Amtrak in a Sleeper Roomette

Showering on Amtrak should be an Olympic sport.  The requisite coordination, athletic ability and agility needed is astonishing.

It’s not so much like a cruise ship, although I’ll grant you, the swaying is very similar to being in a bad storm.  Ships, with their stabilizers, just sorta swish a bit.  On Amtrak you’re in gale force winds.

And I get it…I get money is tight on this pseudo-government entity.  They’re desperately trying to dig out some kind of a profit (okay, they’re desperately trying not to lose a shit ton of money), but fixing a few of the broken items… like the shower door… would seem like a good idea.

So I spent the night in a “roomette”, the dimensions roughly that of a decent closet…maybe 4’ x 6 1/2’.  Two chairs span almost the entire width of the cabin, with the edges taken up by a closet no wider than the span of my hand on one side, and on the other, two sturdy shelf/steps that allow access to the upper bunk when pulled down.

5403E733-73FF-4D6A-AEC0-30367A66BB11The two chairs pull flat to make a bed.  With the door closed, and the bed made up, I could only just stand up in the extra floor space next to the door.  If you’re not actually sleeping or lounging, you want those chairs, not the bed.

258F5AED-BD23-450D-97D3-DA4DF13ECB36The proper bedrooms get their own private privy/shower (yes, it’s a combo…make sure you push the right button when you want to flush or you’ll get a dousing) but the roomettes share four loos and one shower/dressing room.

Suggestion:  bring disinfecting wipes.  Those bathrooms don’t stay very clean for very long, unless your porter is really, really on top of it.  There’s 14 roomettes, so potentially 28 people to 4 lavs, but the ratio never seemed a problem – it never got really filthy, but still.

If you decide to take a roomette, go for rooms 5 – 10 upstairs (11 – 14 downstairs).  They’re the quietest.  Roomette 1 is right next to the upstairs potty and the latch is incredibly loud – #2 can’t be much better.  KA-CHUNCK, THUNK.  KA-CHUNCK, THUNK.  

All the intrepid travelers needing to pee in the middle of the night, I bet that was fun.  Also, speaking of soundproofing…there is none.  Remember your college dorm?  That was a miracle of soundproofing compared to these flimsy little walls.

Bring earplugs if you’re sensitive.

I thought I wouldn’t have any problem sleeping at all – I spend 185 nights on the road, and I sleep on cruise ships, no problem, so what the heck, right?

Mmmm.  Not so much when you’re anxious about a) getting off on time (yes, I had an alarm clock set, tell that to my subconscious) and b) making sure you have shower (what if all the other roomettes wanna shower when I do??)

So I was waking up every 90 minutes or so, checking on how late the train was.  Finally at 4:30 my conscious self got fed up with my sub-conscious, which is how we get back to the review of the showers.

So the shower stall was busted.  Or, more accurately, the latch was (hence the comment about how the pseudo-government entity is broke), so while I TRIED to heed the advice about “Make sure the door securely latched”, it failed.

KA-CHUNCK, THUNK and I’m locked in the little changing room.  I peer into the shower stall…hmmm…I don’t know about having bare feet in there, who knows what grubby, germy paws have stomped around in there.

Okay…well…I didn’t bring any flip flops, so I guess I’m gonna just dry off my Tevas after I get out…I’m not looking to pick up plantar’s warts, thanks.

Strip off clothes, climb into shower stall.  Look at bizarre shower controls.  One is a fairly standard temperature handle, and the other is a large button.  The sign says:

“Choose the temperature then push the button.”

I couldn’t make the handle budge, so I figured, oh, what the hell so I simply pushed the button.

Three drips and a drool emerged.

Oh, shit.  Really?

A major reason I paid for the sleeper was the ability to shower.  Dammit, I was Taking A Shower.

I tried pushing in the button harder.  Nope.  It was in as far as it was gonna go.  Maybe messing with the handle?  I managed to move it around after much tugging and was rewarded with a full-on blast of icy wetness.


So…the shower only functions when the handle points to the actual colored bit.  Okay.  Got it.  Sadly, however, while it was super – stiff pointing upwards (away from the blue to red/cold to hot shading, pointing down it slid around like a dog with greased paws on an ice rink.

Also, the water only lasts as long as the button remains pushed in, so you get a set amount of water.  Want more shower?  Push-a da button.

Push button.  Balance heat handle.  Attempt to apply shampoo to head.  BWAH the train is tipping!  This sent the shower head spinning on it’s disability-friendly axis.  WHAM goes the busted door and water sprays everywhere.

Oh, yeah.  The bin for the dirty towels?  It’s an oversized BROWN PAPER BAG.  Which wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t for the busted door, which allowed water to go all over the floor…and ominously towards said bag.  I just didn’t want to be the reason the poor porter found found his dirty towel bag collapsed into a soggy mess.  

The bag was weirdly lined with a water-resistant kind of oilcloth – without the paper bag, it wouldn’t have stood up, and of course, with wet towels, the bag would’ve disintegrated.  I guess that was the best solution for them, but not with a wet floor.

So I hurriedly grabbed a towel from the pile and shoved it on the floor to mop up some of the water.

Back to step one with push the button and repeat.  Five or so pushes later, you’re climbing outta the shower.

It was a little weird not having a wash basin in there, but I guess they want people in and out as rapidly as possible.

All in all, I’d do it again, but I think I’d prefer the privacy of a bedroom if it’s affordable – those shared bathrooms are not optimal – but having a bed is so much better than coach.  But my first choice:  flying.

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