Amtrak has made recent changes in Iowa that are positive for bicycles. The national passenger rail service has added check baggage stops at the Mount Pleasant station for the California Zephyr route and Fort Madison station for the Southwest Chief route. The addition of checked baggage service means boxed bicycles are also allowed onto passenger trains in Iowa for the first time for an additional fee of $10.00.
Amtrak has allowed boxed bicycles at stations with checked baggage service, but no checked baggage station existed in Iowa until now. The service is limited on Monday through Friday for on-loading of boxed bicycles, but off-loading of bicycles can happen at anytime.
The ticket agent in Mount Pleasant reported passengers need to report to the station and fill out a checked baggage form. Check your bicycle at the station at least an hour before departure. When the train arrives, the conductor will direct the passenger to the checked baggage car for loading. If the passenger is coming to Mount Pleasant or Fort Madison, the passenger should inform the conductor they have a checked bicycle. They will be directed to the baggage car upon arrival to claim their boxed bicycle.
Bicycles may be checked on Amtrak between all cities where checked baggage is offered. Not all trains or locations are equipped to handle checked baggage. It is unlikely that you can board the train with your bicycle in Mount Pleasant and get off the train in Osceola. You would be able to access baggage service in Omaha, NE or Galesburg, IL. Find your station(s) on the Amtrak website to see if this service is available.
Bicycle boxes are sold at most staffed locations for $15.00 per box. Customers may supply their own bicycle container. Bikes must be partially disassembled in order to fit in an Amtrak bicycle box. Loosen and turn the handlebars sideways, and remove the pedals. Amtrak does not supply tools for disassembling.
It may be helpful to disassemble and reassemble your bike before your trip to avoid any surprises. Some parts, especially pedals, may be especially difficult to remove. Be sure to attach your name and address to the box.
Folding bicycles may be brought aboard certain passenger cars as carry-on baggage. Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks. Recumbent, tandem and special bicycles over the standard bicycle dimensions and will not fit in a standard bicycle box are prohibited.
If you have any questions, I have located the numbers for the two Amtrak stations in Iowa that have checked baggage service. For the Amtrak Station in Mount Pleasant 319.385.8801 or for the Amtrak Station in Fort Madison 319.372.3142.