This page updated April 26, 2012
All Amtrak stations in Vermont are unstaffed; tickets are sold in advance by mail, by travel agencies, and on the train. Advance reservations are required.
If you make your travel plans sufficiently in advance for tickets to be mailed, use Amtrak's website (amtrak.com) or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.
If it's within a week or so of travel, call 1-800-USA-RAIL and say "agent." Make arrangements to buy your tickets on the train. You'll get a reservation code that you'll tell the conductor when you get on board.
Unfortuantly, Amtrak does not tell you that you have this option to buy tickets on the train if you use the automated features of the 800 number, and this option is not available via the website. But you can, and all you have to do is say "agent" and talk to a live person.
Soon (summer 2012) Amtrak will be switching to an e-ticket system and this procedure will change. (When the new system is in place you can buy on the web or over the phone, get your confirmation e-mailed, print it or show the conductor the e-mail on your phone. It will be an improvement!).
Like airlines, the train is cheaper if you buy further in advance and fares fluctuate according to peak travel times (Friday, Sunday, holidays and school breaks).
There is a $12 fare for travel within Vermont, but you have to ask for it. Use code V383 if you talk to an agent or if there is plenty of time for mailing, book at www.amtrak.com/insideVermont. You must make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance for this fare and there are certain blackout dates.
Credit Cards are accepted on board.
If you are boarding at stations outside of Vermont, the above procedure regarding buying your ticket on the train does not apply; you'll pick your ticket up from the station ticket agent or ticket machine (except for Amherst MA which has no agent or machine, so buy from the conductor).
More On Traveling By Train In Vermont:
Where Can I Go?
Trains from Vermont go to Albany, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and many stops in between (see below).
There are no trains from Vermont to Boston. At this time, no trains go from Vermont to Montreal, but service may resume by 2015.
Vermont has two trains, the Ethan Allen from Rutland and the Vermonter, from Essex Junction, Montpelier Jc, White River jc, Brattleboro and intermdiate stops.
The Ethan Allen stops at: Rutland, Castleton, Fort Edward (for Glenn's Falls), Saratoga, Schnectady, Albany-Rensselaer, Hudson, Rhinecliff (for Kingston), Poughkeepsie, Croton, Yonkers and New York City (Penn Station). The Vermonter stops at Saint Albans, Essex Junction (for Burlington), Waterbury (for Stowe), Montpelier Junction (for Montpelier and Northfield), Randolph, White River Junction (for Dartmouth and Lebanon NH), Windsor, Claremont NH, Bellows Falls, Brattleboro (for Keene NH), Amherst MA, Springfield MA, Windsor Locks CT (for Hartford Bradley Airport), Hartford, Berlin CT, Wallingford CT, Meriden CT, New Haven CT, Bridgeport CT, Stamford CT, New York City (Penn Station), Newark NJ, Metropark NJ (Garden State Parkway), Trenton NJ, Philadelphia, Wilmington DE, Baltimore, BWI Airport MD, New Carrolton MD, Washington DC.
You can carry baggage on-board. There is ample space for two large suitcases plus purses, laptops, etc. in overhead racks. Snowboards, bicycles and animals are not allowed. (thanks to the advocacy of the Vermont Rail Action Network this will be changing in the future: bikes will be permitted after racks are installed on board).
Getting To The Station:
Trains leave on-time if possible, so don't be late and leave time for parking, delays and getting lost. However you don't need to arrive hours in advance. Stops are brief, measured in seconds, only long enough for everyone to get on and go.
For a modest extra fee ($15-$40) you get larger, nicer seats (2-1 seating instead of 2-2-), extra legroom, and a more exclusive atmosphere. Perks include a free (non-alcholic) drink and newspaper. See photo at right:
Settling In On The Train:
Seats on the train are generally unassigned (although often conductors will close off some cars to insure seats are available in a block for passengers boarding further down the line).
On the Vermonter, half the seats face forward and half backward. At Palmer, Massachusetts, the Vermonter switches direction. On the Vermonter the best scenary along the Connecticut River is on the left side of the train heading south.
Once you get underway, the conductors will collect or sell you your ticket. The conductor will put a seat check above your seat which tells them you've paid and where you are going. If you change seats, put your seat check above the seat you move to. Keep ahold of your receipt; on the Vermonter, receipts are checked again after passing New York, and it can occassionally be useful in other ways.
Once the Conductor has taken your ticket you are free to move about the train. Hold onto handrails or the overhead racks when roaming.
Sit back and enjoy the ride! Seats (which are considerably larger than a plane or a bus) recline. Power outlets are available at your seat. There is a folding tray table in the back of the seat ahead. There are reading lamps overhead. Water is available at the end of your car, but you prefer want to bring your own. Bathrooms are at one end of the car.
Wi-Fi is available. It is cell-phone based and can become quite slow if the train is full and many people are using it. In Vermont there are some deadspots, most notably between Sharon and Northfield except Randolph.
There is a snack bar with microwaved hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks, soups, sandwichs and so on. Download the Vermonter Menu here. You are welcome to bring your own food on board and eat at your seat. Nice food courts are available at the New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC stations.
Arriving At You Station:
Within Vermont, Conductors will tell you personally that your stop is coming soon. Only certain doors open - they will tell you which ones.
South of Massachusetts, announcements will be made, but it is a busier and Conductors are accustomed to most people knowing where they are going.
Gather your things and be at the door before the train arrives at it's stop. (Don't forget anything!)
For train status of a particular train, go to amtrak.com and click the "train status" tab in the panel at left.