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About bratkinson

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  1. cpotisch pointed out an interesting problem getting 5 bedrooms. If everyone is only going CHI-SAS or intermediate points, AND if it's one of 3 days per week the through cars to LA run, then there's 2 full sleepers, at opposite ends of the train. Beyond SAS to LAX, only the through sleeper from Chicago.
  2. bratkinson

    Luggage storage in Chicago's Metropoliton Lounge

    I've had no problems leaving my bags in the lounge at CHI for 4-10 hrs between trains on multiple occasions. Note they close at 9PM and force LSL passengers to the boarding area. I strongly doubt overnight storage is an option and your bags will end up at lost and found.
  3. bratkinson

    Acela Assigned Seating Experience

    Apparently I was unclear in my intent. What I'm saying is they should never loop or wye the Acela trains, except in unusual situations like PTC/ACSES not working in front unit. For example, all odd number Acelas would have the FC car in the front, and even numbered trains, the rear. It allows fast, at platform changes of train# and direction.
  4. From my experience, the 'rules' of how many rooms get sold at low price, then next higher price, etc, is a mystery. So is the 'rules' of when they do across-the-board changes up or down. They've both been discussed on this site in recent months. As far as booking 5 couples, I'd lean towards having one person call the 800 number and book all five rooms at once. Hopefully you'll be connected to a savvy agent that can get them in one small cluster vs spread out, possibly in 2 different cars. If one person is an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, have them make and pay for all reservations. With multiple AGR members, transfer points between yourselves after they get posted. As far as paying goes, if everyone has identical accomodations (all roomettes, for example) simply divide the total cost equally. Otherwise, you'll be in the 'trap' of one person buying diiner for 10, then trying to figure out who owes $5, who owes $7, etc...and possibly making enemies as a result.
  5. bratkinson

    Acela Assigned Seating Experience

    Without trying to start another firestorm, this is EXACTLY why I push for Acela trainsets to ALWAYS be consistently 'faced'. ie, FC on the BOS end always, or WAS end, always. No exceptions except for unusual circumstances.
  6. While I have no actual proof they ran diesels under the wire NHV-BOS yesterday, I can make a reasonable guess. I rode #157 from Windsor Locks CT to NYP and was absolutely AMAZED to see the results of freezing rain the night before SOUTH of Hartford. In the Springfield area, we had sleet and more sleet, but there was no evidence of freezing rain when I drove to WNL about 7:45. Obviously, the rain/freezing rain/sleet/snow line was about Hartford. Everything south of Hartford was a giant fairyland! There was a half inch of ice on everything! Many trees were bent over, but the vast majority were 'magically' glistening in the sunlight. I wanted to take a photo or two as it has to be a once in 20 years or so situation where ice from freezing rain lasts past 7-8 AM on a clear sunny morning. The best views were into the low sun causing all the trees to be back lit and the ice 'lit up' dramatically. Unfortunately, there's only very brief 'open land' on the east side of the train to get a decent composition without being obstructed by buildings and junk. So I never got a shot. At NHV, the usual power change to electric went smoothly. The ice and snow were gone by the time we reached Bridgeport 20 minutes latet. I strongly suspect that the 30 mile wide band of freezing rain clobbered the Shore Line route in the vicinity of Providence, roughly straight east of Hartford. The overhead wire at New Haven was ice caked, but everything appeared to be running OK. I got off at NYP to wait for #97 to take me to FTL. While watching the monitors in the lounge, 95% of ALL Amtrak trains were running15-180 minutes late in both directions. #97 'left' 3.25 hrs late at 6:30. In actuality, we moved 10 feet and stopped for 15 minutes, but the official departure was 6:30. I heard the reason was frozen doors. Why was everything from WAS to BOS delayed? After almost 48 years, Amtrak STILL hasn't figured out how to handle winter! Enough of my editorializing.
  7. bratkinson

    Choosing Roomettes on SWC

    You're 100% correct, cpotisch! Don't be afraid of calling back to get an agent that 'knows their stuff'. I always request #14 when traveling on a Superliner. Based on the keying I hear while they check its availability, I suspect they first make the reservation and take whatever room it gives, then do a 'modification' to change it to #14. For what it's worth, I 'modified' a reservation for April when I saw the roomette price on the Crescent had dropped over $200. I called, and they 'modified' the reservation to a different room number...#1!!! I took the agent less than a minute to change the roomette number AND issue a voucher for the difference!
  8. As has been suggested in other threads in this and other forums, getting and 'open' sleeper ticket for the extra passenger might be the solution. A simple coach ticket is likely not sufficient, although I think the conductor MAY be willing to accept that when in a fully ticketed sleeper passenger. YMMV. Either way, though, I wonder what would happen in the diner...would the 'extra' person be treated to free meal(s) without being specifically named on the sleeper ticket? Again, the willingness of the LSA to do so would make t he difference.
  9. bratkinson

    AGR Taxable Income Question

    I strongly doubt the IRS or state tax departments are concerned about AGR points, nor are they concerned about frequent flyer miles which is the same thing. Employers that pay for your tickets sometimes want or claim the points/FF Miles rightly 'belong' to them as they paid for the ticket(s). And then the big shots fly for free on your points/FF Miles. Until the IRS sends me a letter inquiring about my earned/bought AGR points, I'm not going to worry about it.
  10. How many of us on this forum have a clear memory of what full dining car service was like in the 50s? Or even the 60s? It was 'first class' at it's finest. Real silverware, real china with a railroad and even train specific pattern, and a multitude of types of dishes from dinner plates to relish plates, and even finger bowls. Of course, this included perfectly washed and pressed table cloths, napkins, and real sugar bowls and small pitchers of cream. There were typically 8-10 entrees on each of the three daily menus and often, local or route specific specialties such as trout on the menu. All this was served by a staff of 3-4 waiters and head waiter/maitre'd, all impeccably dressed in starched white jackets and black pants. There were 3 or 4 in the kitchen as well. To get that kind of service today at a brick and mortar restaurant you're looking at $80 and up per meal. Higher in New York City. So who wants to pay $80 for a meal on a train that's served like 'the good ol' days'? That not-filet-mignon steak dinner served on todays Amtrak LD trains, if served with all the bells and whistles of 1950s diner cars would likely be in the $80 range as well. Remember, too, that back then, labor was cheap and tools, stoves, cars were comparatively expensive. Today it's the opposite. A decent living wage for an LSA is likely $30/hr, plus another $20/hr in benefits...maybe more considering Railroad Retirement Tier 2 'added taxes' is also matched by the RR. (As an aside...Railroad Retirement Tier 1 is identical to Social Security in percentages taken and payouts, Tier 2 is essentially an RR-matched 'pension fund' that when paid out in retirement, is based on highest pay rate x some percentage x number of years worked under Railroad Retirement) In short, there's no way John Q Public is willing to pay $45 for breakfast and $85-100 for dinner on a train. For what it's worth, Ed Ellis tried to revive the 1950s train travel with a complete Pullman experience including meals...at $1500-2000 per person for one night. Between fully restored (not redesigned/modern style) 1950s Pullman cars and uniformed staff and first class dinners, I suspect most buyers/riders were less than thrilled to be in a cramped, genuine 1950-style bedroom and rough IC/CN track CHI-NOL and did not do the trip a second time. And though there are still a dwindling number of us old timers that can remember those great days of train travel, the bulk of what I see on NEC trains is largely 20-60 year old people, mostly business employees. On LD trains, the number of 20-60 year olds surpassed the number of 60+ year olds at least 20 years ago...even in sleepers. So, it comes down to pleasing the 20-60 year old long distance travelers, many of whom appear to have limited funds for traveling. How can Amtrak attract those passengers, especially for a second, third, or tenth time? Whether they're vacationers going to major destinations or small town dwellers on their way to/from Podunk, MT, how can they be convinced/lured/'sold' on making additional trips on Amtrak? First and foremost, don't 'break the bank' in charging for tickets. In most LD markets, Amtrak is competing with everything from Megabus to Greyhound to discount airlines. By the way...how many 'full service' airlines are 'doing well' these days? Most have cut services to the bone and charge for everything! Amtrak has to price its travel options to be competitive with other travel options, including driving. Priced too high, passengers don't come back. Priced too low? Congress is on their back extra heavy to become 'profitable'. So, Amtrak has no choice, really, to become 'bare bones' food service. How many 'frills' are included with dinner at McDonalds or Ruby Tuesday? Now limit the cost of what's being served due to higher labor costs ($50/hr vs $10-12/hr for restaurant wait staff) as well as added maintenance costs due to the restaurant traveling 100,000 miles per year. I agree that $12 for a hamburger with chips and pickle is a bit high. But compare that to a Big Mac and fries for about $8. I prefer the diner-cooked burgers to McDonalds any time. Even the burger on the Cardinal tastes better than a quarter pounder in my opinion. Consider the 'market' for what's being served on the train these days. Satisfying various 'tastes' from vegan to kosher as well as 'real meat' people like myself is a menu creators' nightmare. Keeping costs low is even more so. But if it satisfies the 20-60 YO passengers, then it's a good choice. However, based on the new menu, I don't think I'll partake of contemporary dining anytime soon. I'll just keep walking through and get my food in the lounge car.
  11. bratkinson

    FC Meals on 2160

    I just checked the Acela FC menus ( click here then click 'Acela Express First Class menus' about mid screen to open the PDF), there's some variety of eggs for every breakfast and other items that may be hot, I can't tell. They change menus every 2 weeks, presumably. So which menu is in use is unknown until you board.
  12. bratkinson

    Will Gov Shutdown bring more riders to Amtrak?

    Seeing news reports last night on 2+ hour long lines at various airports leads me to believe that air travelers are/will soon reconsider flying in the near future. That may result in some travelers that have the time to take Amtrak. But then the 'close in dates' higher pricing (aka, 'yield management' that was started by airlines shortly after deregulation) will likely deter all but the most urgent-need travelers from taking Amtrak. On the other hand, if these delayed/inconvenienced air travelers contacted that representatives in Congress about how the shutdown is hurting them, THEN, perhaps, BOTH sides will be willing to negotiate in the White House.
  13. Perhaps it's a 'safety net' in case the lead unit has a HEP failure for any reason. Winter in an unheated train can be far more harmful to Amtrak than cooking in summer. Back in the 70's, I had a couple of trips where I went to bed fully dressed and could see my breath. At least I had the warmth of a blanket on top of me. I doubt the coach passengers fared so well.
  14. bratkinson

    Toledo Station Baggage Question

    Based on the hours of operation you posted, the place gets locked up at 1:30PM and reopened 9 hours later. If you get there after 1:30, (and maybe even earlier if it's a 'slow' day), you'll find the doors locked. So the question becomes...will they store your bag(s) if you get there before 1PM until train time? I suggest calling them to find out.
  15. bratkinson

    Boston South Station

    It's actually OVER furnished, in my opinion. I've been there perhaps 15-20 times in the past 5 years and NEVER seen more than 4-5 passengers any of those times. Usually it's only 2 or 3 other than myself. One would think that folks waiting for the last Acela of the day (#2175 at 5:20) there'd be a hoard of passengers up there. NOPE! It was only me and TWO other Acela passengers last night! It's quite the opposite of that at NYP, PHL and WAS. There's also a steady stream of Amtrak employees and red caps that come to use the rest room and chat with the lady/ladies at the desk...maybe grab a soda or coffee as well.