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The "Missing" Pacific Parlour Car in Illinois

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Personally, I think it's a shame Amtrak didn't just refurbish a 6th PPC -- that way they could have had a "protect" PPC in LA and SEA. Now, if something happens to your PPC and its gets bad ordered... you'll get a Cross-Country Cafe replacement.

 

While I agree that it's a shame that they didn't keep that PPC, Amtrak sold that car longer before the refurbishments.

 

Do you know the timetable? I'm curious...

 

A friend who works for Amtrak told me that he thought #39971 was never a Pacific Parlour Car officially... however... it had the PPC logo on the side of the car by the door.

 

I, too, thought the PPC name came with the refurbished cars... but obviously I was wrong... since this car was called a PPC, but was un-refurbished.

 

I don't have all the details, but I can fill in some of the blanks.

 

Amtrak acquired all 6 of the cars in 1971 at its formation. They saw some service on the SW Chief until the early 80's. After that, they saw service on the San Joaquin’s and the Capital Corridor trains until Cali started buying its own cars for those lines. They went into mothballs for a few years, before being dusted off and turned into PPC's. They debuted in 1996 on the CS as PPC's.

 

For reasons that remain unclear, sometime in either 2000 or 2001 Amtrak dumped a bunch of old cars, and 39971 was included in that batch of cars. It was sold to the Illinois Transit Association Assembly. At one point the car was also reported to be in Iowa and under the ownership of Northwest Sky Rail Charters, but I cannot confirm that.

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You know, I get where Amtrak is coming from as far as sets of miscellaneous equipment...but 35 cars is easily 7-8 LD trains' worth of coaches, and on a longer Regional-style consist you're still looking at 4-5 trains' worth of equipment which matches. That's actually more than you can say for Talgo sets, and it doesn't help Talgo's case that those are (if I am recalling correctly) semi-articulated sets which have little to no flexibility in car deployment (so you can't, for example, add some cars to service for a few weeks at a peak season...again, correct me if I'm wrong here).

 

I'm going to grant that the main issue on a lot of routes is sold-out sleepers, but right now the old saying of "beggars can't be choosers" comes to mind: Amtrak may not want to run older cars, but given the choice between hitting an unclimbable capacity wall on a lot of routes (and they are getting there pretty steadily, almost across the board) and using the cars to meet increasing demand (perhaps in conjunction with some above-grade fare hikes...use the equipment situation to justify the fare move, but also use the fare move to cover the equipment situation), I'd readily choose the latter as a matter of policy. With that said, I have no problem with passing some or all of the added cost onto the state(s) and/or the riders, but I'd rather see the equipment being used than not used...and I do think that Amtrak owning equipment is a better policy than the states owning it in many cases, if simply because the potential for wild mood swings causing trouble at the state level seems higher.

 

I also suspect that there are projects that you might be able to "lock in" in some cases, and not having to go through a multi-year dance having new equipment built (which is increasingly becoming route-specific...it seems that more and more, you throw in a set of this here and set of that there) would be a good way to be able to move while there's political will (existing services, particularly those with solid ridership, tend to be much harder to get rid of than "in-process" routes).

 

 

Alan,

To take a stab, I think Amtrak was trying to get old equipment off the books in the face of more or less stagnant ridership. Based on where ridership numbers had gone from 1980-2000, I can't blame them, and though in retrospect the move seems to have been an ill-timed blunder of sorts...I suspect that it was the right decision at the time. Also, that equipment dump occurred right after the Surfliner purchases, did it not?

Edited by Anderson

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To take a stab, I think Amtrak was trying to get old equipment off the books in the face of more or less stagnant ridership. Based on where ridership numbers had gone from 1980-2000, I can't blame them, and though in retrospect the move seems to have been an ill-timed blunder of sorts...I suspect that it was the right decision at the time. Also, that equipment dump occurred right after the Surfliner purchases, did it not?

Even if they still had them, where was the money to fix them up to keep them roadworthy going to come from? Remember Amtrak also parked close to a hundred Amfleet Is during the Gunn years because they claimed they did not have the money to do the regular COT&S on them. In that period Northeast Reqionals were down to 5 and sometimes even 4 car trains!

Edited by jis

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I cant really speak for the running condition of the cars, but from the inside... most looked in pretty good shape. A couple of coaches look like they could still be in service if you didnt know any better (or see the April 1997 Amtrak magazines sticking out of them).

Thanks for clarifying that - looking at the pictures again, a lot of what I was seeing was more cosmetic than I had originally thought.

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Illinois could have had these running on their routes for under a million a piece. That would have been a bargain. Now the money is for new bilevels, so these cars will probably never run again, unless some other state see's it as a cheap way to start up/enhance a corridor service (Georgia? North Carolina? Colorado?)

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Illinois could have had these running on their routes for under a million a piece. That would have been a bargain. Now the money is for new bilevels, so these cars will probably never run again, unless some other state see's it as a cheap way to start up/enhance a corridor service (Georgia? North Carolina? Colorado?)

 

I would not scrap them just yet but they do need to "shop around" for another customer, I also would not limit this to the states, there may well be other countries that would be interested in this, Canada is an easy option, but I would not rule out any nation that uses a standard gauge system.

 

-- also I find it kind of silly that Amtrak would not want the bi-level sleepers, I get they are a pain to maintain, but 1. It is extra revenue and 2 it would show congress they need a new order.

Edited by Gratt

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Illinois could have had these running on their routes for under a million a piece. That would have been a bargain. Now the money is for new bilevels, so these cars will probably never run again, unless some other state see's it as a cheap way to start up/enhance a corridor service (Georgia? North Carolina? Colorado?)

 

I would not scrap them just yet but they do need to "shop around" for another customer, I also would not limit this to the states, there may well be other countries that would be interested in this, Canada is an easy option, but I would not rule out any nation that uses a standard gauge system.

 

-- also I find it kind of silly that Amtrak would not want the bi-level sleepers, I get they are a pain to maintain, but 1. It is extra revenue and 2 it would show congress they need a new order.

 

Do those sleepers have hopper toilets or retention toilets? If the former, then I think there's a nasty refit cost associated with it; if it's the latter, though, I'd like to see better reasoning for not using the cars other than "We don't want old cars in the system", especially when most of the PIPs require at least some new cars and a "stray" order of 2-3 cars is simply not going to happen. I'm actually now wondering...is there enough variety in the car types available that they could run one LD route entirely (or almost entirely) on refurbished hi-levels (say, the SWC)?

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Alan,

To take a stab, I think Amtrak was trying to get old equipment off the books in the face of more or less stagnant ridership. Based on where ridership numbers had gone from 1980-2000, I can't blame them, and though in retrospect the move seems to have been an ill-timed blunder of sorts...I suspect that it was the right decision at the time. Also, that equipment dump occurred right after the Surfliner purchases, did it not?

 

Sorry, I guess I phrased that badly late last night when I wrote it.

 

I fully understood why Amtrak was dumping a bunch of cars back then.

 

What I don't understand is why 39971 was included in that dump.

 

And yes, I believe that the equipment dump occured as the new Surfliner cars came online.

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Guest George B

I fondly recall riding the Sunset Limited between Phoenix and San Antonio back in 1995, give or take a year, and having a Hi Level Lounge in place of the SightSeer.

 

The Sunset Limited must have put a good number of soon-to-be-PPCs to use as well since you had it on your trip in 1995, and #39973 was in the Big Bayou Canot wreck in 1993.

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Illinois could have had these running on their routes for under a million a piece. That would have been a bargain. Now the money is for new bilevels, so these cars will probably never run again, unless some other state see's it as a cheap way to start up/enhance a corridor service (Georgia? North Carolina? Colorado?)

 

I would not scrap them just yet but they do need to "shop around" for another customer, I also would not limit this to the states, there may well be other countries that would be interested in this, Canada is an easy option, but I would not rule out any nation that uses a standard gauge system.

 

-- also I find it kind of silly that Amtrak would not want the bi-level sleepers, I get they are a pain to maintain, but 1. It is extra revenue and 2 it would show congress they need a new order.

There aren't any bi-level sleepers (unless they're Superliner wrecks). The Santa Fe hi-levels included only coaches, lounges and diners.

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If you do a search and you will find that old RR cars are still in good supply. Train restoration places, RR brokers, private collectors and even some salvage yards have them.

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Thanks so much for sharing those wonderful photos of those wonderful old cars. I remember riding in several of them thru the years....

Would love to see them fully restored back to their original ATSF/CB&Q/PRR et al. condition, but as the song says "Only in my dreams"...

 

Too bad Amtrak had replaced the wonderful Karpen seats in the Hi-Level's with those newer (and less comfortable) ASI seats.

 

That facility has a collection that would be the envy of many museums. Because of the various cost issue's discussed in this thread, I seriously doubt any of that equipment will ever be used again, and will eventually be scrapped. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong.

 

Some of the cars are for sale. The blunt end CB&Q dome/obs is going for $250,000.00

 

http://www.gatewayrailservices.com/inventory.php?detail=10

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I would not scrap them just yet but they do need to "shop around" for another customer, I also would not limit this to the states, there may well be other countries that would be interested in this, Canada is an easy option, but I would not rule out any nation that uses a standard gauge system.

There are not too many countries in the world that have 16.5' height clearance on their railroads.

-- also I find it kind of silly that Amtrak would not want the bi-level sleepers, I get they are a pain to maintain, but 1. It is extra revenue and 2 it would show congress they need a new order.

Santa Fe never had even a single bi-level sleeper. So none of the Heritage bi-level cars are sleepers. The bi-levels were exclusively for use in El Capitan and other Coach trains. Even when the Super Chief and the El Capitan ran as a single train the Sleeper passengers and Coach passengers were apparently kept separated so no access to Hi-level cars for Sleeper passengers. That probably changed after Amtrak day.

 

Folks need to remember that bi-level sleepers is an exclusively Amtrak invention. No private railroad ever ran such service.

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Serviceable condition? They look pretty rough to me. I'll bet that you can buy a new trainset for what it would take to buy these and get them into running condition.

 

Amtrak's fleet strategy is pretty emphatic about the fact that they're tired of dealing with 50+ year old mismatched equipment and are trying to get away from it as fast as they can.

 

Thanks for sharing the pictures, they were pretty incredible.

 

I cant really speak for the running condition of the cars, but from the inside... most looked in pretty good shape. A couple of coaches look like they could still be in service if you didnt know any better (or see the April 1997 Amtrak magazines sticking out of them). Before the trip down there last month, I had no idea that Amtrak had buffet-style dining cars... I sorta like that concept because you could choose what you wanted to have. Then again, I'm a sucker for Ponderosa and those Buffet places... haha.

 

But yes, that was the point, the owner(s) were planning on IL buying them for return to service.

 

It was sad to see the PPC just sitting there... :(

 

 

When the Auto Train was single level it ran for a time with a buffet car with an adjoining table car. I also recall seeing them on the Silver trains as well. The link below has some information.

 

 

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=50339&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=0

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Illinois could have had these running on their routes for under a million a piece. That would have been a bargain. Now the money is for new bilevels, so these cars will probably never run again, unless some other state see's it as a cheap way to start up/enhance a corridor service (Georgia? North Carolina? Colorado?)

 

I would not scrap them just yet but they do need to "shop around" for another customer, I also would not limit this to the states, there may well be other countries that would be interested in this, Canada is an easy option, but I would not rule out any nation that uses a standard gauge system.

 

-- also I find it kind of silly that Amtrak would not want the bi-level sleepers, I get they are a pain to maintain, but 1. It is extra revenue and 2 it would show congress they need a new order.

There aren't any bi-level sleepers (unless they're Superliner wrecks). The Santa Fe hi-levels included only coaches, lounges and diners.

 

One of the cars was half coach/half sleeper... but I think the sleeper was for crew only

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Alright, they're all coaches. I figured they were, but I did want to ask to be sure. Now, since we're talking about them, did "buffet" cars actually feature a buffet of some kind or another? Also...I do remember hearing about such service from one long-time rider, and I didn't hear too much good about it (at least when they used it as a substitute for a diner rather than to augment it). I wouldn't be opposed to seeing something in that vein attempted on some LD services (I speak of "improved cafe" services...I'm not sure if you could make a good bridge with something like this, but if you want to beef up one or more LD trains (say, doing a larger CHI-DEN consist), you could do something along these lines as an option for coach passengers and offer a bit more variety/quality than is currently available in the cafe.

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You may be referring to the double unit dining cars. These were originally built for high volume trains like the Broadway Limited, Panama Limited and other trains. These were two full cars of that always ran as a pair with one car being the traditional dining car with kitchen and tables and the other car with tables only. The cars were connected by automatic doors so wait staff could move in between. Amtrak last used them on the Silver Service offering Buffet Style meals. One car had the buffet line and the other car had tables. Passengers helped themselves on the buffet line and then were seated. This was the only meal service offered on the Silver Trains in the late 1980s/early 1990s in one of the previous cost cutting attempts. The idea for this type of service came from the original pre-Amtrak Autotrain which offered buffet meals to customers. The buffet service did not go over that well on the Silver trains and the food offering was not that great. It was a far cry from the excellent meals served on the prior New York-Florida trains such as the Florida Special, Champions, Sliver Meteor and Silver Star and that service continued the first 10 years on Amtrak until Congress decided to "fix" the dining car deficit.

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You may be referring to the double unit dining cars. These were originally built for high volume trains like the Broadway Limited, Panama Limited and other trains. These were two full cars of that always ran as a pair with one car being the traditional dining car with kitchen and tables and the other car with tables only. The cars were connected by automatic doors so wait staff could move in between. Amtrak last used them on the Silver Service offering Buffet Style meals. One car had the buffet line and the other car had tables. Passengers helped themselves on the buffet line and then were seated. This was the only meal service offered on the Silver Trains in the late 1980s/early 1990s in one of the previous cost cutting attempts. The idea for this type of service came from the original pre-Amtrak Autotrain which offered buffet meals to customers. The buffet service did not go over that well on the Silver trains and the food offering was not that great. It was a far cry from the excellent meals served on the prior New York-Florida trains such as the Florida Special, Champions, Sliver Meteor and Silver Star and that service continued the first 10 years on Amtrak until Congress decided to "fix" the dining car deficit.

 

Ok, that's what I heard about from Mr. Haldeman when we talked...he mentioned that service was great in the early days (when they were still using a lot of the SAL/ACL/SCL equipment, I believe) and then it nosedived in the 80s with what you mentioned. He mentioned that, as a sleeper passenger, your one "big perk" at the time was that you got your buffet tray brought to you. As to the buffet/table cars...that feels extremely tragic, having those old twin units used for such substandard service.

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Guest Chris K.

Back to the Hi-level cars, for a moment... These cars would only be coach seating. The El Capitan was the coach-train counterpart to AT&SF's all-Pullman Super Chief. These cars were built to that idea and the Santa Fe pushed the passenger industry into a new stage with these cars (I believe). The only cars that I would think to have sleeping compartments in would be the Transition cars because Santa Fe built them that way for use as Crew Dorms during the ride. If there are cars that have sleeper rooms that aren't transition cars, yet are still old Santa Fe Hi-Levels, then my guess would be that Amtrak reconfigured the car's layout in the early years. It would be really amazing if someone did get those cars back into service as private cars or for a competitor to Amtrak. Plus, they are a piece of Railroad history (as is the Mark Twain Zephyr with its two fourth car add-ons) that should be kept for future generations to experience and enjoy.

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Amtrak would much rather the states buy new cars.

 

From the Fleet Strategy Plan (page 45 where they discuss why they plan on scrapping the cars once retired):

It was noted that the fleet is already older than desirable and, by the time of retirement, this situation will only be worse. The value of the vehicles on the open market will be very low and the scrap value will probably be better. Moreover, Amtrak does not wish to operate these vehicles once they are retired. Should they be acquired by a third party that than requests Amtrak to operate them, the point of disposal would have been circumvented.

If Amtrak has no desire to operate their current cars once retired, you can imagine they'd be even less interested in operating even older cars brought back from the dead.

 

They better not scrap the Budd Diners! :angry2:

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All depends on who is willing to pay what for them. Some of them may be saved if someone wants to buy them that will pay more than scrap value.

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All depends on who is willing to pay what for them. Some of them may be saved if someone wants to buy them that will pay more than scrap value.

 

Yeah. OTOH, they are in really good condition inside & out (considering their age) and would be worth the price for any museum, tourist RR, or VIA Rail.

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