Virginia Capital Trail || How to use Amtrak to Ride the Trail

Like most ideas, it's not important where they came from but more importantly that you follow through with them. I might have been influenced by explorer Alastair Humphrey or Laura and Russ over at The Path Less Pedaled but who knows.

Sometimes the logistics of doing your outdoor pursuits can be downright hard. Sometimes you need two cars, shuttle service or sometimes you can't get there from here. Logistics can be even harder if you are solo. But what if you could get to the trailhead or your starting point by train?

That's right by train! While Amtrak offered a box service which was limited to certain routes and stations. A  new trainside service is offered by Amtrak on some of their routes gives the cyclist a different option to explore.

The above Amtrak routes offer trainside checked bicycles

The Virginia Capital Trail is a 51.2-mile trail that links Jamestown which was the first capital of the Colony of Virginia and was founded in 1607 and Richmond which is the modern capital of Virginia. The trail is also part of the TransAmerica bicycle route (76) and Historic Coastal Route of the East Coast Greenway. 

As you can see above the Northeast Regional route trains 65, 66, and 67 make it possible to ride the one-way distance (51.2 miles) of the Virginia Capital Trail. By either taking the train from Richmond to Williamsburg or from Williamsburg to Richmond. 

I am going to do my best to explain the mystery of using the train to make this type of adventure happen.

I am going to break this trip into three different legs. 
  1.  Which train station are you starting from? 
  2.  Which route from the train station to the trailhead?
  3.  The trail. 

There are two Amtrak stations in Richmond. You are wanting to use Main Street Station (RVM). The station in Williamsburg is called the Williamsburg Transportation Center (WBG).

Train 66 departs Williamsburg 5:41p.m. and arrives in Richmond at 6:30 p.m. daily.
Train 65 departs Richmond 9:34 a.m. and arrives in Williamsburg at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Train 67 departs Richmond 10:10 a.m. and arrives in Williamsburg at 11:14 a.m. Sunday-Thursday.

Amtrak 67 Northeast Regional Train Reservation Screen

The screenshot above I have selected the 67 Northeast Regional train from RVM to WBG. You want to make sure that you see the bicycle icon on the right for that train. The number in the left corner of the icon tells you how many openings there are for bicycles on this train. Select the SAVER ticket price ($18). CLICK ADD TO CHART. The next screen will be add-ons.

Add-Ons is where you reserve space for your bicycle
The reservation for your bicycle costs $20 making the total cost of the train fare $38. Once you have made payment you will receive an email with your ticket attached. Make sure you see that the ticket list both the ticket for yourself and the bicycle.

NOTE: From my research, the bicycle service is from May to October. Parking at RVM is $5 daily. Parking at WBG is free.

Mile marker 0 of the Virginia Capital Trail starts in Jamestown. Depending on what route you take from Williamsburg it's a 7.5 to 10-mile ride. The end of the trail is a Great Shiplock Park and is 0.9 miles from Main Street Station.

NOTE: It was a little surprising that the security staff was surprised to see us come to the station with bicycles. At first, they said you can't get on the train with bicycles and once I informed them "I sure can because I have a ticket for the bicycle". They pointed us the way to get upstairs.

The waiting area of Main Street Station, Richmond Virginia
Richard and I were greeted with the grand splendor of this ornate station which was built in 1901. During the wars, a 1000 troops a day would pass through the station. It is hard to imagine that today when we were two of the only four people catching the train.

The ornate details of the station

The old rails that trains came in the station on. Now part on a 100,00 venue call The Shed

The bicycles waiting for the train.

In the above picture, you can see a long plate. The train car that the bicycles go on will pull up in front of that plate. One of the Conductors will check your ticket first to make sure you have the bicycle on your ticket before they load it.

Bicycles being loaded trainside. This train car s just for bicycles

Heading out of Richmond we pass Great Shiplock Park. This is the endpoint of the trail from Jamestown

Our ride on the train was just under an hour. The train offers free WiFi and a cafe car to get snacks. Unlike a plane, there is room between the seats to stretch your legs out. The Conductor will come and get you when the train is nearing the station to get you near the front of the train. This saves some time for the unloading of the bicycles.

Waiting to unload the bicycles at Williamsburg Transportation Center 

Once we unloaded our bicycles and changed over to our riding gear we needed to ride to the trailhead. The station is about four blocks from Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary. We had decided to take Jamestown Road which has a bike lane most of the 7.7 miles to the trailhead.

On this trip, we were just focused on using the train and riding the Virginia Capital Trail. But realized that we could have made this a multi-day and multi-venue adventure by adding touring Williamburg, cycling the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown. Or mountain biking at Newquarter and Waller Mill Parks.

Mile Marker 0 just across the street from Jamestown

Right Around the corner is Billsbury Brewery and Taphouse.
One of the things that we learned on this trip that head back to Richmond you will most likely be riding into a headwind the entire route.

The bike selfie

Midpoint on our ride we catch a light lunch and beer at Cul's Courthouse Grille.

Much needed lunch break was taken at Cul's Courthouse Grille located at Charles City Courthouse. Good selection of craft beer from both Richmond and Williamsburg. Very cyclist-friendly place. If you have road shoes make sure to have covers for your cleats. The grille has the original wood floor in the 1872 building. 

The day we took this trip it happens to be the 18th anniversary of 9-11. Richard sported is RWB team kit and happened to run into a group of RWB members doing a 9-11 anniversary ruck to the Virginia War Memorial.

Team RWB 9-11 Ruck

Richard at the Great Shiplock Park 51.2 miles
This was a great trip and the train just opens up different options for travel and exploring. I hope this post inspires you to use the train to make your cycling adventure.

Disclaimer: Use this post as a guide but you need to check train schedules, routes to and from the stations, trailheads, trail conditions, and weather. Also of note, the train can be late or take longer to get from point to point. Amtrak has an agreement to use the same rails as the freight trains so there may be some delay. If you are planning your trip from Williamsburg understand that the train arrives in Richmond in the afternoon. This would put you getting back very late to Williamsburg. It might be best to plan for an overnight stay somewhere or a set of bike lights. I used Google Street View to figure which was the safest route to take from the train station to the trailhead. There are two routes that I felt met this requirement. The Jamestown Rd route that we took and there is the Colonial Parkway route.

Resource links:
Main Street Station 

Virginia Capital Trail

Williamsburg Transportation enter


If you have any questions or comments please comment or send me an email and I will do my best to answer.


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