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Passenger Trains > Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier


Date: 05/13/19 12:32
Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: jp1822

According to the sleeper car attendant, the “Baby Builder” - Empire Builder operating between Portland and Spokane as #28 and #27 - just got a new food supplier. Typically the cold dinner that was provided to sleeper car passengers for this first night out was pretty good, considering. I would even venture to say it was better than the “contemporary meals” offered on the Lake Shore and Capitol LImited. 

But last week’s first debut of the change in menu and suppliers didn’t go over well. 

- Chicken Ceaser Salad (couple strips of chicken, on top of what I guess was lettuce
- Salmon entree - served cold, but since I didn’t see presentation, not sure if was also with salad or served with some sort of garnishment. I would imagine it was pre-cooked. 
- Beef Panini - slice of beef on Pannini bread with roasted red peppers, onions, and green peppers. 

All entrees came with two orange slices, some grapes, a lump of coleslaw off to the side (not a chance was I trying that as long as it was mayonnaise based), and a lemon bar square. The LARGE box tried to give the illusion a lot of food was being served, but I wouldn’t say that was the case at all. 

I had the Beef Panini - tasteless, dry, and no flavor at all. I think the peppers and onions were trying to compensate for the lack of taste etc. 

I am sorry to hear the old vendor and options were replaced. No one - on my journey at least - in the sleeper class was happy with their “free meal that comes with the sleeping car accommodations” and most ended up in the Cafe car looking for a substitute. Course they had to pay for that! 

The eastbound Baby Builder was full - bedrooms sold out, maybe just two roomettes left when we left Pasco, WA. Two coach cars from Portland to Spokane. And they definitely needed both of them. Sleeping Car Attendant said ridership had been on the rise. That corresponded to all my jounrneys onboard long distance trains this past month - Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Crescent, Capitol Limited. 

I recall the PRIIA report when it came out calling for a Diner/Lounge to be operated on the Empire Builder from Spokane to Portland and the need for a second Portland sleeper in general. The Portland sleeper usually books up early for summer and early fall travel! The Diner/Lounge, in addition to the Sightseer Lounge was to help the pressure that hit the diner second day out when ridership on the Empire Builder was typically at its peak. The “box chicken dinners” help - when loaded in Havre (???). 

The Empire Builder and CA Zephyr are two trains that easily could be expanded further in peak season, but Amtrak is pretty well fixated on consist size and not adding cars or amenities, even if done as an upsell. Haven’t seen the third sleeper added yet to the CA Zephyr’s consist. That has been standard for the past few years - three full Superliner Sleepers and revenue space sold in the crew dorm as well for the CA Zephyr.

Yes, the Superliner fleet is stretched pretty well, but so are other rail operator’s assets. In my opinion Amtrak still keeps a high reserve % in peak season (VIA’s got nearly everything out there running - all Manor sleepers and just a few Chateau in backup). Amtrak could be doing some wreck-repairs, and could shuffle Superliners from the Auto Train to Western Long Hauls. 



Date: 05/13/19 12:38
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: dan

auto train equipment brakes maybe set differently



Date: 05/13/19 13:11
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: engineerinvirginia

dan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> auto train equipment brakes maybe set differently

All auto train cars including auto racks have combination disc/tread brakes with graduated release just as the coaches. And pretty sure the coaches are bog standard Amtrak fare so far as brakes are concerned. 



Date: 05/13/19 13:19
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: Flyer92122

As far as Superliners wreck repairs and partial rebuilds Anderson/Amtrak is putting them up for auction as previously reported.  Going to be a self induced crisis if we have a derailment or two.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/19 13:21 by Flyer92122.



Date: 05/13/19 15:25
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: mundo

My expiernace on the cold meals on 27-28  were very good.

Must be a lower cost bid now.

As to the brakes, rather simple to change, to move cars in the Summer to the Empire Builder.



Date: 05/13/19 16:41
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: jp1822

Until this recent trip, and I’ve done PLENTY in the past 20 years alone, my experience with cold meals on 27-28 was also very good. 

I understand Anderson wants to auction equipment off, but there’s also other equipment still around that sits on a reserve/backup factor.......

mundo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My expiernace on the cold meals on 27-28  were
> very good.
>
> Must be a lower cost bid now.
>
> As to the brakes, rather simple to change, to move
> cars in the Summer to the Empire Builder.



Date: 05/13/19 21:35
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: Pioneer2526

Interesting.... as a frequent rider on the baby builder this saddens me . I wonder if the breakfast on 27 has changed too since they were
Put on on Havre. Yes the consist make so sense to me either. It has remained the exactly the same since its inception in 1981 fall winter or summer 4 cars. And the lone sleeper since most of those go to/ from the starlight due to the guaranteed connection, good luck finding a room especially during peak season.....

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/14/19 02:10
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: NYC4096

Yeah, Amtrak couldn't go with quality purveyors such as Gate Gourmet or Flying Food Faire at PDX because of a few dollars difference in the meal cost.  Now they're really getting what they're paying for... and many pax won't forget.  Awesome.
 



Date: 05/14/19 06:52
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: jp1822

Well that’s the other hidden reason I piped up on this thread. Appears I paid the highest fare bucket for my “sleeper accommodations,” and heading westbound, was only on for ONE night. So I just got dinner (cold meal) and breakfast. You always want to equate dollars paid with value, and I am really having a hard time with that segment of journey. I am talking that the entire fare bucket was WAY too costly. But the laws of economics prevailed and I was stupid enough to pay the price if I wanted to go......

I am sure there are others who feel de-valued in sleeper on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited. 

NYC4096 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yeah, Amtrak couldn't go with quality purveyors
> such as Gate Gourmet or Flying Food Faire at PDX
> because of a few dollars difference in the meal
> cost.  Now they're really getting what they're
> paying for... and many pax won't forget. 
> Awesome.
>  



Date: 05/14/19 07:59
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: PRR1361

The Auto Train pax consist is and will remain fixed; auto carriers are much easier to add and subtract. Florida is gradually becoming a year-round destination, with not only longer seasons of beach activity, but year-round Disney attractions, plus more and more overseas tourists coming at odd times of year due to vacation and school schedules much different from ours.  If A-T scheduled equipment on and off based on weekly, monthly, seasonal, or holiday demand they would be going nuts trying to balance north-south loads of people and cars. 



Date: 05/14/19 19:50
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: yarrow

the box dinner on 28 out of portland was, in my opinion, the best dinner available on amtrak.  the box breakfast, from havre, on 27 heading into pdx was something else.  not as good as regular dining car fare.



Date: 05/14/19 21:40
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: jp1822

yarrow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> the box dinner on 28 out of portland was, in my
> opinion, the best dinner available on amtrak. 
> the box breakfast, from havre, on 27 heading into
> pdx was something else.  not as good as regular
> dining car fare.

Well that’s gone on #28 now! Just changed this past week! In with the new out with the old, regardless if it was better the “new” has to be cheaper!

Does the Empire Builder still pick up the “box Chicken dinners” at Havre anymore? This was largely a coach passenger option for purchase. Is that just a peak season item? Wasn’t available onboard last week.

Out of all the Western Long Hauls I experienced in the past month, the Empire Builder had to have the busiest and greatest number of onboard staff serving in the diner. It also had the patronage to support it. Just like it had been once before - used BOTH side of the diner to accommodate ALL diners for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!!!! None of this special announcement that we only have so many reservations for the diner - sleeping car passengers first, and coach passengers to the extent that a pre-set of reservation options get filled. Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, and CA Zephyr were all playing this tune. The CA Zephyr I think is still stymied by the lack of a third sleeper. It should hav been added to the consists already, and I don’t think it has been......

Empire Builder is running with its sleepers full. It would certainly fill a second Portland sleeper across its journey. Five consists are used on the Empire Builder. Looking for five sleepers to be added one day. Anderson certainly is not going to do it. If they put a Viewliner Sleeper on the Empire Builder to free up space in the Superliner Trans/Dorm Sleeper, one of the regular Seattle Superliner sleepers would have to be moved to Portland. 

In the 21st century, the Empire Builder operated best in its heyday when it was re-launched with “enhanced” services by Boardman in 2008/2009. RIdership showed a clear increase in the years it operated with “enhanced services.” The refurbed Superliners were positioned on this line, wine and cheese tasting on day 2 in the diner across Montana, Diner with real China, at-seat meal service for coach passengers (largely because of a busy diner), picking up box chicken dinners at Havre to help alleviate the pressure on the diner. Course this was when at least two Seattle coaches were in the consist and there were about three coaches coming out of Portland as well. Much more robust consist. Amtrak needs to add more capacity to the Empire Builder in the next couple of weeks to handle the Glacier National Park traffic that will be overtaking it!



Date: 05/14/19 23:09
Re: Baby Builder #28 and #27 gets New Food Supplier
Author: wzd

What would have been typical dinners on the #28 and breakfast on #27 before the recent change in suppliers?

Thanks.



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