What Are Amtrak’s New Interiors Like?

Filed Under: Amtrak

I recently took Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service from New York to D.C., and it was my first time experiencing their refreshed interior in coach class. Many of the rail cars have been around since the 70s, and the interiors haven’t been updated since the 90s.

These interiors are being updated over the coming months, with Amtrak expecting the project to be complete in June. The refresh includes:

  • Brand-new seat cushions
  • New carpeting
  • New LED reading lights
  • New bathroom flooring
  • Upgraded wainscoting and bulkhead
  • New curtains in Business Class cars
  • Redesigned galleys in the café cars

I liked the look of the new cushions, which are more reminiscent of those aboard a modern airliner than those they replaced (they also have plenty of padding, unlike those on some newer aircraft interiors).

As far as comfort goes, I’d say they’re on par with the previous ones. The carpet was nice too.

Refreshed Amtrak interior on Northeast Regional
Refreshed Amtrak interior on Northeast Regional
Refreshed Amtrak interior on Northeast Regional
Refreshed Amtrak interior on Northeast Regional

However, it’s pretty clear that the seats themselves, and virtually ever other component of the interior, hasn’t been replaced or updated. You can see that the tray tables, armrests, etc. are unaltered.

Tray tables remain the same, as do the sides of the car (air vents, power outlets, etc.)
Leg room and seat back

So is this just lipstick on a pig? In a way – but given that the interiors looked pretty dated, it’s a good interim step. USA Today says that Amtrak’s board will be deciding on whether to gut these interiors or replace these rail cars sometime in the coming months (though replacing all of them would take years).

But that’s ok. For the time being, Amtrak’s rolling stock does its job – it’s reasonably reliable, the seats have nice legroom, and for shorter journeys it’s often more economical and convenient than other forms of travel.

Amtrak says the updated interiors will be installed on the following services: Northeast Regional, Vermonter, Downeaster, Empire Service, Maple Leaf, Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone, Springfield Shuttles, Pennsylvanian, Carolinian, Illinois , Hiawatha, Missouri River Runner and Michigan.

By the way, Amtrak has a new CEO whose name some of you might recognize: it’s Richard Anderson, who was formerly at Delta’s helm. During his tenure at Delta, the airline commonly refreshed interiors of old aircraft, rather than purchasing new equipment.

On an unrelated note, all rail services will now connect in Atlanta. 😉

  1. The lack of armrests between the seats is a deal breaker for me. Sadly except for the Vermonter and select other trains, the Business Class cabin on NE Regional services also have seats with no armrests.

  2. I used to take Amtrak between NYC and Boston regularly. These days its usually cheaper to fly (often significantly), which is pretty amazing. Have to say even with the security and construction, I much prefer a hop from LGA to BOS than sitting on the NE Regional or Accela for 3+ hours and having to deal with Penn.

    I rode Amtrak most recently from Philly to NYC, and the seats were so much more uncomfortable than I remember. I think they are really showing their age, so the refresh is welcome I’m sure.

  3. The new interior seems like it was a rush job by the lowest bidder but it basically works out ok. I wish they had put in cup holders for beverages.

  4. Had to go to a funeral last-minute a few weeks ago and wasn’t willing to pay the equivalent of a trans-Atlantic flight just to fly for 45 minutes to Upstate NY. So I got a decent Amtrak fare and read some books on the iPad. Oddly enough only one car of the northbound train had this interior. It felt much nicer than the other ancient cars and the heating seemed better in that overhauled car on that frigid day. However six hours of butt-seat time underscored this upholstery isn’t great for a long train ride.

  5. Is it me or do you think Amtrak should hold on refurbishing trains but should put ALL the budget into safety before anything else.

    A dead customer is one time traveler. A living customer is a future customer

  6. @Eskimo – While Amtrak should be prioritizing PTC installation on all routes and train sets, a very large part of the problem is something that our government is unwilling to change, and that’s the actual rail infrastructure itself. We’re still running lines on the same right of ways (and in some cases the actual infrastructure itself), that Irish and Chinese immigrants built over a hundred years ago. If you look at the most recent crashes (which are not limited to Amtrak), ie Washington, Philly, MetroNorth in the Bronx, etc, they all involved speeding into a sharp curve. While driver error is the dominant force there, and PTC could have prevented those incidents, the fact remains that the curve shouldn’t exist in the first place. The biggest hinderance to efficient and high speed rail in this country is the fact that we are unwilling to rebuild lines up to high speed spec, meaning straightening curves, installing banked curves when needed, and implementing tilting trainsets. Portions of the Acela have these, and those are the sections where true highspeed can be attained. If you’ve ever taken the train between NYC and Providence, you know that there are still hundreds of miles of antiquated ROW where trains can’t reach top speed and that is where the accidents happen. Until the government (both repubs and dems) decide they want to invest in proper modern right of ways for our train system, like nearly every other first world country on earth has done or begun, we will continue to have accidents, delays and slow trains, full stop.

  7. As some who uses their laptop a lot on Amtrak, this sure seems like a stealth devaluation. The interior may be new but the seat pitch has definitely shrunk. There is no longer ample room to type properly like there was with the cloth seats.

  8. Amtrak is a very viable option. I live in Charlotte, NC and take Amtrak 4-5 times a year. I travel to DC and NYC frequently and there is simply no point in trying to fly. Since my destination in Washington is near Capitol Hill and in NYC Upper West Side, the airports are inefficient. Time I wait at the airport to check in, board, fly, deplane, collect luggage, and travel to my destination the cost is more and the time is almost as long. Given the size of the United States, long distance travel coast to coast is best on an airplane unless you have the time and desire. Long distance travel is fun and exciting but hard to justify 3 days to LA when its 5 hours by plane. Aside from that, rail travel east of the Mississippi can easily justified in most cases. Most trains now have WiFi, dining cars, lounges, and much more legroom than the equivalent coach. Most of all, on the whole, the passengers are a better lot than most airplanes. Trains don’t seem to attract nearly the riff raff as planes do and most people seem to genuinely enjoy being there.

  9. @Jim – Most of the NEC is owned by Amtrak with small portions owned by MetroNorth, the MBTA and ConnDOT. One of the only portions of track that Acela trains can reach true high-speed is the portion owned by the MBTA between Providence and Boston, which was rebuilt by the MBTA for that purpose. Outside the NEC, most track is indeed owned by companies like CSX, Norfolk Suffolk etc, which is another roadblock to modernization, shared freight/passenger ROW. The issue still remains that Amtrak is a government owned entity, and as long as it is, the responsibility of ROW modernization falls on the government’s shoulders. Can’t rely on the good will of agencies like the MBTA or private wall street owned companies like CSX to do the work for you.

  10. Just took an Amtrak from Philadelphia yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find this new interior (which I had not heard about, hence was not expecting). Quite elegant.

    The seats are comfortable and more elegant than the ones they are replacing. However, in both directions, the new seats were only in the quiet car– the rest of the train was the standard (blue) seats.

    Also, yes, the paneling and overhead areas were unchanged.

  11. It’s quite frustrating the degradation of the Acela from its inception, the “high-speed” route between DC and Boston. I’ve lived in DC for nearly 21 years, and it used to be 2:40 between DC and NYC and it’s steadily creeped up to 3 hours, and regularly delayed (I go once or twice a month and of course today, a federal holiday, it was running relatively smoothly). Almost worth flying by the time you cab into Manhattan from LGA, and cost is now about the same too. And the Acela interiors are dreadful, despite the premium cost. Tables slant towards you, so your food lands in your lap. I’m just surprised they’re putting this much effort into the cheaper rail service versus the “premium” services. Sure, first world problems, definitely worth investing on safety first, but the decoupled train a couple weeks ago sure is worrisome.

  12. Are you sure the new CEO is Richard Anderson, formerly of Delta? I’m holding out hope that it’s Richard Dean Anderson, of MacGyver fame. If anyone could use him as CEO, it Amtrak!

  13. Small correction for gurujanitor: The high speeds are achieved south of Providence around the long straightaways by URI in Kingston (the Acela doesn’t stop in either Kingston or Westerly) so no reason to slow down.

  14. For the hops between NYC and DC, Amtrak is often a comfortable way to travel, but both the normal NE Corridor and Acela can be two or three times more than a flight. Even when factoring in transit from the airports, it can be more expensive (especially if you can take public transport from the NYC airports)

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