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About rtabern

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    Suburban Chicago

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  1. My friend who works at the Riverside Amtrak Call Center just got called into the meeting room over lunch --- and was told the ENTIRE Riverside call center will be shut down and everyone will lose their jobs effective January 18. Get ready for super long wait times! I get that call centers are somewhat of a dying business, but feel bad for my friend because both he and his wife's income come from there. I don't see them moving clear across the country either to take a job in PA.
  2. rtabern

    Great Dome 2018 Schedule

    The answer... A LONG TIME when it's the Great Dome. Amtrak doesn't just have dome car windows sitting around anywhere --- because "Ocean View" is the last remaining dome car. The window cracked in I believe 2010... and it took two years for it to be fixed. It was cracked and actually filling up with water between the two panes of glass during the November 2010 trip I did on the Cardinal. The joke was we should get some fish to put in there and it could be a fish tank. Amtrak, in the interim, put a metal plate over the window.... it took around 2 years for it to be fixed. Hopefully New York State will light a fire under Amtrak's rear and get this fixed soon for their fall colors trips -- as Ocean View was highly promoted. So, I could see that happening. However --- maybe not, too. Several sources "in the know" have said that Amtrak was not planning to run Ocean View through its required mechanical work needed in Spring 2019 and will shelve the car somewhere instead. I was just hoping it would be in working condition -- and that it might go on the Hiawatha on Thanksgiving Week -- so my wife and I could have a few last rides. Only time will tell if it's going to be fixed or not. I work as a group tour manager --- and had to call Amtrak a few minutes ago because I have 4 tour groups riding the Downeaster from Boston to Maine in the coming weeks (scaled back to Dover, NH due to track work). Anyway, the head of group sales for the Downeaster and the Adirondack had no clue about what happened with the Dome. Doesn't surprise me really with Amtrak having poor communication on everything --- however you think SOMETHING would have been conveyed to the group desk by now so they could actually call groups who might be riding because of the dome and see if they still want to go or not!!?? *sighs* I really hope that sources who are in the know about the dome car will post something here... would maybe once they hear something? That would be super awesome! I'd like to say! 7
  3. I am Vice President of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) in La Plata, MO -- we just spent the last couple of years putting together a website dedicated to the Great Domes and Ocean View... feel free to check it out. www.AmtrakDome.com Moderator's Note: the APRHF is a 501©(3) non-profit organization and I have no personal financial benefit by posting this link. Just launched this website today. We also manage... www.PacificParlourCar.com now, too...
  4. In addition to the Legacy Club closing soon (see separate post)... the next cut appears to be the last remaining dome car Ocean View. Due for major maintenance in Spring 2019... Will be shelved in Beech Grove instead! I know Amtrak management lurks here. Can you at least give it a proper sendoff with some runs in the Midwest and other areas of the country where single level equipment is used and announced in advance? Don't pull what you did with the Parlour Cars where we had almost no notice to ride. https://untappedcities.com/2018/08/21/amtraks-last-glass-ceiling-great-dome-car-is-headed-for-its-final-journey-in-new-york/
  5. The "sooner" part is looking more and more likely. Apparently there is a big secret meeting above CUS today in the Amtrak offices to determine an official closure date and when the announcement will be made public. If it's any indication they stopped selling monthly passes now too. Can you say on other around September 30 even? Just sad. Will be going down there soon to get photos.
  6. I got wind that the Legacy Club at Chicago Union Station is likely slated to close by June 2019... if not sooner. Amtrak was planning to use this as a "model" --- and if successful --- would be emulated at other larger stations around the country. Apparently it was NOT a success. My guess is --- sleeping car passengers and business class passengers already have a free lounge (Metropolitan Lounge) no more than 200 feet away... that is pretty much the same.... and is free, so they're not going to pay $20 a head to use another lounge. Coach passengers are generally economic minded and the $20 a head was too steep for them. If I'm scraping up $30 to go to Carbondale or wherever, I probably wouldn't pay $20 for some cookies and soda... I'd use that $20 to upgrade to business class and get a nicer seat and get in the Metropolitan Lounge. Apparently, daily Metra commuters and office workers who work around the station are killing Amtrak's bottom line... buying $50 monthly passes and then coming every day between 12:30p-1:30p for the happy hour and getting 2 free alcoholic drinks every day. Hey, that's upto 40 drinks for $50 in a month. This hasn't been announced anywhere I have seen, but Amtrak is preparing to close the lounge and quietly stopped selling the yearly pass. Rumor has it, that retail will be moving in there --- quite possibly a wine shop is the buzz going around now. Won't happen for several more months though as there are other priorities and construction going on that retail might worry about hurting business. Hope they keep the room and old barber shop the same.
  7. rtabern

    Alan Burden (AlanB)

    I will just echo what everyone else has send on here so far... Alan was a great guy. We would get together every now and then when he would pass through Chicago on one of his rail trips. Even though I only attended the two Chicago gatherings, Alan was an awesome planner of such events. I think a lot of people never saw all of the work and energy that went into planning something like that because they always went so smooth -- from the transit riding, to the meals, and getting everyone where they needed to be to stick to the schedule. I had the honor of giving Alan and his mom (Grace) a ride into Downtown Chicago on the last gathering and will remember the ride down. Yes, atleast he died what he loved doing -- much better than being bed-ridden in a hospital for months -- but why can't we all die well into our 80's doing what we love? Mid-50's is way too soon. Let that serve as a lesson of sorts to people who are afraid to splurge a little and take that dream trip sooner than later. Atleast Alan had a lot of fun travels and made a lot fun memories for himself, me, and fellow AU'er friends. I had an aunt who passed around the same age who worked and saved every penny she could and never travel. After seeing that as a teen, I learned you have to splurge now and then... yes, pay the bills, but don't totally put off that rail trip you have always wanted to do across Canada... maybe going to Hawaii and getting your 50th State... or going to that national park you always wanted to see. Atleast he had a good life. Hope to ride trains with you again someday in another life my friend...
  8. rtabern

    Great Dome 2018 Schedule

    I was hoping it was really going to be back on the Cardinal... Rode it in 2010 and 2011 several times from CHI to WAS. The scenery through WV and VA was fantastic. Didn't really care for the dome on the Adriondack (2016) or Downeaster (2017). Great scenery through NY, but the lack of dome from NYP to ALB... conductors refusing to open it until Saratoga... and sub-par Trails and Rails yacking made me not want to repeat it. On the Downeaster it was just too crowded. I like it on the Hiawatha or Midwest runs where it's a more chill experience through farm country.
  9. rtabern

    Great Dome 2018 Schedule

    They published it last year. Hopefully they update that for this year.Great, thanks! Does anyone know when this might be updated for this year, and if there is one for the Adirondack? It will probably take time. They'll have to figure which train is which,,,and which one isn't the Cardinal. It may take months. The updated version now reads this will be the dome's first appearance in Maine. Maybe I was just dreaming... But I swear I rode it to Brunswick in Summer 2016. I guess the media relations folks swapped the press release from 2010 of it being on the Cardinal... for the 2016 release of it debuting on the Downeaster? Maybe the third try will get it right?
  10. rtabern

    2018 Season Trails & Rails Cuts

    There were some qualified, informative, entertaining guides doing Trails & Rails. And some who were not. The common denominator for the good ones was "Less is more." Tell travelers the basics, as briefly as possible, throw in a bit of humor, then stop talking until passing the next important feature. And, oh BTW, they're not ALL important features.. The ones who were downright aggravating rambled on and on, and never learned how to use the PA system so words were crisp and at a reasonable volume. This is a program that should be developed into a Trails & Rails 2.0, using audio and maybe video recordings about the MAJOR features and historical factoids being ridden through. Some of the better guides could play a crucial role in developing T&R 2.0. T&R 2.0 has somewhat been developed at the Midwest level. I was a T&R docent on the Empire Builder and Southwest Chief for about ten years. After the Philadelphia wreck, the head of Trails and Rails came at all groups with very tight restrictions about what we could talk about. Some of it made sense (no politics or talking about the wreck) but most of it was crazy. We had to stick to his script and couldn't mention anything unless it was approved. The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation, which I'm on the Board of Directors of... Which sponsored T&R on the Chief... had enough of the red tape. We broke off from T&R in 2015 and call our educational program the APRHF Rail Rangers. Amtrak has some exclusive deal with T&R... so we do private car trip narration across seven states in the Midwest. We do public programs several times a month on the South Shore Line. We have books and ebooks and are starting to develop podcasts. We basically picked the best 12 of the 70 or so T&R guides out of Chicago when things ended three years ago on the Chief. We are a non profit 501c3. www.railrangers.org www.dunestrain.com
  11. rtabern

    Amtrak's New "Fresh Choices" Dining on CL & LSL

    I love the corporate spin that Amtrak always does --- instead of the headline being "Dining Cars being Pulled"... it's "Fresh, New Contemporary Choices Coming Soon". It's yet another Amtrak DOWNGRADE that we have seen time and time again with "America's Railroad" since around 2010 --- newspapers, wine tastings on the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder, trains with their own different menus, juice choices, Silver Star-vation, ready-to-heat meals on the City of New Orleans and Cardinal, Pacific Parlour Cars, giving private car owners a hard time, and on and on. We haven't taken the train east very much in recent years, and certainly won't anymore.
  12. The schedule has been posted for 2018 Trails & Rails program dates/routes: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/amtraktrailsandrails/trains.htm Significant cuts include: **Elimination of ALL T&R programs on the California Zephyr **Elimination of ALL T&R programs on the City of New Orleans **Elimination of the last remaining T&R program on the Sunset Limited (Amistad Natl Rec Area) **Two of the three T&R routes on the Empire Builder got cut (including MN and ND programs) **The remaining Empire Builder T&R program stays with-in Washington State -- meaning no programs through Glacier National Park **The only remaining program on the Southwest Chief (out of La Junta, CO) becomes a daytrip to Las Vegas, NM -- no guides into ABQ or over Gloireta Pass **Even smaller T&R programs got cut -- like the Indiana Dunes program -- only going 2x a week for about 3 months now **Elimination of ALL T&R programs out of New Orleans (the founding city of Trails & Rails) -- including runs into Mississippi on the City of New Orleans // on the Crescent to Atlanta // and into Texas on the Sunset Ltd I spoke with one ranger who heads a program and was told they wouldn't be surprised 2018 is the last year programs will run.
  13. How about working out the bugs so that adding equipment doesn't delay the train? That seems like a better idea. I'd be interested in knowing how many private cars delayed trains versus Amtrak's own switching equipment delayed the trains. IIRC the Autumn Express also runs at a relatively slow time of the year (IIRC that part of September/October is only behind January/February in terms of slower ridership), so it's less disruptive than it might be, and it doesn't do too bad on the revenue front (IIRC they've had to add frequencies in previous years to deal with demand, and I highly doubt they'd do that on a money-loser). The Autumn Express usually occurs around late OCT/early NOV and occurs while other specials are running. While it may not be the actually busiest times, you are approaching THE busiest time of year. We've lost quite a few Amfleets since this first special operated. The equipment has to be positioned and prepped for the bare bones shop count tolerance for Thanksgiving. I see a petition has formed. Perhaps Mr. Anderson is an evil genius. I will elaborate in the CEO thread. I am by no means a private car "expert"... but I am Vice President of a rail historical group that does narration on private cars... we have 7 partners where we narrate for over a 7-state region of the Upper Midwest... and I personally have been on between 60-65 moves since 2010. I can only remember *ONE* private car move that delayed the train... this was 2016 in MSP with an IPH dome car. The funny thing was the problem wasn't because of the private car -- it was because there was something wrong with the coupler on the rear sleeping car on #28. They finally got it fixed -- but caused an hour delay. If they added an Amtrak car it would have caused the same problem because of the shoddy Superliner. Not saying delays dont happen -- but out of 60-65 trips (probably more than the average person experiences), this was the only one I encountered.
  14. Equipment is at MKE station and will leave Friday morning at 7am CT. Got a few photos tonight.
  15. Yep. I usually confirm things with 4-5 sources before posting here. Can't say I have never been wrong and had to "eat crow" (news about the dome in particular one time!) --- but I would say my info has been right 97-99% of the time when confirmed with 4-5 independent sources who would know the information. Now the question is WHAT does the memo apply to? A) New River Train B) All PV moves C) Amtrak Ski Train D) Leavenworth Snow Train E) Reno Fun Train F) Amtrak Autumn Express G) Steam trips that would require an Amtrak engine normally H) Groups that charter one car of a regularly scheduled train (like the 20th Century RR Club) or... gosh forbid all of the above