Experiential service class on long distance routes

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by lordsigma, Mar 24, 2019.

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  1. Mar 25, 2019 #26

    Skyline

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    Well, the "in between" used to be the SLUMBERCOACH. Private (not dorm) bare bones accommodations. Single or double. Amtrak inherited a bunch of them and they were in service until the end of the heritage era. Something like these, updated to current needs and standards, should be available system wide.

    If labor and linen costs make this impractical, let pax bring their own linens or sleeping bags and coach attendants can tidy up rooms like they do coach seats as pax come and go. Or, if there are multiple slumbercoaches, one attendant could handle more than one car if they don't need to deal with linens.

    The all-important thing is the availability of private, horizontal sleeping spaces at a significantly lower cost than roomettes and bedrooms. These budget rooms would not need to include meals. They would need to be private (not shared with strangers) as that would meet resistance in the USA.

    Slumbercoaches used to have in-room toilets and sinks. Nice but unnecessary if you have ample restrooms down the hall.

    People of all ages -- not just younger folk -- would be attracted to this type of accommodation.
     
  2. Mar 25, 2019 #27

    niemi24s

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    An experiential ride? Ye gods. Sounds like a high-falootin' term for a joy ride to me!
     
  3. Mar 25, 2019 #28

    crescent-zephyr

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    I'm familiar with the Slumbercoaches. I disagree that such a thing is needed. The roomette is a fine middle ground that is pretty bare bones as it is.

    If you want to travel across the country for cheap, an amtrak coach seat is quite luxurious compared to greyhound and megabus. (Way more leg room than domestic first class too).
     
  4. Mar 25, 2019 #29

    jis

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    Actually the Roomette is not really fine for a single traveller IMHO. But I know we will just have to agree to disagree on that.
     
  5. Mar 25, 2019 #30

    Larry H.

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    What your describing is exactly what the 50's redesigned trains offered to everyone. I don't understand though who at Amtrak is interested in this while the CEO is saying he wants to cut long distance to 750 miles and eliminate sleepers and diners? It would take an amazing change in thinking at Amtrak to come even close to these ideas. They simply are the kind of best service the Santa Fe and Union Pacific and New York Central tried to provide till the business fell apart due to planes and highways. Todays young are not as enamored with driving and flying so it might be the time to bring it back. But the cost should not be increased because were already paying for way more than were getting for beat up old equipment with lousy box lunches and no real dinners or lounges. Any photo from the glory times of those 50 trains will show the kind of rail service that many other nations are still running. Especially the Japanese who have the most unbelievable luxury on the rails. Somehow we think we can't do that.
     
  6. Mar 25, 2019 #31

    Larry H.

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    Over 40 years ago we rode the Canadian across Canada, it was a 22 passenger car train with every type of sleepers, all rooms, roomettes, and the old style lower and upper births. They ran several large lounges one a large dome car where at night young passengers were playing guitars and singing, it was a wonderful experience. Hopefully that kind of all class train at reasonable prices should work. To my way of thinking if you had larger trains at lower fares you would draw far more revenue than trying to charge outrageous cost which would be to a most limited ridership. Just remember the "Pullman Rail" experiment recently. No one was on board and I contend due to extreme cost which almost no one wanted to pay. I just saw some photos of the Union Pacific combined City trains coming though the desert and I could make out over 28 cars, all passenger.
     
  7. Mar 25, 2019 #32

    crescent-zephyr

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    None of this is true. Plenty of people rode, many times it was sold out. The reason pullman didn’t make it was because Amtrak was difficult to work with and would not let them expand to more profitable markets.

    I enjoyed my Pullman experience better than via rail’s Canadian. I had hoped it would continue and expand to the zephyr.
     
  8. Mar 26, 2019 #33

    Larry H.

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    Well it might have been full when you rode it but I observed the quick reduction in cars on the City of New Orleans and my Friends rode it and it consisted of three cars and about four passengers. I don't disagree with the idea of much nicer trains, but my contention was that we had very nice trains, ones that made Amtrak look like third class and all at reasonable fares when the new Super Chief, City trains, Broadway Limited were running and yet they died. And maybe time is coming back to american rail being favored again, but charging way more for what used to be part of a reasonable fare is not a great way to draw new customers.
     
  9. Mar 26, 2019 #34

    lordsigma

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    Based on seeing this in there, I don't think you are going to see a plan that wants to cut or chop up every single LD route, and every single sleeper/diner only certain ones. I think they see maintaining certain long distance routes they deem their favorites and focusing the diner/sleepers on them with a premium product like this while breaking the remainder of the LD routes up into "corridor like" trains sort of like what was proposed for the SWC except maybe without a bus bridge. That is what I would predict in their reauthorization request.
     
  10. Mar 26, 2019 #35

    tricia

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    Not what I meant at all. A diverse range of accommodations to suit the diverse needs of a wide range of passengers is a good thing.

    But I don't think our government should be in the business of sponsoring classes of service that only a tiny percentage of its citizens can likely afford. In particular, making observation cars off-limits for all except a few passengers paying much higher prices (like VIA's Prestige class) goes against one of the most valuable public-policy characteristics of Amtrak's LD trains: They're a place where all passengers, from diverse geographical and economic backgrounds, share the same common spaces. That's an increasingly rare phenomenon in our country these days, and one that's supportive of (perhaps essential for) a functioning democracy.

    Just my opinion. But it's something we might ought to think about when considering "experiential" service.
     
  11. Mar 26, 2019 #36

    Seaboard92

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    It’s funny I just picked up a client who wants to do the Iowa Pacific Pullman Rail Journeys who didn’t know it had ended. So now I have 18 passengers on two private cars going south only. Empty northbound leg.
     
  12. Mar 26, 2019 #37

    ScouseAndy

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    The super premium passengers want a land cruise experience and throughout the world these are often completely different schedules to the other 3 classes you discuss, they are predominantly end to end travel who are wanting off train excursions along the way. Belmonds Venice Simplon is perhaps an exception but even they offer extended breaks when not just running Paris to Venice. The Ghan in Australia makes extended stops at Alice springs for visitors to travel out to Ayres Rock, the Eastern & Oriental Express makes extended stops for visits to Bridge over river Kwai.

    The USA market is crying out for similar with extended stops being made for Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls etc and ensuring the best scenic highlights from the train are always done in daylight but Im not sure Amtrak is the right company to do this and they certainly shouldn't try and rack on to regular service trains as it will either result in extended schedules for those wanting to get from A2B or compromising a large slice of the highend market without these excursions.

    To rephrase a well known saying 'one schedule does not fit all'. If Amtrak does want to enter into this highend market then it needs to do it with dedicated trains with relaxed schedules and I don't think they have both the rolling stocks or enough leverage with the class 1s to get the additional paths needed. Because if your paying a couple of thousand dollars a day each the international market certainly won't stomach sat in a dated tatty coach for hours behind a broken down engine as numerous frieght trains pass by before ending their luxury land cruise on a bus
     
  13. Mar 26, 2019 #38

    crescent-zephyr

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    As far as the rail cruise market.. If you could work it out with BNSF an LA to Grand Canyon route is just waiting to happen. Also Denver to Grand Junction or Green River with bus trips to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
     
  14. Mar 26, 2019 #39

    Skyline

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    Compared to some of the ultra premium services being discussed in this thread, roomettes might be a "middle ground." But the pricing for current-day roomettes leans toward premium. Depending upon which bucket you wind up in, it may exceed legitimate "first class" costs.

    Some trains in other nations offer a horizontal product that compares favorably to the old Slumbercoaches we used to see here. Those that are truly private spaces (not shared dorms) would do well in the USA, in my opinion, if they are priced low enough. The only amenities really needed in the 21st century are ample storage space for luggage, backpacks, etc within the space and/or down the hall and ample ports for recharging electronics. Not only millennials would get on board with it.

    This Slumbercoach-like product -- truly bare-bones and NOT including meals -- would not replace higher-end roomettes and bedrooms. It would supplement them. I would love to see this receive a fair trial, aggressively promoted. I think it would be successful in attracting and keeping new riders. If the cars could be configured to maximize space they would likely prove to be profitable, especially if there were no linen costs (pax would bring their own, or substitute sleeping bags) and labor costs were minimized so the only duties of an attendant would mirror that of a coach attendant and could even be a shared responsibility not requiring a dedicated employee.
     
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  15. Mar 26, 2019 #40

    Seaboard92

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    We had a tour train like that in the United States till 2012 I want to say. It had operated yearly since the 1990s under several different operators due to the bankruptcy of the operator.

    1. American European Express 1989-1993 offering two PVs on the Capitol Limited for the most part. And a handful of special trains that ran separate.
    2. Greenbriar Express 1991 special trains powered by converted GP engines from DC to White Sulphur Springs.
    3. American Orient Express 1996-2006. Special trains hauled by Amtrak with roughly twenty sleepers, lounges, domes, and diners per consist. They ran several off network trips originating at Yellowstone going either to Seattle and the national parks in that direction, or towards Grand Canyon with routings that direction. In the springtime they did Washington-New Orleans via Charleston and Savannah.

    They had a beautiful consist. I would post photos but my phone isn’t allowing me to do that on the app.

    4. Grand Luxe Rail Journeys 2006-2008. Ran most of the same routings as The American Orient Express with the same consist. Went bankrupt in the Great Recession of 2008.

    5. American Railway Explorer 2009-2011. Still born never operated with AOE cars.

    6. Greenbriar Presidential Express 2011-2014. Still born intended to operate between DC and the Greenbriar. Cars from the AOE. Most of the sleepers were tubed and resold as shells.

    After that the cars were sold off.
    Currently the locations of cars I know of.

    1. PV the Berlin sleeper owned by Kevin Moore
    2. PV New York observation car. Renamed back to Sandy Creek owned by Wick Moorman
    3. Copper Canyon full dome. Owned by Grand Canyon Railroad.
     
  16. Mar 26, 2019 #41

    keelhauled

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    You're pretty much exactly describing the American Orient Express. It went bankrupt.
     
  17. Mar 26, 2019 #42

    crescent-zephyr

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    Bringing own linens / sleeping bag is a route I do not want to see Amtrak go. You keep saying "no meals" as this is a thing that Amtrak doesn't currently do. The Silver Star doesn't include meals for Roomettes and look at their prices.. is that where you want the slumbercoach prices to be?

    Again I disagree with you, I don't think Slumbercoaches should be on Amtrak's radar at all.
     
  18. Mar 26, 2019 #43

    crescent-zephyr

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    That is such an oversimplification of what happened, just like with the Iowa Pacific “Pullman journeys” deal there is soooooo much to the reason of why things didn’t work out.

    It’s NOT because there isn’t a market for this type of service.
     
  19. Mar 26, 2019 #44

    ScouseAndy

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    I agree as an international traveller who has experienced the Ghan, Eastern and Oriental Express along with other premium luxury train cruises I can vouch the market is there to sustain monthly in season trips. Why is it North Americans (in general) can't accept that a globally successful business model can equally work on the USA given the right marketing?
     
  20. Mar 26, 2019 #45

    jis

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    AFAIR most if not all of the luxury tourist operations are either private operations, or are run by a subsidiary of the government run railway that is entirely separate from the main railway operations financially (e.g in India). Which roughly in the US context means, it would be unlikely to be part of the run of the mill existing Amtrak business units. It would be an additional new BU or an entirely separate private operation. Due to the odd relationship between freight railroads and anyone running or attempting to run passenger operations viz a viz track access and insurance, it might have to have some relation with Amtrak.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
  21. Mar 26, 2019 #46

    crescent-zephyr

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    When rocky mountaineer runs into Seattle is that with Amtrak crew?
     
  22. Mar 26, 2019 #47

    Seaboard92

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    I believe Rocky Mountaineer runs with their own crews. They own their own power, cars, and I know in Canada they have hired engineers.
     
  23. Mar 26, 2019 #48

    crescent-zephyr

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    So they managed to strike a deal with bnsf then... so it can be done.
     
  24. Mar 26, 2019 #49

    Amtrakfflyer

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    One of the reasons a luxury brand would have a hard time working here long term is because Americans don’t (in general) have the disposable income anymore or time off like the rest of the first world countries have.

    Market it to foreign tourists maybe (think Grand Canyon), although like the AOE it probably wouldn’t be recession proof. We have a generation of Americans about to retire with nothing but Social security. Other countries with single payer insurance people aren’t paying $10,000 or more a year for family insurance and no proportionally their taxes aren’t that much more. Time off is another big factor for working Americans we don’t in general have the 6-8 weeks off Europeans or even Canadians have. The Europeans always laugh at us on our 3-4 night trips to Cancun, most of them are there with their entire families for 10-14 days and it’s just one of their yearly holidays.

    For this forum I’m not saying these things are right or wrong it’s just the way it is in 2019 and it’s not going to improve in the foreseeable future.
     
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  25. Mar 26, 2019 #50

    crescent-zephyr

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    Oh... that must be why the Disney parks and cruise lines are going out of business, cause Americans have run out of money.
     

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