#21 (8/9-10-11) absolute hellish mess

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by fillyjonk, Aug 11, 2019.

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  1. Aug 11, 2019 #1

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    Numerous problems resulting in us being 14 hours late into Mineola:

    1. Some kind of electrical issue in the (only) engine, they claimed it was blown fuses. No electricity for a couple hours in the heat. Some people did not get dinner, I am not sure what they did for sleeper pax, if they got comped something from the snack bar. (Luckily I got my dinner minutes before the power went out). No flush toilets either.

    2. Waited on a part, it was the "wrong" part and shorted out immediately, or so we were told. Had to wait several more hours on a tow engine from the 305.

    3. Multiple freight delays

    4. Crew timed out somewhere around Walnut Ridge so we sat a couple more hours waiting on a crew to come in

    5. We were told (in sleepers) "There will be no dinner, here is beef stew, take it or leave it." It was full of carrots (I have a food intolerance to them and you DO NOT WANT me having eaten carrots on a train with an iffy bathroom, even if you didn't care about the pain I'd be in). I might have been able to pick around them (I'm not allergic, I just can't digest them) but it looked so unappetizing I didn't want it. (I wound up buying a cheese plate in the snack bar, which was a much better dinner)

    6. Later it turned out there WAS dinner served for sleeper pax, after I was full from the cheese. Someone suggested I could get a dessert but at that point I was "cut your nose off to spite your face" mad so I stayed in my roomette

    7. Derailment of a freight outside Marshall (which I heard from a friend in Shreveport I was texting with) that ultimately led to us first sitting for a couple hours while they were supposedly cleaning it up. We were told pax for San Antonio and beyond would get off at Longview and be bused. Then we were told "no, they can't clean it up fast enough, we're being detoured to Mineola." I knew that would be a mess because the parking lot there is very small, and the buses would take it all up - and my car would be blocked in.

    8. I had made motel reservations but had to wait an extra half-hour once we got to Mineola for the buses to load and leave before I could get my car out.


    I mean, I get that a lot of that was Act of God, but we were given VERY little in the way of updates or advice. It was literally five minutes outside Mineola that the general announcement about "the buses will now be at Mineola" was made (or at least the one I heard - the car attendant told us about the buses but I didn't hear it on the PA). And the thing about "here's stew" where later on we could have had a PROPER dinner...

    The train was 14 hours late into Mineola. Worst delay I've ever experienced, and I traveled after the ice storm of 2000.

    I have to go back up to Illinois at Thanksgiving (family gathering and that is also when my father's memorial service is scheduled). I LOATHE flying and it's hard to get to an airport but I am seriously considering braving the airplane for that.

    I'm calling Amtrak on Monday. I don't expect a refund but they need to know how bad the communication with passengers was.
     
  2. Aug 11, 2019 #2

    Josh M

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    One of my co-workers was on the CZ #5 a few weeks ago when it turned into the trip from Hell, and she and her friends ended up getting to their destination almost 28 hours late. It started as a 10-12 hour washout delay in Nebraska (which they completely understood), but then snowballed due to just about every type of problem you could imagine: freight delays and uncooperative host railways, crew changes in unexpected places that Amtrak clearly didn't plan out despite knowing the train was falling further and further behind, malfunctioning bathrooms, etc. She also said they got very little in the way of updates, just very generic announcements every so often. (They also were not pleased when one of the conductors, jokingly, said he hoped they were enjoying their free extra day on Amtrak.)

    Anyhow, much to my surprise, when she called Amtrak after the trip and explained what a mess it was after the initial washout delay, she did, in fact, get a real non-voucher refund on their tickets. She also had travel insurance that covered other expenses, like the night they missed in their hotel. So there's a chance you might actually get a refund, and definitely tell them that the lack of communication to the passengers was an issue.
     
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  3. Aug 11, 2019 #3

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    Yeah, if they offer refund OR voucher, I'm taking the refund, because I may be done with Amtrak even if they were once the easiest way to go visit family
     
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  4. Aug 11, 2019 #4

    Rasputin

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    It's 1967-71 all over again. They are making trains not worth riding.
     
  5. Aug 11, 2019 #5

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    I suspect a lot of this is the higher-ups fault, they don't care about trains or passengers, just their paycheck and eventual pension.
     
  6. Aug 12, 2019 #6

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

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    One difference is that in 1967-71, Trailways and Greyhound both offered pretty comprehensive networks and small-market air service was being cross-subsidized by regulated long-haul flights. Now the places left that have choices don't have good choices.
     
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  7. Aug 12, 2019 #7

    Thirdrail7

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    While this terrible, the crew change issue is always problematic due the laws involved. It is difficult to stay ahead of a deteriorating situation because the moment you put the crew in play, the federal clock starts ticking. If it takes them six hours to get to the scene, they will only have six hours to perform service.

    There have been many times when the recrew needed a recrew.

    Naturally, this is of no consolation to you. I was just filling in an operational tidbit.
     
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  8. Aug 12, 2019 #8

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    I'm aware of that but you'd think they could start loading the new crew onto vans (I am presuming they came up from Little Rock) as soon as it was clear the existing crew was gonna time out before we got there....

    they did a second change, I think, just outside Mineola; the northbound Eagle pulled up alongside us (by this point we had left the detour track for the normal track) and I saw a couple people hop off my train and onto the northbound train, and vice versa)
     
  9. Aug 12, 2019 #9

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    "But everyone has a car now, and everyone can drive to where they need to be"

    (I cannot drive 700+ miles, some of it through a large city with many confusing interstates, on my own, to go visit my mom. And I don't have a spouse or SO that would travel with me, and no friend I would feel comfortable asking to travel with me)

    Air service is also an issue; the nearest commercial airport to me is DFW, and that's at least an hour and a half away. I think sometimes people in the megalopoli forget what it's like out on the Great Plains.

    (And I had a kind of bad experience on Greyhound once and am VERY leery of doing the bus thing again, even if it weren't even longer than taking the train)
     
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  10. Aug 12, 2019 #10

    anumberone

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    That was a mess, hope things work out for you going forward.
     
  11. Aug 12, 2019 #11

    Willbridge

    Willbridge

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    I understand your situation. In the 1967-71 reference, intercity buses carried a more diverse patronage than they do now. Trailways offered Golden Eagle service on some main lines, with reservations, pillows, blankets, and a stewardess. My wife liked their service on Salem/Portland to Vancouver, BC trips.
     
  12. Aug 12, 2019 #12

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    After about 20 minutes on hold this morning, and a couple of transfers, I was given a $125 travel voucher (the ticket with roommette was $230) and they are "forwarding my complaint to corporate."

    WHATEVER

    Maybe I'm done with Amtrak. One before when I had a problem they were more gracious. I also had one person wish me "have a great day!" minutes after I had told them about the fact that I had been traveling because of my father's death.
     
  13. Aug 12, 2019 #13

    crescent-zephyr

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    I think it's pretty telling that several regular members of an amtrak discussion board (me included) are just about done with amtrak. It's not about the flowers, or the dining cars, or the Parlour Cars, or even the Solari Boards. It's about the overall experience....

    If it's nothing more than a train ride I can take a quick Amtrak Corridor ride, or a regional train ride (I really liked my ride on the Rail Runner in New Mexico earlier this year) and save alot of money. For that matter... I can save my Amtrak money and take some rare Steam train trips like earlier this year with the Big Boy.
     
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  14. Aug 12, 2019 #14

    Rasputin

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    As someone (I can't remember who) stated it so succinctly recently, you are just no longer treated as a valued customer when you travel on Amtrak long distance trains.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  15. Aug 12, 2019 #15

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    I even care less about the amenities. Hell, charge me as a sleeper pax for meals if you want. But it's the on-time performance, the lack of information, the shrugs in response to genuine concerns (people were CRYING in my car, it was hot, several people missed connections and the conductor just shrugged and said "they MIGHT put you up overnight." One woman was afraid she'd have to sleep in the Ft. Worth station as she didn't have the money for a hotel room (a family member bought her ticket for her))

    Then again, most places in America, customer service has gone down the tubes in the last 10-20 years, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But I find it as a solo traveler extra hard - I have no one to help me, no one to step up to bat for me, no one to protect me.

    And the ridiculous thing? It's easier to keep a happy customer than get a new one. Some small businesses I know realize that - the mechanic my parents have used for 15+ years, for example - honest and fair and people keep coming back (and tell their friends about them). On the other hand, bad customer service - we tell people too.
     
  16. Aug 12, 2019 #16

    CAQuail

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    Just a small correction, while the CAB did grant regional carriers more lucrative routes with the idea of weening them off federal support, much of the local service routes received direct federal subsidies as shown here in Frontier Airlines 1977 annual report. http://www.departedflights.com/FL77reportp16.html
     
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  17. Aug 12, 2019 #17

    toddinde

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    Well, yes. A huge problem is that Greyhound is not a usable service. Greyhound delays are as massive as Amtrak’s. Full busses mean you might not get on your scheduled bus. I’ve heard it said, and experienced, that the Greyhound clientele is like a county jail on a quiet day. Filthy passengers, theft, poor service, and on and on. I fly often and am routinely delayed and sometimes stranded overnight in cities enroute. Driving too is often delayed by serious accidents, traffic jams, weather, etc. Mexico has an excellent, clean and efficient bus system. We have a transportation system that is bordering on third world. There is zero, as far as I know, federal effort to remedy this. What should be done is expand Amtrak; both long distance and corridor, and expand Thruway busses. Stop the for profit myth and accept that a first world country needs a first world transportation system that serves the whole country.
     
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  18. Aug 12, 2019 #18

    Amtrakfflyer

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    I know it’s mechanical and act of god delays this summer for the most part but I don’t ever remember it being this bad or customer service so lacking.

    I can’t see how Richard Anderson isn’t involved in this somehow. The apathy toward the network trains is growing by the day. Anderson has made no secret he wants most of them gone. This summers horrible performance is helping his case. His lack of actions could be and in my opinion are fostering the horrible performance.

    Anderson claims Amtrak is close to breaking even, when in reality Amtrak is breaking down daily.

    Don’t give me the aging of the long distance fleet and locomotives as 100 percent the reason. Has he cut down on inspections of the locomotives and long distance equipment? If Amtrak truly is close to breaking even why not spend some money on maintenance and overhauls.

    The equipment is built like tanks and if maintained could function another 5-10 years easily.

    Up til 3 years ago I had the pleasure of flying one of the oldest fleet of commercial planes in the US. Some of the 727s I flew were older than me!

    Heads need to roll in Amtrak management over this.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  19. Aug 12, 2019 #19

    fillyjonk

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    Yes, the "bad incident" I referred to was someone getting hauled off a bus by the local PD. I don't know what the reason was. And it was loud and chaotic and I just felt very uncomfortable the whole time.

    I am perhaps overly fearful but as a woman usually travelling alone...well, I feel like I have to be extra careful. I had what is sometimes called a "creeper" sitting next to me once who kept wanting to touch my hair. and I've heard of people being groped on some transportation. Yes, it can happen anywhere but at least in a sleeper compartment on a train you can close the door and latch it.

    There are really few good options left - I haven't flown in a long, long time but what I remember was it was like a cattle call unless you paid $1000+ for a first-class seat. Trains used to be great but they are going down hill. More and more it seems like driving yourself is the only option, and if one is at all concerned about road congestion/pollution, more cars on the road is not the good solution that GOOD reliable transportation like trains could be.
     
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  20. Aug 12, 2019 #20

    Michigan Mom

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    I've had mostly really good experiences with LD train travel, although the occaisonal delay can be well, not fun. After watching the delays on the Meteors this year, and also monitoring the fares, it bevcame apparent that flying was the only option for getting to Florida this year. It was a fraction of the sleeper cost and not much more than coach tickets would have been! Although I love trains it was difficult to argue with the concept of arriving there in 3 hours. Watch a full length movie on the Delta seatback display and you're there.
     
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  21. Aug 12, 2019 #21

    Thirdrail7

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    As unfortunate as it sounds, this means you haven't paid attention. These types of incidents have occurred with regularity, however technology has made them easier to find because incidents are easy to report.


    If you step over to Railroad.net, you'll see member Shulstig has been posting the monthly OT performance for a large amount of eastern ld/corridor trains for years. This is nothing new. It has been crappy for years.

    However, you are also adding longer and heavier freight trains as the hosts seek to cut their expenses, infrastructure, and personnel to increase the value of their stock. This leaves very little maneuvering room when things go wrong. This has also impacted corridor trains as well. The Saluki is among the bottom of the performers and it is a corridor train.


    No one except you stated the aging equipment is 100 percent of the reason. But is a factor and will remain a factor until it is replaced. Parts are hard to come by for old technology. Indeed, the parts for the new Chargers are still being manufactured, so when they take a bath, they can remain idle for quite some time.

    Along with the unrelenting duty cycle comes the harsh environment they operate in. in the last two days, there have been a few grade crossing collisions that no one on this board brought up.

    Indeed, 90(12) is down right now due to a crossing incident and there is damage.

    What about 91(10)? While the woman driving woman driving the car luckily escaped serious injury, the lead engine had to be set off and will likely be o/o/s for a while. Even the trailing unit had damage that will take time to repair. 3 units in two days puts a lot of stress on the remaining equipment because there isn't a lot of downtime.

    There may be reasons to like Mr. Anderson and there may be reasons to dislike Mr. Anderson, but the operating environment had taken a toll on the equipment and performance long before he arrived. At the same time, the hosts are using precision railroading as an excuse to squeeze every resources out of minimal investment as they control expenses. To blame Mr. Anderson for this (particularly since corridor trains are having the same problems) is misplaced.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
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  22. Aug 13, 2019 at 12:18 AM #22

    Chey

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    I understand you perfectly. Most of the time I have to take Greyhound to get to a train station and I've experienced my share of creeps. That's not even counting the ride where the driver kept nodding off and one of the passengers made him pull over and told him that he was calling the police. That woke him up. And flying! The last time I was able to fly was before 2000; I had to take a tranquilizer and several drinks, which would have killed me in ordinary circumstances where my adrenaline wasn't off the charts. It's a phobia, I can't explain it or reason it away. Being a military brat, I flew frequently as a child but the fear started in with me by the time I was a teen. Psychiatry, hypnosis, nothing has worked and I don't want to risk my life like that again. BTW, this was the flight taking me to my grandmother's funeral.

    I've only had one bad Amtrak ride, nothing like yours, it didn't get bad until the stop before mine - that was, I think, 5 years ago. It's been a couple of years since I was able to travel and as noted here conditions have worsened considerably since then. I have some points to use and I'm going to plan a trip before October. I'll make my decision about my future with Amtrak then.
     
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  23. Aug 13, 2019 at 1:23 AM #23

    Cho Cho Charlie

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    I was one of those stuck on a non-moving Silver for 24+ hours, several years ago. After finally getting the tracks clear the next day, we started moving, only stopping again a short time later because the crew timed out. We stopped in the middle of a swamp.

    Sorry, IMHO, Amtrak needs to send a relief crew or have them staged at stations, ready and able, when extremely long delays happen to any LD train. No one could ever convince me that if Amtrak, for example, offered a $1M bonus to any qualified employee who could get to, say, the Atlanta station in 24 hours, that there would be no takers.

    Stopping in the middle of a swamp is simply beyond gross incompetence. If the crew will time out before reaching the next station, then don't even try. Duh! Hold at the last station they can reach. At least the stranded passengers could make use of the station while waiting. What is Amtrak afraid of? After 24+ hours, the stranded passengers will take a taxis to the airport?
     
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  24. Aug 13, 2019 at 1:38 AM #24

    neroden

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    While I can understand getting stranded if the crew can make it to the next station but then *something happens* (freight derailment or whatever), I agree, if the crew already doesn't have time to make to the next station, don't leave the previous station.
     
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  25. Aug 13, 2019 at 2:57 AM #25

    fillyjonk

    fillyjonk

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    Yeah, we stopped JUST SOUTH OF Walnut Ridge. Like, couldn't they foresee the timing-out and just have sat at the station? Also maybe easier to get the relief crew there, better roads or something. (And for that matter - if the crew is approaching time out, just load the relief crew from the station they WOULD have got on at and start driving them towards the train! Chances are it won't pass the van with the crew in it).

    For that matter, just having some more updates from the conductor would help. After the crew change there were almost no explanations or updates of what was happening; some stuff I learned only because someone went and asked someone and then passed the word to other passengers. And I know the PA system was still working from the cafe car announcements...
     
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