Are you waiting for a train that is running late? Are you on a train that is running late? Don't plan for that train to continue running late!
Trains often get behind schedule and Amtrak has planned for the inevitable. They've done this in at least three ways:
(1) The schedule does not expect the train to travel at the maximum safe speed to stay on time. Thus, the train can travel faster to make up for lost time.
(2) Some major station stops are scheduled to be anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours (the longer ones being very rare). The train will reduce the amount of time that it stays in those stations to catch up the lost time.
(3) The third method is the trickiest and almost got us into trouble! Amtrak will often plan a lot more time into the schedule than it actually takes to get between two stations. They especially do this just before coming to the last station so that the train has a chance to arrive at its final destination on time where it may need to connect to other routes. They do the same for other major connecting cities and other large cities where the volume of people getting on and off the train could set the train behind schedule otherwise.
We were taking the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to Orlando. The stop before Orlando is Winter Park. The schedule indicates 30 minutes between Winter Park and Orlando. The train was running almost an hour late and I figured we should pack up to leave when we got to Winter Park. After all, that would give us 30 minutes to get ready to go. Just out of curiosity, I decided to calculate the distance from Winter Park to Orlando. It turned out to be only 5 miles! Obviously the train was going to cover 5 miles in a lot less than 30 minutes! We rushed to pack up our last minute stuff as we had already done our major clean-up a little earlier. It took only about 10 minutes to get from Winter Park to Orlando instead of the 30 minutes indicated in the schedule.
So ... when you are trying to estimate the time a train will take to get to a particular station, don't just add how late the train is running to the time it is scheduled to arrive at that station. Also take a look at the milage between stations which you can calculate from the milage indicated on every Amtrak schedule.