- Jul 23, 2009
- Washington State
The dining and lounge end are separated by the service area where the dumbwaiter is in the Superliner Diner-Lounge conversions ("Cross Country Cafe" was the type of service that was to be initiated in those cars, which it never really was). They face away from each other and are separated. The lounge end has a service counter and 4 tables. That separation greatly reduces the flexibility of the space.I don't know if I've ever actually been in a train with a Cross Country Cafe, so that makes it hard to respond to this observation. What I am advocating is a diner-lounge car like many pre-Amtrak trains had, offering full sit-down waiter service in the dining room, and counter service in the other half of the car. There would be kitchen in the middle of the car, making it possible to provide at least some of the dining car to food to counter patrons.
Some of the best implementations of a diner/lounge concept were SP's Pride of Texas coffee shop/lounge cars and their Lark Club triple units. In both the galley was at one end. The dining car steward's "buffet" and the lounge service counter both faced in toward the passenger space, usually on opposite ends. The space in between was flexible and the space dedicated to dining versus lounge service could be varied. The best example was the Lark Club. The Lark offered dinner, but relatively few passengers utilized it, but the cocktail lounge was highly popular, so the triple unit was set up with maybe 1/3rd of the available space as a diner, the rest was a lounge. Conversely in the morning there was a huge demand for breakfast, so that same space was set up for meal service. They did this by basically using banquette seating through the the variable section of the car rather than regular four top tables.
The Superliner Diner-Lounges are terrible implementations of what traditionally was a very successful car type. Of course they were converted from diners and were limited by the existing design of the cars, the galley downstairs and the dumbwaiter smack in the middle. Amtrak's original intention was to convert all Superliner diners to Diner-Lounges in their quest to only have one food service car on all trains. Happily, the conversions went slowly enough that Amtrak had time to realize what disasters the cars were and stopped messing up perfectly good diners. That's a good thing, because had they successfully converted the diners, the next targets were the Sightseers. It is one of the better examples of Amtrak's slowness in implementing plans being of benefit.