: these trains are often highly crowded and you have to fight for a seat (and are lucky if you get one with no one next to you).

This said, there’s an interesting alternative to these local trains – and it involves using Amtrak sleeper trains, a product that’s normally used for overnight travel between cities days apart.

Let’s take a look at the Silver Star and Silver Meteor trains, normally traveling between New York and Miami.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.25.08 PM

You’ll notice that both trains only pickup passengers between New York and Washington DC on the southern service, and only discharge passengers between Fredericksburg and New York on the northern service. Take a look at Alexandria, VA on the trains going south, though. Both trains listed do not have any indication that you cannot get on or off here, so you could travel from New York to Alexandria, VA on a sleeper train as a means of getting to Washington DC. For those that know Alexandria, it’s only a short Metro ride to the center of Washington DC, and in many cases is more convenient to certain destinations, especially those in Northern Virginia.

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What’s included in the Amtrak sleeper train service?

  • Lounge access in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
  • Complimentary meal onboard.
  • Private cabin, sometimes with a private restroom.
  • Bottled water, coffee and juice.
  • Sleeper car attendant.

I find it a great place to listen to music, work or watch a movie since I’m essentially in my own private compartment. Folks have criticized me for using a sleeper car on such a short distance of service, but Amtrak allows it within their schedule, and I think it’s probably the most comfortable way to travel between the major Northeast cities, if I had a choice.

2015-10-12 15.49.34

What long distance trains can I travel on within the Northeast Corridor and to where?

You’ll notice a lot of these cities end in Alexandria, which is very close to DC. Manassas and Culpepper are also relatively close to Washington Dulles airport, and the western Northern VA area.

  • Silver Star train 91: Get on starting in New York, Get off starting in Alexandria, VA
  • Silver Meteor train 97: Get on starting in New York, Get off starting in Alexandria, VA
  • Silver Meteor train 98: Get on Richmond or south, Get off anywhere Alexandria, VA or north
  • Silver Star train 92:  Get on Richmond or south, Get off anywhere Alexandria, VA or north
  • Crescent train 19: Get on starting in New York, Get off starting in Alexandria, VA
  • Crescent train 20: Get on starting Manassas, VA, or south, Get off starting in Alexandria, VA
  • Cardinal train 51: Get on starting in New York, Get off starting in Manassas, VA
  • Cardinal train 50: Get on Culpepper or south, Get off starting in Alexandria, VA
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Fares on these trains are competitive. I’ve found plenty of cases where last minute sleeper tickets are only $10-30 more than a coach ticket on a Northeast Regional train. In most cases, it’s very competitive, and often cheaper than what you’d pay for a First Class ticket on an airline shuttle.

Did you know you could use a long-distance sleeper train on Amtrak to travel between major Northeast cities?

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  1. Steven says

    Great post. I’ve often used a roomette on the silver star to travel between Tampa and Miami.
    Side note: meals aren’t included on the Silver Star. They removed the dining car and offer lower sleeper rates to offset the lack of included meals.

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