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AlanB

Sleeping Car Numbering 101

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Here's a basic primer on car numbers, sometimes called consist position numbers. These are not the fleet inventory numbers by which Amtrak tracks the maintenance, location within the system, and availability of the car. I’m referring to the numbers that one finds on one’s tickets when booking sleeping car accommodations and the number that can be found on a variable display right next to the car doors.

 

For example, one booking the Lake Shore Limited westbound in a sleeper might find oneself booked into car #4911. First of course, the first two digits (the thousands and hundreds position) represent the train number; in this example train #49. If the train number is 3 digits, like trains 448/449, then the lead digit is normally dropped.

 

Moving on, each class or style of cars gets its own series of numbers, based upon the digit in the 10 position. For example, a typical Amtrak train might use the following plan. 00-09 coaches, 10-19 sleepers, 20-29 crew dorm, 30-39 dining cars, 40-49 lounge cars, 50-59 baggage cars, and so on and so on. The pattern changes from train to train, so just because the LSL puts sleepers into the 10 category doesn't mean that for example the Auto Train does. In fact the Auto Train puts its sleepers into the 40 series, while the Capitol puts sleepers into the 01 group.

 

If there is a rhyme or reason, I've never found it. Odds are that it probably has a lot to do with how the freight RR that originally ran that particular route numbered things, but I don't have the old consist numbers from those days to verify.

 

Yet another oddity that can occur is one that happens on the LSL thanks to the splitting/combining of the Boston & NY sections in Albany. Remember as I mentioned above that the car number is 4 digits, and the leading 4 in 448/449 is dropped. So to avoid confusion with the NY bound sleepers which are in the 10 series, the Boston bound sleeper is numbered 20 to keep it separate. Boston bound coaches are similarly numbered into a different series so as to keep them separate from the NY coaches.

 

One thing that does remain constant is that the lower the number, the closer the sleeper is to the diner and the lowest coach number is closest to the cafe car. This is true even on trains like the Empire Builder and the LSL. The lower number coaches are still closest to the diner, regardless of which section of the train they are in.

 

Here's a rundown of sleeping car series numbers by train. The series is the last two digits of the car number on your ticket. I've also indicated if the lowest number is a 0 or a 1.

 

1/2 - Sunset Limited - 30's, lowest number is 30.

3/4 - Southwest Chief - 30's, lowest number is 30. Trans/Dorm is 40.

5/6 - California Zephyr - 30's, lowest number is 31.

7/8 - Empire Builder - 30's, lowest number is 30.

11/14 - Coast Starlight - 30's, lowest is 30.

19/20 - Crescent - 10's, lowest number is 10.

21/22 - Texas Eagle - 20's, lowest is 20. Trans/Dorm is 19, a real oddity.

29/30 - Capitol Limited - 00's, lowest is 00.

40/41 - Three Rivers - 00's, lowest is 01.

48/49 - Lake Shore Limited - 10's, lowest is 10. Boston 448/449 sleeper is 20.

50/51 - Cardinal - 00's, lowest is 00.

52/53 - Auto Train - 40's, lowest is 40. One oddity with the AT, is that even numbered sleeper are positioned south of the diner, odd sleepers are positioned north of the diner. Lowest numbers are still closest to the diner regardless.

58/59 - City of New Orleans - 00's, lowest 00.

66/67 - Twilight Shoreliner/Federal - 00's, lowest is 00.

89/90 - Silver Palm - 10's, lowest is 10.

91/92 - Silver Star - 10's, lowest is 10.

97/98 - Silver Meteor - 10's, lowest is 10.

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Do they really number the dining cars, lounge cars and baggage cars? If so, where would those number be used? What would be the purpose since they would not be printed on tickets?

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Yeah, I'm not too sure that the diners, lounges and bag cars are actually given line numbers these days.

 

One might think that the gaps in some of these numbers account for hidden line numbers on diners or lounges, but let's say you look at train 4, where coaches are in the 10s and sleepers in the 30s. There's only one "group" in there: 20, yet there are two different kinds of cars (diner and lounge).

 

No idea what the rhyme or reason is here.

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Thanks for the thread. I went to check tonight's northbound Coast Starlight because I'm taking a trip in the future and I wanted to know where my sleeper car would be. The information was exactly as you stated -- the third car from the Pacific Parlour Car was "1432."

 

Interestingly, the transition-dorm was listed as "0000." Does that mean the car wasn't open to passengers?

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Thanks for the thread. I went to check tonight's northbound Coast Starlight because I'm taking a trip in the future and I wanted to know where my sleeper car would be. The information was exactly as you stated -- the third car from the Pacific Parlour Car was "1432."

 

Interestingly, the transition-dorm was listed as "0000." Does that mean the car wasn't open to passengers?

 

 

Either that, or one of the staff forgot to set the number on the sign. You don't see that quite as often as you do on the Superliner I cars, where the numbers have to be set manually in the bathroom with a dial, but it still happens.

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Do they really number the dining cars, lounge cars and baggage cars? If so, where would those number be used? What would be the purpose since they would not be printed on tickets?

 

Yeah, I'm not too sure that the diners, lounges and bag cars are actually given line numbers these days.

 

I suppose that it's possible that they've stopped using them, I can't say for sure.

 

The purpose however was to make sure that one had a proper train to send out for each day and to make things easier for the crew. I'll take the later first, while this doesn't happen anyplace else now, let's look at the Auto Train. Each day the car inventory numbers change. The inventory numbers are the painted numbers that one finds on the outside of the cars and also are painted on the doors that connect to the adjacent cars. Someone reports a problem with the dining car and the AC radios for the conductor to come and help. He's very unlikely to remember the car's inventory number and unless the conductor has the consist listing close at hand, he's unlikely to know that number either.

 

If he just radio's the conductor to come to the diner, now the conductor is left wondering which of three possible dining cars he's needed in. And on a long train like the AT, guessing wrong could make for a very long walk. Without line numbers, that leaves the AC having to give considerable more information over the radio. With line numbers, he only need to tell the conductor that he's needed in 5362 for example, that's not the real number as I don't know what (if any) line number AT diners are in. The line numbers would also come in handy to the ground crew so that they would know which diner or cafe the supplies that they are carrying are for.

 

Returning to my first point now, line numbers were used to build the consist. Employees would have a sheet with all the line numbers that were needed to build a proper consist for a particular train. Next to each line number, you'd have a car inventory number. If you had a blank next to that line number, you had a problem and an incomplete train. In fact, this is where the term "blanked" came from in reference to having a bad ordered car that resulted in a missing car. If you show up at the station to find out that your sleeper's been blanked, you're not going to be happy! You're also likely to be very unhappy if either the diner or the cafe is blanked.

 

And no, you the passenger would never see those line numbers as they weren't indicated on the cars. No reason for them to be and no real reason that a passenger would need to know, or care to know. Only a railfan might care.

 

One might think that the gaps in some of these numbers account for hidden line numbers on diners or lounges, but let's say you look at train 4, where coaches are in the 10s and sleepers in the 30s. There's only one "group" in there: 20, yet there are two different kinds of cars (diner and lounge).

 

No idea what the rhyme or reason is here.

 

And who's to say that the diner couldn't be the 20 car, while the cafe is 60. Or it's also possible that I'm wrong and both food service cars just fall into the 20 grouping.

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I once showed up to ride 51 back to Chicago and was booked into a slumbercoach. When I got to the platform I looked for the distinctive window pattern of a slumbercoach. When I didn't see it, I thought it had been bad ordered. I asked the attendant my ticket, and he directed me into the rear 10-6 sleeper. I pointed out I was in a slumbercoach and he explained the 10-6 was the replacement. That was a great ride!

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I thought LSL had a 10 Sleeper only when all three sleepers used to run to NYP. When the Boston Sleeper came back the 10 Sleeper went away and the Boston Sleeper as you mention became the 20 Sleeper. Yet another strangeness.

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Just looked at my LSL Reservation for February return on 49 and we are in Car 4912. I assume that this is the next to last car on the train after it is connected to the Boston Section. And we will be two cars back from the diner? :rolleyes:

 

Is the NY baggage car going to be behind us on the NYP to ALB ride or will we be the last car on that section? :blink:

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Just looked at my LSL Reservation for February return on 49 and we are in Car 4912. I assume that this is the next to last car on the train after it is connected to the Boston Section. And we will be two cars back from the diner? :rolleyes:

 

Correct! :)

 

Is the NY baggage car going to be behind us on the NYP to ALB ride or will we be the last car on that section? :blink:

 

The NYP bag will be behind you for the entire ride, unless it encounters some problem.

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My Roomettes are in Cars 9711 and 9811. This will be the last car on the train? If so, the Railfan window will be easy to access.

if you can see over the bag car. ;)

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My Roomettes are in Cars 9711 and 9811. This will be the last car on the train? If so, the Railfan window will be easy to access.

Depending on the season, there are either three or four sleepers on the Silver Meteor. You're in the second sleeper (97/9810 is the first one) so that means you'll either have one or two sleepers behind you, and then a baggage car. So unfortunately, you will not have access to the railfan window.

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My Roomettes are in Cars 9711 and 9811. This will be the last car on the train? If so, the Railfan window will be easy to access.

if you can see over the bag car. ;)

 

 

 

 

My Roomettes are in Cars 9711 and 9811. This will be the last car on the train? If so, the Railfan window will be easy to access.

Depending on the season, there are either three or four sleepers on the Silver Meteor. You're in the second sleeper (97/9810 is the first one) so that means you'll either have one or two sleepers behind you, and then a baggage car. So unfortunately, you will not have access to the railfan window.

 

 

Many thanks for your replies! It has been a few years since I visited the FLL Amtrak station when I thought the Silver Meteor arrived from Miami. After these two posts, maybe it was the Silver Star instead that I observed. I recall two Sleeping Cars at the end of that train. With the Baggage Car at the end of the train, no railfan window for me. Darn!

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After these two posts, maybe it was the Silver Star instead that I observed. I recall two Sleeping Cars at the end of that train.

 

Yep, the Star uses two sleepers.

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Normally, the Star has two Sleepers and the Meteor has three Sleepers. On rare occasions, the Meteor gets an additional Sleeper.

 

Of course then there are the dead head runs of Sleepers and/or Diners too, which may be one or more in number, are in addition to the regular Sleepers, and those are not in service and hence do not have a service number. Usually those are on the Meteor.

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