Quantcast

Another luxury (private car on Amtrak) rail service?

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
5) It would be nice to have Amtrak contract with third parties to offer one or more of the mentioned services where Amtrak would handle the ticketing for a cut of the pie and the third party would provide the cars and service. Getting Amtrak to really buy into the concept would encourage them to become a partner rather than a reluctant provider as it could mean Amtrak agents at stations could handle checked baggage, bus interface for tours, etc and help pay for the existence of these agents during hours when they would have little to do and/or allow agents to have additional hours where they may only presently be part-time. Stations with excess room could now have separate areas for the luxury car passengers ala Amtrak lounges helping to justify the cost of those stations.
I agree with most of your points except this one. If the PV owner is already paying to be back behind Amtrak then Amtrak is getting a cut of the pie. As much as it costs to maintain a car and I would know first hand what that costs, I doubt you would find any owners biting. Part of that is due to mistrust between Amtrak and the PV industry that a lot of owners would feel like they will get all the costs while Amtrak gets all of the gains. Unless Amtrak starts turning around in their relationship with us it will only get worse.


Thorough analysis, Seaboard. It makes it pretty clear why third party luxury trains have a hard time making ends meet.



I completely agree with this. I would take it a step farther and have the third party handle not only the tour business but the regular sleeper traffic and perhaps dining, other than the cafe cars. This, of course, is what the old Pullman Company did so successfully for so many years.
Now this I would definitely love to see. Even when you look at the NightJet in Europe the sleepers and diners are staffed by a company called NewRest not the ÖBB. Honestly a private provider probably could provide a far superior soft and hard product. Would the cost go up potentially, but I don't know by how far.

Naturally I would also want to read more into why the Pullman Company failed before signing off on this type of idea as well.

Having an upgraded coach option such as Club/Business Class is a very smart idea, borrowing from similar premium "chair cars" on many of the heritage railroads. How many Amtrak LD trains offer Business Class? I know of the Boston section of LSL (sometimes), the Cardinal and the Coast Starlight, but can't think of any others? Is the Palmetto a true long-distance route?
LD's with business class.
-Coast Starlight
-Lake Shore Limited
-Cardinal
-Palmetto.

Yes the Palmetto is technically a national network route, even though it functions as a corridor train for the most part.

Now something I'm surprised none of you remember is the Keystone Club Car experiment with the JP Henderson private car. It ran on the rear of the Pennsylvanian in the 90s. I don't know however what they did for the other consist.
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,902
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
Now something I'm surprised none of you remember is the Keystone Club Car experiment with the JP Henderson private car. It ran on the rear of the Pennsylvanian in the 90s. I don't know however what they did for the other consist.
Remember it well. I had resolved to ride it, but as you pointed out it only ran in one direction one day and returned the next. This made it very difficult to coordinate with connections. I may even have the Passenger Train Journal feature on its inception.
 

junebug

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 14, 2011
Messages
299
...showing on the diagram having an elevator in the car. That is something that has never been attempted, and it's in a really small space that I don't think it would fit to be honest. So that is rather odd....
If the target audience is seniors with disposable income, I have to say an elevator is a good idea. After watching my sister have to be hoisted up after falling down the stairs, we vowed never to take her on a train again.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
Remember it well. I had resolved to ride it, but as you pointed out it only ran in one direction one day and returned the next. This made it very difficult to coordinate with connections. I may even have the Passenger Train Journal feature on its inception.
If you want to come ride that car let me know I can help you with that. We have it on our tourist railroad indefinitely.

If the target audience is seniors with disposable income, I have to say an elevator is a good idea. After watching my sister have to be hoisted up after falling down the stairs, we vowed never to take her on a train again.
I think you misunderstood what I said. I didn't say the elevator was a good or bad idea what I said is the area they claim to be putting it in does not work. The area that they think they can put it in is a very small area that would be all of 2-4 square feet. Which isn't enough room for all of the mechanical housing of equipment. If you install something similar to what I installed at our community theater you are talking of something that is at least 8 square feet. Which is enough to fit one, maybe two people. I would also be worried about what railroad vibrations could do to an elevator as well. Ours in the theater isn't great it's slow going up, decent going down but just a year of use has slowed it even further. Now try putting that on a moving train I think you have far bigger issues with it. That being said we have perfected dumbwaiters on the Hi Levels and Superliners so there is a chance we could figure it out. It just requires far more space than these people think they have.

Which really leads me to another point about their operation. I don't think they truly understand the rolling stock they are claiming to operate. It is one thing to look at cars on the outside and dream, but it is completely different to be an operator or an owner and look at them. Someone who has never done something doesn't see the massive amount of work and undertaking it would take to install an elevator. And might not know the space available to them.

Now VIA Rail Canada has done something to the vestibules of their Park Cars similar to an elevator but I'm not sure how that works as well. I know it doesn't go all the way to the ground as that wouldn't pass the Canadian version of the FRA.
 

joelkfla

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
243
I think you misunderstood what I said. I didn't say the elevator was a good or bad idea what I said is the area they claim to be putting it in does not work. The area that they think they can put it in is a very small area that would be all of 2-4 square feet. Which isn't enough room for all of the mechanical housing of equipment. If you install something similar to what I installed at our community theater you are talking of something that is at least 8 square feet.
US DOT requires accommodation of wheelchairs & scooters up to 30 inches by 48 inches, which in itself is 10 sq. ft.
Now VIA Rail Canada has done something to the vestibules of their Park Cars similar to an elevator but I'm not sure how that works as well. I know it doesn't go all the way to the ground as that wouldn't pass the Canadian version of the FRA.
I used to drive RTS buses, which had rear doorway stairs that automatically folded into a flat hydraulic lift. The lift did go all the way to the ground without compromising the ground clearance of the bus. In fact, there was a pressure switch on the bottom of the lift that required contact with the ground to flip open the safety barrier into a ramp; we had a lot of problems with that, especially when the pavement at a stop sloped away from the boarding area.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,365
I agree with most of your points except this one. If the PV owner is already paying to be back behind Amtrak then Amtrak is getting a cut of the pie. As much as it costs to maintain a car and I would know first hand what that costs, I doubt you would find any owners biting. Part of that is due to mistrust between Amtrak and the PV industry that a lot of owners would feel like they will get all the costs while Amtrak gets all of the gains. Unless Amtrak starts turning around in their relationship with us it will only get worse.
Basically, Amtrak's cut of the pie in my idea would be for all services i.e. transportation, ticketing, etc and that would include mileage and everything else they provide. Amtrak had no skin in the game before and dumped PV without a thought. Hopefully, Amtrak would have enough skin in the game that this contracted service would provide enough income, effort and success that Amtrak would be reluctant to dump it and have to give sufficient notice if they had to. Having a high enough executive with responsibility for its success would help considerably.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,395
Location
Palm Beach County
If you want to come ride that car let me know I can help you with that. We have it on our tourist railroad indefinitely.



I think you misunderstood what I said. I didn't say the elevator was a good or bad idea what I said is the area they claim to be putting it in does not work. The area that they think they can put it in is a very small area that would be all of 2-4 square feet. Which isn't enough room for all of the mechanical housing of equipment. If you install something similar to what I installed at our community theater you are talking of something that is at least 8 square feet. Which is enough to fit one, maybe two people. I would also be worried about what railroad vibrations could do to an elevator as well. Ours in the theater isn't great it's slow going up, decent going down but just a year of use has slowed it even further. Now try putting that on a moving train I think you have far bigger issues with it. That being said we have perfected dumbwaiters on the Hi Levels and Superliners so there is a chance we could figure it out. It just requires far more space than these people think they have.

Which really leads me to another point about their operation. I don't think they truly understand the rolling stock they are claiming to operate. It is one thing to look at cars on the outside and dream, but it is completely different to be an operator or an owner and look at them. Someone who has never done something doesn't see the massive amount of work and undertaking it would take to install an elevator. And might not know the space available to them.

Now VIA Rail Canada has done something to the vestibules of their Park Cars similar to an elevator but I'm not sure how that works as well. I know it doesn't go all the way to the ground as that wouldn't pass the Canadian version of the FRA.
What about the wheelchair elevators in the Ultra Dome cars carried on the Alaska RR? They have been in use for quite a long period, taking passengers between the lower and upper levels....
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
Basically, Amtrak's cut of the pie in my idea would be for all services i.e. transportation, ticketing, etc and that would include mileage and everything else they provide. Amtrak had no skin in the game before and dumped PV without a thought. Hopefully, Amtrak would have enough skin in the game that this contracted service would provide enough income, effort and success that Amtrak would be reluctant to dump it and have to give sufficient notice if they had to. Having a high enough executive with responsibility for its success would help considerably.
Now if Amtrak paid the mileage, and some other costs. I could see something being worked out with a 50/50 split as the owners still have to maintain the cars. And maintaining a passenger car is much more complex then anyone would tell you. If they tell you "Oh it's nothing it's easy" they are lying to you. It is difficult and costly.

What about the wheelchair elevators in the Ultra Dome cars carried on the Alaska RR? They have been in use for quite a long period, taking passengers between the lower and upper levels....
I was not aware of those actually. I need to do some research on those to see how those work. I think a trip to Alaska must be in order then. To be honest I've been debating a trip to Alaska just for the fun of it for a few years. Came close now twice.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
888
Location
Carolinas
A friend has a live in mother in law. He installed one of those seats that moves up a track in an existing stairwell. It takes very little room and the stairway is narrow and steep. I wonder if something like that could be installed at much lower cost.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,295
Location
Baltimore. MD
All of these private operations typically use "classic" "heritage" railcars, that is old (50+ years old) equipment that needs to be refurbished to meet current regulatory standards, in addition to just fixing the normal wear and tear that comes from aging plus the necessary cosmetic work. Would it make economic sense for a rail cruise operator to just buy new cars that would meet all of the operating requirements, and be easier to maintain. Since it looks like there are a number of manufacturers now making passenger rail cars that meet US standards, would it be possible for these operations to obtain new off-the-shelf equipment at a reasonable cost?

On the other hand, I guess in the next few years there might be a ton-load of Horizon and Amfleet coaches hitting the market. Perhaps somebody could put together an Amfleet streamliner, complete with sleepers, diners (would only require internal alterations) and maybe even an Amfleet bullet lounge observation car or an Amfleet dome car, or just an Amfleet car with a viewliner -type top that would fit in the New York tunnels. :) Just an idea. Or maybe Siemens could take a ACS-64 chassis and cover it with a replica GG-1 body shell, and Amtrak could keep a couple of Amfleet 1 trainsets, renovate them to the original circa 1975 livery and interiors and run them as "Northeast Regional Heritage" trains #1975 and #1976.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,395
Location
Palm Beach County
All of these private operations typically use "classic" "heritage" railcars, that is old (50+ years old) equipment that needs to be refurbished to meet current regulatory standards, in addition to just fixing the normal wear and tear that comes from aging plus the necessary cosmetic work. Would it make economic sense for a rail cruise operator to just buy new cars that would meet all of the operating requirements, and be easier to maintain. Since it looks like there are a number of manufacturers now making passenger rail cars that meet US standards, would it be possible for these operations to obtain new off-the-shelf equipment at a reasonable cost?

On the other hand, I guess in the next few years there might be a ton-load of Horizon and Amfleet coaches hitting the market. Perhaps somebody could put together an Amfleet streamliner, complete with sleepers, diners (would only require internal alterations) and maybe even an Amfleet bullet lounge observation car or an Amfleet dome car, or just an Amfleet car with a viewliner -type top that would fit in the New York tunnels. :) Just an idea. Or maybe Siemens could take a ACS-64 chassis and cover it with a replica GG-1 body shell, and Amtrak could keep a couple of Amfleet 1 trainsets, renovate them to the original circa 1975 livery and interiors and run them as "Northeast Regional Heritage" trains #1975 and #1976.
What have you been drinking?
And where can I get some?🤣
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
All of these private operations typically use "classic" "heritage" railcars, that is old (50+ years old) equipment that needs to be refurbished to meet current regulatory standards, in addition to just fixing the normal wear and tear that comes from aging plus the necessary cosmetic work. Would it make economic sense for a rail cruise operator to just buy new cars that would meet all of the operating requirements, and be easier to maintain. Since it looks like there are a number of manufacturers now making passenger rail cars that meet US standards, would it be possible for these operations to obtain new off-the-shelf equipment at a reasonable cost?
I don't think that would be doable just because of the sheer cost of new equipment I believe. Speaking form experience whats nice about a lot of the stuff from the Amtrak auction is a lot of those cars are road worthy in their current condition and need very little work. For instance No. 2511 just needs a brake bracket, and a few small items to enter service on any tourist or commuter railroad. Now to enter Amtrak service it would need a PC2 inspection which is valid for 40 years from when it's signed off on. Then just a normal PC1 will do. For an operator that is really easy to do because that's a quick 100-200K and you can enter Amtrak Certified status. If you can do most of the work yourself you can probably lower the cost of it depending on how many items need repairing.

On the other hand, I guess in the next few years there might be a ton-load of Horizon and Amfleet coaches hitting the market. Perhaps somebody could put together an Amfleet streamliner, complete with sleepers, diners (would only require internal alterations) and maybe even an Amfleet bullet lounge observation car or an Amfleet dome car, or just an Amfleet car with a viewliner -type top that would fit in the New York tunnels. .
Don't tempt me :) My friends have learned of my interest of buying just about any pieces of equipment I can find. I fully expect one day I'll have a fleet of cars.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,825
PRJ was mostly brought down by things outside of it as far as the overall health of the company that was fielding it. Had the rest of the IPH family been healthy PRJ very well could still be operating today.
This is worthy of repeating. My somewhat limited understanding was the Pullman service was pretty successful.

When I got to ride I enjoyed it so much I wanted to go again but every time I looked it was sold out.

I ran into one of the managers on a steam excursion and he said they had always wanted to add on Chicago to New York but amtrak wouldn’t let them.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,825
Pullman Rail Journeys used old Pullman cars that were just like the 1940's. Only railfans had any interest in this and railfans aren't a big enough market to sustain such an operation.
I guess you never rode it? I certainly felt like the lone railfan on my trip. As I said in my above post, it was frequently sold out.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
I guess you never rode it? I certainly felt like the lone railfan on my trip. As I said in my above post, it was frequently sold out.
No I never got the chance to ride it. I came close one or two times. Actually that is a very good thing that you felt like the lone railfan because that means it had the appeal of the general public who's sales out perform railfans significantly.
 

cocojacoby

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 13, 2014
Messages
393
These things never seem to work. Maybe they should start with short day trips. I suggest hooking up with a cruise line and offering alternative direction rail-sale circle trips between New York/Boston and Montreal through New England during fall foliage season. Cruise one way and rail the other.

Potential day trips out of Portland through Crawford Notch would probably be an easy sell to affluent cruise ship passengers. Maybe a stopover at the Mt. Washington Resort and a trip up the Cog too. I know the Mountain Division isn't ready for this but it would be nice if possible.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,825
No I never got the chance to ride it. I came close one or two times. Actually that is a very good thing that you felt like the lone railfan because that means it had the appeal of the general public who's sales out perform railfans significantly.
I rode the city once when they first started running and had only the curved observation car on the back... I was traveling on Amtrak points out west on that trip so it made no sense to buy Pullman but I wish I had done it now.

The time I rode Pullman we had the Adirondack club and one of the AOE sleepers. That was great too, would have been fun to ride them both though.
 

WWW

Train Attendant
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
63
Location
MSP
The Alaska RR Gold Star dome car still needs a platform to board HC guests into the car.
Once inside the car there is an elevator that hoists the guest to the dome level.
At that end of the car is the open sheltered observation platform HC accessible.
In the dome section next to the service wet bar is an free area for wheelchairs (2)
The other end of the car is not accessible.
At either end of the car are spiral staircases to go from the boarding platform to the dome.
Where the elevator is located on the lower level there is a HC accessible restroom facility.
No restroom facilities on the dome level there are two on the lower level (one for HC).

The upper level dome has seating I believe for about 50 + guests - all seats facing forward -
The set up is all seats facing forward in movement - the seats in pairs can be rotated to
face each other (party of 4) but this is discouraged for safety considerations.

In the photo --- Alaska Railroad Goldstar Dome 653 ---
From the outside the solid wall/panel at one end of the car is were the galley is - the glassed window area is the restaurant dining end.
Only half the car can be served at one time arranged by lots or affinity groups families - - -
The fare price of the Gold Star service includes meals and beverages (2 complimentary alcoholic drinks)
The Gold Star service on the Denali (ANC-FAI) train this being a 12 hour trip features breakfast lunch and dinner

The dome cars are usually consisted behind the locomotive(s) with the observation platforms at the rear away from the diesel fumes.
The rest of the train is composed of coach cars one or two former Santa Fe half dome cars and a concession snack car.
Baggage car(s) maybe included but often the luggage of the guests is trucked to the port or hotel.
The train takes 4.5 hours to travel Seward to Anchorage - the trucked luggage just over 3 increasing the efficiency of the operation.
This is great when your luggage is checked straight thru from your hotel to your cabin on the ship - couldn't be better.

Since the service is seasonal the Gold Star dome cars are only used during that period and operated daily.
During the winter season (now in effect) the consist is coach cars maybe a half dome and the concession car and operates
only on the weekends - check the schedule website for specifics.
And some of the Alaska RR trains stop out in the middle of nowhere miles from any hint of civilization.

The only thing that is in comparison perhaps on a better scale is the Rocky Mountaineer - - - - - If only Amtrak could duplicate #####
adding a sleeper car setup - IF ONLY ?

Alaska RR LINK:


Posting the image of car number 653 Alaska RR


653ext6.jpg
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,395
Location
Palm Beach County
Besides the ARR cars, ARR also carries the private “Wilderness Express” cars on its train, and the Holland America and Princess cars on a separate chartered train.
You can get full details and compare them all thru www.AlaskaTrain.com.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,764
Location
South Carolina
The dome cars are usually consisted behind the locomotive(s) with the observation platforms at the rear away from the diesel fumes.
The rest of the train is composed of coach cars one or two former Santa Fe half dome cars and a concession snack car.
Baggage car(s) maybe included but often the luggage of the guests is trucked to the port or hotel.
The train takes 4.5 hours to travel Seward to Anchorage - the trucked luggage just over 3 increasing the efficiency of the operation.
This is great when your luggage is checked straight thru from your hotel to your cabin on the ship - couldn't be better.

Since the service is seasonal the Gold Star dome cars are only used during that period and operated daily.
During the winter season (now in effect) the consist is coach cars maybe a half dome and the concession car and operates
only on the weekends - check the schedule website for specifics.
And some of the Alaska RR trains stop out in the middle of nowhere miles from any hint of civilization.
Excellent description!
The only correction I believe, the ARR short domes are of Union Pacific, rather than Santa Fe heritage.
Actually the short domes are EX Union Pacific, and two are EX Northern Pacific (No. 554 and 555 were the NP numbers). The rest of the cars I want to say are also ex Union Pacific cars, with the exception of the wilderness cafe which I believe is ex C&NW.

The baggage cars are included I believe for Alaska Residents more so than the rest of the passengers. Don't forget there are a lot of people who live in remote locations that are transporting everything under the sun in the baggage cars. This is not like Amtrak where the baggage is sometimes almost empty.

The Alaska Railroad also has an office car they are happy to lease out to more exclusive private parties on the Seward train.

Up until the cruise lines bought those super ugly Colorado Railcar Ultra Domes they used a large fleet of former Santa Fe full domes, and a Great Northern one. All those moved back to the USA with most going to Ed Ellis and Iowa Pacific. Of which those are all owned by various financial institutions, and a few are even owned by two entities. It is said Alaska is what saved those cars actually from the scrap heap.

Give me a regular vista dome and I am a happy camper. You get a full 360 degree view which you don't get on the ultra domes or the full domes.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,365
The baggage cars are included I believe for Alaska Residents more so than the rest of the passengers. Don't forget there are a lot of people who live in remote locations that are transporting everything under the sun in the baggage cars. This is not like Amtrak where the baggage is sometimes almost empty.
You mean because Amtrak eliminated baggage service at so many stations that anyone traveling EITHER to or from one of those former baggage stations can no longer help fill the baggage cars? And some of those people can no longer travel Amtrak because they can't lift the bags by themselves onto the train and have nowhere to place them all in their room or can't lift them above their seat?
 

TRoberts

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 25, 2020
Messages
19
Location
Chattanooga TN
Having an upgraded coach option such as Club/Business Class is a very smart idea, borrowing from similar premium "chair cars" on many of the heritage railroads. How many Amtrak LD trains offer Business Class? I know of the Boston section of LSL (sometimes), the Cardinal and the Coast Starlight, but can't think of any others? Is the Palmetto a true long-distance route?
The Crescent did for a while. I don't think they offer it anymore. It was a standard LD coach, but you had better chances of having seats together or a pair of seats by yourself.
 
Top