I was intrigued to see this forum thread revisited after being dormant for several months. At the risk of sounding impertinent, W. Graham Claytor Jr. (admittedly my own idol when is comes to railroad men) is probably "rolling in his grave" when he perceives what has happened to his train--the Crescent. I know that one lone passenger travelling once a week ATN-WAS-ATN in the sleepers is a very, very small fraction of the Crescent's (and Amtrak's) operation--but that is exactly what I did for nearly five years. Northbound overnight arriving about 9AM into WAS, conduct necessary business, and return same day at 6:30PM. Same day return allowed me about 9 hours--if #19 was on time--to conduct 15 minutes of business. Until COVID in August 2020 and having made 206 trips, only once did #19 arrive after the departure of #20 same day--requiring me to remain overnight in a hotel in WAS. Based on the Crescent's on-time performance, I guess I was lucky and picked the right days for travel. I, myself, got COVID in August 2020. I was ill for 2+ months and, by the time I returned to work in November 2020, Crescent had gone to a three-times-a-week schedule--thus effectively ending these trips. In June, 2021 when Crescent returned to a daily schedule but operating Northbound on its new schedule several hours later, my first attempt at same day turnaround FAILED. That (and COVID) did end these trips.
For a 74-year railfan, such trips were a dream. Now, because of Amtrak's inconsistencies, I have to make other transportation arrangements when necessary via air (I hate it).
You are right that Claytor is spinning in his grave. Although I was never quite a weekly commuter as you became, I did ride the Crescent quite a lot over the years, mainly between New York and Lynchburg, but also on trips to Birmingham and New Orleans. Even after one of the Northeast regional trains was extended to Lynchburg, we still often took the Crescent on these trips, as the availability of a sleeper room and dining service made for a much nicer experience on an 8-hour haul, particularly on family trips. The switch to flex food killed it for me, but the new northbound schedule is another nail in the coffin.
When we were planning a trip to Lynchburg at New Year's, we booked the regional train. A room on the Crescent seemed very expensive for not much value. Plus I had been seeing that the northbound Crescent was frequently arriving in New York so late that it missed the last (8:55p) connection of the night to Albany. We wound up canceling the trip, which turned out to be a good thing, as our return date was Jan. 3, the day of the big Virginia snowstorm. We'd have gotten to spend 12 hours in the woods south of Charlottesville before backing up to LYH.