I plan next month to put my old touring bicycle (having old type components such as non-aero brakes, etc.) on the "Empire Builder" train in Columbus, WI and travel to Williston, ND where I'd begin my bicycle adventure tour by heading north to Saskatchewan and then west to Alberta. I know that Amtrak sells bike boxes and I know one can get a cardboard bike box free at a LBS.
Does Amtrak want to inspect the contents of an unsealed box, or is it OK to bring the box sealed up when it's brought to the baggage car or baggage handler? [I know that the pedals have to be off the crank arms and the handlebars turned sideways when in the box.]
Does Amtrak keep bike boxes standing up so that the bike in the box is as it is on the road in use, or does Amtrak lay the box flat?
I'll have front & rear panniers as well as a stack made up of tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a spare, twisted 27" tire. I know that Amtrak wants *only* the bicycle inside the box, so since I'll be traveling alone, I wonder how I'll manage to get the panniers, the stack stuff, the spare tire and probably also a smaller handlebar bag into the coach car with me. Is some of this stuff simply left unwrapped in the baggage car or does it have to go inside some big bag or box? [I wouldn't like to have to buy a special, maybe costly bag to hold the baggage and then have to discard the bag in Williston, ND.]
What are your thoughts about this? What are your experiences with Amtrak handling bicycles well or not-so-well? I'd appreciate any other advice you have for me.