Amtrak Dining Car service

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NYP2NFL01

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Is there any truth to the continued rumors regarding the restoration of traditional dining on the Silver Service trains? The YouTube channel “Grounded Life Travel” did a Q&A yesterday and it seems someone knowledgeable on the subject reported this change is in the works!
 

jis

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Is there any truth to the continued rumors regarding the restoration of traditional dining on the Silver Service trains? The YouTube channel “Grounded Life Travel” did a Q&A yesterday and it seems someone knowledgeable on the subject reported this change is in the works!
The Amtrak representative who spoke at the RPA Fall Council Meeting pretty much said unequivocally that it is in the works. I don't know how much clearer a message could be.
 
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MARC Rider

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The LSA on the Capitol Ltd (30) 10/29/22 set me up with iced coffee and allowed me to sit in the non-employee section aka sleeper class. I put $3 in the tip tray and had my bagel and cream cheese delivered to my table. As sleepers arrived he took their order in sort of a classy way. Oh was I happy Coach diner with the iced coffee - the ice did NOT melt!

After breakfast, Harper’s Ferry Bridge -
View attachment 30298
I rode the Capitol Limited in Coach, Pittsburgh to Washington, and the cafe attendant had no problem with me sitting in the coach end of the Cross-Country Cafe car (i.e., the "dining car") while I ate the breakfast I bought there.
 

Willbridge

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It’s highly unlikely they ran out of the cake or red wine at lunch or that they miscalculated what to load on the train and were worried about spoilage - they likely either failed to load that item at all or, probably a bit more likely, didn’t have it in stock at the commissary. It may be an ordering mix up at the commissary or it may also be a supplier issue - the cake supplier simply may not have delivered the blueberry cheesecake. Impossible to know - the commissaries are run by one of the biggest outsourced food service providers in the US. When I rode the Chief west bound recently they also didn’t have the blueberry cheesecake though they had a plain cheesecake as a substitute. Could be something with that specific menu item - again impossible to know. Red wine likely also simply wasn’t loaded - again possibly be accident or possibly because the commissary ran out.
The same sorts of supplier shortfalls have happened at the retirement home where I live. Just as on Amtrak, the service problem is confounded when employees try to substitute items without asking the customer first -- or as on Russian trains -- the customer is handed a beautiful menu and then it turns out that the items were never on that day's train. OBS training needs to include ways of coping with this.
 
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On RPA webinar just completed, Amtrak VP said Silvers' traditional dining would be early 2023 (ergo, not December). Also, they want to open dining car to coach passengers on more than just the CS, but they're still working thru issues.

Also explicitly said there are no firm plans to restore traditional dining to other Eastern trains beyond the Silvers, in response to mention of Crescent by Jim Mathews.
 
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I thought the answer was specific to the Crescent, but I may have misheard.
Before the Crescent he did say something about there not being a commitment at this time to routes outside the Silver service and the routes which currently already have traditional dining.

It's important to note that the food and beverage working group that RPA is part of hasn't finished up and hasn't yet made its recommendations so while I suspect the Silvers is all we'll see in FY23 it doesn't mean that flex dining is here to stay forever elsewhere. I suspect any final long term decision making on food service formats would not be made until they have those recommendations in hand given the congressional mandate for them to participate in that process. Additionally Amtrak (in fact I believe it was Chestler himself) previously stated when they returned traditional dining out west that they had no plans to return it to anywhere else - and now it's coming back to the Silvers which back in 2019 none of us probably would have thought was going to happen.
 

jis

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Before the Crescent he did say something about there not being a commitment at this time to routes outside the Silver service and the routes which currently already have traditional dining.
Well, operationally there is a difference between LSL and the Crescent. LSL already has the necessary hard product (Viewliner Diner) in it, the Crescent does not, and they do not have enough Diners until they get them out of Mothballs to equip the Crescent with the necessary hard product. It is much easier to launch a soft product on an available compatible hard product than in the absence of it. Cardinal of course never really had full service Dining in the recent or even distant past, so it is an entirely different kettle of fish.

With all Diners on the road they actually should have enough to even equip the Card with Diner and full dining service. But this being Amtrak I am sure there will be many cogent excuses not to do so. Afterall the motto has been we shall never extend any service that we are not dragged into by our ankles kicking and screaming. Maybe the F&B committee report will be the agent for doing the pulling by the ankle kicking and screaming this time around :)
 

AmtrakFlyer

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I understand loosing corporate knowledge but Amtrak has served coach passengers in the diner for fifty (50) years. The prototype program going on with the Coast Starlight now changes the previous dining experience by making it a set price for a 3 course meal. Applebees or Fridays could have done this by printing a new menu card and sending a memo to store employees emplamenting it a few days later. It’s not much different than the 2 for $20 or I guess now the 2 for $26 they have been offering for over a decade or two.

Amtrak has every right and responsibility to simplify and find a solution for dining on the non premier trains, Eagle, Crescent, Cardinal, etc, but they’re intentionally dragging their feet on bringing coach pax back to the diner on western trains in my opinion. There’s no out of the box thinking, it just seems to be a menu change with new prices when all is said and done. Maybe I will be wrong and they will offer take out service, pre paid meal vouchers, drink packages like on a cruise $10 a day for all the soft drinks you want. Time will tell or time will just go on. 🤷
 

AmtrakFlyer

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I was going over some old webpages specifically about the DW and Pioneer and it got my thinking about the current Texas Eagle. Neither the Pioneer or DW ran with a lounge car when they were daily trains. I was a teen at the time but rode both trains a few times. The half diner/half lounge seemed to do ok. I remember sitting in the lounge side of the diner playing games, reading etc. No one complained and the trips were good. Back then the On Board Chief would have bingo games in the half lounge as well, the prizes were free meals in the diner side for coach passengers. I won a game but we were in the sleepers so they kept playing until a coach passenger won.

The consists and route lengths were basically the same as the Texas Eagle. So why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

Obviously flexible dining is an issue. But as far as the actual lounge, could it be the CCC that’s the main issue? Would a regular diner with more lounge seating be a better fit? Half of a true diner that has 8 tables and seating for 32 people is definitely better than the lounge end of the CCC that has a couple awkward booths that apparently are only used by the conductors.
For those that never rode in Superliner Diner/lounge it was just a normal diner with a semi permanent bar table like a cash bar at a wedding installed at one end. The Pioneer and DW are proof the one service car concept can work on non premier trains if emplamented correctly.

Diners are probably as scarce as everything else right now but I think that’s the way to go in some form.
 
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Willbridge

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I was going over some old webpages specifically about the DW and Pioneer and it got my thinking about the current Texas Eagle. Neither the Pioneer or DW ran with a lounge car when they were daily trains. I was a teen at the time but rode both trains a few times. The half diner/half lounge seemed to do ok. I remember sitting in the lounge side of the diner playing games, reading etc. No one complained and the trips were good. Back then the On Board Chief would have bingo games in the half lounge as well, the prizes were free meals in the diner side for coach passengers. I won a game but we were in the sleepers so they kept playing until a coach passenger won.

The consists and route lengths were basically the same as the Texas Eagle. So why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

Obviously flexible dining is an issue. But as far as the actual lounge, could it be the CCC that’s the main issue? Would a regular diner with more lounge seating be a better fit? Half of a true diner that has 8 tables and seating for 32 people is definitely better than the lounge end of the CCC that has a couple awkward booths that apparently are only used by the conductors.
For those that never rode in Superliner Diner/lounge it was just a normal diner with a semi permanent bar table like a cash bar at a wedding installed at one end. The Pioneer and DW are proof the one service car concept can work on non premier trains if emplamented correctly.

Diners are probably as scarce as everything else right now but I think that’s the way to go in some form.
I dug up this consist for the Pioneer. It's from the tri-weekly period, but shows a regular diner being used as a lounge.

1995 11 22 Consisrts 001 (2).jpg
Here's a Desert Wind consist for Train 36 reported at Fullerton on January 8,1993 when it was running daily. A similar consist was reported on January 10.

2 F40's, 33017 as diner lounge, 2 coaches, 1 coach-baggage, 1 sleeper (all Superliners). It had a lot of coach traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
 
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I was going over some old webpages specifically about the DW and Pioneer and it got my thinking about the current Texas Eagle. Neither the Pioneer or DW ran with a lounge car when they were daily trains. I was a teen at the time but rode both trains a few times. The half diner/half lounge seemed to do ok. I remember sitting in the lounge side of the diner playing games, reading etc. No one complained and the trips were good. Back then the On Board Chief would have bingo games in the half lounge as well, the prizes were free meals in the diner side for coach passengers. I won a game but we were in the sleepers so they kept playing until a coach passenger won.

The consists and route lengths were basically the same as the Texas Eagle. So why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

Obviously flexible dining is an issue. But as far as the actual lounge, could it be the CCC that’s the main issue? Would a regular diner with more lounge seating be a better fit? Half of a true diner that has 8 tables and seating for 32 people is definitely better than the lounge end of the CCC that has a couple awkward booths that apparently are only used by the conductors.
For those that never rode in Superliner Diner/lounge it was just a normal diner with a semi permanent bar table like a cash bar at a wedding installed at one end. The Pioneer and DW are proof the one service car concept can work on non premier trains if emplamented correctly.

Diners are probably as scarce as everything else right now but I think that’s the way to go in some form.

Why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

This is my opinion only - but it comes down to the Board / Management’s attitude towards long distance. Their words say they care - their actions say they don’t.

When all the incentives are based around cost cutting - the current situation is what you get.

Until someone at the top actually cares about running long distance trains well - expect lip service and marginal improvements at best.
 

MARC Rider

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Why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

This is my opinion only - but it comes down to the Board / Management’s attitude towards long distance. Their words say they care - their actions say they don’t.
If management really hated long distance, they wouldn't have restored traditional dining to the Zephyr, Chief, Builder, Starlight, and Sunset. They also wouldn't be planning the imminent upgrades of food service on the Silvers.

The problem seems to be that the Texas Eagle (plus the Crescent, the Capitol Limited, and the Lake Shore Limited) is getting the short end. Management must have other reasons for prioritizing service improvements on the long-distance trains the way they do.

If I were management, my priority for the long-distance trains would be ensuring reliability of the equipment so there are no delays caused by breakdowns of Amtrak equipment. My next priority would be hassling with the host railroads to improve their dispatching and eliminating preventable delays on their part. After that, I would try to inculcate a OBS culture that minimizes passengers complaining about nasty, rude OBS employees. After all those, then I might worry about improving the food.
 
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L
If management really hated long distance, they wouldn't have restored traditional dining to the Zephyr, Chief, Builder, Starlight, and Sunset. They also wouldn't be planning the imminent upgrades of food service on the Silvers.

The problem seems to be that the Texas Eagle (plus the Crescent, the Capitol Limited, and the Lake Shore Limited) is getting the short end. Management must have other reasons for prioritizing service improvements on the long-distance trains the way they do.

If I were management, my priority for the long-distance trains would be ensuring reliability of the equipment so there are no delays caused by breakdowns of Amtrak equipment. My next priority would be hassling with the host railroads to improve their dispatching and eliminating preventable delays on their part. After that, I would try to inculcate a OBS culture that minimizes passengers complaining about nasty, rude OBS employees. After all those, then I might worry about improving the food.
Lake Shore is actually treated pretty well and service on board is pretty good. While it isn’t slated for traditional dining restoration at this time it has one of the least meal periods so it’s understandable it wouldn’t be a huge priority for that and in other areas it seems to be a higher priority than the Capitol or crescent. It’s running with a viewliner 2 diner, has 3 sleepers reliably. and compared to other trains a decent amount of coaches and one of the few LD trains where they’ve added coaches to meet demand. It’s definitely the preferred train by management for East - Chicago and is definitely on the “A” list as far as priority. I’d define the “B” trains (the ones management doesn’t seem to know what to do with) as the Eagle, the Crescent, the Cardinal, and the City of New Orleans.
 
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Qualify food service, on-time performance, good equipment condition, positive employee attitude, using new equipment (you already own) to provide a better customer experience.

These are all things they don’t prioritize that makes it obvious management has no interest in running LD trains well.

They run them because Congress says they must. And their actions indicate they will do as little as they can get away with while doing so.
 

jis

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The best way of improving service on the texas eagle would be to convert the Capitol Limited and City of New Orleans to single level equipment and use those superliner to improve capacity in the texas eagle and get rid of flex dining.
And where is all the necessary single level equipment (specially Sleepers, Diners and Lounges) going to come from before the LD equipment replacement happens? It may be easier to fix the 60 or so Superliners that are awaiting restoration to service.
 
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Rizla Ronnie

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Looks like I may have to take you up on your offer.
Three days later no reply to my polite email.
They really don't care do they ?

Three months later an email arrives offering $400 in travel vouchers - about half the cost of our trip - for the disruption over our trip.
So I guess the obvious question - any suggestions for anything similar to the CZ around which we can plan another trip because apart from the food issues we really enjoyed our SF to Chicago journey.
 

jis

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Three months later an email arrives offering $400 in travel vouchers - about half the cost of our trip - for the disruption over our trip.
So I guess the obvious question - any suggestions for anything similar to the CZ around which we can plan another trip because apart from the food issues we really enjoyed our SF to Chicago journey.
As I recall you wanted to complain about your food experience, which I presume you did. Do you seriously expect to get compensated for your entire trip just because of your food experience? Was there additional disruption which was not mentioned by you? I traced back to the original message and could not find anything.
 
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