Amtrak dining

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John Bredin

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Don't know about the dining car for sure, bit I think the railroad itself ran those (vs. Pullman for the sleepers) and diner meals were not included in sleeper fare. I think the diner was for whoever paid to eat in the diner.

Seat during the day folding into a bunk, with two seats facing becoming two bunks stacked. Just like a roomette now without the fourth wall (or sink or toilet) but a curtain instead.

Superliners came in the late 1970s.
 

jis

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Before Superliners and Amtrak SantaFe did have bi-level Diners in their El Capitan Hi Level consists. The cost of dining AFAIK was not included in the ticket and people who ate in the Diner paid for it at the table.

Since the El Cap was a Coach only train, naturally all the users of these Hi Level Diners were Coach passengers.
 

mlanoue

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In 1940, a 4-course steak dinner on the El Capitan cost $1.00, which would be $20.65 in today's dollars.


It's always fun to look at old menus like that from the pre-Amtrak days. But for me it's a bit of an information overload. It's nice to have choices, but that A La Carte page is a lot. It's amazing they loaded all of that on the train. While I wish Amtrak had maybe a few more choices, I do appreciate the simplicity.
 

Willbridge

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Now we are drifting into the realm of selection of conversation topics and how inclusive they are for everyone sitting at a table. Even in a non rail situation it is not unusual for multiple conversation on diverse subjects to carry on at the same table and yet a few feeling left out of it. I don't see how that general social phenomenon can be specifically avoided or addressed in all cases at an Amtrak Diner table, even if none are specifically trying to be nasty or anything like that.

Personally, I am typically not a conversation starter, being somewhat of a reclusive, but more of a conversation joiner or listener depending on what catches my fancy or not. So I may not exactly live upto the high standard of being a conversationalists in Amtrak Diner as seems to be expected here by some. C'est la vie.

I only recall one out and out non-conversationalist in a dining car and he was reading one of Ann Rule's true crime books at the table. I decided it would not be wise to drag him into the table talk among we other three unrelated travelers.
 
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Willbridge

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In the pros and cons of community seating, it should be pointed out that though it is rare for most Americans, there are other venues where we'll be seated with strangers. There may be an official connection of some kind, such as at a military reunion, but in terms of conversation that's not much different than having a train journey in common.

There are the same risks. At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in a small Alberta city I was seated at the head table next to the wife of the chamber president. Just before I was to speak on passenger transport, she asked me about my experience. One item relevant to the Alberta economy was a job with a Japanese wholesale tour operator, routing tours by rail into the Canadian Rockies, for example.

Unfortunately, her brother was one of the raw Canadian troops sent to defend Hong Kong in WWII and then spent years in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. She was pretty blunt about her feelings, including as war criminals anyone who would work in 1974 for a Japanese company. (The company had been started by Continental Trailways as their Japanese subsidiary. I think the finance officer was the only employee old enough to have participated in the war.)

I'm glad there was no YouTube video of the beginning of my talk and in the end, it was well-received. And I did learn some things from the experience, but it stuck in my head as an "individual mileage may vary" situation.
 
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It's always fun to look at old menus like that from the pre-Amtrak days. But for me it's a bit of an information overload. It's nice to have choices, but that A La Carte page is a lot. It's amazing they loaded all of that on the train. While I wish Amtrak had maybe a few more choices, I do appreciate the simplicity.
If you think that is too long you should take a look at this monstrosity.

Certainly? A deep fat fryer full of boiling hot oil on a train lurching along down a track full of sun kinks???
I have no idea how they did it back then but you could presumably use an air fryer today.

YGTBSM!!!!!!!!
Needs more outrage.
 

Rambling Robert

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Don't know about the dining car for sure, bit I think the railroad itself ran those (vs. Pullman for the sleepers) and diner meals were not included in sleeper fare. I think the diner was for whoever paid to eat in the diner.

Seat during the day folding into a bunk, with two seats facing becoming two bunks stacked. Just like a roomette now without the fourth wall (or sink or toilet) but a curtain instead.

Superliners came in the late 1970s.
Thanks for the description.
 
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But in the 40s to 60s did Coach get to reserve a seat in the dining car)
My only dining car experience in the 1960s was on a NEC train (yes, they used to have dining cars). I was riding coach, and you didn't need reservations. This was also true in the 1970s when I rode the Broadway Limited, and also the Merchants Limited. No dinner reservations needed because the service was so efficient, you could get seated right after leaving Trenton and be finished eating and pay for your meal right before arrival in Newark (at least on the Merchants Limited).

And coach passengers could reserve a seat in the dining car right up until 2019 on the Eastern trains (when they started flex dining) and 2020 on the western trains (when they started flex dining due to Covid.) Of course, they didn't give reservations to coach passengers until after the prepaid sleeper passengers were taken care of, and if the train was full, it was hard for coach passengers to get dinner reservations. Breakfast and lunch needed no reservations, though.
 
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When I rode Amtrak in the 1970s everyone could eat in the dining cars. There was no waitlist and PA announcements. I remember a trip on the Empire Builder in 1977 where my father and I (I was about 10 years old) waited in line for at least an hour to eat in the dining car. The line snaked back along the hall next to the kitchen and continued through the vestibule probably into the next car. I remember standing in the vestibule in this line for about 20 minutes. Both dutch doors were open to keep the hot 90 degree air circulating. Once seated the food was good. I think I had what they called the Cheeseburge superb back then. Do not remember the deserts.

On a trip in 1978 on the Broadway Limited, My first solo trip on an overnight train, I remember carefully using my best writing to fill out the check for my dinner. I was was apprehensive because I knew that my poor handwriting, made poorer by writing on a moving train, would not have passed muster at school. The waiter had no problem with my hand writing.

I made several trips to the west coast on Superliner trains. I do not recall reservations. I do remember making sure to be one of the first in line so that I could be seated by the window and have better choices of food.

It was in the late 80's or early 90's when meals were included in the cost of sleeping car fares. I don't remember my first time doing this, but this was the point when the employees started filling out the orders slips. And would admonish those who checked of their choices while signing their names.
 

toddinde

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I’ll try to answer your questions:
1. Dinner reservations did exist, but not on most trains. I remember very well standing in the corridor along the kitchen for seats in the diner. The diner did not differentiate between sleeper and coach passengers. Since the diners were operated by the railroad and sleepers frequently operated by Pullman, the railroad had an interest in selling as many meals as possible, and no interest in discriminating against coach passengers. There were some trains that were all Pullman, or that had coach and Pullman sections with separate dining cars. Santa Fe’s Super Chief and El Capitan which usually ran combined, is an example.
2. Open section Pullman accommodations, which were considered “standard” were open with seats facing each other, that folded into separate lower and upper berths (not called bunks). The US never had three berths stacked except for an experimental car in the early post war, and in troop sleepers. The European couchette usually has three berths on each side of the compartment. There were many private room Pullman accommodations, none with three berths stacked. The most common were the roomette, bedroom, compartment and drawing room. Variations included the duplex roomette, master room, and later, the Slumbercoach which was essentially a spartan duplex roomette with a narrower bed and sold for the price of a coach ticket with a space charge. In railroad days, there was the rail fare, the Pullman fare which was more, plus the space charge. The more fancy the accommodation, the more the space charge. In addition, a minimum number of base fares were required to occupy a larger room.
 

toddinde

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I’ll be on the CS in a sleeper to visit a special friend. She wants to know if they’re still called Pullman? She’s funny.

But in the 40s to 60s did Coach get to reserve a seat in the dining car) If in a Pullman did you get a seat and a bunk? We’re they bunks stacked in threes? Twos?

When did dual level dining cars go in service?
Continuing my answer, the first bilevel dining cars were the Santa Fe Hi Level diners built for the all-coach Chicago-LA El Capitan which entered service in 1955. Amtrak’s Superliner’s are based on the Hi Levels although the sleepers are an Amtrak creation as Santa Fe never had Hi Level sleepers built.
 

niemi24s

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You seem to have missed the connection between your "certainly" and my comment. You wrote...
If it could be done then, it certainly ought to be able to be done now.
...to which I commented...
Certainly? A deep fat fryer full of boiling hot oil on a train lurching along down a track full of sun kinks???

I'm certain OSHA and the Union would have none of that malarkey - unless, of course, you'd like to do your own fries in boiling oil at your table right in front to you.

There were lots of things done in the 1940's that are taboo today and much of that Greatest Generation is no longer with us.
 

Kbyrdleroydogg

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This whole topic is the subject of many threads but as far as meeting the train, the biggest issue is the unreliability of arrival. I've been on Amtrak trains that have gone from an estimated arrival at a station of a few minutes to getting there an hour later.
Mine last week was three hours late into Chicago from NYC. Even one of the train conductors said we were off the grid now.
 
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Today I am on the “Super Star” (92 - 5/13). It is several hours late. As of this writing (6:36 PM) we just left Richmond, VA. Our SCA delivered snack boxes and bottled water to the room. He said they hope to load some more Flex meals at WAS. The snack box consists of roasted almonds, Cheez-Its, beef jerky stick, crackers, hummus, cheese spread, dried apples and brownie brittle.
 

Amtrakfflyer

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RPA had a good blurb on dining in today’s hotline. The downside being the working group is just starting and has over a year to find solutions. I still think Acela type meals on less popular one night trains such as the Eagle is a viable solution. Once staffing is in place I hope they allow coach passengers in the diners. Amtraks done it for 50 years they don’t need to reinvent the wheel just tweak it.

“Congress has given this Group a little more than a year to report back on what will be done to make food and beverage better, more affordable, and more accessible for every single Amtrak passenger. The group includes representatives of states with state-supported service, Amtrak labor groups with "on the ground" knowledge of where the problems lie, and executives at Amtrak responsible for fixing those problems.”
 
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Continuing my answer, the first bilevel dining cars were the Santa Fe Hi Level diners built for the all-coach Chicago-LA El Capitan which entered service in 1955. Amtrak’s Superliner’s are based on the Hi Levels although the sleepers are an Amtrak creation as Santa Fe never had Hi Level sleepers built.
While the Hi Level and Superliner diner's were bilevel, the lower level was only for the galley. Passengers only dined on the upper level. The same year the Hi Levels came out, Union Pacific introduced its tri-level Dome Diners. Passenger's could dine on the main level, the lower level, and the upper level dome section...

The prototype for the Dome Diner was first introduced in the 1947, "Train of Tomorrow".

 

Willbridge

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While the Hi Level and Superliner diner's were bilevel, the lower level was only for the galley. Passengers only dined on the upper level. The same year the Hi Levels came out, Union Pacific introduced its tri-level Dome Diners. Passenger's could dine on the main level, the lower level, and the upper level dome section...

The prototype for the Dome Diner was first introduced in the 1947, "Train of Tomorrow".

My first meal in a diner was lunch with my family in the Astra-Dome on the Pool train to Seattle. We saw an elk in the Mounds area. On our return we had dinner in the dome.

The premiere item on the UP Portland<>Seattle train was a steak sandwich with big home-style french fries. Lucius Beebe once called it the best economy dining car menu item in the country. I enjoyed it for dinner in September 1967.

The Astra-Dome equipment drove the GN and NP traffic people crazy. Passengers for the Pool line would insist that they wanted to ride on the train with the domes. Unfortunately, the diner as I recollect was the first to be withdrawn, a result of corrosion.
 

Rambling Robert

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I’ve been thinking of a company I’d create called RAILFUBE. It would include the entire Amtrak system.

Say for the LSL. Click LSL West [BOS CHI] and the app says “Diner hour in Albany”. “There are thirty vetted Albany restaurants that delver - would you like a list of all or by type”. You chose Indian “there are three vetted Indian restaurants that will deliver to your rail-car.” You have picture ids to make it easy if necessary to pickup at platform/car#••

RAILFUBE earns 10% for vetting, and keeping the restaurant list active.

100 users x 10% (say $20 average) = $200
And another $200 from west to east.

maybe $400 per day for just the LSL . Apply on all overnight trains - maybe $4000 - $8000 day revenue for RAILFUBE.
 

jpakala

Service Attendant
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Jul 13, 2014
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Another accommodation was the duplex room such as this photo of Connoquenessing Creek shows. There were 12, running crosswise of the car, with a few steps the width of 2 doors providing access to the uppers, the lowers having aisle-level doors. There were 2 bedrooms (with enclosed toilet & sink) at each end or in a bit older version 2 at one end and 3 at the other because I they lacked the enclosure and so were a bit smaller. PRR had many such cars. NP had 4 similar but same-level one-person rooms under (sleeper) domes. Duplex rooms were wonderful accommodations. Is it possible at least to visit such today anywhere?
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