Train Jam CZ Feb 23

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Just-Thinking-51, Dec 3, 2016.

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  1. Dec 3, 2016 #1

    Just-Thinking-51

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    So a group of game programmers have taken over the California Zephyr from Chicago to Oakland on Feb 23, 2017. The train is currently sold out.

    This topic came up on a different thread.

    Can Amtrak empty out the yard for this group? More renvue cars, and more lounge space?

    Edit change of date, and to cut down on the story.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2017
  2. Dec 3, 2016 #2

    Anderson

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    I'd wonder doubly since it's the dead of winter and if last year is anything to go by they would be "shorting" other trains at that time by a sleeper and/or coach. If they're shorting the Zephyr by a sleeper, that would provide at least 5 spare sleepers (not to mention the seasonal-only Chief sleeper, which should provide another 4-5). In summer I'd say "no", but in February?
     
  3. Dec 3, 2016 #3

    Thirdrail7

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    Things to consider:

    Perhaps this group arranged exclusive occupancy as part of the agreement.

    I believe there is still a maximum length for the train at DEN. That would mean they could possibly add two more cars. Would that be worth the costs if that translates into additional attendants, equipment, staff and stops? Additionally, if they are not coming back by train, what is the cost of getting all of the equipment back, particularly if it doesn't sell out?

    Assuming this group uses the full consist (and judging by the numbers, they're using most of it), they may take a page from train 830 in the Sept 26th 30 Capitol Limited Cancelled thread. In other words, they may have a hold on the train until the numbers are firm, and then sell any leftover space.

    Indeed, groups have a certain amount of time to preserve their space. Maybe they won't even show and all the space will be released.
     
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  4. Dec 3, 2016 #4

    niemi24s

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    My feeble little mind is boggled at the thought of a whole train full of gamers, feverishly poking away at their PDA's while the wonderful scenery along the CZ route passes them by.
     
  5. Dec 3, 2016 #5

    CCC1007

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    PDA's?
     
  6. Dec 3, 2016 #6

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Thanks for your reply. Everything you stated is a valid issue. However you did not check with the organization web site. The train is fully sold out, both on the game designer web site, and on Amtrak web site.

    Denver is a short platform but looks like three additional cars could be added in October when the AU gang was in town. It does have the ability to host PV, and the second track. So yes it's a pain by design, but not a excuse.

    Even if a unstaffed Lounge car was added just for space, some of pax might not notice but some may. Good will for a group travel with lap tops that are networking. (Both social and work related)

    The other issues is this middle of the winter run using the short off season train set or the full summer mode length.

    Even one way planned traffic, you could plan to return the additional cars after the event. You might pick up a few extra pax in the middle of the winter.
     
  7. Dec 3, 2016 #7

    Thirdrail7

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    Interesting response. I will tackle a couple of things together.

    I'd like to tether this with my previous statement.

    While you'd like to use the term "sold out," I prefer to use the term "reserved out." This is because as we've discussed on the board about groups, there may be a hold on the space until the numbers are settled. The numbers are not settled until payment is rendered. It things aren't settled by a certain date, the space will be released. Perhaps that date hasn't occurred yet. :ph34r:

    You're of course saying this without knowing if they are using an abbreviated consist(which judging by the numbers, I'm willing to say that is not the plan) or knowing how many people are actually currently considering the trip. As such, you don't know if they are not only bringing in an extra lounge ( or two), but an additional diner to feed the amount of people that are traveling for three days. Remember, they did just that in the thread I linked above (which had a similar amount of people scheduled). This would naturally impact operations at a place like Denver. That is more than a "pain" or an "an excuse." It is indeed an operational issue. So, again adding additional equipment might not even be feasible.

    However, let's say that it is and we have two more cars to play with. Assuming that the group didn't ask for exclusive occupancy, they are traveling end to end (and then some I think.) All you need to do is staff the train for the group and make the usual recrew/servicing stops (just as they did in the thread above.) How much additional revenue will you capture and how much additional staff will you need to accommodate the additional riders. Will they even show up since as you've previously stated, it is the dead of winter? Perhaps, they are looking at it and saying "this train, which is a big money loser is completely full. It is one train, so we'll leave it sold out and stay ahead of the curve." Deadheading equipment for three days still costs money. That of course assumes the equipment couldn't just stay in California, to which I say perhaps it can. I would probably use the CAL pool and deadhead the equipment out to CHI for the beef up so when it gets back to California, it settles back in.

    I can only speculate about the contents since there are a many variables and this trip is still far off. For all we know, more equipment will get added. They added more equipment to existing trains and eventually more trains to support the Million Women March. For all we know, some of the members of this group will not make the trip and that space will return to inventory. We should probably wait until the end of December and see how things are really shaking out.
     
  8. Dec 3, 2016 #8

    west point

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    Several thoughts. This is a Thursday origination in CHI arrive EMY SAT..

    Extra equipment may not be as available as we think. Remember the Denver Ski train operates SAT and SUN so that equipment is not available.

    DOES the CZ have potable water service and fueling at DEN ? If so longer train may be limited.

    However if servicing not needed at Denver the train can bypass DEN station and change T&E at the WYE since no DEN passengers to board or alight. Servicing of diner(s) may be required at DEN or SLC.

    If some of the charter passengers are originating at DEN then stop required ?.

    If no intermediate passengers then train can run ahead of schedule subject to T&E crew time and co-operation by BNSF and UP.
     
  9. Dec 4, 2016 #9

    Thirdrail7

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    If everything remains as it appears, the passengers are traveling from end to end. No one will alight once the train leaves CHI. DEN can not be overlooked since it is not only a fueling/service facility, it is the calendar day inspection point for the entire train, which I believe is part of the reason for the limit. I've never been to Denver so I don't know if it matters that no one should board or alight. It's not like you have to spot it for loading or unloading. Perhaps the length hinders inspections or fouling points.

    If this trip occurs, it looks like it might be a great place to network and have fun. I wonder if there will be a special menu or special items in the cafe car.

    I wonder if the student ambassadors are allowed to imbibe! ^_^

    I can't wait to see what games come out of this trip. Perhaps there will be a game called "NO HEP," in which your train is in the middle of nowhere during the summer and you strike debris. You have to repair severed cables before certain levels are reached such as passengers calling customer relations, your entire food supply is condemned or people start kicking out windows.

    Maybe there will be a game named "My sleeper companion snores much more than I thought," and you have to find a way to keep yourself asleep.

    How about a game of "find the air leak on the Auto Train." It is similar to "Where's Waldo," with consequences. You have to find it before the toilets stop working for good, the brakes won't release and the wild boar that has been stalking you as you walk the train, closes in with reinforcements. Bonus points if any crew member resigns. Extra points if announcements updating the status of the train comes every twenty minutes.

    Hmmm..there might be a market for this. I should take this trip. I might make a fortune!
     
  10. Dec 4, 2016 #10

    AmtrakBlue

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    :giggle:
     
  11. Dec 4, 2016 #11

    neroden

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    They're going to have to keep making the "fresh air stops", no question about that....

    I think it's actually extremely unwise to ever suspend service to intermediate points just because you've got a charter -- it shows a lack of seriousness about Amtrak's core mission -- so I hope Amtrak won't actually do that. Perhaps one approach would be put all the non-charter passengers in one coach, and sell all the tickets at top bucket, so that only the "no I really really needed to travel THAT DAY!!!" passengers bother to buy tickets. Most likely Amtrak simply has not released the excess space yet and will do so later.
     
  12. Dec 4, 2016 #12

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Since you can't book this train on the Train Jam web site due to "Sold Out" of all seats, and compartment. But a few days ago Amsnag show coach space. One thinks there are non-event passengers on board. So the train will be stop at all scheduled stops.
     
  13. Dec 4, 2016 #13

    snvboy

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    I first found out about TrainJam in 2015 when I was (by pure coincidence) on the California Zephyr that they were on. I remember sitting in my room in Chicago as folks were boarding, and thinking "Man, this is youngest crowd ever on Amtrak. This is gonna be FUN." They had these great "Fun Meter" buttons that you could move the meter on from like 0 to 10.

    Their event has grown every year. 2015 they shared the same lounge as the rest of the passengers, which led to a few issues that the group handled professionally. Last year (and I believe this year) they have their own lounge car and cafe (the line up sponsors to pick up the cafe car tab). It's a great group of friendly, energetic programmers and game developers from around the world. Overall I think it's a very cool event and idea. Should they be doing it with private cars? Maybe, but I'm guessing the economics of that don't work out at all for the group or the attendees - there just aren't enough berths and space in private cars. TrainJam is also able to split roomettes, not with Amtrak but on their own rooming list.

    In terms of "suspending service" - the train is sold out, does it matter at all HOW it got sold out?

    Interestingly one of the real challenges they have is the power capacity in the cars. On my train there were numerous blackout and brownouts - I think this is something the organizers have gotten a better handle on.

    In terms of the games created and conjectured with sarcasm in a previous post, all the games are available here: http://trainjam.com/games

    They have a 'theme' each year - I think in 2015 it was "on track". If you go to that link, the output and creativity are absolutely impressive. Even more so when you consider how many distractions there are on the California Zephyr. It's fun to follow the @trainjam Twitter and IG and see how many developers post "I'm so behind on my game because of the awesome views from the train".

    Here are a few photos from my 2015 trip.

    [​IMG]

    TrainJammers be jammin

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Many distractions from the awesome scenery between Denver and Grand Junction.

    [​IMG]

    On of the "Men who wear many hats" - that's actually the name of the developers company.
     
  14. Dec 4, 2016 #14

    snvboy

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    And a few more photos...

    [​IMG]

    Breadboarding an LED module for a game


    [​IMG]
    Finished LED game - two tracks of LEDs race each other.

    [​IMG]

    Tab in the Cafe car that was picked up by sponsors. Past Reno it was pretty slim pickings.
     
  15. Dec 4, 2016 #15

    Just-Thinking-51

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    FYI "snvboy" was the AU user that post this information first on a different thread. I did give him credit, but delete the reference to clean up the first post.
     
  16. Dec 4, 2016 #16

    Thirdrail7

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    Thank you for the information, snvboy! it looks like a good time. As you indicated, the numbers are probably increasing every year.
    It looks like the gamers are attentive and possibly inspired by the scenery.

    Indeed! A sold out train is not a necessarily a bad thing. However, if the group did take over the whole train without an E/O clause, I'm in agreement with justthinking and Anderson. If it is possible to add a car or two, it should be considered since the train is making the trip anyway.

    I make no apologies for the titles of my games. You know it was funny and honestly, it seems like I wasn't that far off. Check out some of the titles of the games:

    Super Hobo Devs

    Adriel is Late

    Two On The Track

    Mark Ellis: Train Bridge Inspector

    This Train Is Gonna Kill You

    Lucid Sense Deprivation

    Slow Disconnect

    The Little Engine That Killed EVERY **** THING IN ITS WAY

    Snow Thy Enemy

    Itty Bitty Trainwrecks

    Wooden Trains in Flames

    Track Mayham

    Yup! These all sound like they were inspired by an Amtrak journey and judging by what you said about the brownouts, my NO HEP game has a chance! :giggle:
     
  17. Dec 4, 2016 #17

    Bob Dylan

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    Seems like this isn't a whole lot different than the annual Florida to Washington "Kiddie Train" which we have had numerous threads on!

    I'm with the why not run a "Special" for them crowd, YMMV.
     
  18. Dec 4, 2016 #18

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Tickets when on sale for Train Jam 2017 on November 28th.

    Block the full Train out for next year, add cars.
     
  19. Dec 4, 2016 #19

    Seaboard92

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    I could think of several reasons Private Cars wouldn't work. One the highest sleeping car number I think is 24 passengers most are lower. Each car has a different charter price some are as low as 1,000 a day some are upwards of 5,000 a day. If you want to charter coaches there aren't many single level coaches I can think of five off hat that are certified. Plus each car is different interior, and furnishings. So some people who get a coach ticket in say St Augustine will end up smelling that funky smell in the Exploded smerth. While someone who gets an IP coach gets something similar to a long distance coach on Amtrak.

    Plus you would have to get a train manager to get everyone together I could think of three qualified people who could do that fairly easy.

    ImageUploadedByAmtrak Forum1480879842.436707.jpg

    That is the locomotive guide for PVs with train length restrictions for the CZ.
     
  20. Dec 5, 2016 #20

    neroden

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    The inability of Amtrak to simply add cars and add trains when demand requires is a problem. Anything which is sold out well in advance, there should be extra sections added.

    If it gets long enough, the train could be run in two sections. :) If Amtrak can come up with the equipment. And if the host railroads aren't asses about it.
     
  21. Dec 5, 2016 #21

    neroden

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    I would really love to see slightly more of that guide because I've been very curious about the current train length restrictions at different stations (for instance, on the LSL route...) But I don't know where to get a copy of it, is it available AARPCO members only? :-(
     
  22. Dec 5, 2016 #22

    OlympianHiawatha

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    I would hate to be a "stray" pax on this run; several years ago I had to last minute book a hotel in Kansas City to crew an airshow flight and the closest hotel to the Downtown Airport was over run with a Gamer Convention; it was a night of terror with them running up and down the hallways and playing games in every square inch of public space.
     
  23. Dec 5, 2016 #23

    snvboy

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    Having been that "stray," all the TrainJam folks were pretty cool. The organizers put signs on about 1/3 of the tables in the lounge car saying "NO TRAIN JAMMERS." I think the organizers were pretty good at respecting the non-participant travelers, and making sure that the participants did as well. The participants were all eager to talk about their game ideas, where they were from, etc.

    I recall one time in the lounge that one of the game noises was bothering me, and they didn't make an issue out of putting on their headphones. No late night shenanigans, no drunk escapades. Keep in mind, the TrainJam folks aren't doing this to play games, they are doing it to make them. So there is a lot of focused effort.

    The diner DID run out of veggie burgers pretty early in the trip, and as noted on one of the photo captions the cafe car was cleaned out by Reno.

    I gave some serious thought to booking on this trip in 2017 - either direct with Amtrak or via TranJam - just because it was just a neat group of people and a very cool vibe on the train.
     
  24. Dec 5, 2016 #24

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Best bet is book way before Train Jam does. Getting it from them is going to be hard. Also they use all bunks up, so no solo travel.
     
  25. Dec 5, 2016 #25

    west point

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    The lack of surge fleet cars is going to be an ongoing problem. Now if the new administration would get funds to rebuild what equipment that is wrecked then that would start but probably they would immediately be absorbed into present high travel periods much as happened in the 2009 - 2010 period.

    If Amtrak is going to run out of food on this trip maybe they can put a cold storage frig in the Baggage car with extra food ?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2016

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