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A Ride on the Night Owl

Amtrak launches overnight train to Boston 

By Judy Colbert 

“It’s the first one, you know?” Carlos Aguilar, the sleeping car attendant simultaneously asked and stated when I boarded Amtrak train 66 at the BWI station on Monday, April 5, at 10:33 p.m. “I know,” I responded (beamed, actually). Carlos echoes my excitement at the thought of taking the first overnight sleeper to Boston.  

As I was the only sleeper passenger boarding here, he offered a friendly, “This way, Judy,” leading me to my bedroom. Face masks are required in and around the station and on the train at all times unless you’re eating or drinking. 

He showed me around the bedroom, the light switches, closet, temperature controls, bathroom, and the call button if I needed him during the night. “Breakfast is available in the café car starting at 6 a.m.,” he said, or he could bring the packaged snacks to me now. “Can I get anything for you?” Although I was entitled to a drink, I declined. “Would you like me to make the bed now?” My quick, “YES” was perhaps a little exuberant.  

The April 5 train was the first sleeper service on this line since 2003 when it was called the Night Owl (and still is by some). Imagine, falling asleep in Baltimore and waking up in time to shower before you depart at Boston’s South Station at 8 a.m. It’s the perfect way to have dinner in Maryland, spend the night on the train, and be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a day of sightseeing, business meetings, or seeing family in Boston. At $284 for a roomette and $376 for a bedroom (a second passenger is $112 although Amtrak sometimes offers price cuts) before applying any discounts (senior, military, children, etc.), many think it’s more economical than flying to Boston and spending the night in a hotel. It’s certainly less stressful. 

The Viewliner sleeping car has one wheelchair-accessible bedroom, two bedrooms with a connecting door, and 12 roomettes. Bedrooms are larger than roomettes and have a private shower/toilet room. Roomettes include a toilet and access to a larger bathroom and shower at the end of the car. In either case, the sofa or chairs convert to a bed and an overhead bed is lowered into place.  

I was too excited to sleep, so I watched the lights in the dark countryside pass and listened to the train changing tracks. The train rocks or wobbles, and, whether you’re in a bedroom and sleeping perpendicular to the train direction or in a roomette and sleeping parallel will determine which way your body wobbles. 

I love the wobbles, so it’s not surprising that I woke a little after 2 a.m. to realize the train wasn’t moving. It’s a scheduled hour plus layover at New York’s Penn Station. It might be nice to step off the train to look at the spectacular new Moynihan Train Hall or visit the Metropolitan Lounge (which a sleeper car ticket grants you access to). 

I woke again to no motion as a piece of malfunctioning equipment was being replaced in New Haven, Conn. The 90-minute delay was reflected in a late arrival in Boston. That’s a condition Amtrak riders have to consider. While Northeast Corridor trains generally run on time, you have to assume it just might not.  

Heading south (train 67 on weeknights and train 65 on Friday and Saturday nights), the service leaves Boston at 9:30 p.m. and arrives in Baltimore a little after 6 a.m. and BWI by 6:30 a.m. On Friday and Saturday nights, it’s train 65 and it arrives about 30 minutes earlier. Take note: the BWI station closes at 9:45 p.m., so there is no indoor waiting room.  

For reservations, go to www.Amtrak.com or call 1 800-USA-RAIL (872-7245).