In its original conception, Amtrak owned no track and was not truly a railroad. Rather, Amtrak trains used the existing network of freight rail systems and relieved private freight rail companies of their previous legal obligation to provide passenger rail service. For the most part, this scheme still exists today, but certain dense passenger lines, such as the corridor between Washington, D.C and Boston via New York is largely Amtrak's own railroad. Interestingly, the segment of this line between New Rochelle, New York and New Haven, Connecticut is not owned by Amtrak but by Metro North Railroad; the segment in Massachusetts is owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Amtrak owns 730 route miles of track including 17 tunnels consisting of 29.7 miles of track and 1,186 bridges (including the famous Hell Gate Bridge) consisting of 42.5 miles of track in its network of 22,000 miles of routes. This rail network serves 500 communities in 46 of the United States, with some of these routes serving communities in Canadian provinces along the United States border. The states which are not served by Amtrak trains are Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming. However, Wyoming is served by Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoaches. As a general rule, even-numbered routes run north and east while odd numbered routes run south and west. However, some routes, such as the California Surfliners, use the exact opposite numbering system, which they inherited from the previous operators of similar routes, such as the Santa Fe Railroad.
Amtrak operates 425 locomotives, 351 diesel and 74 electric, 2,141 railroad cars including 168 sleeper cars, 760 coach cars, 126 first class/business class cars, 66 dormitory/crew cars, 225 lounge/café/dinette cars, and 92 dining cars. Baggage cars make up the remainder of the fleet. 19 Acela trainsets currently provide high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor between between Boston and Washington D.C.'s Union Station. Amtrak also codeshares on Continental Airlines with their rail service between Newark Liberty International Airport and 30th Street Rail Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wilmington, Delaware, Stamford, Connecticut, and New Haven, Connecticut.
Amtrak employs over 22,000 employees and receives a great deal of federal government funding, leading to recurring debates over its elimination. However, recently government funding of Amtrak has been greatly increased. In fiscal year 2001, Amtrak served more than 23.5 million passengers, and despite an overall decrease in travel, Amtrak served more than 23.4 million passengers in fiscal year 2002. Through its various commuter services, Amtrak serves an additional 61.1 million passengers per year in conjunction with state and regional authorities in California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia:
Amtrak has a complex albeit decentralized management structure wherein individual train conductors and other staff are assigned to particular routes or stations whereas ticket sales are managed by a nationwide computer system. Each train route has a rich and complex history, which is reflected in their often colorful names.