Monday Start-Up: Amtrak Adventure

by Rachel Yeomans | January 28th, 2013   

Many of you seemed to take the Amtrak information I blogged about last week and put it in your back pocket (and thank you to my dear friend for cluing me in about it!). Well now I get to tell you how the process works, and how it worked for my friend and me. For those of you who live in New York, Penn Station, doesn’t accept outbound shipments. The closest Amtrak that does is in Newark, NJ. My amazing friend drove from her apartment in Brooklyn all the way to my Harlem studio; we threw my boxes and big red suitcase into the back of her car and started the drive there.

Amtrak freight Monday Start Up: Amtrak Adventure

A few things. First, I ran out of packing tape. Note: You can never have too much packing tape. Therefore en route, we double parked in front of the nearby Duane Reade and I ran in to buy not one, but two, rolls of packing tape along with getting cash out for tolls. We then started on our merry journey.

Did you know that New Jersey doesn’t believe in signage? Especially apparently en route to Newark. I would read through the GPS directions and it would say, “Take 125″ and then four directions later, we realized that we actually should’ve gone the other way because that was the highway we really needed. To get an idea of where we were, and where we were supposed to be, I give you the following from our return trip to Brooklyn:

New Jersey Map Monday Start Up: Amtrak Adventure

The other thing, when you call the Penn Station number in Newark, the people who answer the phone don’t necessarily know about this shipping process. The man I spoke to when I called said the loading dock was inaccessible as it was under construction. So we again double parked and I ran in to find out what I would do with all my boxes, praying it didn’t involve heaving them through the front door of the station and shimmying them to Shipping.

To find out more information, I had to go to the Information area at Amtrak. This was accessed by walking up the escalators, crossing to the end of the platform and walking back downstairs. Now I really hoped that I didn’t have to manually get my boxes from the car to the Information area. Once I arrived at Information, they sent me to Shipping. I found Shipping across from the magazine stand, and that’s where I met Dave. Dave is one of the heroes in this story.

“No the loading dock isn’t closed,” said Dave. Eureka!!! “Here’s what you do. Take the first three legal right-hand turns that you see, and you’ll see the loading dock security booth. Tell them you’re dropping off at Shipping and I’ll meet you outside and help out.” I promptly thanked Dave and jotted down Shipping’s number in case three legal rights was too complicated for my friend and me.

It was.

However – in our defense – Dave thought we were coming from the opposite side of the station. So instead of turning right, we should have turned left. We figured it out after calling Shipping a few times and figuring it out when they mentioned the building with the mural. Many illegal u-turns later, we made it to the loading dock.

Dave brought out a pallet where I would place my boxes and suitcase, and then he would do the rest. Easy enough…that is if I could pack. I admit, I have never been what some call a “skilled” packer. I didn’t want the boxes to be too heavy, so I didn’t fill some up the entire way. I know, I know. Bad. This is where my amazing friend came into play. We borrowed a pen knife from a juice box delivery guy we were sharing the loading dock platform with, and she showed me one of the most useful tricks I now know.

If you cut about an inch-long slit or so down each corner of the box and then just lightly cut a seam connecting the cuts across the sides of the box (to make it easier to fold down), you just got yourself a smaller box that won’t get crushed by other boxes!

DIY cardboard1 e1359410388405 Monday Start Up: Amtrak Adventure

Dave had to leave his shift after our cardboard cutting party. Then Nick, our other hero, came to the scene. Helping us get the newly-sized boxes and suitcase onto the pallet, he led us into the shipping office. With Amtrak shipping, it’s entirely based on weight. My load weighed about 215 pounds. Doing the math in my head, I was prepared.

The total amount?


My entire shipment (6 boxes and one large red suitcase) came to a grand total of (drum roll) $90! Amtrak, you were worth navigating New Jersey for.

This grand adventure took place on Thursday. Chicago’s Union Station called me yesterday and informed me that my shipment has arrived. They’ll keep it for free for 48 hours and then charge me $3/box/day after that. I think I can handle that.

Now…as my tea kettle was included in that shipment, I did have to boil water in my wok again. Old moving habits die hard I guess.

ways to boil water Monday Start Up: Amtrak Adventure