Don Philips recent bad experience on LD train

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by edjbox, Jun 27, 2014.

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  1. Jun 27, 2014 #1

    edjbox

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    Just would like to know based on your recent Amtrak experiences whether their LD services are going down due to cuts (seen in the newest Trains Magazine issue) or not?

    Don Philips recently wrote about his bad dining car experience on the Capitol Limited and how Amtrak and their president is ignoring these situations and naïve to push for more funding on Capitol Hill. What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Jun 27, 2014 #2

    Ryan

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    Excerpt? Link?
     
  3. Jun 27, 2014 #3

    Anderson

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    There is a reason I'm not a fan of the Capitol Limited...the OBS is very hit-or-miss.
     
  4. Jun 27, 2014 #4

    rusty spike

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    I don't have any real recent Amtrak experience from which to comment. Will have more to say after next month's trip.

    But I just read Mr. Phillips' editorial and will just say this:

    If the Amtrak suits don't put on jeans and a polo shirt, get out of their fancy Washington digs, and start riding some of the LD trains, this "disconnect from what's really happening in the field" will continue. And if they are already doing this, then maybe Mr. Phillips' question is valid: "Does Amtrak want to set up the scenario where its passengers desert it ?"
     
  5. Jun 27, 2014 #5

    Green Maned Lion

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    Don Philips is a foamer. He is nothing but a foamer. He has limited business sense and no political sense. If he were Jewish, I would also call him a kvetch.

    He may know railroads- although I have caught him spouting inaccurate nonsense too often for me to leave anything beyond may. I do owe him for the occasion where he misinformed a certain Al Papp and I got the opportunity to see a very rare thing- Al speechless when I corrected him by reading from the report he had misquoted via Don Philips.

    My point being, take what Don Philips says with a solid Bonniville Salt Flats helping of salt.
     
  6. Jun 28, 2014 #6

    jis

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    I agree. Don is a foamer and quite often a somewhat misinformed and irritating one at that, with a bit of a holier than though attitude thrown in for good measure. Just IMO of course :)

    Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
     
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  7. Jun 28, 2014 #7
    What DID Philips say in that column? Some of us are not Trains subscribers.

    Green Maned Lion's comments astonish me. Philips for a long time was one of the best transportation writers in journalism, and as far as I know still has a stellar reputation among rail buffs. If he has made mistakes—and everyone does—I'd like to know what they are.
     
  8. Jun 28, 2014 #8

    Devil's Advocate

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    Every LD route I've ridden seems to be like that. One trip it's surprisingly good. The next trip its shockingly bad. Been like that for as long as I've been riding Amtrak. I used to think it was mainly just the Sunset Limited until I started riding other routes more regularly.
     
  9. Jun 28, 2014 #9

    jis

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    That is quite true and has been that way since at least back in the 80's when I started riding Amtrak regularly.

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  10. Jun 28, 2014 #10

    Green Maned Lion

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    If somebody gets up on a soap box and calls themselves an expert loud enough and long enough, without too many people calling them on it, they will be perceived as an expert. They don't need to be one. That, I think, is the case with Don Philips.

    He constantly reports news that I usually get from my own sources (which are not impressive, particularly, by the by) before he seems to. He spins opinion on it generally in keeping with the desires of the average American rail fan. He adds details that the average rail fan doesn't usually know (but is generally public for those who want to know it), and wraps it up in a coloumn. When a large percentage of the reader base are thinking I AGREE!, well there's your expert.

    But the truth is the politics, finances, and business aspects of the rail world makes what most foamers want something of a pipe dream. To suggest things in that vein makes you a fool, an idealist, or a journalist with a reader base you wish to maintain.
     
  11. Jun 28, 2014 #11

    Paulus

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    First two lines:

    Yes folks, the first year where Amtrak spent the opening quarter making a profit is a severe financial crisis for Amtrak.

    And the column is spent mainly complaining about a bad diner experience and how he had to spend half an hour waiting for a second cup of coffee (clearly the fault of cutbacks to dining crew staff) which somehow shows financial issues at hand for Amtrak. I don't quite get his logic. I do think he should switch to decaf though.

    And the last sentence:

    1) One wonders where he was when Claytor ran the fleet so badly into the ground that 40% were overdue for major overhaul.

    2) Now that they have to pay for them, states are taking an interest in their trains, quelle surprise.

    3) "My eggs were over-hard, not over-medium! Those cretins!"
     
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  12. Jun 28, 2014 #12

    Ryan

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    Thanks for the excerpts. Sounds like nothing more than click-baiting complaining.
     
  13. Jun 28, 2014 #13

    FormerOBS

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    I'm not a subscriber. Until I read the text, there is nothing here to comment upon, nor to judge.
     
  14. Jun 28, 2014 #14

    bgiaquin

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    Do not bash Claytor, he was one of the best CEOs Amtrak has ever had so far.
     
  15. Jun 28, 2014 #15

    Paulus

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    Why is being "one of the best CEOs Amtrak has ever had" something that somehow makes him immune to criticism or ever bringing up a problem that occurred under his watch? For that matter, what exactly makes him one of the best CEOs Amtrak has ever had?
     
  16. Jun 28, 2014 #16

    railiner

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    I think the railfans's like Claytor because of his former years on The Southern, where he maintained fine service on their remaining trains, as well as supporting the steam excursion trains. But he was also a skillful politician, who knew how to play the game, manipulating Congress to open the purse-strings a bit wider, or raise public ire with threatened discontinuances in their districts.... That was the problem with former Amtrak CEO, Paul Reistrup....he was an excellent passenger train supporter, but lacked political skills necessary for an Amtrak CEO....
     
  17. Jun 28, 2014 #17

    jis

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    And the coffee randomly came half hour late even when Claytor ran the outfit. But since Claytor is Claytor we shall ignore all faults of Amtrak in his time since those don't fit the story line well. Selective memories have the day :p

    One has to take into consideration that one of Don's missions is to sell more copies of "Trains" too! Bashing Amtrak every which way has always been popular sport and continues to be so. That is not to say Amtrak is fault free. It has never been and never will be. So Don will never have shortage of stuff to spew forth in. A good position to be in. But "expert" he ain't, not at least for knowledgeable people.

    Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
     
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  18. Jun 28, 2014 #18

    bgiaquin

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    Perhaps a complaint to Jim Wrinn, the editor of TRAINS, is in order.
     
  19. Jun 28, 2014 #19

    Green Maned Lion

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    To what effect? Replacing their best known writer who has been like this for decades?
     
  20. Jun 28, 2014 #20

    PRR 60

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    Don Phillips (note, with two L's) was once the transportation writer for the Washington Post and had a very positive national reputation. He covered all modes of transportation and, when he wrote an article, you could be sure that the details were spot-on (a chronic failing of mass-media coverage of technical subjects). He left the Post during one of their downsizings (perhaps not entirely voluntarily) and had a subsequent stint with the International Herald Tribune. Through that entire period he was a columnist at Trains. Being a columnist means, of course, that he expresses his opinion. As a well-regarded member here likes to say, everybody has an opinion, and sometimes more than one.

    My observation: he was a huge fan of former Amtrak head David Gunn. After Gunn was dismissed, Phillips seemed to become very cranky about Amtrak leadership, both the CEO and the BOD. Regardless, I read his column every month, but process it for what it is - one man's opinion. There are members here whose opinions I value just as much.
     
  21. Jun 28, 2014 #21

    fillyjonk

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    Sadly, I find this to be true of MANY customer-service type situations these days, not just in travel.

    Hit-or-miss, or just outright BAD. I try hard to be polite and friendly with people, so I don't think it's me.
     
  22. Jun 28, 2014 #22

    iggle_traveler

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    I'm a little surprised to see this. I took the CL from WAS to CHI this past April and the dining car was great. The staff especially, and I wrote a commendation to Amtrak about them.
     
  23. Jun 28, 2014 #23

    trainman74

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    So Don Phillips took his anecdotal experience with one dining car crew on one trip and extrapolated that to make pronouncements about all of Amtrak...

    ...are we sure he's not a poster here?
     
  24. Jun 28, 2014 #24

    tonys96

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    Who is Don Phillips, and why should we care what he says? (This is not a rhetorical question, I really never heard the name before)
     
  25. Jun 28, 2014 #25

    neroden

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    We gonna discuss Amtrak CEOs?
    My ratings:

    Roger Lewis (1971–1974) -- made the biggest mistake in Amtrak's history. When asked what Amtrak would do with a billion dollars, he said they couldn't use it. (Seriously -- "We'd buy some tracks from Penn Central and make them high speed" -- why was that so hard?). Apart from that, however, it seems he did OK.

    Paul Reistrup (1974–1978) -- did very well in many ways, as far as I can tell. Seems to have presided over the introduction of Amfleets and ordered the Superliners; also got the NEC & Keystone Corridors for Amtrak. The national Amtrak network in 1978 was a pretty decent one, and it would be a pretty reasonable goal for restoration of national routes. Government funding went up... but so did service levels. He did this in an atmosphere of slightly-rising ridership.

    Alan Stephenson Boyd (1978–1982) -- ruinously awful, probably the worst. Maybe that's what his bosses wanted, though. The Carter Cuts and a bunch of other really bad cuts happened under him; perhaps he was hired as a hatchetman, I don't know. The network in 1982 was a mess which had lost a lot of key links; ridership collapsed. He inherited a railroad in decent condition and handed over a wreck.

    W. Graham Claytor, Jr. (1982–1993) -- did really quite well for a very long time on a shoestring. Left quite a bit of a mess for Downs, though. Ridership was up.

    Thomas Downs (1993–1998) -- awful. He recognized many of the problems he'd inherited, and he was well-meaning, but he didn't know how to fix them, and made quite a lot of things worse. He tried "three a week everywhere", among other things, and service quality cuts. He ordered the Acelas, which was good, but the procurement was a mess. The infamous "Glide Path" to profit is from a Downs speech. The ridership drops during this period are also noticeable.

    George Warrington (1998–2002) -- did his best cleaning up after Downs. Made a lot of questionable and controversial "Hail Mary" moves -- some failed (the freight & express), others succeeded (he got a lot more federal funding than Downs did), others are debatable (the borrowing, which I consider a success but was a pain to get out from under later). Ridership was up.

    David L. Gunn (2002–2005) -- also did his best cleaning up after Downs and Warrington. Made some questionable decisions (should never have cut the Three Rivers), but on the whole OK. Ridership was up.

    David Hughes (interim) (2005–2006) -- did nothing, which is desirable for "interim"

    Alexander Kummant (2006–2008) -- attempted to stay the course (which is OK)

    William Crosbie (interim) -- did nothing, which is desirable for "interim"

    Joseph H. Boardman (2008–present) -- did pretty well, on the whole, despite (as usual) some questionable decisions. Ridership has been up.

    ---

    When people are ragging on -- or praising -- Amtrak CEOs, I'm not sure why nobody ever talks about the Alan Boyd or Thomas Downs administrations, which were the two most clear disaster periods for Amtrak. Every Amtrak buff has opinions about Claytor and Warrington and Gunn and Boardman, and often Reistrup and Kummant as well. People just don't seem to talk about Boyd or Downs at *all*. Honestly, I think all the others did a pretty decent job; for those two, the best I can do is to make excuses.
     

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