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Passenger Trains > Trip Report - May 2022

Date: 05/11/22 07:51
Trip Report - May 2022
Author: jp1822

Took what is seemingly a "regular trip" out West, but this time - all the way to the West Coast. Trip involved the Lake Shore and Empire Builder....

Lake Shore Limited:
- Lake Shore was at least 30 minutes EARLY into Chicago Union Station
- The 4911 or 4811 car is Viewliner I, and 4912 or 4812 car is a Viewliner II - in general - for LSL train consists. 
- The Water Level Route rode well overnight, or perhaps I am just used to it. 
- Only in upstate NY did we encounter a delay, but it was a passenger issue, not Amtrak or CSX issue. 
- Was nice to use the Viewliner Diner II for both eating and lounging and working as needed. Underrated car I feel and Amtrak needs to do more to promote it and get people to it. Compared to years earlier, more people were eating in their rooms as opposed to coming to the Diner. I understand for some it may be a necessity (handicap or mobility or otherwise), but think about all the food crumbs and spills that may take place in a sleeping car as opposed to the Diner, and which is more equipped to handle spills and crumbs..... 
- Crew is getting ready to "re-bid" as the Lake Shore returns to daily service. 
- Only three coaches, which seemed a but pathetic compared to what this train used to carry; the three sleepers were FULL with people of all ages and demographics etc. Apologies if I am not being political correct, but a pretty diverse crowd in sleeper class, a class that often is stereotyped for catering just to a certain group of people. Not the case in this trip or previous trips I've been on recently.
- Food is still Flex Dining. The usual fare, with a new choice for dessert (instead of a "blondie bar" you could order some puff-filled pastry). Still loaded with salt and sugar, but dinner was good considering. Instead of the Omelette or egg substitute stuff in the morning, I elected for the Continental and I could have gotten - breakfast sandwich, muffin, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt. Of the six or so items - chose all or a combination. Breakfast sandwich was not the usual Jimmy Dean and the combo I picked seemed to work a LOT better than the normal "egg" whatever I'd normally get. 
- Good trip on the Lake Shore, good service; I did see that those of us tipping the sleeper car attendant or food service folks were in the minority. All food was delivered and taken by the LSA at the table I was seated at. I do find if you tip the food service folks at every meal, or at least towards the beginning, there's certainly a better attitude for the rest of the trip. 
- Amtrak has GOT to improve food service for coach passengers. Restricting them to the Cafe Car with limited options for even an overnight journey is not the answer. In general, Amtrak needs to look at a return of traditional dining to the Viewliner II Diners (and making them available to coach AND sleeper car passengers), and then figuring out "better for you food" at both the Diner and Cafe car. 
- Trainees were aboard both in T&E and onboard service staff. Train amply staffed (too much staff, but they need the training so I get it!). 
- I still support that the Lake Shore shout be a receive passengers ONLY westbound between NYC and Albany and discharge only over same route. Passengers are booking coach AND a roomette for these short distances and its potentially bumping out the passenger trying to get a through fare "all the way."

Empire Builder
- First, the windows were CLEAN - no complaints there. Portland and Seattle section. Maybe the rain did it, but they were clean. 
- Sleepers were FULL, coaches were adequately full - two Seattle coaches and two Portland based coaches restored to the Empire Builder consists once again. They need the second Seattle sleeper badly. Only one Seattle and one Portland based sleeper, but they are selling space in the Superliner Trans-Dorm Sleeper Car. 
- Definitely a need for a corridor train from really Grand Forks, ND to Chicago .
- Lot of trainees aboard both in T&E and onboard service staff. Train amply staffed (too much staff, but they need the training so I get it!). 
- Train was on time, or right around an hour late till Minot, where we were supposed to make up time, but actually we ended up leaving 1 hour and 45 minutes late or so. Had to ditch one of the Seattle coach cars in the Minot yard as it was running a hot wheel. Overall, BNSF work crews and Amtrak had this maneuver done in roughly 40 minutes. I was expecting a longer delay overall, considering, but I thought they did a pretty good job. 
- Gained and recovered time all the way to Shelby. Then largely made up time all the way further West. 
- Traditional Dining was a welcome site! Again, restricting coach passengers to the cafe, with limited options and then options that easily sell out, not a good thing. This is a very busy train overall. 
- Traditional Dining food was good. No complaints whatsoever. 
- Lot of disappointed passengers cause we were "late" into the Rockies, even with a 9 pm sunset. I could see now why some are advocating for the schedule to be tightened or Empire Builder to leave a little earlier going westbound. Best is taking the Empire Builder eastbound to see the Rocky Moutain scenery. 
- If you wanted to sit with someone for dinner - it was allowed. 
- Smooth ride for the most part, or again I am just getting used to it. 
- Arrived on-time to West Coast even after being a little over two hours late going across teh Hi Line. 

Overall - good trip. No complaints - just observations and how to make things better. Amtrak seems to have staff around - or new staff in training - just need the added capacity with cars returned to the rails. 

Date: 05/11/22 08:24
Re: Trip Report - May 2022
Author: kbmiflyer

Nice report, good to hear there were several trainees on both trips.

Date: 05/11/22 08:33
Re: Trip Report - May 2022
Author: Lackawanna484

Good report, thanks for sharing.

When the Seattle coach was set out, did that fill up the remaining coaches?

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Date: 05/11/22 18:12
Re: Trip Report - May 2022
Author: jp1822

It was tight, and some shorts were handled in the lounge. 

Date: 05/11/22 18:27
Re: Trip Report - May 2022
Author: norm1153

EXCELLENT report!  Well detailed.  Overall, the trip seemed pretty OK.  Glad to hear of dining food improvements. 

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