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Seriously, I've heard that dining car coffee is actually pretty decent--it's the coffee in the sleepers or in the business class cars that's not as good. I wouldn't worry too much about it, Sue.

 

I'd agree with this. I never touch the coffee in the Snack Bar. Partly to avoid hot spills. But in the Dining Car I've always found it quite satisfactory. Especially along with Cheesecake for dessert!

 

Recently I discovered that the San Joaquin Trains in California have good coffee as well, as part of their "Gourmet Menu".

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Yes, Tim Hortons has been trying to make some inroads in the US, but they are no where near as sucessful here in the US as they are in Canada. In Canada you can't drive down a road without hitting a Tim's.

 

Next, DD isn't that bad, certainly much better than Starbucks. I haven't tried that new blend yet though, so maybe that might change things a bit.

 

As for me, go to this page and navigate down to the "Three Masted Blend". That's what I drink at home. Mmmm! :)

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for hot beverages may i suggest bringing:

Travel Hot Water Coil

 

peter

 

Peter, thank you SO much for this excellent suggestion. I've had one before but since most hotels now have some way of making a morning cuppa, I've lost the immerser. I've already put it on my Magellan wish list and will order it soonest. And whoever said that the water for tea had to be boiling was absolutely right. I've never understood why restaurants in this country could never seem to understand how to serve a decent cup of tea. And no I'm not English, but my mother is( she never became a US citizen after living here for almost 60 years. Or as she would respond when asked why she didn't: "My dear, why would I?")

 

Ed

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I'd say Amtrak's dining car coffee is as good as Wawa's, which is a complement. It isn't Starbucks, but its pretty good. The stuff in the sleepers is poison, only use it for pouring on people who are screaming for the attendant at the top of their lungs at 2 in the morning.

 

Comment on coffee liking: I love Starbucks. Tim Hortons is ok. Dunkin' Donuts is ok so long as its hot- its dishwater when it cools off. My favourite coffee place is the Coffee Beanery. Starbucks has a slightly burnt taste I happen to like. Its all obviously a matter of personal taste. Except for the coffee in the sleepers. I think my trip on the Auto Train was the only time I actually spat a cup of coffee out in shock as to how bad it was.

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I'd say Amtrak's dining car coffee is as good as Wawa's, which is a complement. It isn't Starbucks, but its pretty good. The stuff in the sleepers is poison, only use it for pouring on people who are screaming for the attendant at the top of their lungs at 2 in the morning.

 

Comment on coffee liking: I love Starbucks. Tim Hortons is ok. Dunkin' Donuts is ok so long as its hot- its dishwater when it cools off. My favourite coffee place is the Coffee Beanery. Starbucks has a slightly burnt taste I happen to like. Its all obviously a matter of personal taste. Except for the coffee in the sleepers. I think my trip on the Auto Train was the only time I actually spat a cup of coffee out in shock as to how bad it was.

 

While coffee is a matter of taste (I used to work at Starbucks unfortunately), I must say that I am not fond of any their coffee, and I prefer 7-11 most of the time for plain, black coffee. It could use some improvement. Americanos and Soy Lattes are the way to go, which is good since they also happen to be the cheapest thing on the menu after pure coffee. Christmas blend is not too bad . . .

Edited by auxplage

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We Southerners prefer chicory in our coffee from time to time (think Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans)......and we also drink Community Coffee made in Louisiana.....mmmmmmmm.......coffee..........

 

Also...there is an original dining car coffee carafe from the Santa Fe Super Chief on Ebay.....its calling my name.......

Edited by MStrain

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I once had a sleeper attendant on I think a Silver Service train, might have been the Crescent, I know I was going south in any event. He'd carry on his own supply of cinimon and sprinkle a little bit into each pot of coffee he'd brew. This was of course on a Viewliner back before they started replacing the old metal coffee pots with the new fangled machines that tend to break down left and right, and produce a very oily coffee.

 

That was some of the best coffee I've ever had on Amtrak. Mind you I liked the coffee brewed in those pots in the first place, but with that extra special touch from the attendant, it was really good! :)

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Aloha

 

With all this talk about coffee, I will let you in on how I won the Maxwell House restaurant award. I added a teaspoon of salt to the coffee grounds used to make 100 gallons at a time. Don't remember how many pounds of coffee needed for a 100 gallon pot. One day a week I would brew a 1000 gallons a day, about 7 hours worth in Disneyland, CA. :) :) :)

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DD's brewed coffee may beat out Starbucks' brewed coffee (although the new roast is much better, IMHO), but comparing Starbucks' espresso with DD's brewed coffee is like comparing apples and oranges. They're two different things.

 

I'll admit I like my espresso doctored up (usually in the form of a mocha), so a coffee to me is more like a coffee-flavored hot chocolate. I can't do doppios (what the Italians drink--two shots of pure espresso!) or even Americanos (two shots of espresso mixed with hot water, to create a similar strength as brewed coffee--get it, named after American-style coffee!--although the darker espresso roast gives it a different flavor). The worst is what's known up here as a sludge cup--two shots of espresso mixed with brewed coffee. Now that's a lot of caffeine!

 

But all other things being equal, Starbucks really isn't all that great. It's just the fancy coffee drinks that they're known for. They're predictably mediocre but offer a lot of sugar--kind of like McDonald's. Actually, most of the time, I go for their blended drinks (a Java Chip Frappuccino is my drink of choice). But from a pure coffee standpoint, you can usually do better--DD's (and maybe even McD's) for cups of brewed coffee and local roasters and coffee shops (or Caribou Coffee--I hear good things about them) for whole beans or espresso drinks.

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Thank you all for the coffee advice. Yes we have Tim Horton's in Ohio and we used to have Dunkin Donuts but it's hard to

find any around here now although you can buy DD coffee in the grocery store to make at home. I'm not fond of Starbucks. So, you've all eased my mind that I can get good coffee in the dining car. I'll let you know what I think of the dining cars coffee when I post my travel log when I get back from our trip. We leave 4 weeks from today, and I'm so excited I can hardly wait!! I feel like a child again, anticipating it. Sure glad I found this forum. You have all helped so much.

 

SS

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" probably use too little coffee grounds (resulting in overextraction and a bitter taste), and .."

 

For pete's sake, Amtrak ain't Starbucks.

 

I think they serve Starbucks coffee on the Downeaster.

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" probably use too little coffee grounds (resulting in overextraction and a bitter taste), and .."

 

For pete's sake, Amtrak ain't Starbucks.

 

I think they serve Starbucks coffee on the Downeaster.

 

Yes they do

 

http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/documents/...CarMenu2006.pdf

 

peter

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" probably use too little coffee grounds (resulting in overextraction and a bitter taste), and .."

 

For pete's sake, Amtrak ain't Starbucks.

 

I think they serve Starbucks coffee on the Downeaster.

 

Yes they do

 

http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/documents/...CarMenu2006.pdf

 

peter

 

Starbucks???? :blink: don't seem to remember saying anything about coffee. ;)

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YEAH, I could wrap one end around someting on the train, unwinding it and wrapping the other end around my waist while in the short stop stations, getting a coke.

 

Speaking of coke, I hope that you like Pepsi, because Amtrak has an exclusive contract with Pepsi. You won't find any Coke products on board, unless you've brought them with you.

That's why you have get off at the short stops - to get your fix! :lol::lol:

 

Stick a 2-liter in your carry on and take the free ice they'll give you in the cafe to keep from buying the over-priced Pepsi products or just if you hate Pepsi products like I do.

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Windex is good for within your reach when cleaning window. You can't do it on second level of Superliner. The temperature in the train are varies between cars. Some cars are freezing, some are hot (mostly sightseer lounge), and some are perfect, so you'll need a sweater.

 

Exactly how does the Heat/AC work on Amtrak? I've been told its on or off, that there is no temperature setting. I've also been told that to switch from heat to cool, they have to flip a switch on the side of the car when they do a station stop. I know I've noticed crews manually turning it on/off at the end of the cars every-so-often to keep it from getting from one extreme to the other.

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Exactly how does the Heat/AC work on Amtrak? I've been told its on or off, that there is no temperature setting. I've also been told that to switch from heat to cool, they have to flip a switch on the side of the car when they do a station stop. I know I've noticed crews manually turning it on/off at the end of the cars every-so-often to keep it from getting from one extreme to the other.

 

I'm far from an expert on this, but here's my understanding of things. First, Viewliners don't fall into the same catagory as the rest of the fleet. For that matter neither does Acela, but that's probably outside the scope of your question.

 

Now, regarding the heat, in a sleeper the rider does have some control over the level of heat within their room by turning the knob within the room. But that's more like a fine adjustment control, that anything major. In other words if you're just a bit too cold or too hot, turning that knob may help you to arrive at the ideal temp. But if it's super hot in your room, that knob is unlikely to get things back down to a comfortable level.

 

That knob is useless when the AC is running, it only controls heat.

 

Now, I haven't heard the story about needing to go outside to switch from AC to heat, but I suppose on the older cars that may be required. I'm pretty sure that on the AMF's, and the Superliner II's that's not necessary. The big problem with temps is that the cars don't have a temperature thermostat. Instead, much like you see in a Superliner sleeper room, it's just a dial. So the attendant has to guess if he's set the temperature to 55, 72, or 95. Then add to that complication the fact that temps change during the day both as the sun rises and sets, but as the train moves through different climets. Pile on top of that, at least in a Superliner, that heat rises and that everyone has a different "comfortable" temperature, and it gets to be near impossible to keep everyone happy.

 

Then of course you can throw into the mix that much of this equipment is over 30 years old and doesn't always work as intended.

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Thermostat placement can be a tricky thing, if you're suggesting Amtrak should upgrade to a thermostat in each car.

 

Some examples of things that don't work well that I've seen actually in place in the real world:

 

I've slept in a house that has multiple heating zones. The upstairs of the house is one zone, and I think there are two zones in the downstairs. Anyway, the upstairs has two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the hallway is kind of a small square that has a door on each of three sides leading to the three rooms, and stairs on the other side. The radiators for the upstairs zone are located in the bedrooms and bathroom, and the thermostat is in the hallway. The net result is that if you close all three doors (or possibly even just both bedroom doors), the thermostat tries to maintain a constant temperature in the hallway, and when it wants to raise the temperature of the hallway, it has to make the bedrooms uncomfortably hot in order to get enough heat to leak through the doors into the hallway.

 

I've also seen a server room that had a 3 ton air conditioner mounted in the ceiling, and a one ton spot cooler. IIRC, there was originally one rack of servers between the spot cooler and the thermostat that controls the ceiling unit. I noticed that this rack in between things had a fairly constant temperature relative to the far end of the room away from the spot cooler, and developed the hypothesis that the spot cooler was cooling the thermostat well, convincing the ceiling unit to shut off, but then the spot cooler was failing to have enough capacity to cool the far end of the room. Eventually we moved the spot cooler away from the thermostat, and the room temperature did become more stable.

 

It sounds like if you're proposing to just replace the control system in a sleeper car, the thermostat needs to have a single on/off output for the entire car. So where do you put the thermostat? If you put it next to a door to the outside world, chances are that a sleeper passenger staying in their room during a station stop is going to notice a temperature flucuation during the station stop that is far greater than they'll see with the current system, as the air conditioner adjusts the amount of cooling it's providing to the rooms as a side effect of trying to keep the hallway at a constant temperature.

 

And if you put the thermostat in a room (maybe the sleeping car attendant's room), whether that room's door is open or closed and thus is exposed to air from the hallway is likely to make a significant difference. Sleeping car passengers probably don't want to have to adjust the number of blankets they have keeping themselves warm every time the sleeping car attendant leaves his or her room in the middle of the night.

 

So short of dividing the sleeper car into a separate zone for each room plus a hallway zone (maybe both an upstairs hallway zone and a downstairs hallway zone on the Superliners), I don't think a thermostat would help anything.

 

On the Viewliners where each room has its own heating knob, I'm not sure thermostats would be a bad thing for heating.

 

But then the other question is how rugged the thermostats are. I think traditional thermostats have mercury switches in them, and maybe newer basic thermostats use something else. But I think with that kind of thermostat, the vibration of the train will likely cause problems, especially if you're using it to cycle an air conditioning compressor on and off, but even if you had the themostat controlling a mechanical relay that controls power to the heating coils. And in a typical residential setting, I get the impression that the fancy digital stuff is not quite as robust, even though it might be less bothered by the vibration of the train. If you want something that's not going to break if you think Amtrak is going to have trouble fixing it when it does, I'm not aware of any existing thermostat technology that I'd think would be a good idea.

 

One other thing I wonder about is whether there are ever problems with the side of a car closer to the sun being significantly warmer than the other side of the car.

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Place temperature sensors of the kind used in automobiles in each of roomettes and bedrooms. Have them feed information to a computerized thermostat that will regulate the temperature of the entire car based on a simple but intelligent algorithm.

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It's all personal preference, but I carry a lightweight portable radio that covers AM/FM/shortwave bands, a small active receiving loop antenna with a suction cup for the roomette window and a set of headphones. It's nice to tune around local stations and at night pick up the world bands. Bungee cords are nice for securement of all types of gear.

 

I know that if you're listening to a radio in a coach / business class / Acela Express first class seat or in a lounge or dining car you are required to use headphones if listening to a radio, DVD player, etc, but are you required to use headphones in a roomette?

I've had my scanner on all my trips now (maybe 10 or so now), all in sleepers and no headphones. Never got a complaint.

Scanners are a real nice to have.

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Thanks for that data point about a scanner with no headphones in a sleeper.

 

Thinking about the thermostats some more, I bet if you put a temperature sensor in every room in a sleeper, take the average of all of those temperature sensors, and compare that to the preset target temperature to cycle the heat or air conditioning on and off, you'd have something that would work fairly well. You probably could even get away with only putting a sensor in every third room on each side of the train without losing much accuracy. The only question would be whether the computer cycling the HVAC on and off was as reliable as the controls Amtrak is currently using. On the other hand, maybe that computer can have a single connector that attaches it to all the temperature sensors and the heating/cooling equipment, and each train could carry one spare.

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Yes, an advanced wristwatch would certainly have enough computing power. If I were designing a system from scratch that would do this, I'd probably use a PIC microcontroller made by a company called Microchip. Their $3 parts would be ridiculous overkill in processing power for this application. An Intel 4004 would probably be ridiculous overkill in processing power, but those are actually quite expensive chips these days.

 

The expense is in making it robust, making sure that when there's a power glitch on the train the computer ends up continuing to run when the glitch is over, making sure that there's enough filtering that power glitches won't cause a premature death for this system, etc. (I've heard of a $400 digital residential thermostat dying in a lightning storm, which makes me think the old fashioned thermostats may be superior in practice in most applications.) The temperature probes probably also need miniature computers to keep the wiring as simple as possible, and then you need to spend maybe at least another $10 (or quite possibly $50-$100 if you want it to actually have a chance of lasting the life of the car) for the display showing the set temperature, the average temperature in the car, and providing buttons that can be used to adjust the temperature and perhaps cycle through all the individual temperature probe readouts to assist in debugging the system if a probe isn't working right. Also, $3 per car for the processor chip times the number of cars in Amtrak's fleet is probably noise compared to what it's going to cost to pay people to design the printed circuit boards and write the software, if there doesn't happen to already be a working non-railroad version of this that's going to be robust enough. But if you need to install a temperature probe in 6 rooms per car, that's probably going to work out to at least $200 per room for the parts plus labor (maybe that includes the wiring to carry the signals back to the central point in the train if you're lucky). I could easily imagine such a system might end up costing $2k-$5k per car if Amtrak was going to amortize the design costs over installing this on the whole fleet.

 

And how much would it cost to provide all the sleeping car attendants with a few hours of training about how to operate the existing system, if Amtrak could work out some better guidelines for doing that?

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I always carry a power strip with me. In part because I usually end up having way more things to plug in than outlets to do so (i.e. more than 1), and also because occasionally in coach I'll be in a car without outlets at every seat, or that I'll have a seatmate who wants to use the outlet. I've used it on a handful of times and every time other passengers were incredibly thankful I had it. (To give credit where its due, I think I got the idea from this forum)

 

This is a great idea and I will do that on my upcoming CS trip. However, is/are the outlets in the sleeper rooms for two or three prong plugs? Most power strips have three prong plugs. Thanks,

 

Ed

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