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Bedtime musings.......people oblivious to Amtrak

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greatcats

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
2,385
Location
Flagstaff, Arizona
I was out today on a beautiful almost springlike day on the Lava Flow Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, doing my twice weekly volunteer ranger stint interpreting the site to visitors. I meet some of the coolest people out there - In three years of doing this, only a scant few I would say that I disliked. In addition to talking about volcanic activity, I give information on other National Park areas, and have even given out info on the Alaska Ferry. One nice couple today was from Tucson and the gent was a retired military man and they have lived there for ten years. I said I was in Tucson last spring, having gotten off the train from Chicago before taking Greyhound back home. They were incredulous.....there is a train that stops in Tucson?????? They had no absolutely no idea that such a thing existed and were unaware of the train station, which is a large building. They were familiar with the Hotel Congress across the street. So I gave them a whole rundown on the Sunset Limited and where it goes and also the Southwest Chief. They were wide eyed with wonder and curiosity! I know many people are often aware that Amtrak exists, but this chat kind of floored me.

For the past several months here in Flagstaff the local National Public Radio station, KNAU, has been running very nice ads for the Southwest Chief, even mentioning " savory " meals. ( Really, savory? You will get fed, folks. ) This is certainly a good thing but I am not sure if Amtrak is the instigator of these mentions on NPR.
 

the_traveler

Conductor
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
26,008
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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
I also can't believe the number of Americans that I've met on the train that say that this is their first train ride! (After all, Amtrak has only been around for 45 years!) I've met more foreigners riding Amtrak then Americans many times.
 

chakk

Conductor
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
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Young man I met last month on the SWC at breakfast asked me if our train was steam-powered. Not since the mid-1930's, I replied.
 

OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,286
Location
Norman, OK
The Heartland Flyer goes right through Norman, passing alongside the University of Oklahoma Main Campus, yet I am surprised how many locals are surprised when they find out a "people train" passes through twice a day. Of course I can understand that coming from college students as many have little idea what goes on outside of campus :)
 

Texan Eagle

Conductor
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
1,705
I've met more foreigners riding Amtrak then Americans many times.
<raises hand> Representing foreigner* who has been riding Amtrak more than many Americans.

(* live in US, pay taxes, have SSN but according to govt I am non-resident alien who should be shooed out at the earliest)
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Jul 9, 2014
Messages
4,490
I've met more foreigners riding Amtrak then Americans many times.
<raises hand> Representing foreigner* who has been riding Amtrak more than many Americans.

(* live in US, pay taxes, have SSN but according to govt I am non-resident alien who should be shooed out at the earliest)
The beauty of the U.S.A rail pass and a group of people accustomed to traveling by rail. It made for good times in September.
 

greatcats

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
2,385
Location
Flagstaff, Arizona
Chakk- Sure, Amtrak come through Flagstaff with a steam locomotive. Kind of reminds me many years ago when I used to play intermissions at the Rahway Theater, Rahway, NJ on the original 1920s Wurlitzer pipe organ. The pipes were in the conventional locations behind grilles in the walls on either side of the stage. As I was playing one night, I heard an audience member remark that the " speakers " were up there.
 

R Johnson

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 12, 2010
Messages
25
I also can't believe the number of Americans that I've met on the train that say that this is their first train ride! (After all, Amtrak has only been around for 45 years!) I've met more foreigners riding Amtrak then Americans many times.
I think it has a lot to do with where you live and the train service available. I will soon be taking only my second (if you count the round trip last time as one) train trip, and I can walk to the local station.

Let's say I want to take the train to Pittsburg. One choice would be taking 51 to Chicago and then one or two other trains across the top of Indiana and Ohio, at some point dropping down to Pittsburg. I haven't checked to see how long it would take, but I'll bet more than 24 hours. The other choice would be taking 50 to D.C., staying overnight, and then taking a westbound train to Pittsburg. WAY over 24 hours. Or, I could drive across Ohio on I-70 and be in Pittsburg in five hours or less.

Granted, Connersville isn't exactly a transportation hub, but at one time Indianapolis was, and the story is the same there. If the only reason for riding the train is riding the train, then the relatively few destinations available to large parts of the country isn't that important. If however (as in my case) rail travel is more about getting from point A to point B and just happens to be more enjoyable than air travel, the huge number of cities Amtrak doesn't even get close to becomes an issue. All too often the only choice is private transportation or air travel.
 

the_traveler

Conductor
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
26,008
Location
Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
That is true, but even in places like Miami, Jacksonville, Dallas, Reno, etc..., you are bound to hear many residents say "I didn't know Amtrak serves our city" or "can I take a train from here" or "where is the train station"!
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
20,263
Location
Austin Texas
Here in Austin lots of newcomers find out about Amtrak when they rent or buy one of the expensive Condos that sre being built downtown along the tracks and by the Amtrak Station!

They then complain to the City and the Media about the noise from the Trains ( its a heavily traveled UP Freight Route but only has 2 Daily Eagles)and want the tracks moved out of town but don't want to pay the Billions it would take!
 

greatcats

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
2,385
Location
Flagstaff, Arizona
Regarding Americans vs. those from other countries: If you hang out on the Grand Canyon rim and observe the crowds, it is often the case that English is the minority language, due to the high percentage of " international visitors. ". ( when I worked there we were told not to refer to them as " foreigners. " )
 

sldispatcher

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 14, 2008
Messages
78
I have long believed and continue to hold the basic belief that through a combination of factors (political restrictions, management mishmash, union control, host railroad indifference, low standard of onboard service and lack of frequency/usefulness in major metropolitan areas to name a few), Amtrak in its present form cannot flourish.

Whenever you set the bar to a fairly low common denominator (see list above and take your pick), you are asking for failure and lack of appeal to the very ones that can support the system through higher fares.

You have some who simply scorch the idea of turning over sleeping/dining car service to an outside entity, but the only answer they can give is "more money/more subsidy". Another side voices that everyone should just fly (which eliminates many affordable city pairs by rail) because they ignore all of the small communities served.

But it does not shock me that you would run across people who simply don't know because the level of service is such that it would not have appeal to certain socioeconomic levels in this country. Lack of word of mouth leads to lack of awareness. Lack of awareness leads to lack of support. Lack of support shows up with what we have now. A token level of service to various parts of the country seen by many as just a relic of a bygone era or transportation for the "other half".
 

greatcats

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
2,385
Location
Flagstaff, Arizona
Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately you make a number of valid points. I was not that surprised either by the story that I related, either. They were good folks, but they were not even aware of the station in the middle of Tucson!
 

JayPea

Conductor
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
3,846
Location
Colfax, WA (CFX)
Same story in Spokane. Many people there aren't even aware Amtrak stops in Spokane. A good part of that is due to the arrival/departure times of the EB at Spokane; about the only ones awake at those hours are cabbies, cops, and hookers, not necessarily in that order. :lol: . Recently the Spokane indoor football league team was renamed the Empire and its logo railroad themed; a lot of people thought the name and logo were stupid and had no clue there was such a train as the Empire Builder now or in the past, much less that it stops in Spokane. They had no clue how much railroads contributed to the entire existence

of Spokane.
 
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Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
2,861
At my commuter stop (Princeton Junction), if my NJ Transit train is late, we often see the Silver Meteor go by. People there in general are well aware of Amtrak trains and the Northeast Corridor, since so many trains go through there.

However, not everyone realizes that some of the trains are long distance. My favorite way to keep myself amused when my train is late is to manage to stand next to some Millenial who hasn't put their ear things in yet and say, "It's a shame our train is late. Oh, well, we'll get to see the Florida train go through." At which point, they invariably perk up and say, "There's a train that goes to Florida?!" And I explain how it works and tell them they can pull up the website on their phone and read all the details.

If I'm working on the weekend, when I leave the office a bit earlier, sometimes I can do the same thing with the Crescent, which goes through there midafternoon.
 

Eric308

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 30, 2011
Messages
441
Location
Madison, WI
I can relate as well. I usually take about three trips a year on The Empire Builder. When I tell locals about my trips they always seem interested, but say, "doesn't it get old going to Chicago just to pick up the train?" Little do they know that the EB stops in tiny Columbus, WI which has a great secure, long term parking lot and is only 25 minutes from my house.
 

andersone

Conductor
Joined
Dec 19, 2013
Messages
1,157
Location
Jackson. Ohio
Several things come to mind,,,,,

my colleague in the next office goes do DC all the time,,, when I told him he could go on the Cardinal, that leaves fifteen minutes from his house in Portsmouth, without having to drive to Columbus and mess with the airports he was intrigued,,, and he is going to try it later this spring,,,,,

as for international visitors,,, last year Yellowstone was often ruined by the 60 passenger attach ninjas that spewed from the door as soon as the bus stopped. I go pushed off several paths by their rush and total, and I mean total disregard for the other folks. They somehow missed Mrs. Keller's kindergarten lesson about taking turns,,,, and I am rather glad they know nothing of Amtrak,,,,

my favorite is when I break bread with someone in the diner who is awed by their first venture,,,, I smugly smile and say how grateful I am to have found it fifty years ago,,,,

finally I wonder what a NEC frequent flyer would think about Gore Canyon,,,,
 
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Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,542
Location
Texas
Young man I met last month on the SWC at breakfast asked me if our train was steam-powered. Not since the mid-1930's, I replied.
Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the Heritage Fleet still use steam for heating and cooking until the mid-1980's? Which would put his question about a half century closer depending on the context.

Little do they know that the EB stops in tiny Columbus, WI which has a great secure, long term parking lot and is only 25 minutes from my house.
Secure long term parking near the station and at a reasonable rate is surprisingly rare in my experience. In fact this omission remains one of the Amtrak's biggest Achilles heels in my view. Especially in situations where lack of relatively close and reasonably priced parking is combined with dead of night calling times. This situation remains a major disincentive for me anyway. Based on discussions with Amtrak staff it would appear that Amtrak doesn't consider reasonable parking options to be any of their concern, but I really couldn't disagree more. This continuing lack of interest seems awfully short sighted to me.
 
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greatcats

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
2,385
Location
Flagstaff, Arizona
If I recall it was in the mid 80s and the Silver Star was the last train to use steam heat. And the food in the full service dining car was pretty good!
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
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Location
Ithaca, NY
My favorite way to keep myself amused when my train is late is to manage to stand next to some Millenial who hasn't put their ear things in yet and say, "It's a shame our train is late. Oh, well, we'll get to see the Florida train go through." At which point, they invariably perk up and say, "There's a train that goes to Florida?!" And I explain how it works and tell them they can pull up the website on their phone and read all the details.
Good for you!
 

chakk

Conductor
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
2,555
The young man was refering to steam power for propulsion only. I chose not to confuse him further by describing the steam boilers that were used in some diesel-electric locomotives to provide heating for the passenger cars in the days before the SWC acquired Superliners in the 1980's.
 

caravanman

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
3,744
Location
Nottingham, England.
It is not just trains... We took a bus from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, and got dropped off in a one way street. Later, asking locals, even hotel staff, no one knew where the bus station was, and many expressed surprise at the existence of the bus service to Buffalo!

Ed. :cool:
 

HenryK

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2015
Messages
233
Amtrak doesn't think about parking lots because it hasn't got the money to build them. Anyway, parking lots are usually the property of local governments if not the freight railroads, and often the stations are, too. No use bashing Amtrak for things it can't control.

By the way, speaking of convenient parking lots, the roomy lot at Portage, Wisconsin, on the route of the Empire Builder is partly owned by the CP and partly by the City of Portage. The CP has offices at one end of the lot and workers come and go regularly. Portage police cars patrol the lot as well. It's a favorite with veteran Builder passengers from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. They often leave their cars there for weeks at a time while they go out to the West Coast, letting Portage police know so that their cars won't be considered abandoned.
 
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tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,103
Location
Spring Creek, NC
Amtrak doesn't think about parking lots because it hasn't got the money to build them. Anyway, parking lots are usually the property of local governments if not the freight railroads, and often the stations are, too. No use bashing Amtrak for things it can't control.

By the way, speaking of convenient parking lots, the roomy lot at Portage, Wisconsin, on the route of the Empire Builder is partly owned by the CP and partly by the City of Portage. The CP has offices at one end of the lot and workers come and go regularly. Portage police cars patrol the lot as well. It's a favorite with veteran Builder passengers from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. They often leave their cars there for weeks at a time while they go out to the West Coast, letting Portage police know so that their cars won't be considered abandoned.
Amtrak needs to think about parking lots because "by car" is how most of their customers reach their stations.

It surely wouldn't cost much to put up on their website info about what sort of parking is available at each station (hedged with whatever liability disclaimers their lawyers specify). And posting info about nearby car rental agencies could actually be profitable. Both sorts of info are critical to many of us planning Amtrak travel. Posting it online could only encourage more folks to take the train.
 

KmH

Conductor
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Dec 6, 2014
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Is this heaven? No. It's Iowa.
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