Inside Amtrak Acela Express Quiet Car

In first part of December 2014 I rode Amtrak Capitol Limited roomette from Chicago to Washington DC. Original plan was to do a round trip on Acela – Amtrak’s high speed train the next day. This trip was all setup last minute so that I would be able to earn enough TQP for year to reach an upgraded status in Amtrak’s Guest Reward program – SELECT+. Unfortunately this meant I had already used all my 12 hour upgrade coupons from when I reached SELECT. So I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Acela Express First Class. Business Class on Acela is lowest level of seating – no coach.

Since Capitol Limited arrived 20 minutes early – when I got settled at my hotel – I noticed I could rush back to Washington DC Union Station and catch 5PM Acela Express to New York then 9PM back to DC. Acela achieves good on time performance. So I wasn’t worried about being able to catch return back to DC. On more traditional Amtrak routes this can be a concern. My original plan had been to catch 5AM to New York next day – come back to DC catch Capitol Limited to Chicago.

What is shown above is start of my very first Acela Express ride. This is Acela Business Class Quiet Car. On every Acela train – Quiet Car is up near front of train – next car behind First Class. No guess work where it is located – like some Amtrak trains – just have to make a mad dash for car to get a seat. Seating in Acela Business Class is not reserved – so it’s everyone for themselves.

Unfortunately Acela Business Class passengers aren’t given any perks for amount of money their tickets cost. Unlike Business Class on other routes there are no free drinks, no free newspaper and no priority boarding – like some stations give to Business Class ticket holders. Acela Business Class riders pay close to a Sleeper ticket price – yet get nothing close to perks those passengers get.

First Class Acela Express get lounge access, meals, newspaper and free beverages ( including alcohol ). Business Class have option of purchasing drinks, meals and snacks at Cafe car or from Amtrak cart vendor that roams up and down aisles on certain Acela trains.

Acela Business Class passengers have to line up outside gate just like coach passengers do. No lounge access or priority boarding. In New York it is worse because you have to use an escalator to loading platform. In Washington DC you walk through a door then corridor and out into open air to board. It amazes me that well off business types don’t complain loudly that they deserve better treatment for what they pay to ride.

Unfortunately I was in a hurry when recording. Didn’t want to record a bunch of passengers boarding. So quality suffered a bit. I didn’t get any good shots of other Amtrak rolling stock while in station. Since I was traveling in dark didn’t get any good recordings out window.

Acela is far from fastest “high speed rail” in the world. But currently is the best we have to offer in United States. I was happy to finally get to experience it – although not at full 150MPH speeds. Route in between DC to New York runs at closer to 135. My phone was low on battery whole trip and did not charge well on outlet provided at seat. So didn’t use GPS to check speeds.

On journey to New York power to outlets weren’t working. Conductor had to get things back up and running.

I spent less than an hour in New York Penn Station waiting for my return Acela to DC. So didn’t get to do any exploring.

On way back to DC – Acela Express damaged it’s pantograph – device that provides power to train from overhead lines. Several passengers got up when train stopped. They thought we had arrived in station. They were confused why automatic doors were not opening to let them out. Guess they didn’t look out windows to see we weren’t in a station. Finally an announcement was made that train had a broken pantograph. Acela trains have a spare pantograph – so this one had to be put into operation and we proceed down tracks to next destination.

On return trip – bathroom was dirty – garbage hadn’t been emptied was overflowing. Still not sure why handicap bathroom was designed with window in it. Yes it could be used as escape route in event of accident. I get that train travels fast enough pervs can’t look in. Just don’t understand why train bathroom needs a window. Handicap bathroom was only one available – others occupied – not sure if other restrooms also have windows.

Acela 2122 Washington D.C., DC (WAS) – New York-Penn. Station, NY (NYP) 12/10/2014

Acela 2175 New York-Penn. Station, NY (NYP) – Washington D.C., DC (WAS) 12/10/2014

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