If you’re envisioning escape from a snowy Pennsylvania winter to the warm, sandy beaches of the Florida coast, what better way to go than by train? Your cares are reduced to deciding which beverage to get at the cafe car or whether to forgo a nap to watch the passing scenery. Daily Amtrak service gets you from the north to the south with a minimum of hassle.
What Are the Travel Logistics?
Amtrak has more than 40 stops in Pennsylvania and more than 30 in Florida. Thruway service via bus, van, taxi or, in a few cases, local train or ferry connects main stations with other areas that lack regular rail service. The two routes that serve Pennsylvania run through the southern part of the state. Passengers who live in Scranton can take thruway service into New York City, but those in other northern areas have to make their way to stations on the Pennsylvanian or Capitol Limited line.
Travelers continuing to Florida need to change trains in Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., to catch the Silver Service/Palmetto line. Note that you can’t take the Auto Train unless you’re traveling with your car, in which case you’ll need to drive it to Lorton, Virginia, and board the train there. Your auto will make the trip with you in a specially-equipped freight car.
Amtrak Routes in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvanian operates daily between Pittsburgh and New York City by way of Philadelphia. The nine-hour trip stops at 12 stations, including Harrisburg, Lancaster in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Altoona, site of the engineering marvel called the Horseshoe Curve. Trains depart Pittsburgh in the morning and arrive in Philadelphia in mid-afternoon. Cafe cars serve light breakfasts, sandwiches, snacks and beverages.
The Capitol Limited operates between Chicago and Washington, D.C., daily. Trains cut through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, making stops in Pittsburgh and Connellsville before entering Maryland and continuing to the capital city. The Capitol Limited chugs through a 1,592-foot tunnel at the Maryland/West Virginia border and through Martinsburg, an important rail center during the Civil War. Take a seat on the right-hand side of the train for the best views of Harpers Ferry, site of John Brown’s Raid. Trains depart Pittsburgh at 6:20 a.m. and arrive in Washington a little after 1 p.m.
Amtrak Routes in Florida
Amtrak’s Silver Service trains enter Florida in Jacksonville and make their final stop in Miami. The routes of the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor, both originating in New York City, diverge briefly in the Carolinas, but return to the same track. Board either in Washington, D.C., for the ride to Florida. The state’s panhandle has no Amtrak service, but cities on both Florida coasts are served by rail or thruway options. Trains leave Philadelphia daily at around 5 p.m. and Washington at 7:25. They arrive in Tampa a little after noon the next day and in Miami at 6:39 p.m.
Passengers who don’t want to spend the night in a coach or business-class seat can opt for a roomette or bedroom. Silver Service trains have lounge cars serving light meals and beverages as well as full-service dining cars offering hot meals. Meals are included in the price of a ticket for first-class passengers, Auto Train passengers and passengers with sleeping accommodations. Others pay menu prices, so if you opt for a budget-friendly coach seat, consider packing a meal and bottled water.