Electric outlets suitable for powering a notebook computer and other small devices is available on some Amtrak trains.
Info Added Jan 7, 1998:
If you plan to travel in an Amtrak Amfleet Car and need an electric outlet for your notebook computer, try seats 23 and 24. That might be the only electric outlet on the train that is next to a seat. The power from that outlet worked fine with my notebook computer and it should work fine with yours also. My guess is that this outlet was installed to provide AC for the vacuum cleaner for the cleaning people. It should be O.K. with most any electrical device. To be on the safe side, you might want to bring a surge protector along with you. I have never used one on the train myself and don't seem to have ever had any problems, but that is not a recommendation from me.
The power in the train does go out from time to time. It is not very unusual to do so. To be on the safe side, you might want to unplug your device whenever the power goes out and wait for the electricity to come back on before you plug it in again. This should help to avoid a likely power surge when the electricity is restored.
One word of warning is to watch out how some battery rechargers work. Some will drain down your battery before starting to recharge. This is a serious problem when using an power source that sometimes gets interrupted. When power is restored, it will think that you just put your battery in and will start the decharge-charge cycle all over again! Thus, you will have to wait for your battery to be decharged and recharged from the beginning, and hope there isn't another power interruption.
Info Added Jan 8, 1998:
A small update to the information that you will find above under January 7, 1998: Once again I have found an electric outlet by a seat in an Amfleet Coach Car, but this time it was by seats 19 and 20. This is actually just one row behind where I found it last time. My guess is that the seats in this car might be facing the other direction. If these two rows of seats were turned around, then the outlet would be in seats 23 and 24. So, check both the row with seats 19 and 20 and the row with 23 and 24. They are right after one another.
Info Added Jan 9, 1998:
Found another car with an electrical outlet: The Club Class Car has an outlet at the row with seats 36 and 37. The Club Class Car is the one with a Cafe in the middle, tables at one end, and Club Class seats at the other end.
Info Added 1997:
The Amtrak Superliner Sleeping Cars have one 3-prong electrical outlet in each bedroom. In the Standard, Family and Handicapped Superliner bedrooms it is located below the temperature control above one of the passenger seats. I believe it is located near the sink in the Deluxe Bedroom. The Amtrak Viewliner Sleeping Car has a double AC outlet located near the sink. Metroliner Club Class features an electric outlet at every seat and the rest of the Metroliner features AC outlets at some of the coach seats. The Amtrak California Cars feature AC outlets at certain seating positions which are marked below the windows. The outlets are located half-way between the window and the floor. Where there are tables, you will have to reach under the table to get to the outlet.
When I travel in a bedroom in a Superliner Sleeping Car, I leave my computer plugged into the "120 Volts Razon Only" A.C. outlet. I think notebook computers are fairly impervious to power fluctuations and other "dirty power" problems because the AC is immediately turned into low voltage D.C. by a transformer. Between the transformer and the battery power to the notebook PC, I don't think the dirty power problems get to the PC. I've never had a problem with power on the train, but don't necessarily take my word for it. I wouldn't want any of you blaming me for having burnt up your computer on the train! Personally, I would not hesitate to plug in any notebook computer into the train's power unless that PC did not have an external transformer such that I could verify that the notebook is being powered by low voltage D.C.
I'd check with someone professional before plugging a notebook computer that fed A.C. directly into the computer without first going through an external transformer that converted it to low voltage D.C. Such a transformer could be "built in" on your computer, but I would first verify that with an expert or else bring along the best power protection A.C. adapter that you can buy. I'm sure the voltage on the train does vary quite a bit with a wonderful assortment of spikes. I think the "Razor Only" notice is strictly to prevent Amtrak from being held liable for damage to your equipment, not to protect the train's electrical system from damage by your equipment. I've seen Car Attendants tell people to go ahead and use their 1200 watt hairdryers in that outlet! If the outlet can handle that, then it surely can handle the few watts required by your notebook computer!
The power source on the train that provides electricity to your room is the Head End Power (HEP). This is the same power source that provides the electricity throughout the train to power all A.C. devices including all the room and water heaters, air conditioners, most of the lighting, and everything used in the kitchen to cook your food! With all this electrical power on the train, there is plenty to run your notebook computer. There is a low amperage circuit breaker protecting that "Razor Outlet" from drawing too much current, but if a hair dryer or razor isn't going to blow that circuit breaker, than transformers for notebook computers and cellular phone rechargers aren't going to do it either. I wouldn't suggest plugging in any sort of delicate electrical equipment that doesn't run off an A.C. to D.C. transformer or using a good power filter, but the train itself does have televisions, VCR's, and tape or CD players plugged into the train's A.C. power. I don't know if they use filters or not. Maybe they don't and maybe they blow out their TVs and VCRs frequently. Maybe that is why there is no background music and there are no TV monitors on this particular train to show movies, though most Amtrak trains do have monitors, do show movies and do have background music on 2 of the channels in each room.
I don't understand the power of the train at a very detailed level, but it is my understanding that the diesel engines are used to operate electrical generators. The electricity generated is then used to directly drive the train. Thus, most engines today are "electro-motive" and operate by the electricity produced by the diesel engine rather than having the power of the diesel engine be mechanically linked to directly power the wheels. In cars and trucks, the engine is mechanically linked to the driving wheels via a drive shaft. Most trains you see today are powered by electricity, but the generator to make that electricity is right inside the engine itself. Also, I believe it is this same electricity that is used to power all the A.C. electrical systems on the train. That is why they needed to shut down all A.C. power on the train when our second engine was having difficulty generating enough power to help pull the train up the steep climb into the Rocky Mountains. That extra A.C. power could be applied to help drive the wheels on the train.
If you plan to bring more electical items along than just your cell phone charger, then you should also bring along an extension cord. Bring a real short one, like about 3 feet. It should be one with the 3-prong grounded connections and you should get one that has three outlets on the end. You can usually find these types of extension cords at any store. Some outlets say "120 Volts-Razors Only". The designers realized that passengers would want to use their notebook computers, cell phone chargers and other low wattage electronic equipment on the train when they built the new Viewliners, the California Cars and refurbished the Metroliners. Thus, they didn't put the confusing "Razors Only" sign on the new outlets. The real concern is that you don't overload the circuit and blow the breaker. Most DC power supplies for portable computers and battery chargers take far less power than the motor in an electric razor. I even once heard a Car Attendant tell someone to use their blow dryer and to let them know if it blew the circuit so they could reset it! I wouldn't recommend using a blow dryer or any other high watt electric item in that outlet, but any low watt item should be no problem.