Amtrak Cafe service, vending machines etc. discussion

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jis

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Wouldn’t Amtrak probably have higher sales in cafe cars if customers were allowed to sit at cafe car tables?

When I walk into a cafe car, and all of the tables are taken up by crew members, and I get yelled at if I try to sit at one, of course I buy less.

Other transportation companies don’t let crew sit in passenger lounges (at least while in uniform). It is surprising that Amtrak just lets this continue.
That is one of the most inexplicable behavior seen on Amtrak trains and over 40+ years no one in Amanagement seems to have been concerned about it through many regimes, enough to do anything about it. Arguably there should be some designated space for them and for storing and presenting food items and other items that need storing, so there is poor car design involved too perhaps.

And look what they did in Viewliner IIs. They forgot to retain the Linen Closets from Viewliner Is so now there is nowhere to store Linen and there goes one revenue Roomette to serve as a closet. Anyway that is getting off the subject of the thread, but I see a trend in the left hand not communicating with the right that leads to all this malarkey
 

jamess

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On San Joaquin right now, but no cafe car...
But there is one table that’s set up with enough snack packs for everyone and those teeny tiny 8 oz bottles of water. The announcement made is that they substitute for the lack of a cafe car. I guess no beer though.

The box is kind of interesting. I would think that California covers the Central Valley, but I guess they want to highlight it. The contents include El Sabroso salsa chips (from LA-based Snak-King), Blue Diamond almonds (most definitely), a KIND bar (not from California), and Sweet Serenity chocolate chip cookies (from some company called a Biscomerica in Rialto, California).

View attachment 30275

Im confused, were these free?
 

John Webb

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As a former Amtrak San Joaquin LSA during the 70's and 80's I have to say this is sad. The elimination of the cafe car is hardly an "upgrade" in service to San Joaquin passengers. Even more sad because it is unnecessary. I'm sorry to say SJJPA is turning the San Joaquins into simply a bus on rails. There are many passengers who connect from 6 to 7 hour rides on actual busses and have to ride another 6 to 7 hours trapped in their seats. Hardly a selling point. The cafe car offered a place to go and have a meal or a drink on a long journey. What's next? Seatbelts?

How about checked baggage service on the new equipment? is that also being eliminated?
 

UserNameRequired

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Does anyone remember trying the Automat car on the Pere Marquette? I watched the TCM movie Automat I had recorded that made me think I have read threads on here about the SP Automat car but I don’t find the Amtrak Automat discussed much. Amtrak’s Automat 8601 appeared to be a heritage UP car, converted. From one review, they mention it is not restocked enough which would seem to set it up for failure. Two microwaves.


If it was restocked on the go with hot food from a small kitchen, could it work? Or, this thing is a really bad idea?
 
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Does anyone remember trying the Automat car on the Pere Marquette? I watched the TCM movie Automat I had recorded that made me think I have read threads on here about the SP Automat car but I don’t find the Amtrak Automat discussed much. Amtrak’s Automat 8601 appeared to be a heritage UP car, converted. From one review, they mention it is not restocked enough which would seem to set it up for failure. Two microwaves.


If it was restocked on the go with hot food from a small kitchen, could it work? Or, this thing is a really bad idea?
The automat car pictured bore no resemblance to an actual Automat in NYC or Philly. The real Automats had a wall of glass-doored cubbies that were constantly restocked from a kitchen on the other side of the wall. The car was just a car with tables and some vending machines, like a typical office break room.

I don't see any advantage to having a car full of vending machines if you're going to also have a kitchen and an attendant restocking them. A traditional cafe car with an attendant is more efficient. The attendant costs the same whether he's selling food at a counter or stuffing it in vending machines.
 

Willbridge

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The SP automat cars had a two-man crew. They kept the car clean and dealt with (numerous) breakdowns. Customers hated it. In the same era, the NP cafeteria car on their PDX <> SEA train had a two-man crew, with a third at peaks. Customers liked it. Freshly made sandwiches were tasty. Train 408 was the ancestor of Amtrak Train 11, across the lunch hour, connecting to SP Train 11. Train 407 served dinner, connected to the Mainstreeter and Western Star at Seattle.

1967 006.jpg
 
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Bob Dylan

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Does anyone remember trying the Automat car on the Pere Marquette? I watched the TCM movie Automat I had recorded that made me think I have read threads on here about the SP Automat car but I don’t find the Amtrak Automat discussed much. Amtrak’s Automat 8601 appeared to be a heritage UP car, converted. From one review, they mention it is not restocked enough which would seem to set it up for failure. Two microwaves.


If it was restocked on the go with hot food from a small kitchen, could it work? Or, this thing is a really bad idea?
A Bad Idea!( I actually rode on the SP when the Automat Car was in the consist.)
 

MARC Rider

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A Bad Idea!( I actually rode on the SP when the Automat Car was in the consist.)
It's not really an "Automat" car anyway, if one's idea of an "automat" is Horn & Hardart. It's more of a vending machine car, and while it might theoretically be possible to sell decent food from vending machines, in real life that doesn't happen very often.

But it should be noted the Piedmont service in North Carolina does quite well with a vending machine car (but you do get free coffee and water, too.) The Keystones and most of the Empire Service trains also manage quite well without any food service.
 

Bob Dylan

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It's not really an "Automat" car anyway, if one's idea of an "automat" is Horn & Hardart. It's more of a vending machine car, and while it might theoretically be possible to sell decent food from vending machines, in real life that doesn't happen very often.

But it should be noted the Piedmont service in North Carolina does quite well with a vending machine car (but you do get free coffee and water, too.) The Keystones and most of the Empire Service trains also manage quite well without any food service.
It's still putting "Lip Stick on a Pig!"😉
 

crescent-zephyr

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But it should be noted the Piedmont service in North Carolina does quite well with a vending machine car (but you do get free coffee and water, too.)
I’ve ridden the Piedmont many times and the machines have always been well stocked and operational. The system seems to work well for regional trains.

Since all of the cafe car food could also be vending machine food, I’m not sure what the issue is… it’s not like the cafe car LSA’s are known for their charming service - I’d be all for more vending machines!
 
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I’ve ridden the Piedmont many times and the machines have always been well stocked and operational. The system seems to work well for regional trains.

Since all of the cafe car food could also be vending machine food, I’m not sure what the issue is… it’s not like the cafe car LSA’s are known for their charming service - I’d be all for more vending machines!
Are there microwaves for pizza, burgers, sandwiches, mac-n-cheese, etc.? People tend not to clean up shared microwaves after making a mess in them. I've seen some pretty disgusting ones in break rooms. Some people cook really smelly food, and if you have a publicly accessible microwave, there's nothing to prevent people from putting their own food in it.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Are there microwaves for pizza, burgers, sandwiches, mac-n-cheese, etc.? People tend not to clean up shared microwaves after making a mess in them. I've seen some pretty disgusting ones in break rooms. Some people cook really smelly food, and if you have a publicly accessible microwave, there's nothing to prevent people from putting their own food in it.
it works fine on the Alaska Railroad. They have a cafe attendant but they just ring you up and take your money, you have to microwave the food yourself.
 

Mailliw

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I’ve ridden the Piedmont many times and the machines have always been well stocked and operational. The system seems to work well for regional trains.

Since all of the cafe car food could also be vending machine food, I’m not sure what the issue is… it’s not like the cafe car LSA’s are known for their charming service - I’d be all for more vending machines!
There's zero chance Amtrak would ever even experiment with dispensing alcohol via vending machines.
 

Widfara

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Wouldn’t Amtrak probably have higher sales in cafe cars if customers were allowed to sit at cafe car tables?

When I walk into a cafe car, and all of the tables are taken up by crew members, and I get yelled at if I try to sit at one, of course I buy less.

Other transportation companies don’t let crew sit in passenger lounges (at least while in uniform). It is surprising that Amtrak just lets this continue.
As long as there is no supervision by adults, children will do what they want.
 

Rambling Robert

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The 2¢ CHICLET VENDING MACHINE in NYC subways met it’s demise just as Amtrak began service in the 1970s. Needless to say Amtrak did not pick up on the contract. haha. It’s hard to fathom that nearly 12,000 vending machines could be found in the bowels of the subways of New York City and originally they were all under one contract.

Chiclets were the majority of the candy and the all vending machines had about 145 employees to keep them supplied. The downfall was when the machines kept breaking down in the 1970s and finally the operator was asked to end it’s contract.

It’s certainly fun to think back of those days - my brother reminded me of family NYC subway excursions in the 1950s. I would’ve been a little kid and the subway was awesome and my Dad was awesome for knowing the way around.

The full story (my source) can be found in this link below. - there is even a connection with Harvard University!.

 
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The 2¢ CHICLET VENDING MACHINE in NYC subways met it’s demise just as Amtrak began service in the 1970s. Needless to say Amtrak did not pick up on the contract. haha. It’s hard to fathom that nearly 12,000 vending machines could be found in the bowels of the subways of New York City and originally they were all under one contract.

Chiclets were the majority of the candy and the all vending machines had about 145 employees to keep them supplied. The downfall was when the machines kept breaking down in the 1970s and finally the operator was asked to end it’s contract.

It’s certainly fun to think back of those days - my brother reminded me of family NYC subway excursions in the 1950s. I would’ve been a little kid and the subway was awesome and my Dad was awesome for knowing the way around.

The full story (my source) can be found in this link below. - there is even a connection with Harvard University!.

For the benefit of our younger members: Chiclets were bite-size squares of chewing gum encased in a hard candy shell, a la M&M's.
 
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Does anyone remember trying the Automat car on the Pere Marquette? I watched the TCM movie Automat I had recorded that made me think I have read threads on here about the SP Automat car but I don’t find the Amtrak Automat discussed much. Amtrak’s Automat 8601 appeared to be a heritage UP car, converted. From one review, they mention it is not restocked enough which would seem to set it up for failure. Two microwaves.


If it was restocked on the go with hot food from a small kitchen, could it work? Or, this thing is a really bad idea?
Yes - I used it. Not a proper substitute for a Lounge Car - but at least offered tables and ample outlets to get work done. I believe having outlets at every booth was a new concept then.

Definitely better than no Lounge at all - but I am not a fan of the concept on anything but the shortest regional routes.

I am NOT a heavy drinker, but I do enjoy relaxing on the train with a glass of wine or a beer from time to time. And chatting with an actual human being (Lounge Attendant) is also a nice option.

Vending machines don't offer those options.
 
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