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Date: 07/18/15 14:51
91/92 trip
Author: Cole42

My older son and I rode 91 to Columbia SC and 92 back this week. Not having a diner is a mess, I did not talk to one person who likes the idea, and many people were quite upset about not having a diner on the train.  The cafe car attendants did their best but were over worked.  One woman I talked to said it took her almost an hour to get a sandwich the line stretched halfway through the adjacent coach on her southbound trip.  I was fortunate the times I went to the cafe there was no line, just a few people there but some were rather indignant about having the limited selection of the cafe car (like it's the attendant's fault).  Interesting to me was on 92 they had a pre-printed evaluation you could fill out about the "pilot program".  The attendants were professionally quiet about the program, but it was obvious it is not popular with the employees either.  I was very direct on my survey about how it is a bad idea, but I wonder if some higher-up at Amtrak likes this disaster will all the negative surveys just get ignored.  Like polls, you can twist them however you want.  I'd like to see some Amtrak managers have to ride 91 or 92 and see for themselves the ovewhelming dissatisfaction with this idea.  On my form I asked to be contacted by a manager so I could elaborate on why it is a bad idea, but I won't hold my breath for that!  Obviously if it was about making sleeper accomodations more affordable they would have just divorced the meals from the fare, removing the diner is some other plan they are trying to justify.

Now about the ride - we were 1 hour late into Columbia.  Out of Alexandria we got stuck behind a 25 mph work train.  Now I give the freight RR's and dispatchers the benefit of the doubt, by why the heck would you stick a slow work train in front of a passenger train that you know is coming???  Listening to the scanner our crew was not exactly thrilled running on approach indications for a while.   We caught him right below Alexandria so it wasn't like we flew down the line and caught him.  I was cussing CSX at that point. Coming home 92 was an hour late into Columbia, but we did make up some time along the way. 

Part of the problem is Amtrak's fault.  Looking at the schedule, many places they allow a 1 minute station stop.  Columbia the departure time is the same as the arrival.  It took a good 10 minutes there as there was a surprisingly (to me) good crowd to detrain and board.  Plus they have checked baggage there.  How do they expect to unload 20 passengers; load about 35 and do baggage in under a minute?  Many of the stops along the way had decent sized crowds waiting to board, and some take 2 stops for sleeper then coach passengers. So at every one we lost time.  You do that at only 6 stations and you've lost an hour.  Maybe Amtrak should do away with listing a time on their schedules and make it a window instead.  Train X will arrive at town Y somewhere between 2 and 4.

The crews were very pleasant and professional.  I did not run in to any of the "bad" employees, all the attendants and conductors and a/c's were making the best of a bad situation having no diner and dealing with unhappy passengers.  So overall it was another good experience, but the lack of a diner definately makes it less enjoyable to travel on a LDT, and always being late is annoying.   Someone on a schedule really can't rely on the train.  I always plan so I can absorb a couple hours delay (and unfortunately always seem to be late) but if I need to be somewhere on time I can't go by train.  As I said, there were good crowds getting on and off at most every station - but for how long?  I wonder how many "never agains" were on the trains I rode.  

 



Date: 07/18/15 15:25
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: RNinRVR

As this 'experiment' proceeds it is going to be interesting to see how Amtrak management spins it. I can see how this is not a popular idea for most people who ride these Silver trains.

Sharon Evans
Glen Allen, VA



Date: 07/18/15 15:46
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: agentatascadero

Just my opinion, but the removal of dining cars from a long distance train is worse than a bad idea, it is just plain WRONG.....and, I fear, not an experiment at all.  This egregous decision needs to be reversed.  AA

Stanford White
Carmel Valley, CA



Date: 07/18/15 16:13
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: GenePoon

By the time Amtrak realizes that they are throwing out the
baby with the bathwater, will the baby be dead?



Date: 07/18/15 16:15
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: Chessie1963

I do think it is truly an experiment and Amtrak does not think it will work.  This is a political move designed, in part, to show Congress that it is a bad idea.  I know there will be all sorts of skeptics who respond to my comments, however I do believe it is a test.

And it would not surprise me one bit to see the test ended early.



Date: 07/18/15 16:37
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: illini73

Cole42 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Maybe Amtrak should do away with listing a time on their schedules and make it a window instead. 
> Train X will arrive at town Y somewhere between 2 and 4.

Now don't give them ideas!  Practically speaking, though, in a lot of cases these days it's like booking passage on a freighter - you know where you're going but not exactly sure when you'll get there.  As to the published schedule times:  often the expected station dwell is built into the running time to the next station, so they're really expecting to get out of town 2, or 6, or 10 minutes "late".

As to your main topic, I think eating in the dining car is one of the best things about rail travel, and I hope this "experiment" is called off and not repeated.



Date: 07/18/15 17:06
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: ProAmtrak

It be nice if they let Amtrak alone on the food and beverage deal, I mean didn't someone post that the railroads before Amtrak knew this and also knew what would happen if they got rid of their diners and lounge cars? Congress is just too blind to look at history and think that was history, this is now, and the old saying hsitory repeats itself will strike if they keep this up!



Date: 07/18/15 17:53
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: GenePoon

ProAmtrak...remember that it is the Amtrak Propaganda Ministry that has provided most
of the "money-losing" ammunition for those who keep wanting the long distance trains
and their "money-losing" food service gone...to the point where the gullible media and
public and lemming-like "advocates" call for abandonment of those services so that the
"lost" money can be poured into tne Northeast. Without that "money-losing" reputation
provided by Amtrak itself, those in Congress who want to get rid of the "money-losing"
food services would not have an audience.

But by continually crowing about the "money-making" Northeast Corridor (a
baldfaced lie, if anybody here still believes that bullsh!t) and bitching about
"money-losing" long distance trains, Amtrak has forced this "experiment" upon
themselves...perhaps as a way to kill off not only the dining cars but the trains
themselves.

Meanwhile, CSX waits in the background. They would love to have Amtrak kill
off the Silver Star, since it traverses a secondary line where maintenance could be
reduced if it were not running.

 



Date: 07/18/15 18:29
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: Lackawanna484

We had the same "run behind a freight" for 45 miles last week on 53. Passed him when he stopped south of Doswell. Got a second chance with a 25 mph freight from north of Acca for about 40 minutes.

Posted from Android



Date: 07/18/15 21:09
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: ProAmtrak

I hear ya Gene, but you really are gonna see a lot of po'd people if Amtrak does get rid of the LD Trains, then the national transportation system would really get worse too!



Date: 07/18/15 21:27
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: GenePoon

ProAmtrak Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I hear ya Gene, but you really are gonna see a lot
> of po'd people if Amtrak does get rid of the LD
> Trains, then the national transportation system
> would really get worse too!


For certain, you will.  But in a larger sense, if that happens there will be no need for Amtrak
any more.  Kill it.  Establish a Northeastern Intercity Rail Compact.  Put Boardman in
charge, if you wish...it's what he wants, anyway.  But fund it REGIONALLY, not nationally.

Once Amtrak started saying that intercity service outside the Northeast Corridor needed
to be funded locally or by the states, it started on the way toward irrelevance in most of
the country.

I've hoped since 1971 that this irrelevance would not come to pass, but it seems to be getting
closer and closer.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/18/15 21:29 by GenePoon.



Date: 07/19/15 10:44
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: prrmpup

Thanks for the report. My experience on the Silver service trains is quite similar. Do not ever recall running into rude behavior.
The real test comes at the end of the trial period. If the Star's revenues hold up without the expense of the diner, it will be gone for good. And probably will not be the last to go. 



Date: 07/19/15 17:38
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: jp1822

Amtrak seems to be running two tests here 1) lower the price of the sleeper to drive up revenue here and divorce the price of the diner/food and 2) eliminate the diner so that the only food option is to go to the Cafe Car.

But sleeper revenue doesn't appear to be a problem since the Star has two Viewliners and they typically run at high occupancy to begin with. Now if Amtrak could allocate MORE Viewliner sleeper to the Silver Star to keep up with demand - that's a different story. But they don't have extra Viewliners to do this. Mute point. 

If you get more people on the train, you have a chance of increasing sleeper revenue and food/beverage revenue. The former is less of a problem since Amtrak can typically fill the sleepers regardless. So why dump salt in the wound by removing the Diner?

A good test - get more sleeper on the train, unbundle the dining car costs, and provide good food in the diner!!!  



Date: 07/21/15 13:00
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: agentatascadero

I think the bigest problem with this notion to run the Star absent a diining car is, if one wants to eat.....now what?  One lounge car with one attendant.  Perhaps someone can provide accurate productivity numbers regards the ability of a lounge car to serve the passengers....and how many are we talking?  300  or so passengers on board, maybe?  My limited expereence in patronizing these cars is abysmal....service is very slow....I'm guessing here, maybe 15-20 patrons per hour?  If I'm anywhere near correct, that means that most passengers starve if they have not brought their own provisions.  There si nothing "right" about this plan, everything about it is just plain wrong.  AA

Stanford White
Carmel Valley, CA



Date: 07/23/15 17:45
Re: 91/92 trip
Author: ProAmtrak

GenePoon Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ProAmtrak Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I hear ya Gene, but you really are gonna see a
> lot
> > of po'd people if Amtrak does get rid of the LD
> > Trains, then the national transportation system
> > would really get worse too!
>
>
> For certain, you will.  But in a larger sense, if
> that happens there will be no need for Amtrak
> any more.  Kill it.  Establish a Northeastern
> Intercity Rail Compact.  Put Boardman in
> charge, if you wish...it's what he wants,
> anyway.  But fund it REGIONALLY, not nationally.
>
> Once Amtrak started saying that intercity service
> outside the Northeast Corridor needed
> to be funded locally or by the states, it started
> on the way toward irrelevance in most of
> the country.
>
> I've hoped since 1971 that this irrelevance would
> not come to pass, but it seems to be getting
> closer and closer.

Well remember, Amtrak wasn't supposed to last after 1974, the 1973 Energy Crisis changed that, and if we have something worse than 9/11 transportation wise and Amtrka's gone, it's gonna be a nightmare!



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