My Fat Ass on a Train

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I took Amtrak (Coast Starlight) up to Seattle.  I have taken shorter train trips, but this was 24 hours and we got a “roomette” (translation:  a closet with seating and fold out bunk beds).

We learned a lot on our trip — like only take what you absolutely need on the train, and check the rest.  There is no place to put your luggage in a roomette. 

Now for the fat-friendly aspects of this type of train travel.  Not horrible, not perfect.  The bathrooms are about the size of airplane bathrooms.  I could use it, but it was not easy to “clean up” – so anyone who is fat but not supersized, they should have little or no problems.  AND, the Amtrak does have “accessible” bathrooms on the lower levels of sleeper cars; and the (regular) bedrooms have their own private toilet and shower (but I have no idea how fat friendly those are).

The seats in the roomette were quite wide and comfortable, recline and have foot rests.  I’m thinking they are probably about the same as the “reserved” coach seats, but I’m not sure. 

The lower berth is about as wide as a twin bed and if you think I tried to get my big butt up into the upper berth – you must be high (and I don’t mean on life).  Bill took the upper – no place for anyone with claustrophobia – no window up there.  They have “steps” to get up it, but it is just little ledges/places you can put your feet to step up and not a staircase or ladder – and getting down again can be an adventure (just ask Bill).  I’d say sleeping on the bottom bunk is comparable to sleeping on a fold out sofa; and it’s very sturdy.

 Getting anywhere means dealing with fairly narrow halls – about the width of the aisles on an airplane, but there is a lot more swaying and bumping going on than on a plane.  I pretty much had to walk kind of sideways everywhere. 

 Be warned, the dining tables are all booths, and the tables are not movable.  They also expect you to sit next to somebody – I told them, no, that was not going to happen because I took up too much room.  They were not happy about it, but they didn’t do anything about it, and they didn’t give me any trouble about it.  If you have a regular bedroom, you can have your meals brought to you.

 The dining is all upstairs, so if you use it, you will have to deal with the stairwells.  OMG.  These are even narrower than the hallways and steep.  I found it pretty difficult to maneuver in it.  You can’t see the stair you are stepping on (because it is so steep) and it circles.  Another, if you are claustrophobic, you don’t want to do it.

 All that said, I had fun traveling on the train.  I liked the privacy and comfort of our seats.  We had coffee, water, and juice 24/7 at the end of the corridor.  They do have showers (downstairs – so there are those flipping stairs again); but I didn’t try them.  Bill did, and he thought I could have managed.  We met some wonderful people on the train, and one nasty old lady.  The staff is very nice and helpful. 

 We had such a wonderful time in Seattle, we’re hoping to do this again (and again), so maybe next time we’ll do the regular bedroom and I can tell you about that.  Ditto with coach (for maybe a shorter trip down to LA).

 Traveling by train is slower and just as (if not more) expensive than plane.  If you are not supersized you will probably have no problems with the train accommodations.  For supersize folks like me, train travel is not especially fat friendly, but I bet it can be pretty comfortable and accessible if you do your research more thoroughly than I did and take advantage of some of the options.  Like I said they have accessible bathrooms (which I did not check out), and having a lower level compartment would mostly avoid the stair issues.  The seats are wide enough that I can’t see them ever needing to charge someone for a second seat.  I saw quite a few fatties checking in for coach. 

 So it is definitely something you may want to check out for yourself when you have time to make the trip (and not just the destination) an important part of your travels.

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15 thoughts on “My Fat Ass on a Train

  1. I’ve taken the coast starlight from San Diego to San Francisco, which is about a 17 hour trip give or take. I’ve also done the train, bus, train option they have. Mind you, this was years ago but I found the seats on the train to be pretty comfy and I am a tall (6ft) supersized (at least a size 32) woman. I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me but I do remember it wasn’t too bad.

    The only bad thing was the booths in the smoking car, which when I say smoking car, i mean half of a small portion of a train car…there were maybe 5 booths and half were in the smoking section, half weren’t. Not that I tried to sit in them. Well…I should say I never even had the chance to sit in them because they were constantly filled. The small section was always packed but one could always squeeze in and no one seemed to mind.

    I never tried the regular bathrooms, I just went down stairs (which were pretty wide if I recall correctly) and used one of the handicapped bathrooms. I never had any problems.

    I love traveling via train. Sure it takes longer but it’s LOADS more comfortable then trying to squeeze into an airplane seat. Plus I get to meet interesting people since you have more time to get to know the people you’re traveling with.

  2. My younger son, who has ridden a train, told me in no uncertain terms that a train is NOT for me. Not because of my size…I am at the smaller end of midsize…but because of serious balance/coordination/motor skill issues caused by cerebral palsy. Trains sound as if they are not too great for very fat people, but they are certainly not designed for the still ambulatory but unsteady disabled. Perhaps it would work better for those who use scooters or electric wheelchairs, but it doesn’t work for those still getting around (sort of) on our own unsteady feet. As for ANY top bunk, not in THIS lifetime, in THIS body.

  3. I adore the train… but all my trips are 3 hours or less and my standard of comparison is Greyhound bus. (yuck!)

    I think the Amtrak seats are a little wider than Greyhound and they definitely have more legroom. The aisle is certainly bigger than aisle on a Greyhound. In my experience the bathrooms on Amtrak are a little bigger than on a bus, but it seems to be length and not width, so it doesn’t really help. Amtrak does keep their bathrooms a lot cleaner than Greyhound does, which is nice.

    Thank you for this review. I’ve been considering taking a longer trip on the train and this info will be very useful.

  4. I love riding the train because the seats are very roomy. Also, I found I could fit into the toilets nicely. About those awful stairwells, just go down backwards. Doesn’t matter that it looks weird, because it is fast and much safer than going down frontwards.

  5. What a write!! Very informative and easy to understand. Looking for more such blogposts!! Do you have a myspace or a facebook?
    I recommended it on stumbleupon. The only thing that it’s missing is a bit of new design. Nevertheless thank you for this blog.

  6. Oh thanks for the wonderful information. I will definitely remember the stair thing. Am planning a long 3 day haul and seek to gather as much info as possible. I thank all who have contributed.

  7. I’m planning on taking my first train ride in the fall. My real concern is the booths in the dinning car. I hate booths at restaurants because I do not fit in smaller booths. I’m a 5’10”, 325lbs, XXXL, guy. I can only imagine that the booths on a train can only be smaller than most. What happens If I don’t fit? I’m paying for a sleeper, so meals are included, but it looks like if you eat anywhere else besides the dinning car it is not included in the price.

    And if I do fit between the table and seat, how much fun is it for the person that gets stuck next to me?

    • Yes – the booths are not fun. However, I’m 5’9 and about your weight, and I was able to fit (barely). I also told the waiter when I was seated that having someone sit next to me was not an option (you can tell the person who comes around to take reservations the same thing). Also, you can eat in the lounge car – limited menu though – which has tables. And if you are totally freaked out – just tell them you want your meals in your sleeper compartment. They will bring you your meal. Hope you have a good trip.

      • Well, the trip was a success. There were no problems and never made to feel like I did not belong. Don’t get me wrong, the hallways on the sleeper car are narrow, and after all they are booths in the dining car. But, restrooms and sleeping car accomodations were comfortable enough. I did not attempt to use the shower…not due to size issues but rather cleanlyness issues. I know that the sleeper cars are getting very old, but Amtrak could maintain and clean them better.

        The only issue that I had was sleeping. I “slept” in the top bunk of the roomette. This would not be for anyone who is even slightly claustophobic. There are no windows and it is a very small space. My main issue was all the rocking going on. I’m a side sleeper and was constantly being awoken by being jostled back and forth. It seemed like it would have been less of an issue if I could sleep on my back…but I just don’t work that way. 😉 All in all, I would try rail travel again.

  8. First thank you for the blog, I have been looking everywhere trying to get this kind of info! My mother is a 5ft9 350lb person and I all that is left on the train we need are “upper” seats. She uses a cane to walk, how hard are the stairs going to be? I am assuming it will be a VERY tight squeeze, but doable…

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m looking forward to a trip on the Coast Starlight later this month, and it’s exactly the info I needed.
    DeeZee

  10. I know this is an old post, but thank you for this information. I’m 5’9″ and about 315 lbs, and a friend and I booked a roomette for a trip to New Orleans. I’ve been searching for an account from someone around my size, to see what the rooms, halls, and stairways are really like, and your post, along with the comments, have eased my fears.

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