Is the lounge car important to you or your trip?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Thirdrail7, Sep 18, 2019.

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  1. Sep 19, 2019 #51

    TiBike

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    Restrooms.

    I'll take the Japan Rail model over whatever fantasy version of Amtrak is on offer. I took a five hour, end-to-end trip in Hokkaido this summer. No amenities whatsoever, at least as folks on this board seem to define them. Not even a snack cart. But the train was spotless, staff were impeccably polite and efficient (even by Japanese standards) and it ran on schedule, to the minute. Bikes are allowed on board, without restriction and with no special space or equipment for them (but with the requirement that they be covered, in the interests of cleanliness). That was story on every train I took, except the Shinkansen, which did have a snack cart.

    It's what you get when trains are run as a mainstream transportation service instead of an amusement park ride.
     
  2. Sep 19, 2019 #52

    west point

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    It may be that if Amtrak had the passenger carrying capacity on some long distance trains that appears necessary then lounge cars would be necessary. Can you imagine the chaos if the Silvers, Crescent, and LSL had the number of cars on certain high demand days ? Would meeting the number of passengers on such trains with just the one food service car even be possible ?

    This poster thinks that lounge cars is necessary for us.
     
  3. Sep 19, 2019 #53

    jis

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    India manages to run 20 car trains with complementary food service for all passengers with one food service car. All food is served at the passengers' seat. Usually there are three or four choices covering the main groups of dietary choices in India. Usually one is so called Western, and the others are Indian at least one non-veg and one veg. And the trains usually run at very high occupancy level, like 90% to 100%.

    Lounges are nice to have, but from pure needs of providing efficient service, they are not essential.
     
  4. Sep 19, 2019 #54

    crescent-zephyr

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    Could be a cultural thing? Here in the states I get 2 drinks and a snack basket when flying from Chattanooga to Atlanta on Delta 1st. It’s like a 20 minute flight. Ha.

    Do the Japanese typically carry their own water with them? Or is there filtered water available on the Japanese trains?
     
  5. Sep 19, 2019 #55

    Devil's Advocate

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    The real fantasy is your implication that by simply trading everything we away we'll somehow end up with service similar to Japan.
     
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  6. Sep 19, 2019 #56

    TiBike

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    True that. But we can get something better than what we have.
     
  7. Sep 19, 2019 #57

    TiBike

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    There is a drinking water tap available, and I had no qualms about using it. People bring what they need on board. One other difference is that train stations, even in small towns, have at least a 7-11 type convenience store ( a "konbini") inside or adjacent. It is a cultural thing, I think, in the sense that most people take trains regularly and know what to do.
     
  8. Sep 19, 2019 #58

    Larry H.

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    I totally agree with the following comment.. There has developed over time a group who will give up anything in order to simply have a train run.. What is a train should be the question.. A long distance American train when business was what they encouraged, had pride in fine food, served as one railroad in the "Dining by Rail" book says, A quality of food the rider would expect at the best restaurants might have eaten at, at home. In surroundings to match. There were lounges for both coach and first class passengers. Some lines carried a nurse for emergencies, a hostess to serve and point out surrounding views. Some even had barber shops for those who needed a hair cut on line.. Your shoes were always shined overnight in first class. And the GM&O parlor car I rode many times from St. Louis to Chicago had swivel single seats on each side of the parlor car and some had a rear fan tail as well. Those were trains.

    I can hear the catcalls already but I am simply pointing out how far we have gone in what I don't consider a good direction.. Cruise ships spend billions on providing theaters, pools, spas, libraries, lounges, and service. I guess they could just run with bedrooms only but then who would ride?



     
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  9. Sep 19, 2019 #59

    railiner

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    I can't see even Anderson wanting to remove lounge cars from what he calls, "experiential trains"...
    I pine for the days when the railroads used to distribute elaborate and colorful "name train brochure's", screaming about the fantastic new equipment they contained...
    twin unit diner's, cafe cars, first class lounge cars, recreation cars, short and long dome's, taven lounge observation's....etc.

    They would brag about all the non-revenue 'feature cars' these new train's contained as a strong selling point putting them a step up on their competition.
    Of course, Amtrak doesn't have rail competition....:)
     
  10. Sep 19, 2019 #60

    MARC Rider

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    The scenery doesn't have mountains? The whole route from Pittsburgh to Washington crosses something called the "Appalachian Mountains." Anyway, having ridden in SSLs on both the Capitol and the western trains, I've never actually viewed scenery through the glass roofs, it's the large side windows that give the views.

    I guess I'm reacting to a perceived mindset that thinks that the only "scenery" in North America is the Rocky Mountains. There's all sorts of things interesting to see out of train windows, even passing through New Jersey on the NEC, and certainly on the Capitol Limited running through the Youghiogheny River Gorge, the Sand Patch Grade (with its own horseshoe curve), the Narrows at Cumberland, the Potomac River Valley, Harpers Ferry, and even the Maryland Piedmont between Point of Rocks and Rockville.
     
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  11. Sep 19, 2019 #61

    MARC Rider

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    I think so. I booked a ticket online last week, and they asked me if I wanted to bring my cat along for another $26.
     
  12. Sep 19, 2019 #62

    MARC Rider

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    1) Back in the old days, most of long-distance trains that ran didn't have all those fancy services. The railroad would run maybe one or two prestige trains, the rest, you'd be lucky to have a reclining seat coach and air conditioning. The prestige trains were run for the the big shots, who, back then, traveled by train because they had to. It carried on by inertia a little bit after jet airliners were introduced and the big shots started flying.

    2) Cruise ships, for the most part, aren't government subsidized operations providing necessary transportation. In fact, aside from some ferry services, I don't think there are any more passenger ships in scheduled service at all. And I don't think that the ferries offer "theaters, pools, spas, libraries, lounges, and service," either. Cruise ships are a completely different animal from Amtrak trains. There are cruise trains, (not in North America, unfortunately) click here and check some out. This is not the kind of service that the taxpayers are subsidizing Amtrak to provide. (And you pay for it, too -- the Paris-Venice ride goes for 3,500 Pounds (that's about $4,400.)

    3) The fact that the new Acela trainsets may have stand-up counters in the cafe cars doesn't say anything about what kinds of consists Amtrak is planning for trains traveling longer distances. Very few people ride the Acela to socialize. Most Acela passengers take trips of less than 3 hours; for many, it's a glorified commuter train. The same can be said about the Northeast Regional, the Capitol Corridor, the Pacific Surfliner, the Hiawatha, etc. A cafe car is probably a good idea to help the bottom line by selling booze, soft drinks and snacks at somewhat inflated prices to the captive audience, but the vast majority of people riding these trains don't need a place to socialize or look at the scenery.
     
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  13. Sep 19, 2019 #63

    Dakota 400

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    This comment is going back 6 decades. PRR had a train that ran from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago nightly called The Buckeye or The Ohioan. The last car of that train was often a Pullman car that had some Sections accommodations with the other part of the car a Lounge with beverage/Steward service. Its seating was as you described with a railfan window at the end of the car. As a child, I remember feeling "very grown up" when we boarded the train early (as Pullman passengers were allowed to do) and went to the Lounge and drank a Ginger Ale. Being able to watch the scenery from the railfan window helped to hook me on train travel.

    In PRR's later years, as their interest in Passenger Service waned, I would be disappointed when I found my rainfan window blocked by another train car.
     
  14. Sep 19, 2019 #64

    crescent-zephyr

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    Even as an adult... it felt very grown up riding through Memphis TN drinking a Baileys on ice in an Illinois Central Tail Car. Man that Iowa pacific Pullman was nice while it lasted!
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
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  15. Sep 20, 2019 #65

    Qapla

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    Interesting comment.

    Back when I was quite a bit younger I worked at a pizza place. When I first started there the owner of the store used to talk about our getting our share of the "pizza dollar". He was referring to the money people spent to buy pizza. We needed to make sure we got "our share" if we wanted to stay in business.

    A few years later he changed his terminology - he now said we needed to get our share of the "food dollar". He said people only have so much money to spend. They spend some of that money eating out. He said that they spend that money on things like pizza, steak, burgers, etc - and that we were no longer competing with only pizza places for our share ... we were competing with all "fast/casual" food places for our share of the money people spend.

    So, while it is true, Amtrak does not have a "rail" competitor - they are in competition with all other forms of travel.

    I'm not so sure they are all that different. At one time people used ships to get from point A to point B. The trip was not as important as the destination. Then, as planes began to take over as the way to get from point A to point B ships had to make changes. To accomplish this, they made the trip the important aspect - with the destination being secondary. The change did not happen overnight but, it has been very successful!

    There is no reason that Amtrak could not do the same - but that does not seem to fit the agenda of the ones who pull the strings.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
  16. Sep 20, 2019 #66

    railiner

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    Like the old Cunard slogan: "Getting there is half the fun"....to which I add: "Getting back is the other half"...:cool:
     
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  17. Sep 20, 2019 #67

    railiner

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    BTW, You might consider the Rocky Mountaineer as a "North American cruise train"...:)
     
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  18. Sep 20, 2019 #68

    Devil's Advocate

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    Most long distance routes that are part of Amtrak today were originally owned by a number of distinct railroads. Each railroad having one or two prestige trains continues to match up reasonably well with how things operate today. The second and third tier trains have long since been retired and now we're left with the named prestige trains that cost as much or more than flying.

    Few direct subsidies but master class level tax dodging.
     
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  19. Sep 20, 2019 #69

    Bob Dylan

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    At a really Steep Premium!!!
     
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  20. Sep 20, 2019 #70

    MARC Rider

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    I remember riding in an Amtrak (former PRR?) flat ended observation car in 1973. It was part of the Washington section of the Broadway Limited. There might have been some sleeper rooms in it, but they let us coach passengers use it, too. I spend most of the ride from Harrisburg to Baltimore sitting there, drinking coffee. (I was only 19 when I took this trip.)

    I'm not sure when Amtrak ended the Washington section of the Broadway Limited or when they stopped using the observation car. After that trip in 1973, I didn't take another long-distance trip on Amtrak until 1988, when I took the Capitol Limited to Chicago for my brother's wedding.
     
  21. Sep 20, 2019 #71

    JP1822

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    The original post speaks about the "new high speed train sets not having tables [in the cafe car." It doesn't have a lounge per say, just areas for people to stand around and enjoy food or beverages at sort of "high top" counters and small tables. And for the most part - hold onto your drink or any food you buy so it doesn't go flying off the tables. However, this is absolutely no different than the current Acela Express Cafe Cars. Other than the counter to "serve" food and beverage, the rest of the car is really a HUGE waste of space. I am not sure who came up with this concept - but not sure how appealing it really is to buy food and drink and then "stand up" next to a table top to then enjoy your purchase. There's no sit down area. You have to stand. I don't even think these new cafes have stools. I have no use for the Acela Express Cafe Car - other than as a place to buy food and drink and bring back to my seat to enjoy. Typically I am using my upgrade coupons to travel First Class. So the current cars and the new cars are being built on the same model that I believe leads to a lot of wasted space in this car. Amtrak former CEO and Pres. David Gunn wanted to add seating or potentially conference areas to the "empty/open" space of the cafe car. That makes more sense than the current setup. I've never really seen people "mingling" or hanging out in the Acela cafe car. A replication of the car for the new high speed train sets I think is a MAJOR short coming. Something else could have been designed here and made the experience more attractive.

    I find that passengers on the Northeast Regional Trains would rather have more table seating in the café – especially weekday riders – to continue their work day or get a jump start on their work day. Many use the tables who are not looking to eat there and just want to have the table to work at with their lap tops or conduct meetings. Thus the model for the next generation Amfleet cars (coach and café) on the NEC is really looking for a little more table seating spread throughout the train set. The refurbished single level ex-NJT “Comet” cars filling in on the San Joaquin route in central California have tables spread throughout the coach section better than most Amfleet cars. I feel that would be a favorable layout of sorts for the NEC train sets. So Northeast Regionals – definitely need the center café and table seating on either side, with Amtrak crew REMOVED and taking up space elsewhere. I’ve seen some conductors take up the last two seats in an Amfleet coach and that seems to work out fine.

    The single level long distance trains in the east lack a good sightseer or observation car, like the western long distance trains have with the Superliner Sightseer Lounge. The “sleeper lounge” nee Viewliner Diner looks to solve or fill that void. One step in the right direction cause it can be occupied 24 hours a day. But, it is limited to sleeper car passengers. With the expectation that the single level long distance trains will get additional sleepers (25 sleepers on order were meant to augment the existing sleeper capacity for these trains), a single café/lounge/dining area (even with the new tray meals etc.) is not going to have enough capacity. And then to re-engineer the Viewliner Diner so it can serve and have a café counter – totally not worth it. Just continue to run Amfleet Diner Lite Car with Viewliner “Sleeper Lounge” car. One LSA in both and they still save a lot of money and offer a nice amenity.

    That also mirrors what happens with the Superliner Sightseer Lounge/Café and Superliner Diner. Leave those paired together.

    Amtrak tried combining the Sightseer Lounge and Diner – that was the Cross Country Café invention, which flopped. Amtrak tried combining the Amfleet Café and Heritage Diner – that was the Amfleet Diner Lite car, and it flopped as a sole food service car. It only worked out on the Cardinal because of the “controlled” patronage Amtrak exercises with this route. Cardinal has limited coaches (three) and sleeper space (one Viewliner sleeper). It often needs more car.

    The "Lounge" is and always has been an important part of train travel and attraction/lure of train travel.
     
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  22. Sep 20, 2019 #72

    Trollopian

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    Thanks, MARC Rider. I wholeheartedly agree. Eastbound from Pittsburgh (at 5:20 a.m., if it's on time) into the rising sun as far as Harper's Ferry is one of the loveliest trips on Amtrak. Okay, I'll even grant you as far as Rockville.
     
  23. Sep 20, 2019 #73

    crescent-zephyr

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    How long did it operate as intended? It would have been ideal as the only food service car, keeping the ssl as a lounge only, with no food. The all day menu was a great idea that may have caught on if operated as intended.
     
  24. Sep 20, 2019 #74

    cocojacoby

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    What are you talking about? India has the ultimate scenic lounge car opportunity. Just bring a pillow and sit on the roof.
     
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  25. Sep 20, 2019 #75

    MARC Rider

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    When the Cunard liners ran, going by ship was the only means of transportation across the ocean, except for a maybe a decade or so after they started airline service and the ships were still running from inertia. One they were driven away from doing scheduled crossings, the lines kept in business by offering cruises, a totally different service.

    If you want a cruise train, try out the Rocky Mountaineer, or go over to the Belmond site. But you can't complain about the service Amtrak gives on a $1,000 coast to coast fare, after you look at their prices.
     

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