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Date: 04/02/21 05:36
Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: ClubCar

On a couple of threads below there have been many discussions concerning dinning cars.  Let me say first that in my travels in the bygone days (pre-Amtrak and when Amtrak began) I always enjoyed having a meal in a dinning car, especially traveling on one of my favorite railroads, the Baltimore & Ohio before Amtrak.  I personally feel that all long-distance passenger trains operated by Amtrak should have a dinning car and on shorter trips, regional operations such as the "Pennsylvanian" there should be a Food Bar type of service for passengers.
Now let me tell you a true story about owning a dinning car.  The Baltimore Chapter NRHS acquired a diner named "Pittsburgh" from the B&O around 1968.  When the chapter operated their excursions on both the B&O and the Western Maryland Railway, at first the B&O furnished coaches and usually the two passenger cars from the WM were also used.  The dinning car "Pittsburgh" also went along and the Chapter used it for full service dinners on the longer trips and as a sandwich and snack car for other trips.  The point is that whether or not the car was operated, maintaining the car was expensive.  This car called the "Pittsburgh" was a light-weight modern 4 wheel truck car that came to the B&O originally from their famous "Columbian" train.  This car had the D-22 braking system that all modern passenger cars had at that time and these brakes had to be serviced about every two years, whether or not the car moved at all.  This was a Federal Government (ICC) requirement for all passenger cars of this type.  So the Baltimore Chapter NRHS had to spend X amount of dollars every two years just for the brakes on this car to be serviced, not even counting many other expenses, to keep this car roadworthy to be operated by the railroads.  With this in mind, how much food had to be sold in this car just to break even with these expenses?  Remember, the NRHS is an all volunteer organization so it was their own members who worked in the diner.  The chapter eventually sold this dinning car to the group called Railroad Passenger Cars (RRP), and they kept it for a couple of years before they too realized that it was too expensive to maintain a dinning car for these excursions, and few other groups ever rented this car.  So with all of this history in mind and realizing the fact that Amtrak needs to have proper food service (dinning cars) for long-distance trains, it is impossible for them or any other company to make a profit with a diner because of the costs alone to maintain the car.  RRP was able to provide some food service for the excursion trains using their former B&O Food Bar Car because they were able to sell the 38 coach seats in the car as well as serve food from the kitchen of the car.  The revenue from the coach tickets at least contributed to the maintenance of the car.  I do hope that all of you reading this really comprehend what I am explaining here.  Just selling food and drinks in a dinning car will not make the car profitable period. 
This story has been told to me by a knowledgeable former member of the RRP group. Thanks.
John in White Marsh, Maryland 



Date: 04/02/21 06:01
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: Molino

TLDR...



Date: 04/02/21 07:10
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: PRSL-recall

I for one certainly appreciate this John. I think you will find that you are "preaching to the choir" to many of us. We have been convinced for years that the dining car is a major draw for many long-distance passengers. We love being able to meet people in there and have great conversations. We've often been politely asked at the close of our meals to make room for the next round, and we do. We have no problem with eating at the specified operating hours for whatever meal is being served. The first dining car I ever ate in was on the B&O Capitol Limited in June 1970. It was tremendous and has left me with a lasting impression which I will never forget. Whenever and wherever there is a diner I make it a point to utilize it. Many here will sign on but of course others reject thinking for one thing it has to be profitable. It is not very likely they will change their mind but neither will we. To close this comment I will say that anytime I have ridden as a passenger especially on western trains there are always plenty of passengers enjoying their meal and I'm sure that most of them have never participated in a board like Trainorders.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/02/21 07:12 by PRSL-recall.



Date: 04/02/21 08:15
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: webmaster

Dining cars are not a break even proposition and never were.  Equipment depreciation, upkeep, labor,  car movement expenses, and food costs exceed the revenue directly received from passengers. A pair of sleeping car passengers in a roomette may pay $600 for an overnight roomette and eat three meals in the dining car.  How much value do those meals add to the room?  If you can cut the food service expense in half by eliminating expenses, and the revenue that can be generated by that rooms stays the same then that would be considered a success.  However, if you can now only generate $350 in revenue for that room because people won't take the train because of the lousy food then the value of the diner becomes apparent.

A few years ago there was the Silver Star experience where the dining car service was eliminated and sleepers were on their own.  I have not been following the situation, but I think food has returned.  So if this is true Amtrak must have found that you have to offer something. Perhaps getting rid of food on overnight trains was not a good idea because people that have the money to choose sleeper service want to eat.   Make the experience lousy and these customers will choose other travel options.

My prediction is in 5 years long distance train service will offer the same heat and serve airline food that Amtrak has been moving towards in recent years.   it isn't great, but it lowers cost, and if revenue does not suffer then from a business standpoint there is no reason to transition away from it.  If you want a traditional dining car experience book a room on the Canadian. It is expensive, but that is what it costs to offer a true 1950s dining car experience with cooks in the kitchen, several servers, and food scratch made onboard.  

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



Date: 04/02/21 08:49
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: kurtarmbruster

I'm all for "dinning" cars--give the kids (and old folks) a place to let off steam.



Date: 04/02/21 08:58
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: rgzfan

I remember when I rode the (amtrak) chief to Raton to visit Philmont. I was growing and constantly hungry. Some other kids didn't eat their peas in the dining car, and I gladly ate them. Normally, I didn't like peas. But these were pretty decent peas. 



Date: 04/02/21 09:44
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: Cupolau

Where else do you sit down with total strangers to have a meal together? We're not talking five star restaurant meals so time out from the normal way of life and thoroughly relaxing as time goes by is something most of us look  forward to traveling on long distance trains. No doubt the pandemic has raised a level of awareness and maybe paranoia of coming in close contact with people not wearing a mask. No doubt it will take time but eventually we will get back to some form of normalcy.



Date: 04/02/21 10:17
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: IC_2024

rgzfan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I remember when I rode the (amtrak) chief to Raton
> to visit Philmont. I was growing and constantly
> hungry. Some other kids didn't eat their peas in
> the dining car, and I gladly ate them. Normally, I
> didn't like peas. But these were pretty decent
> peas. 

Haha-- nice, rgz fan! 
Quick story:   I was headed back to Chicago from soccer camp in Tampa in the summer of 1977, and traveling alone in the sleeper on train #52, the "Floridian" at age 14!   Feeling like quite the grown-up, I repaired to the diner ( old school film noir type talking) and ordered the fried chicken dinner.  The rather rotund Service Attendant returned with  a -HALF-Chicken, mashes potatoes and peas (I ate mine, too) on one of those blue and white plates--I have some in my diner horde collection, now--and she winked at me saying "I hope you brought your appetite w/ you?"   That half-chicken loomed larger than life to me at that point, but I went to work on it, and still had room for Apple pie a la mode for dessert!   



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/02/21 10:33 by IC_2024.



Date: 04/02/21 11:34
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: toledopatch

kurtarmbruster Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm all for "dinning" cars--give the kids (and old
> folks) a place to let off steam.

If the quiet cars can be kept quiet, then certainly the dinning cars should be allowed to be noisy, right?



Date: 04/02/21 12:27
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: rgzfan

Sounds great. Now I'm hungry.

> Quick story:   I was headed back to Chicago from
> soccer camp in Tampa in the summer of 1977, and
> traveling alone in the sleeper on train #52, the
> "Floridian" at age 14!   Feeling like quite the
> grown-up, I repaired to the diner ( old school
> film noir type talking) and ordered the fried
> chicken dinner.  The rather rotund Service
> Attendant returned with  a -HALF-Chicken, mashes
> potatoes and peas (I ate mine, too) on one of
> those blue and white plates--I have some in my
> diner horde collection, now--and she winked at me
> saying "I hope you brought your appetite w/
> you?"   That half-chicken loomed larger than
> life to me at that point, but I went to work on
> it, and still had room for Apple pie a la mode for
> dessert!   



Date: 04/02/21 12:58
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: ts1457

IC_2024 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Quick story:   I was headed back to Chicago from
> soccer camp in Tampa in the summer of 1977, and
> traveling alone in the sleeper on train #52, the
> "Floridian" at age 14!   Feeling like quite the
> grown-up, I repaired to the diner ( old school
> film noir type talking) and ordered the fried
> chicken dinner.  The rather rotund Service
> Attendant returned with  a -HALF-Chicken, mashes
> potatoes and peas (I ate mine, too) on one of
> those blue and white plates--I have some in my
> diner horde collection, now--and she winked at me
> saying "I hope you brought your appetite w/
> you?"   That half-chicken loomed larger than
> life to me at that point, but I went to work on
> it, and still had room for Apple pie a la mode for
> dessert!   

Burned come calories at soccer camp?



Date: 04/02/21 15:44
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: jeff56

Dining Car......I always thought it was spelled dining car.
I cringe when it's mispelled, and Google verified "Dining Car".



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/02/21 15:44 by jeff56.



Date: 04/02/21 16:18
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: Jimbo

jeff56 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dining Car......I always thought it was spelled
> dining car.
> I cringe when it's mispelled, and Google verified
> "Dining Car".

Agree wholeheartedly.  And it is not "Diner Car."  "Diner," for short, is OK in my book.  But not "Diner Car."  IMHO!

It even says "Dining Car" on the side of the car!

Jim



Date: 04/02/21 16:39
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: mp51w

How many of you remember waiting in line for your turn to be seated for a great meal in the Diner?
I remember standing with my dad in that hot hallway next to the kitchen many times!



Date: 04/03/21 05:03
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: bandob

"TLDR..."

For those like me, who are not "up" on all of today's acronyms, this means "Too long, didn't read."  Applies to internet posts.  Just another example of our society that wants everything now  in mini-bites.  So much for thoughtful discussion.

B&OBill



Date: 04/03/21 05:40
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: RuleG

bandob Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "TLDR..."
>
> For those like me, who are not "up" on all of
> today's acronyms, this means "Too long, didn't
> read."  Applies to internet posts.  Just another
> example of our society that wants everything now
>  in mini-bites.  So much for thoughtful
> discussion.
>
> B&OBill

Thank you, B&OBill, for pointing this out.

It is OK to use commonly known railroad acronyms such as PRR and BN.  However, it would not diminish the lives of Trainorders members to take a little extra time to spell out other acronyms.



Date: 04/03/21 09:12
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: Streamliner

I fully realize that on a site like TO, there are many folks who just want to ride a train.  It pretty much doesn't matter to them which train it is, where it is going, how late it may be running, the condition of the equipment, the smoothness of the track, or if there will be food served onboard, they just want to RIDE!  Nothing wrong with that, but that's not me or my wife.  

After a lifetime of work, we are now retired, in a comfortable position and would just LOVE to ride trains all over America.  We don't demand a "Four Seasons Hotel" type of experience, but we do want a comfortable ride and at least "good" food in a proper Dining Car.  Unfortunately, this type of service is not currently available on Amtrak and has not been available for many years, in my honest opinion.  Again, on a site like TO, I fully expect my words to not be well received, but that's how we feel.  Airline food, three times a day, over a three or four day journey?  No thanks.  We will be driving or flying & driving.  Unless something truly amazing happens to upgrade Amtrak service, our long distance train riding days in the USA are over.  As for The Canadian, astonishingly great food on our trip a few years back, but the ride on the lumpy-bumpy track was horrible and NINETEEN hours late between Vancouver and Winnipeg.  We won't be doing that again anytime soon either.

Hope you are all doing well,

Allen Drucker



Date: 04/03/21 10:50
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: aronco

While working for Santa Fe Railway and living in Winslow in 1968 to 1971,  one of our favorite Sunday activities was to ride the Eastbound Super Chief / El Capitan from Winslow to Albuquerque and back.  We would leave Winslow about 830am and immediately proceed to the Super Chief diner for a adequate breakfast.  I would usually have the "Santa Fe" french toast with cripy bacon, while my wife would sample something else from the menu, perhaps the kippered herring and scrambled eggs.  After breakfast, we would retire to the dome car and enjoy the ride through the red cliffs East of Gallup.  The schedule allowed us about 5 hours in Albuquerque, time enough for a quick trip to one of the malls or downtown stores.  Boarding the Westbound Super Chief about 500pm (it was always on time, mind you) we would proceed to the diner again, for a dinner fit for first class travel.  I usually opted for the french boned lamb chops.  Then, again, to the dome car, for a fine ride home, arriving about 900pm.
My pass, as a supervisor, was honored on all trains, but my wife's pass was not good on trains 17 and 18, so I would dutifully type out a message to the conductor of the trains involved:
                                                     Conductor, Train 18 from Winslow April 3, 1970
                                                     Conductor Train 17 from Albuq. April 3, 1970
                                                     Honor pass number xxxx545 favor Mrs. N. C. Orfall
                                                     wife of Transportation Supervisor
                                                     Winslow to Albuq. and return.

                                                     E. Gillmore Supt.

As a supervisor, all correspondence and mesasges were issued over the superintendents name, and I of course, conveniently had the authority to do so.
Ah, the memories!!!

 

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Date: 04/03/21 12:19
Re: Dining Cars Once Again
Author: gobbl3gook

Just a reminder -- the US Senate is the outfit that decides much of what happens at Amtrak.  

If you want to see dining car service restored as part of the current infrastructure package, you should make sure your senators know your wishes.  

https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

FWIW, 
Ted in OR



Date: 04/03/21 15:54
Re: Dinning Cars Once Again
Author: SanDiegan

Cupolau Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Where else do you sit down with total strangers to
> have a meal together? We're not talking five star
> restaurant meals so time out from the normal way
> of life and thoroughly relaxing as time goes by is
> something most of us look  forward to traveling
> on long distance trains. No doubt the pandemic has
> raised a level of awareness and maybe paranoia of
> coming in close contact with people not wearing a
> mask. No doubt it will take time but eventually we
> will get back to some form of normalcy.

It started way before COVID .... remember when Amtrak used anti-social Millennials as the excuse ?



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