Amtrak Single Food Service Car

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cocojacoby

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Amtrak seems adamant about striving to have one food service car for an entire LD train. That idea, at least on the eastern low-level equipped consists, seems unrealistic. Maybe they think people will be satisfied taking their food back to their seats but they will really kill the pleasure of train travel if they do this.

If Amtrak is really serious about going to a single food service car to service an entire train, nothing they have now will fit the bill. Using a bi-level like the Bombardier could work. Mezzanine levels at the ends for a waiting area and seating area at the coach end and tables at the sleeper end for "First Class" passengers including an accessible table. On the lower level is additional seating with a kitchen in the middle serving out of both sides to coach and sleeper passengers. And best of all . . . a dome lounge on the upper level where you can also take your meal, socialize and have a beverage or two.

Seems like a logical solution. Turning beautiful new Viewliner diners into buffet takeout cars is a horrible idea.

bi-level.jpg
 
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jis

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At least at the last presentation to RPA neither Mr. Chestler (LD), nor Mr. Gardner or Mr. Flynn said anything about a drive towards single food service car in LD trains. The main driving force for the single food service car was the Mica Amendment, which has been nullified. So maybe there is no pressing need or desire for single food service car any more. In particular, it is higly unlikely Viewliner Diners are going to be converted into Cafe Counter cars. They will most likely remain Diners.

At least the position of the rail passenger advocates is and always has been that there should be separate Diner and Lounge/Cafe service preferably in separate cars in the LD trains. It still makes sense to keep the food service in a single car for the regional services, at least in the ones that do have food service. That is essentially what will happen in the new train sets too.

It is also unlikely that a multi-level car will be used as a food service car in a single level train, since it will apparently be a gross violation of FRA's interpretation of ADA that common services must be accessible by all.

But of course, this is an issue that concerns the LD fleet replacement which is 5-10 years away, and has no impact on equipment for single level regional trains, which have a single food service car anyway.
 
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LookingGlassTie

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The last (and only) time I rode on the Silver Meteor, it was nice to see that there was both a cafe car and a diner car. I think it's back to that now; correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, it was helpful because I remember during my trip that I wanted something to drink during the time that the dining car was closed. However, the cafe car WAS open during that time. 😊
 

jis

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The last (and only) time I rode on the Silver Meteor, it was nice to see that there was both a cafe car and a diner car. I think it's back to that now; correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, it was helpful because I remember during my trip that I wanted something to drink during the time that the dining car was closed. However, the cafe car WAS open during that time. 😊
Silver Meteor never lost its Diner. It was Silver Star and the Lake Shore Limited that lost Diners for various periods of time due to shortage of Heritage Diners. And then Silver Star never got it back due to experiment with not including food in Sleeper ticket, as if people who are not provided complementary food in Sleepers do not need to eat. 🤷‍♂️

The Star got its Diner with Flex food back just before the pandemic struck.
 

districtRich

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Amtrak seems adamant about striving to have one food service car for an entire LD train. That idea, at least on the eastern low-level equipped consists, seems unrealistic. Maybe they think people will be satisfied taking their food back to their seats but they will really kill the pleasure of train travel if they do this.

If Amtrak is really serious about going to a single food service car to service an entire train, nothing they have now will fit the bill. Using a bi-level like the Bombardier could work. Mezzanine levels at the ends for a waiting area and seating area at the coach end and tables at the sleeper end for "First Class" passengers including an accessible table. On the lower level is additional seating with a kitchen in the middle serving out of both sides to coach and sleeper passengers. And best of all . . . a dome lounge on the upper level where you can also take your meal, socialize and have a beverage or two.

Seems like a logical solution. Turning beautiful new Viewliner diners into buffet takeout cars is a horrible idea.

View attachment 21959
That's basically how the restaurant cars in Finland are set up on their double-decker trains. You walk in and there is seating at least on one end, and then you walk down a few steps to more seating and where the service counter is. Upstairs are booths and window-facing swivel seats. And yes in car #4 that is a play area upstairs for kids!

Screenshot 2021-04-25 17.12.02.png

Screenshot 2021-04-25 17.12.08.png
 

cocojacoby

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Thanks for that info. It just makes sense to use something like that instead of butchering the beautiful new Viewliner diners into something that will prove inadequate.
 

AFS1970

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Speaking from my mostly NEW experience, the size/capacity of the car is not as much of a problem as is the use of the few tables available. Of the 6-8 tables, at least one is taken by the attendant, the table usually has boxes on it. 1-2 are usually converted into the conductor's office. The remaining ones are usually taken by people who want to ride their entire trip sitting at a table. There might be 1 table available for passengers to rotate in and out of for eating.
 

cocojacoby

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That's always been an annoying problem. I have seen one table full with employee's personal stuff (bags, coats, etc.), another with table setups and condiments, another for doing paperwork . . . totally unacceptable. Also looks really tacky. Amtrak can't figure out how to do this better even with a newly designed car?

You also have to add losing 1 1/2 tables for the possibility of a wheelchair passenger who may never materialize. Can't figure out a folding table or other solution for this situation?

Now add the two unsightly loose plastic trash bag lined cardboard trash boxes bouncing around . . .
 
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MARC Rider

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1-2 are usually converted into the conductor's office.
On long distance trains with a transdorm, you would think that the "conductor's office" could be up in the transdorm. On other trains, maybe they should keep a few of the old Amfleets and convert them in what are called in Britain, "guard's vans."
 

jis

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On long distance trains with a transdorm, you would think that the "conductor's office" could be up in the transdorm. On other trains, maybe they should keep a few of the old Amfleets and convert them in what are called in Britain, "guard's vans."
They should have designed the baggage cars as the ones with a guard's compartment as is done in several countries. But I don't think that has ever been common practice in the US.
 

IndyLions

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One one of my recent trips - either the Meteor or Cardinal - for the FIRST TIME EVER I saw a conductor using that little private office that has been carved out of the Cafe Car for that very purpose.

I almost fell over dead from shock.
 
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MARC Rider

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One one of my recent trips - either the Meteor or Cardinal - for the FIRST TIME EVER I saw a conductor using that little private office that has been carved out of the Cafe Car for that very purpose.

I almost fell over dead from shock.
Maybe somebody in Amtrak management reads Amtrak Unlimited, finally came across all the complaints about staff use of cafe car tables, and is now laying down the law. :) (Well, one can always hope.)
 

railiner

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They should have designed the baggage cars as the ones with a guard's compartment as is done in several countries. But I don't think that has ever been common practice in the US.
Some trains, even into the early Amtrak era, had "Train Baggage Men", an operating crew position. They usually had a seat and desk within the baggage car.
It made it possible to have checked baggage and express service at every staffed station...
 

FrensicPic

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One one of my recent trips - either the Meteor or Cardinal - for the FIRST TIME EVER I saw a conductor using that little private office that has been carved out of the Cafe Car for that very purpose.

I almost fell over dead from shock.
You mean like this empty "office"? This was on the Cardinal last September.
https://flic.kr/p/2k28zec
 

Mailliw

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A single food service would work if Amtrak wants to add European style night trains (depart after dinner, arrive around breakfast or lunctime) like the NER 65/66/67, but for traditional long distance routes it's probably best if they're kept separate.
That's basically how the restaurant cars in Finland are set up on their double-decker trains. You walk in and there is seating at least on one end, and then you walk down a few steps to more seating and where the service counter is. Upstairs are booths and window-facing swivel seats. And yes in car #4 that is a play area upstairs for kids!

View attachment 21964

View attachment 21965
Finland also has really nice bilevel sleeping cars, but they're too big for the US.
 

20th Century Rider

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That's basically how the restaurant cars in Finland are set up on their double-decker trains. You walk in and there is seating at least on one end, and then you walk down a few steps to more seating and where the service counter is. Upstairs are booths and window-facing swivel seats. And yes in car #4 that is a play area upstairs for kids!

View attachment 21964

View attachment 21965
Yes... but that's Finland... among the many nations that have great rail services... where everything functions well, and is well designed. When it comes to rail travel... hmmm... very third world here.
 

cocojacoby

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From Amtrak's 5 year plan:

. . . we are soliciting a vendor who can design modifications to our new Viewliner II dining cars to enable them to provide both Flexible Dining service and café/lounge service, which currently requires two separate cars. In addition to cost savings, providing food service in a modern car configured to accommodate our current food service model would improve customer service.
 
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Dakota 400

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In addition to cost savings, providing food service in a modern car configured to accommodate our current food service model would improve customer service.
Improve customer service? No. A cost savings by doing this? Yes. This customer's satisfaction with the proposal? Disappointing with negative thoughts.

The purpose of a Dining Car is different than is the purpose of a Lounge/Cafe car.
 

Exvalley

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From Amtrak's 5 year plan:

. . . we are soliciting a vendor who can design modifications to our new Viewliner II dining cars to enable them to provide both Flexible Dining service and café/lounge service,
Flexible Dining is going away, so this does not appear to be relevant anymore.
 

jis

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Flexible Dining is going away, so this does not appear to be relevant anymore.
No. It is not going away in the Eastern trains. It is being improved as the Viewliner Diners are also improved to serve the role of a single food service car in the train according to the 2021 five year plan just published by Amtrak
 

Mailliw

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I have a feeling we'll end up with something along the lines of an expanded cafe car menu with airline style meals for sleepers and coach passengers who purchase a meal plan.
 

Exvalley

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No. It is not going away in the Eastern trains. It is being improved as the Viewliner Diners are also improved to serve the role of a single food service car in the train according to the 2021 five year plan just published by Amtrak
I thought that Flexible Dining was going away from east coast trains in the fall?
 

jis

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I thought that Flexible Dining was going away from east coast trains in the fall?
Well, they never exactly said that. What they said was that they are looking at various options for the Eastern trains. Reading the 2021 Five Year Plan suggests that they are mostly planning to do improved Flex Dining for single night journey trains, presumably with the exception of the Coast Starlight and the Auto Train.

Of course this being Amtrak whose primary specialization is in being inconsistent at every possible point, we won't know for sure until the proverbial fat lady sings, and sometimes even not then. ;)
 
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