I think it was Rick Steves who said, “There are only two kinds of tourists: Those traveling light and those who wish they were.”
He’s dead right and I now travel with one small carry-on suitcase and a small zippered canvas bag that fits under my seat on the plane.
Traveling with fewer, smaller bags is absolutely the way to go on the train, too. There’s storage space for a couple of small bags -- and I mean small -- in the roomettes on Viewliners, which Amtrak uses on eastern trains. Not so with Superliner sleepers, which you’ll find on all the trains operating in the west. You can manage with one small carry-on in a roomette and maybe a couple of small bags in one of the bedrooms. But larger bags have to be stored in a luggage rack on the lower level and are not really at hand during your trip.
When I’m packing for a train trip, the magic word is shirts. (Ladies, think tops.) Why? Because shirts and tops are the only items of clothing you really have to change once a day.
I figure out how many days I’ll be gone and pack that many shirts, plus a couple of extras. I pack one pair of slacks and I make sure that every shirt will go with them. I wear my sport coat on the plane and I bring one pair of shoes … the ones on my feet. The rest of the clothing in my bag – basically that means underwear and socks – can be worn for more than one day in a pinch.
Obviously where you’re going and what you’ll be doing affects what you take with you. But if you’re ruthless about what goes into the bag and if you make sure everything is interchangeable, you'll be one of those folks "traveling light" ... and you'll be thankful for that every single day you’re away from home.