Last week I finally headed down to North Carolina to do the Piedmont Corridor, the only Amtrak route that uses its own unique equipment that I hadn't ridden (the only routes I'm now missing are the Blue Water, Silver Meteor and Silver Star). Another Train Ride loving friend (who doesn't post on this board) joined me on one of my S+ companion coupon for the trip so I had to book the trip as a pure round-trip (on the way down we got off in Cary instead of Charlotte) and give up on making a few of the stops I was planning to make (such as Selma-Smithfield for an hour from the Palmetto to the Carolinian). I also managed to visit every Piedmont Station. My Full Trip Report is now up on my website. Individual Piedmont Station pages I'm currently working on. Anyway (enough of an advert for my website), the reason I've started this topic is for a couple of observations I thought those on the forum would find interesting and warrant further discussion. One minor observation we made was how inefficient the crew was on the Piedmont, although the trains each had three coaches only two were open for passengers on my mid week trips. At each stop the crew would only open up one vestibule, not two even though each station except Raleigh has modern low-level platforms that don't require stools. It also seemed that everyone wanted help getting on and off. In addition at all the 'unstaffed by Amtrak employees' minor local stops we stopped at, Kannapolis, Salisbury, High Point, and Burlington had gated off platforms that required showing your tickets to an NC Station Host to gain access onto the platform. These are none-Amtrak ushers. In Kannapolis, the 'host' was the opposite of gracious giving us the response of How Dare you interrupt my television watching of Mattlock in my office. Also, we spent an afternoon in the Peidmont Triad. My original plan was to transfer between Greensboro and High Point just using PART (a regional express bus network). I discovered the WNS (Winston Salem Amtrak station code) and that the Winston-Salem Connector Bus (operated by PART as well) was available as a throughway add-on for no additional change, except requiring paper tickets and since it was a 6000 series connection assumed it would give us each an extra 100 AGR Points. When we arrived in Cary the evening before I stopped at a quick-track machine to pick up tomorrows tickets and was in for a surprise for the throughway ticket, having no value: We decided to head out to Winston-Salem anyway (paying an extra $2.40, using the PART express bus nextwork) and visit all 3 cities in triad (and went to a decent Crab Shack restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner) during our afternoon. I did flash our tickets to the PART throughway driver. He simply said the only reason the tickets exist is so you can read the fine print: Anyone know of any other useless Amtrak Throughway Connection tickets that just tell you to pay the fare to the driver? Finally, A discussion on North Carolina's Piedmont Service isn't complete without mentioning the onboard Vending Machines along with Coffee and Bottled Water "included in your Piedmont fare" in the Lounge Car. I found the vending machines to be a decent happy medium between not paying a food service employee and having no food service at all. For those coke lovers out there the vending machines had both Coke and Pepsi and soda cans were only a dollar (Normally a can of soda from the cafe car on other Amtrak routes is $2.25). Not to give the John Mica's of the world the idea the automat cars are viable on long-distance Amtrak trains, I wonder if putting 2 vending machines (one for drinks and one for snacks) by taking out maybe four sets of seats on a few Horizon Cars for the Hiawatha Service and in the cab cars for the foodless Shuttle Trains and Keystone Service would be a sustainable idea. Don't know where they could go for the Food-less Empire Service trains since these consists are through-routed and pooled with the two extended trains to Niagara Falls and the Ethan Allen Express.