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Who's running Amtrak f&b!?


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#41 ehbowen

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:32 PM

Perhaps they could cross-reference with AGR members to select those with enough Amtrak experience to have some sense of the difference between a real problem and just a bad day.

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#42 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 02:49 PM

Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort.  And it would be quite easy to do.  Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc.  They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip.  Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews.  The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train.


Secret shoppers are a good idea and when done properly they can work wonders exposing institutional failures and management blindness. Unfortunately a proper secret shopper setup tends to require more time and effort (and money) than most businesses are willing to spend, so they simply outsource it with third parties who couldn't care less what is discovered or who does the inspecting.

 

Perhaps they could cross-reference with AGR members to select those with enough Amtrak experience to have some sense of the difference between a real problem and just a bad day.


I happen to think allowing employees to treat customers poorly just because they're having a "bad day" is part of the problem. Employing AGR members will likely skew the results toward whatever minimal standards commuters expect on the way to and from work, which is probably not much and unlikely to be applicable to the rest of the country. I'd rather hear what new customers and people who are familiar with passenger rail in other countries happen to think about Amtrak's service standards.

Edited by Devil's Advocate, 14 June 2017 - 02:51 PM.

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#43 Triley

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 04:28 PM

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?
I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.
If they were checking on your performance discretely how did you even know they visited you?

That's a possibility too. Usually they get up in your face and nosey. Had one manager who drove everyone nuts (thankfully she's retired) who tried to get after me for having a newspaper in an unused ice well. I had put it there so I didn't offend a passenger who told me to have it because I looked bored, and I was waiting until they were out of eyesight to throw it out. Apparently she missed that part. On a previous date she also forced me to do something that I should have refused to do in the name of safety, but being fairly new I did it anyway. I was so irritated by the rules she was breaking and making me break that I almost marked off and deadheaded home.

Whoops. Little off topic there. =o

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#44 Triley

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 04:37 PM

 

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?
 
Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort.  And it would be quite easy to do.  Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc.  They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip.  Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews.  The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train.  Personally, I would volunteer whole-heartedly for that job.  

I don't know if it's urban legend or not, but I have been told by many different that there are spotters, though it's said they're more concerned with making sure I'm not giving stuff away for free, and I'm providing receipts like I'm suppose to. How true it is, I'll probably never know.

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#45 Lonestar648

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 04:45 PM

We had Mystery Shoppers with our company.  They contacted a number of people who would pose as customers, who had been through a training session of what was minimum, all the line items that the shopper had to evaluate, the essay parts with details, and how to provide an objective opinion without regard to what they had heard, seen, or experienced previously.  These shoppers also carried a business card they suppose to only hand out once or twice a month for superb, unexpected, top notch performance.  All the card said was Congratulations on a your work today.  Please call this number after work today.  Either the CEO or COO of the company would answer inviting the employee to a special recognition dinner in the future where they would receive a very special gift. This really kept everyone on their toes since word of a card being handed out spread fast. Our company had almost 60K employees in the USA.


Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                Southwest Chief        Coast Starlight                                    Empire Service
 
Amtrak Miles Logged: over 206,000


#46 crescent-zephyr

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 06:35 PM

 

Wow! Some managers got out of their offices to see real life.  More should be required to ride a few weeks every year, then maybe they would support some needed changes.  Also the affect of negative changes on the passengers.


My now former OBS manager just took a promotion and is essentially in charge of all OBS managers on the west coast. He flew out Monday morning, and he's already been out to see the Capitol Corridor or San Joaquins, I'm not sure which. Thursday he says he'll be out on the Pacific Surfliner. I'm sure he'll keep at it, knowing him. Some here do take pride in their job.

I told him to just let me know when he gets to the Cascades, since that's all I'm curious about!

 

I don't get out there too much but my trips on the Cascades I've had really exceptional service in the cafe car. A few years ago (not sure if they still operate this way) they had 2 people working the "Bistro" car and the hot food they served was more dining car style. A specific example.. I ordered oatmeal and was expecting a cup of instant oatmeal.. I got the dining car oatmeal in an amtrak bowl with the side of brown sugar and raisins served just like you would get it in the diner. 

 

Also... they give Business Class passengers a coupon with a Dollar amount they can use for anything they want to in the Bistro car... that makes way more sense to me then some of the chicago rules. 


Amtrak: - Coast Starlight*, Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin*, Cascades*, Empire Builder*, California Zephyr*, Southwest Chief*, City of New Orleans*, River Cities, Illinois Zephyr*, Wolverine, Cardinal, Capitol Limited*, Lake Shore Limited, Downeaster, Acela Express*, Crescent*, Carolinian*, Silver Star*, Silver Meteor*, Maple Leaf* Texas Eagle.

 

VIA: - Canadian*

 

Iowa Pacific - Hoosier State*, and City of New Orleans Pullman*.   


#47 Thirdrail7

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:12 AM

All depends on what you call "Disney food" - you can get the worst over-priced burger in your life at electric umbrella... Or have a AAA 4 or 5 diamond rated meal at Jiko or Victoria and Alberts. And everywhere in between all over property.

 

I was quite pleased with Jiko. It wasn't "dumbed down."  They were bold with their spices and flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 


I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.

 


If they were checking on your performance discretely how did you even know they visited you?

 

 

 

You'll know when you're approached about something you barely recall or when someone makes a comment (good or bad) about a trip you don't recall.

 

 

 

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.


What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 

Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort.  And it would be quite easy to do.  Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc.  They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip.  Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews.  The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train.  Personally, I would volunteer whole-heartedly for that job.  

 

 

 

There's an entire armada of secret shoppers and corporate managers that act as spotters. There are also a number of supervisors that can (and do) report and document discrepancies (real or imagined). That is on top of the managers that are assigned to the system. A various time of the year, they do regional shake ups in which members will report to other divisions to reduce the risk of familiarity.

 

In the true spirit of NS, they have attempted to hire roving compliance officers that are willing to spend the 90% of the year traveling. Their sole purpose is compliance testing throughout the entire system (as opposed to working a region.) It sounds good if you're single.

 

However, managers, superintendents or the CEO's office can only work with the tools they are given. The Lake Shore Limited fought tooth and nail to preserve their dining car. They even launched a salvo demanding that another group short turn their equipment to yield additional equipment. Managers being out in the field didn't yield any results and fighting for their train didn't have an impact.

 

The Auto Train cuts are embarrassing to some of the leaders. Indeed, a couple of people actually left as a result. Their advocacy accomplished nothing (and in a lot of cases, the passengers advocacy) accomplished nothing.  This is the money your group gets for F&B. PERIOD.

 

I  worked with Pennsylvanian group many years ago. Do you know how long the person in charge of it has been asking a baggage car?  He had customer feedback, station cooperation and even host cooperation. It didn't matter.  I harped on OTP and was basically told that as long as the train was in tolerance, I could pound sand since more money could be made running tenant trains on time than running our own train on time.

 

That's pretty sweet.

 

You still are under the corporate structure...and I think they need more time on the rails.


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#48 VentureForth

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:32 AM

"There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."
-- Sam Walton

"EVERY GUEST on our entire 42 square miles of property is a VIP whether they are visiting the Magic kingdom for a day or vacationing in our resort-hotels for a week or more...Remember that 99% of our guests are great people with everything going their way and having the time of their life. They are the easy ones to serve. Your real challenge will be that tiny 1%...the guests who are hot, tired, hungry, confused, frustrated and perhaps missing their luggage, ticket books or cameras. Or perhaps all of the above. They may not be very understanding and it may be up to you to turn their day around into the positive kind they came here to experience."

--1975 Walt Disney World Cast Member booklet

"If you don't care, your customer never will."

-- Marlene Blaszczyk, Motivational Specialist

"Every company's greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company."

— Michael LeBoeuf

"Customers are an investment. Maximize your return."

— PeopleSoft Ad

"Good customer service costs less than bad customer service."

— Sally Gronow

Point is, Amtrak hardly acts like their in it for the passengers, customers, guests. They're there to run a railroad and the accompanying numbers.

Sadly many great industrial leaders (Disney, Walton, Penney, etc) have seen their companies struggle as their vision is passed to the next generation. Disney seems to be doing pretty well, but the heart there is more hollow than it used to be.

For more: https://www.helpscou.../inspirational/

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#49 jis

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:43 AM

The sordid saga of Amtrak getting placed under the spell of a hostile finance man the last several years will never ever become public to the fullest extent. It has been much worse than usual in the latter part of the Boardman regime, sometimes not even wholly in his control apparently. It is yet to be seen whether Mr. Moorman can actually change much, though some early indications appear to be somewhat positive. I am sure Thirdrail can throw more light on this, to the extent it does not jeopardize his own existence and well being.



#50 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:55 AM

A customer first attitude is a founding leg of any successful business, and a lack of it is almost always present in the failure of one. But the fact of the matter is, the only department stores (a business that was created purely from the concept of customer service) I know that provide good customer service these days is Nordstrom's and Boscov's. And Nordstroms is flagging on that.

A lack of understanding employee treatment and customer service and the relationship between the two is sorely lacking almost everywhere. The problems plaguing Amtrak are often treated as an Amtrak problem here... but a lot of them are much more societal.
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#51 Lonestar648

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 03:53 PM

Norstrum does not have the best customer service. My bag got shipped to the opposite side of the country, so I had to quickly purchase full dress business attire since I was in jeans and a sweatshirt. The men's department staff informed me as I walk over to start looking that the clearance racks had been cleared that I should go across the street to their discount Store. Contacting the store manager was a waste of time, since he told me to make an appointment next week if he was free. I didn't go across the street but went to Dillard's instead. Their men's department was polite and very helpful, even having the tailor drop what he was doing to get me dressed for my meeting. I wrote a letter to Norstrum corporate that was never answered. I have never returned to Nordstrom.

Trains Traveled On:
Texas Eagle                                      Sunset Limited                            California Zephyr                                Southwest Chief                Empire Builder            Capitol Limited           Lake Shore limited (NYP & BOS)      Crescent
Kentucky Cardinal                             Cardinal                                       Pere Marquette                                  Wolverines                        Lincoln Service            Empire Service          Keystone Service                               Acelas
NE Regionals                                    Pioneer                                        Desert Wind                                       Broadway Limited             Three Rivers                Southwest Chief        Coast Starlight                                    Empire Service
 
Amtrak Miles Logged: over 206,000


#52 ainamkartma

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 04:35 PM

Norstrum does not have the best customer service. My bag got shipped to the opposite side of the country, so I had to quickly purchase full dress business attire since I was in jeans and a sweatshirt. The men's department staff informed me as I walk over to start looking that the clearance racks had been cleared that I should go across the street to their discount Store. Contacting the store manager was a waste of time, since he told me to make an appointment next week if he was free. I didn't go across the street but went to Dillard's instead. Their men's department was polite and very helpful, even having the tailor drop what he was doing to get me dressed for my meeting. I wrote a letter to Norstrum corporate that was never answered. I have never returned to Nordstrom.

 

I don't know when your data point was generated, but according to theacsi.org (The American Customer Satisfaction Index), in 2015 Nordstrom _did_ have the best customer service, with an industry-leading rating of 82%.  In 2016, however, they slipped to 80%, behind industry-leading Dillard's and several other players.  Still above the unweighted industry average of 78%, though.

 

Ainamkartma

 

ps Interestingly, theacsi.org does not appear to rank Amtrak in their travel report

pps Oops, should have said "customer satisfaction", not "customer service".  Of course, customer service is just one element of customer satisfaction.


Edited by ainamkartma, 15 June 2017 - 04:37 PM.


#53 Ryan

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 04:46 PM

I don't know when your data point was generated, but according to theacsi.org (The American Customer Satisfaction Index), in 2015 Nordstrom _did_ have the best customer service, with an industry-leading rating of 82%.  In 2016, however, they slipped to 80%, behind industry-leading Dillard's and several other players.  Still above the unweighted industry average of 78%, though.


You highlight the important distinction between anecdotes and data.

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#54 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 11:47 PM

Is there a Nordstroms or Dillards type store that makes a genuine attempt to appeal to male shoppers? Seems like most department stores only cater to half the population anymore. Every mens section always looks like a boring random afterthought with a tiny selection to choose from and no reason to linger a single minute longer.


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 16 June 2017 - 12:25 AM.

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#55 ehbowen

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 12:27 AM

Is there a Nordstroms or Dillards type store that makes a genuine attempt to appeal to male shoppers? Seems like most department stores only cater to half the population anymore. Every mens section always looks like a boring random afterthought with a tiny selection to choose from and no reason to linger a single minute longer.

 

Simple. Women spend the money; men just make the money.

 

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#56 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 02:00 AM

 

Is there a Nordstroms or Dillards type store that makes a genuine attempt to appeal to male shoppers? Seems like most department stores only cater to half the population anymore. Every mens section always looks like a boring random afterthought with a tiny selection to choose from and no reason to linger a single minute longer.

 

Simple. Women spend the money; men just make the money.

 

[Ducks and covers!]

 

 

I had a minor disagreement with a coworker a while back.  I claimed that whenever a man wore certain types of clothing he was inadvertently admitting that he had given up on dressing himself and regressed to the point that his erstwhile lover had become more like an overbearing parental figure to him.  To this day whenever we've taken the time to ask it's always been true.  Even when the subject in question initially claims otherwise eventually the truth comes out and they admit that their wives chose their clothes for them like they were little boys.


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#57 dogbert617

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 02:50 AM

Speaking of this topic, I found this article to be very interesting, and an appropriate one to link to. The comments section even was too, to my surprise had a lot of things I learned for the first time(i.e. Amtrak once considered Subway for providing cafe car service on certain trains, but never did so). This was written back in April 2015, when Joe Boardman was still Amtrak president. And yes, it does talk about the dining car cuts to the Silver Star, Cardinal, and City of New Orleans. Does sound like from reading this article that the food service cuts to SS seemed to be a little worser, vs. the cuts on CONO and Cardinal. Anyway:

 

http://cs.trains.com...mtrak-ouch.aspx



#58 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 06:31 AM

Is there a Nordstroms or Dillards type store that makes a genuine attempt to appeal to male shoppers? Seems like most department stores only cater to half the population anymore. Every mens section always looks like a boring random afterthought with a tiny selection to choose from and no reason to linger a single minute longer.


Boscov's has a pretty well managed and stocked men's department. My wife has never given me fashion advice- it's not her area.
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#59 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 07:39 AM

Forgot to mention Sears, which has always been geared more towards men. But it's a dead store walking.
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#60 Steve4031

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 07:54 AM

Jos A Banks is good.




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