Amtrak lets railcar owners piggyback on their trains — for a price


Do you want to change your lifestyle? Amtrak has just the ticket.

This month, many Internet users learned a fun fact about the passenger train provider: For a small fee, the company lets train enthusiasts connect their private cars to Amtrak trains.

“[Today I learned] you can own your own private train car and hook it up to an Amtrak train,” investor Sheel Mohnot wrote in a viral tweet. “Only ~100 private cars in operation in the US, they are extremely expensive (~$300k+) + Amtrak charges ~$5/mile. But there are 100 rich train enthusiasts!”

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The program has been around for years, and it’s not a lack of marketing that keeps it less well known: the prohibitive cost of acquiring a private rail car, as well as a 2018 policy change affecting privately owned charter services, means that those who want their ability to hook up an extremely select couple to an Amtrak train.

“Our membership is down a third from 2018,” Tony Marchiando, owner of a 1948 Pullman sleeper car and president of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners, told CityLab in 2019.

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Chuck Jensen, right, demonstrates the sleeper bed on the bottom berth of his train car with crew member Rudy Garbely, left, during a trip from New York to Washington, D.C., on May 4, 2011. Jensen owns his own 1923 Pullman sleeper car that he uses to cater events and charters.
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Very few use the program due to cost constraints.
Very few use the program due to cost constraints.
TBEN via Getty Images

Despite the many obstacles to making the grade for this mobile club, Amtrak continues to publicly promote it on its website.

“Amtrak offers rail/railcar owners the ability to connect their privately owned rail/railcars to our trains between select locations to see North America in an extraordinary way,” begins a page on the company’s website explaining participation in the well-running club.

For collectors and train enthusiasts who do make sure it works, the experience is immensely rewarding.

“It’s almost like driving in a time capsule,” Bob Lowe described to CityLab as he paired his cars — he owns a Salisbury Beach sleeper and a Colonial Crafts — with one of Amtrak’s. “There are people who want to do that and see the US go by, and that’s why I’m doing it.”

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Don’t feel like sinking hundreds of thousands into your own personal passenger service? You may be considering chartering a private Amtrak train.

“We can arrange a charter train for any kind of group, including business meetings, incentive trips, sports teams or train fan excursions,” the company advertises online.


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