Amtrak minimum time before departure?

Old Aug 21, 18, 12:11 pm
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Amtrak minimum time before departure?

I have my first Amtrak trip in over a decade coming up soon I'll be traveling from Buffalo to Toledo. I have an e-ticket in my Apple Wallet and I'll only be bringing a small carry-on, so do I really need to be there at least 30 minutes before departure, as Amtrak claims? What exactly is the boarding process at an out-station like Buffalo? Thanks.
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Old Aug 21, 18, 12:39 pm
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I haven't boarded at Buffalo, but at most of the out-stations that I've boarded at the cutoff time is, at most, 5-10 minutes before departure. (There's been times where I've literally pulled up while the train was in the station and sprinted on board!) Since Buffalo has a station agent, there's a possibility that they may close the connection from the station to the platform a few minutes before it leaves, but it looks like there's access to the platform without going through the station.

That said, I'd strongly recommend aiming to arrive 30 minutes early since it's been a while, just in case you hit delays or something goes awry. But I wouldn't worry if I hit a delay and it turns out I'll only be there 10 or 20 minutes before arrival; that should be enough time to get out of a taxi/TNC vehicle and board the train. (I'm not sure what would be needed if you're parking at the station.)
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Old Aug 21, 18, 1:23 pm
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Thanks. I'll be dropped off at the station. The Amtrak suggestions seemed excessive; I thought maybe they had added metal detectors or something.
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Old Aug 21, 18, 2:20 pm
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Originally Posted by joe_miami View Post
Thanks. I'll be dropped off at the station. The Amtrak suggestions seemed excessive; I thought maybe they had added metal detectors or something.
No security and 30 minutes should be plenty of time.

The Lake shore will spend a while in Buffalo since they change the crew and service the train there. I would plan on getting to the station at least 20 minute before your scheduled departure unless it's running late. You'll probably find the train is already sitting there and they might have started boarding.
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Old Aug 22, 18, 8:46 am
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I'll say this:

Amtrak is rarely on time, so unless you have checked bags (and its a station with checked bag service), I usually get to a station 10 minutes early. Amtrak does NOT depart early (like airlines). The only thing that I can think of that would cause a miss would be "flag" stop stations where it's important to get there so that you are visible to the engineer as the train approaches.

You can always check Amtrak train status and there are sites that do a pretty good job of tracking the trains with expected delays. Dixielandsoftware.net is my go to for train status.
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Old Aug 22, 18, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by IADCAflyer View Post
I'll say this:

Amtrak is rarely on time, so unless you have checked bags (and its a station with checked bag service), I usually get to a station 10 minutes early. Amtrak does NOT depart early (like airlines). The only thing that I can think of that would cause a miss would be "flag" stop stations where it's important to get there so that you are visible to the engineer as the train approaches.

You can always check Amtrak train status and there are sites that do a pretty good job of tracking the trains with expected delays. Dixielandsoftware.net is my go to for train status.
Amtrak can depart early, but only if the schedule says arrive.

Also you can also check projected arrival times by calling Julie at 1-800-USA-Rail, but note that if a train is running late, stops my be short and fast.

Bob H
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Old Aug 24, 18, 6:14 pm
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Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.
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Old Aug 25, 18, 10:12 pm
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My normal boarding station is Tacoma. As long as you're fully e-ticketed (or, in unusual cases, paper) there's no need to be there super early if you don't need any station services. I do like actually waiting on the platform rather than in the waiting room, which seems to always have a middle school tour group waiting for the same train, so I get there early enough to find out exactly where my car will be (can never guarantee which end of the train). Mostly I get there early because traffic can be unpredictable -- like my last trip, when I got near the station and discovered the bridge over the river was closed and I had to take a 5-mile detour to get there!
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