Amtrak features and comfort updates

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Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,389
Location
NYC/Queens
When the cars were built GFCI were likely not code. On the other hand, I'm not sure of what the FRA says, but the NEC would not be applicable to railcars regardless. Also, People are often deceived by installations that use GFCI breakers that protect all receptacles on the circuit, or a single GFCI protecting receptacles "down the line" on a circuit.
 

n3rdg1rl

Train Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 5, 2022
Messages
65
Location
Cleveland
It was amusing to see dials that apparently at one time let you play music in your bedroom. These did not work in either of our cars, a I and a II, which I assume is intentional. I'd be interested to hear accounts of what this was like back when they used to work. What kinds of music could you choose? Did it sound OK? When did Amtrak disable them, or did they all just die of old age?
These now control the speaker in your room for the announcements. That being set to 0 is probably why you didn't hear anything in your room.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
1,009
Location
Lubec, ME
The ancient car's biggest shortcoming for the modern traveler is lack of power outlets. Obviously there are no USB ports, and only three 120-volt outlets, one at one end of the couch and two by the tiny sink. (I guess Amtrak cars are exempt from GFI codes?) None are easily reachable for the (unfortunate) person sleeping in the (tiny, torturous) top bunk.
We always bring an outlet strip and an extension cord for this reason when traveling in a roomette or bedroom on Amtrak. Also useful in older hotels that have not caught up with the electronic age.
 
Joined
Oct 12, 2022
Messages
19
Location
San Diego
Thoughts on the bedroom Superliners following our first LD trip recently on the CZ:

  • The tray tables seemed fine to me. The foldout flaps were useful, though we mostly kept them folded up. I found that the table gave my crossed leg a place to rest against, which made the uncomfortable seat/couch more bearable.
  • The uncomfortable seat/couch - something about these was tough on my tailbone which, once it began to be sore, stayed that way throughout the rest of the journey, requiring countess squirming adjustments of my butt and legs to try to alleviate. Not sure what could be done about the comfort given that the seats/couches need to be sturdy enough to withstand constant use. Perhaps those with better butt padding don't have this problem.
  • The "cupholders" on the windowsill are too shallow, providing no real support against the movement of the train, which can be uncomfortably rough particularly at top speed. I mostly laid my water bottles (either the plastic ones provide onboard or my Cotapaxi insulated bottles) horizontally along the gap where the tray table mechanism meets the window (where they put the menu and station listing). I found I could safely stack a couple of these at a time there.
  • The ancient car's biggest shortcoming for the modern traveler is lack of power outlets. Obviously there are no USB ports, and only three 120-volt outlets, one at one end of the couch and two by the tiny sink. (I guess Amtrak cars are exempt from GFI codes?) None are easily reachable for the (unfortunate) person sleeping in the (tiny, torturous) top bunk.
  • The speaker in one of our bedrooms did not work, which was a blessing and a curse - most of the time it was nice to not have somebody's tinny voice blaring at you, but then there were times it was difficult to hear things we did want to hear by listening to the speakers in the passageway. The quiet hours are an excellent thing, though.
  • It was amusing to see dials that apparently at one time let you play music in your bedroom. These did not work in either of our cars, a I and a II, which I assume is intentional. I'd be interested to hear accounts of what this was like back when they used to work. What kinds of music could you choose? Did it sound OK? When did Amtrak disable them, or did they all just die of old age?
  • Speaking of nonfunctional things that were probably by default, I couldn't tell that the temperature dial in either of our cars did anything. Of course, we wanted max AC given the very high temps along our route, but turning the dial didn't seem to change anything either way. Did these once work, or do they at least provide various levels of heat during cold runs?
  • I never got up the nerve to try the shower, but did find that it dripped water onto the floor in both our cars, which was hard to avoid stepping in when doing m'business in there. The atomic flushing toilets are kinda fun - WHOOOOSH-cha. I guess they can't have a light switch in there because of the shower but it would have been nice to have. The toilet paper was also surprisingly easy on one's parts, better in fact than we had at the Sofitel in Chicago on this trip. (While in CHI we checked out the Pioneer Zephyr at the Museum of Science and Industry, very cool.)
  • The hot water was surprisingly hot in the sink; I was anticipating lukewarm at best. And I loved the soap in the leaning pump bottle! It left my hands feeling both refreshed and extremely clean. Can we buy Amtrak sink soap, haha?
  • The curtains were pretty effective in keeping out light, another nice surprise. Some of the Velcro on the door curtain was jacked up but overall it worked well.
  • One of our cars had a decent "low" setting for the overhead light but the other one had this strange deep blue color that was too creepy to use.
  • We had heard of some trick whereby one could use a latch at the door end of the pulled-out bottom bunk to temporarily move that end of the bunk inward a bit, making it easier to use the bathroom sink or go in and out of the car once the bottom bunk had been made up for sleep. But I could never make this work. The sad fact is that once those bunks are made up for the night you're in a tiny prison with extremely restricted movement.
  • Although it was very easy to hear people in neighboring bedrooms, it actually wasn't a problem for us. But I can imagine one could have noisy neighbors that would make this an issue. Better insulation between rooms would help.
  • I have used the word tiny several times. New riders should gird themselves to bang and lurch around inside very, very cramped spaces everywhere on the trains. We are not tiny people, and while the tight quarters everywhere were a semi-amusing annoyance for me, it was a genuine problem for my partner who is slightly claustrophobic.
  • We each had one modestly sized carry-on bag, having checked our roller suitcases. (After boarding on both westbound and eastbound legs to/from SLC, I noticed that there were several similarly sized rollers and other items stored in the open baggage cubbies on the bottom level of the sleeper car, next to the car entrance, and there was room to spare, so I suppose checking our luggage wasn't really necessary.) There was just room for both our carry-ons under the bedroom seat, though on one leg I stashed mine in the vertical "closet" adjacent to the door. We put a few things on the small shelf near the ceiling, none of which fell off.

I wonder what Amtrak has planned for any serious refurbishment or rebuild of its sleeper cars, or even entirely new cars, beyond adding power and USB outlets.
Thanks for taking the time to post these details.
 

Widfara

Train Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2022
Messages
53
Location
Cedar Creek, Texas
Thanks for taking the time to post these details.
For the electricity note. I carry a 15 foot braided extension cord. The braided cords coil nice and compactly. Mine has two USB ports and three plugs. Ample for my needs. There are other configurations available. This is also useful in hotel rooms, some of which were apparently laid out by people who just don't compute.
 
Joined
May 15, 2022
Messages
91
Location
Dallas
Perhaps I am not as large as you, but I am not exactly a "slim" guy (I am supposed to lose 75-100 ponds according to my doctor) and I have not found the coach seats or aisles to be "tiny" or "cramped".
Yeah im 6'2" and 330 lbs. I was in a sleeper but passing through coach was no issue at all and in fact coach seemed to be far roomier than I would have imagined it would be. Now the stairwells to get to the upper level of the Superliners is a rather tight fit but not that big of an issues once I got used to it. A roomette was just the right size for me and only for one of me lol. Two of me would have been too cramped. I wonder if the could do like a mini split system for these cars because my roomettes were never at a comfortable temperature for me.
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
206
Location
Columbus, GA
Thoughts on the bedroom Superliners following our first LD trip recently on the CZ:

  • The tray tables seemed fine to me. The foldout flaps were useful, though we mostly kept them folded up. I found that the table gave my crossed leg a place to rest against, which made the uncomfortable seat/couch more bearable.
  • The uncomfortable seat/couch - something about these was tough on my tailbone which, once it began to be sore, stayed that way throughout the rest of the journey, requiring countess squirming adjustments of my butt and legs to try to alleviate. Not sure what could be done about the comfort given that the seats/couches need to be sturdy enough to withstand constant use. Perhaps those with better butt padding don't have this problem.
  • The "cupholders" on the windowsill are too shallow, providing no real support against the movement of the train, which can be uncomfortably rough particularly at top speed. I mostly laid my water bottles (either the plastic ones provide onboard or my Cotapaxi insulated bottles) horizontally along the gap where the tray table mechanism meets the window (where they put the menu and station listing). I found I could safely stack a couple of these at a time there.
  • The ancient car's biggest shortcoming for the modern traveler is lack of power outlets. Obviously there are no USB ports, and only three 120-volt outlets, one at one end of the couch and two by the tiny sink. (I guess Amtrak cars are exempt from GFI codes?) None are easily reachable for the (unfortunate) person sleeping in the (tiny, torturous) top bunk.
  • The speaker in one of our bedrooms did not work, which was a blessing and a curse - most of the time it was nice to not have somebody's tinny voice blaring at you, but then there were times it was difficult to hear things we did want to hear by listening to the speakers in the passageway. The quiet hours are an excellent thing, though.
  • It was amusing to see dials that apparently at one time let you play music in your bedroom. These did not work in either of our cars, a I and a II, which I assume is intentional. I'd be interested to hear accounts of what this was like back when they used to work. What kinds of music could you choose? Did it sound OK? When did Amtrak disable them, or did they all just die of old age?
  • Speaking of nonfunctional things that were probably by default, I couldn't tell that the temperature dial in either of our cars did anything. Of course, we wanted max AC given the very high temps along our route, but turning the dial didn't seem to change anything either way. Did these once work, or do they at least provide various levels of heat during cold runs?
  • I never got up the nerve to try the shower, but did find that it dripped water onto the floor in both our cars, which was hard to avoid stepping in when doing m'business in there. The atomic flushing toilets are kinda fun - WHOOOOSH-cha. I guess they can't have a light switch in there because of the shower but it would have been nice to have. The toilet paper was also surprisingly easy on one's parts, better in fact than we had at the Sofitel in Chicago on this trip. (While in CHI we checked out the Pioneer Zephyr at the Museum of Science and Industry, very cool.)
  • The hot water was surprisingly hot in the sink; I was anticipating lukewarm at best. And I loved the soap in the leaning pump bottle! It left my hands feeling both refreshed and extremely clean. Can we buy Amtrak sink soap, haha?
  • The curtains were pretty effective in keeping out light, another nice surprise. Some of the Velcro on the door curtain was jacked up but overall it worked well.
  • One of our cars had a decent "low" setting for the overhead light but the other one had this strange deep blue color that was too creepy to use.
  • We had heard of some trick whereby one could use a latch at the door end of the pulled-out bottom bunk to temporarily move that end of the bunk inward a bit, making it easier to use the bathroom sink or go in and out of the car once the bottom bunk had been made up for sleep. But I could never make this work. The sad fact is that once those bunks are made up for the night you're in a tiny prison with extremely restricted movement.
  • Although it was very easy to hear people in neighboring bedrooms, it actually wasn't a problem for us. But I can imagine one could have noisy neighbors that would make this an issue. Better insulation between rooms would help.
  • I have used the word tiny several times. New riders should gird themselves to bang and lurch around inside very, very cramped spaces everywhere on the trains. We are not tiny people, and while the tight quarters everywhere were a semi-amusing annoyance for me, it was a genuine problem for my partner who is slightly claustrophobic.
  • We each had one modestly sized carry-on bag, having checked our roller suitcases. (After boarding on both westbound and eastbound legs to/from SLC, I noticed that there were several similarly sized rollers and other items stored in the open baggage cubbies on the bottom level of the sleeper car, next to the car entrance, and there was room to spare, so I suppose checking our luggage wasn't really necessary.) There was just room for both our carry-ons under the bedroom seat, though on one leg I stashed mine in the vertical "closet" adjacent to the door. We put a few things on the small shelf near the ceiling, none of which fell off.

I wonder what Amtrak has planned for any serious refurbishment or rebuild of its sleeper cars, or even entirely new cars, beyond adding power and USB outlets.
I was just surfing this thread and reading mikewrite detailed commentary and my first thought was: has anyone ever been in sleeper where the temperature dial or thermostat worked? I go back as far as the year 1966 and 375,000 miles and I cannot remember a single one. My comment is more of a frivolous nature rather than a criticism.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,910
Location
Washington State
I was just surfing this thread and reading mikewrite detailed commentary and my first thought was: has anyone ever been in sleeper where the temperature dial or thermostat worked? I go back as far as the year 1966 and 375,000 miles and I cannot remember a single one. My comment is more of a frivolous nature rather than a criticism.
My experience is in the recent past they actually do something about 25% of the time.

In my recent trip on the LSL in a Viewliner II I was pleased to find the thermostat worked. I felt heat coming up from electric wall heat, found the thermostat (never having ridden in a V II before, I was looking for a dial), turned it down from 72° to 68°. Low and behold the heating stopped and the room maintained 68° for the remainder of the trip!
 

Maglev

Conductor
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
1,343
Location
Orcas Island, Washington
I was just surfing this thread and reading mikewrite detailed commentary and my first thought was: has anyone ever been in sleeper where the temperature dial or thermostat worked? I go back as far as the year 1966 and 375,000 miles and I cannot remember a single one. My comment is more of a frivolous nature rather than a criticism.
I have found that the thermostat in Superliners sometimes controls the heat. For AC air flow control, if necessary, I use a piece of cardboard and gaffer's tape to cover the vent.

But I have largely been comfortable on Amtrak--with outside temperatures ranging from below 0˚ F on the Empire Builder to over 100˚F on the Sunset Limited. On one recent trip, we were a little warm at night and cool in the daytime, but nothing that shedding or adding one layer couldn't fix. I have only five night's experience in Viewliner roomettes, and vaguely recall the thermostat's sometimes working, but in the end the rooms were fine in terms of temperature.

Below is the non-functional air control in room H on a Superliner I:

IMG_0217.jpeg
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,711
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
I sometimes see mentioned in various threads on Amtrak rooms of "gaffers tape". Is this the same as duct tape? Never seen anything actually sold under that name.
Gaffer's tape is similar to duct tape, but it has a different blend of adhesive which is supposed to come off cleanly without leaving goo behind. You can find it on Amazon.

A gaffer is the head electrician on a movie set. Supposedly gaffer's tape is used to tape down cables so that they can be removed later without damaging the set.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,389
Location
NYC/Queens
Gaffer's tape is similar to duct tape, but it has a different blend of adhesive which is supposed to come off cleanly without leaving goo behind. You can find it on Amazon.

A gaffer is the head electrician on a movie set. Supposedly gaffer's tape is used to tape down cables so that they can be removed later without damaging the set.
Yes, that is a good description. I use it occasionally when I set up a meeting for speaker and projector wires, it is available from most places that sell AV or photography stuff I use BH photo, but even the Home Depot near me has it. But the HD just had the big rolls.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
25,172
Location
Austin Texas
My experience is in the recent past they actually do something about 25% of the time.

In my recent trip on the LSL in a Viewliner II I was pleased to find the thermostat worked. I felt heat coming up from electric wall heat, found the thermostat (never having ridden in a V II before, I was looking for a dial), turned it down from 72° to 68°. Low and behold the heating stopped and the room maintained 68° for the remainder of the trip!
I haven't gotten to ride in a VL II yet, and while the Superliners seemed to have more consistent Heat and Air when New, I honestly can't remember the Controls working in any Room I've been in, they tend to be either too Cool or Too Hot!

Since I'm Old and got to ride Trains back in the Steamer days, I have to say that Steam Heat seemed to work much better than today's Systems, but when it works, the AC on today's Trains is better!
 

crescent-zephyr

Engineer
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
4,313
I sometimes see mentioned in various threads on Amtrak rooms of "gaffers tape". Is this the same as duct tape? Never seen anything actually sold under that name.
Way better than duct tape! As other have said it’s used in live entertainment and movie sets - it tears easily by hand (no need to carry a scissors), you can write on it with a sharpie, and it comes off surfaces without leaving a residue.

It’s pretty handy to travel with since you can tape down various rattles, or even use it to tape up a timetable to the wall to keep track of your route!

Gaff Tape | B&H Photo Video
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
2,021
I believe the only thing the room thermostat does on any of them is control the wall electric heat when it’s turned on - does absolutely nothing for the main HVAC system which is why some of the rooms also have the air vent control. The main car temperature can only be changed by the crew. When the electric heat isn’t on the thermostat I believe does nothing.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
2,061
Location
Denver
Yes, that is a good description. I use it occasionally when I set up a meeting for speaker and projector wires, it is available from most places that sell AV or photography stuff I use BH photo, but even the Home Depot near me has it. But the HD just had the big rolls.
I use gaffer's tape from a photo supply store. It works like it's supposed to if one is careful.

When Dark Territory was filmed in Denver Union Station it was supposed to be Oakland Union Station (Yes! Dream on, California.). The Regional Transportation District system map would have spoiled the illusion, so blank sheets of paper were stuck on it with gaffer's tape. In the rush to wrap up, the crew pulled the masking paper off and ripped the map off the wall with it. Smooth and steady might have had better results.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,711
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
I believe the only thing the room thermostat does on any of them is control the wall electric heat when it’s turned on - does absolutely nothing for the main HVAC system which is why some of the rooms also have the air vent control. The main car temperature can only be changed by the crew. When the electric heat isn’t on the thermostat I believe does nothing.
I've never seen any numbers lit up on the VL II ones. Perhaps there's no power to it unless the crew does something to enable the room heater.

In one room, the shell was ripped off the wall. Maybe a passenger was frustrated that it couldn't turn down the A/C. :D
 

Sauve850

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
669
Location
West Palm Beach, Florida
I haven't gotten to ride in a VL II yet, and while the Superliners seemed to have more consistent Heat and Air when New, I honestly can't remember the Controls working in any Room I've been in, they tend to be either too Cool or Too Hot!

Since I'm Old and got to ride Trains back in the Steamer days, I have to say that Steam Heat seemed to work much better than today's Systems, but when it works, the AC on today's Trains is better!
My experiences over many years with the controls are the same as yours. That also includes VL I and II.
 

The Quaking Widow

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 30, 2022
Messages
28
Location
Live in Toledo
On my trips in a roomette, I found I was more comfortable with the bed made up all the time. I used my airline carry-on sized bag as a back rest support (with the pillows) during the day. I’m short, so there was room for my cpap on the bed. I carried a power strip which provided more outlets for charging and using the cpap. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to share the tiny space. It was good to be able to lie down when I got dizzy from the train motion. In the future I will bring something I can use as cup holders to put on the little shelf next to the seat/bed.
 
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