This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.
From: Carlos Martin <martin@morticia.Princeton.EDU>
The following article relates my own experience in taking a bike
as luggage on the Amtrak in the summer of 1992. It is intended to
offer advice to those who might choose to do the same, and is not
intended to reflect the views or policies of Amtrak. For reference,
I traveled from Trenton to Pittsburgh at the start of a tour.
Traveling with a bike on Amtrak can be problem-free if you take a few
precautions. Amtrak handles bikes at stations that check in baggage.
(Smaller stations and some trains don't check baggage at all.)
There is a $5 baggage fee for bikes, and it includes a box. Call
the station several days before your trip and notify them that you
will need a bicycle box.
The box they provided was big enough to accomodate my relatively
long-framed touring bike (Specialized Expedition) without taking off
either wheel, and with room to spare lengthwise. You will, however,
have to remove the pedals (even clipless ones) and turn the handlebars
to fit the bike in the box. Plan on putting only the bike in the box -
no helmet or panniers. (You may want to check with Amtrak on this point -
they may not cover damages to the bike if you packed other stuff
in the box.)
Before leaving home for the station, loosen your pedals and stem
enough to make sure you won't need heavy-duty tools at the station.
Plan to arrive at the station one and a half hours before departure
time - Amtrak wants all checked baggage at least a half hour before
departure (they may tell you one hour). Don't forget to keep your
At the station, go to the baggage room, get your box and some tape
from the attendant, remove the pedals, and loosen the stem bolt and
the bolt that holds the handlebars in the stem. Hold the front
wheel between your feet as you turn the handlebars parallel to the
top tube. Roll the bike into the box and seal the ends.
If everything goes smoothly, you can do the above packing in
ten minutes. Now go have lunch before you get on the train
unless you want to take your chances with train food.
BTW, the trains are very roomy and comfortable, particularly if
you are accustomed to traveling in airline cattle coaches.
I would travel by Amtrak again in a similar situation.
(The usual disclaimer applies: I have no connection to Amtrak,
other than being a taxpaying subsidizer and occasional user
of the rail system.)