Crescent schedule change - first time in 50 years!

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fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
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Jan 25, 2020
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437
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upstate New York
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.
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
123
Location
Columbus, GA
I apologize for my error in previous post. I know that # 20 is the Crescent Northbound and # 19 is the Crescent Southbound!
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
123
Location
Columbus, GA
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.
Thanks for your reply fdaley. Yes, I suspect that snow in Virginia would have frustrated the most avid railfan and traveler. I like to think my 74+ years of rail travel has given me "endless patience" but there IS a limit I guess. I think I read my favorite train--the Empire Builder--had a 2 1/2 DAY delayed arrival in Seattle just after New Year's Day--weather or mechanical or some service disruption.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
1,225
What has happened to the Crescent is a real travesty. This used to be a fine train. I have travelled on it a number of times both when operated by the Southern Railway and later by Amtrak. On our last trip in 2019 just before the debacle, we enjoyed nice meals in the new dining car and had a very enjoyable trip. We looked forward to more trips on the Crescent as sleeping car passengers but we didn't realize that the downfall was about to occur. Now with the diminution of service, with few amenities and a poor schedule that isn't even maintained, buying a sleeper ticket on the Crescent is like donating money to a disorganized and poorly run charity.

The area served by the Cresent, as I understand it, is growing in population and in economic strength. It deserves better service.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
347
What has happened to the Crescent is a real travesty. This used to be a fine train. I have travelled on it a number of times both when operated by the Southern Railway and later by Amtrak. On our last trip in 2019 just before the debacle, we enjoyed nice meals in the new dining car and had a very enjoyable trip. We looked forward to more trips on the Crescent as sleeping car passengers but we didn't realize that the downfall was about to occur. Now with the diminution of service, with few amenities and a poor schedule that isn't even maintained, buying a sleeper ticket on the Crescent is like donating money to a disorganized and poorly run charity.

The area served by the Cresent, as I understand it, is growing in population and in economic strength. It deserves better service.

Agreed.

The Greensboro-Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta corridor’s population has likely at least doubled since the 1970s, when the Crescent regularly ran with four or more sleepers and there was a second Washington-Atlanta train on the route.

If that level of service could be supported in the 1970s, with some decent marketing and a better on-board experience, imagine what could be offered now.

I also took the Southern Crescent in the 1970s but I don’t remember much. Was it better in terms of timekeeping, on-board amenities (for example, was there a lounge car just for sleeping car passengers) and food, compared to today’s train?

My mother mentioned that a sleeping car ticket on the Southern Crescent was cheaper than flying- that certainly has been reversed at least.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
1,225
Agreed.

The Greensboro-Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta corridor’s population has likely at least doubled since the 1970s, when the Crescent regularly ran with four or more sleepers and there was a second Washington-Atlanta train on the route.

If that level of service could be supported in the 1970s, with some decent marketing and a better on-board experience, imagine what could be offered now.

I also took the Southern Crescent in the 1970s but I don’t remember much. Was it better in terms of timekeeping, on-board amenities (for example, was there a lounge car just for sleeping car passengers) and food, compared to today’s train?

My mother mentioned that a sleeping car ticket on the Southern Crescent was cheaper than flying- that certainly has been reversed at least.
On the Southern Crescent, I do not recall a lounge for sleeping car passengers but back then I was only a coach passenger. The food was first rate and the timekeeping was quite dependable. No four hour delays like the present operation.

Even the timekeeping on the Amtrak Crescent on my trips in 2011 and 2012 was quite good but that has deteriorated. We were three hours late into New Orleans in 2019 and arrived about 10 p.m. Under the current schedule, if we were three or four hours late, we would be getting in at midnight or 1 a.m.
 

George

GAT
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
453
Location
San Francisco
Agreed.

The Greensboro-Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta corridor’s population has likely at least doubled since the 1970s, when the Crescent regularly ran with four or more sleepers and there was a second Washington-Atlanta train on the route.

If that level of service could be supported in the 1970s, with some decent marketing and a better on-board experience, imagine what could be offered now.

I also took the Southern Crescent in the 1970s but I don’t remember much. Was it better in terms of timekeeping, on-board amenities (for example, was there a lounge car just for sleeping car passengers) and food, compared to today’s train?

My mother mentioned that a sleeping car ticket on the Southern Crescent was cheaper than flying- that certainly has been reversed at least.
I believe your mother was right. Airline de-regulation and resulting price drops reversed the fortunes of rail and air passenger travel. “Since passenger deregulation in 1978, airline prices have fallen 44.9 percent in real terms according to the Air Transport Association.” (EconLib - I don't know the date of this quote.)
 

west point

Engineer
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Jun 9, 2015
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SW ATL airport
You got it backwards. Crescent runs Northwards through Atlanta Thursday through Monday, and not Monday through Thursday. It does not run Tuesday and Wednesday.
Let me explain. #20 originates in ATL Mondays thru Thursdays mostly on time. That is just during the NS caused cancellations January thru March whatever. Otherwise too many late departures at ATL to connect with Carolinian at CLT, Cardinal at CVS, and Capitol at WASH many days. Also, very late at NYP.
Tried last year and a 3+ hour late to ATL caused me to drive to Richmond.
This of course is a normal 7 day a week operation not now.

EDIT: Forgot the severed connection to the LSL that happened with the schedule change.
 
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west point

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Jun 9, 2015
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SW ATL airport
Correct: The schedule change has ruined the connections that the Crescent once had. Amtrak should move the NOL departure time back to its 0700 or better still 0600. Then all the connections possible would be made even if slowed NOL - ATL. Looking more into the future if the Meridian <> DAL/FTW ever happens then all those persons would have many connection possibilities.

What are the downsides? Mainly the crewing of the train Meridian <> NOL will have to change. Another crew will be needed each day. Then NOL station personnel will probably need one or more additional persons. The question is "will the extra personnel costs be offset by more fares?

I cannot remember any other Amtrak train other than those terminating at CHI that has more connection potential than the Crescent. Carolinian, Cardinal, Capitol, LSL, and anything to BOS. Depending for on time NOL - ATL is impossible. Secondary connections are also possible: NPN, Norfolk, Florida's Star by way of Carolinian.
 

cassie225

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May 30, 2012
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381
Location
Louisiana
Crescent at 7 was a good time, we drive from Baton Rouge and getting they traffic is messy, now when the train starts to run from BR to NOL , Crescent leaving at 6 might even be good, that is if that train from BR runs on schedule. But if Crescent does not change food and on time schedule I won’t be on it anyway, so I’m just dreaming lol
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
437
Location
upstate New York
The more relaxed 9 a.m. departure time from New Orleans is the only thing I like about this new schedule, but it's far outweighed by the unattractive times at Atlanta and everywhere north -- and the too-high risk of missing connections in Charlottesville, Washington and New York. Plus the traditional schedule put people in Washington and the Northeast in time for a day's activities -- which is a much better look for an overnight train -- whereas the new schedule has turned the Crescent into an all-day endurance run from the Carolinas to New York. We already have the Carolinian for that.

Of course, as Cassie225 put it so well:
if Crescent does not change food ... I won’t be on it anyway
 
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Amtrak709

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May 6, 2021
Messages
123
Location
Columbus, GA
After my post on Monday, it has just occurred to me that I also about a dozen times in the three years before COVID travelled Anniston to Chicago on the Crescent connecting to the Cardinal based on the Cardinal's three times a week schedule. I always like to connect in MSS Manassas VA (pretty little station and a longer but safer connection that stations farther north). I guess that trip is now impossible too. I also suspect that MSS would not be the best choice for connecting with an overnight station wait.
 

crescent2

Conductor
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Sep 15, 2012
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1,327
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a little south of normal
Well, I turn my back and this is what happens to the Crescent! :oops:

I "hope" on-time performance will be improved but I'm not holding my breath. Guess we'll see if any teeth are used to enforce the agreement.
And hopefully the 5-day thing isn't permanent.
 
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