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Crew size on Amtrak overnight trains? On day trains?

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beautifulplanet

Lead Service Attendant
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Jan 29, 2014
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Hello everyone,

already tried to look it up for hours, still wasn't able to find out:

how many employees are needed to operate an Amtrak train?

Best guess is there would be

- train driver(s)

- dining car crew or lounge car's cafe/snack bar crew

- conductor/attendants for coach cars, and

- conductor/attendants for sleeping cars, in case the particular service is an overnight train.

Out of previous research on the web, in one source it was stated that there normally would be a sleeping car attendant for every sleeping car. In a different source it said, the crew is just allowed to work 12 consecutive hours at a time. So wouldn't there need to be either 2 sleeping car attendants per car, with alternating 12 hour shifts, or there is only one per car, who possibly only sleeps a few hours per day, and is on duty for the rest of the time?

How does this same issue work out with coach car attendants? Is it also one attendant per car, like stated in the source mentioned above regarding sleeping cars?

What is the size of the dining car or cafe/snack bar service crew?

What about train drivers?

Also it would be interesting in case there are specifics on how crew size differs between overnight trains, and day trains.

Detailed information (or links to reliable sources of information) are appreciated very much. :)
 

blueman271

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Hampton, VA
I'm not sure about the exact number of people required to get a train over the road but I can answer your question about time limits. Trains essentially have two crews, the OBS or On-Board Service Crew and the T&E crew or Train and Engine Crew. The OBS crew consists of all the attendants, the lounge car attendent, diner attendants and chef, the coach attendants and the sleeper attendants. The OBS crew works the train from beginning to end and they are provided roomettes in either the transition dorm (on LD Superliner trains) or in a revenue Viewliner sleeper (on LD single level trains, until the new bag-dorms are delivered). The T&E crew, which consists of the conductors and engineers, work the train for no more than 12 hours or until they get to the end of their territory, whichever comes first. The T&E crew are subject to the Federal Hours of Service law which states that conductors and engineers are not allowed to work more than 12 consecutive hours without at least 8 hours of rest. The terms "on the law" and "dead on the law" are frequently used to describe T&E crews that have reached their 12 hour limit. Once the T&E crew reaches the 12 hour limit the train must come to a stop regardless of where it is, approaching a station, halfway across a grade crossing, in the middle of nowhere etc..

I hope this is detailed enough and if it is a bit of rambling, I apologize. It is 2125 here in Guam and I am 5/8's drunk. As for the rest of your questions I'm sure our many knowledgeable posters will answer them in no time.
 

MikefromCrete

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Train crews are divided into operating crews and on-board service crews

For long distance tralns, operating crews include an ENGINEER (not train driver, that's a European/ UK term). possibly an assistant engineer if its a long crew district, a conductor and an assistant conductor. These people work over a set physical district, and, for long distance trains, change out every eight-10 hours. By federal law, they are limited to 12 hours of service.

On-board crews include coach service attendants (one or two per train), sleeping car attendants (usually one per car), dining car crew (three to five people) and a cafe attendant. These people stay with the train over its entire distance, working a schedule that allows breaks and perhaps a four-hour period to sleep overnight. Dining car crews work from before breakfast until after diner, with breaks in between.

On short-distance trains, the crew usually consists of an operating crew of engineer, conductor and assistant conductor, and a service crew of a cafe car attendant.

That's perhaps over simplified and I'm sure others will provide more details, but it's a general overview.
 

the_traveler

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The above posters explained the T&E vs OBS very well. Normally T&E consists of 1 engineer, 1 conductor and 1-2 assistant conductors. OBS normally consists of 1 SCA per sleeping car, 1 CA per coach car, 1 LSA for the café, 1 LSA for the Dining Car, 2-4 servers in the Dining Car and 1 cook. Of course, day trains (non-LD trains) do not have sleeping cars or a Dining Car. They also do not have CA's.
 
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beautifulplanet

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blueman271, thank you for your response. No need to apologize, instead it's good that the distinction between T&E crew and OBS crew are clear, and that the 12 hour rule only applies to the former.

MikefromCrete, the_traveler, jis - thank you for your replies.

So the conductor checks the tickets in all of the train, correct? Checking that passengers have tickets is never carried out by the service attendant, right?

What about the number of coach service attendants? One answer reads "one or two per train", the other one "1 CA per coach car". So in case a overnight long-distance train has 4 coach cars, how many coach attendants are there? :)

Then it says "day trains (non-LD trains) [...] do not have CA's". There are day trains f.e. within the Northeast Corridor, and then there are day trains like the Palmetto, going a longer distance.

So either of those two services, does not have CAs? And is there any difference then, regarding how many conductors (checking tickets) are on board?
 
G

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Are there ever two engineers? One working for Amtrak and one working for the host rail road?
 

jis

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Are there ever two engineers? One working for Amtrak and one working for the host rail road?
When Amtrak is operating over a detour route on which the Amtrak Engineer is not qualified, there will be a host railroad Engineer acting as pilot on board. So yes, that does happen. If it is in a 2 Engineer crew territory then there would even be two Amtrak Engineers and in addition a host railroad pilot.
 

Railroad Bill

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blueman271, thank you for your response. No need to apologize, instead it's good that the distinction between T&E crew and OBS crew are clear, and that the 12 hour rule only applies to the former.

MikefromCrete, the_traveler, jis - thank you for your replies.

So the conductor checks the tickets in all of the train, correct? Checking that passengers have tickets is never carried out by the service attendant, right?

What about the number of coach service attendants? One answer reads "one or two per train", the other one "1 CA per coach car". So in case a overnight long-distance train has 4 coach cars, how many coach attendants are there? :)

Then it says "day trains (non-LD trains) [...] do not have CA's". There are day trains f.e. within the Northeast Corridor, and then there are day trains like the Palmetto, going a longer distance.

So either of those two services, does not have CAs? And is there any difference then, regarding how many conductors (checking tickets) are on board?
There are times when the Sleeping Car attendant may check your tickets when you board to verify you are in the correct car. That happens especially on early morning boarding such as when we board in Cleveland at 2 or 3am. Most times the conductor will stop by sometime to scan your E Ticket but not always.

The Sleeping Car Attendants trade off being on duty on long distance trains so that one may get some sleep for a break and that the other is available if needed. Usually there is not a separate SCA for the transdorm car but it is handled by the nearest SCA in the adjoining car.

The dining car crew and the lounge car crews usually get their sleep at night when both cars are closed for business.

If you need to find a conductor on the train, the first place to look is in the lounge or dining cars since they tend to hang out there when not checking tickets at a stop.

Just some additional information for your use. :)
 
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the_traveler

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The conductor does not just check/collect tickets. He or she is the boss of the train - even to the engineer and other crew. If he or she is not aboard, the train can not move! Among other things, the conductor communicates with the dispatcher and calls out signals, sidings, switches, slow order areas, etc...
 

OlympianHiawatha

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Our little Heartland Flyer has an Engineer, 1 Conductor and 1 Assistant Conductor and the Cafe Attendant. They all come from a very small pool; so if you ride even somewhat regularly you get to know them and they get to know you.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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How does a Conductor call out signals sitting in the back of the train? At most s/he can acknowledge/repeat what the Engineer calls out.
That is what they do and they need to be familiar with every inch of their line, down to knowing where the signals are.
 

FrensicPic

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How does a Conductor call out signals sitting in the back of the train? At most s/he can acknowledge/repeat what the Engineer calls out.
That's correct, the conductor acknowledges what the engineer called out. Also, it is normally the engineer that communicates with the dispatcher. With a low powered handheld, bout all the conductor can do is copy the dispatcher. Often, the engineer will call the conductor to verify that he copied the transmission in the case of a restriction, etc.
 

Railroad Bill

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How does a Conductor call out signals sitting in the back of the train? At most s/he can acknowledge/repeat what the Engineer calls out.
Dave may be referring to a freight conductor, who does ride in the locomotive and is responsible for calling signals and gaining acknowledgement from the engineer.
 

SubwayNut

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A few day trains, the Palmetto and I believe the Carolinian also have Coach (and business) class attendants. There is just one cafe car with one employee for food though.
 

greatcats

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The two engineers applies when the assignment is over six hours long. This applies on many long distance runs. By contract, if it is less than six hours, it may operate with one. Example, on the Southwest Chief, from Chicago to Kansas City, the trip is approximately eight hours. The engineers change midway at Fort Madison, Iowa, but the Conductor and Assistant Conductor cover the entire distance. The next crew district goes to Dodge City, Kansas, which is in excess of six hours, so there would be two engineers working with the same train crew. The next district is a relatively short distance to La Junta Colorado, only about 4 hours, so one engineer and the train crew work together. The next districts is a long one to Albuquerque, New Mexico - two engineers and train crew together, same for the next long run to Kingman, AZ, and also the last segment from Kingman, Arizona to Los Angeles. Other routes have numerous examples of one engineer. The bean counters somehow figured out it was cheaper to have one person in the cab for a shorter distance than two for a longer distance.
 

beautifulplanet

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Thank you very much, everyone, for your input.

The questions that do not seem to be answered in all details, may be:

How many coach attendants are present on:

- on overnight trains (1 per car, or 1-2 per train, even if it has 4 Coach cars)?

- on daytrains like the Palmetto?

- on Regional trains inside of the Northeast Corridor (none, is that correct?)? And in Acela?
 
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jis

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Regionals have no Coach or BC attendants.

Acelas have no Coach so no Coach attendants. They also don't have any BC attendant. They have one or two SAs in FC (usually two).

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

PerRock

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A standard Wolverine has the following crew:

1 Engineer

1 Conductor

1 Asst Conductor

1 Cafe Car Attendant (which would by default make them the LSA...)

I would presume that this is the same for almost all small corridor trains.

peter
 
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Most of the LD trains have either 1 coach attendant per car or 1 for two cars, I have been on trains that had it both ways. The Boston section of the LSL has one coach attendant for both coach cars at least until we get to Albany then I have seen an attendant added, but mostly during the summer and other times the same one still has two cars.
 

Paulus

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A standard Wolverine has the following crew:

1 Engineer

1 Conductor

1 Asst Conductor

1 Cafe Car Attendant (which would by default make them the LSA...)

I would presume that this is the same for almost all small corridor trains.

peter
The Pacific Surfliners are similar but with an additional attendant for the business class car.

Thank you very much, everyone, for your input.

The questions that do not seem to be answered in all details, may be:

How many coach attendants are present on:

- on overnight trains (1 per car, or 1-2 per train, even if it has 4 Coach cars)?

- on daytrains like the Palmetto?

- on Regional trains inside of the Northeast Corridor (none, is that correct?)? And in Acela?
If you scroll down to the second to last page, there's a list of train mannings, by position, as of February 15,2004. This is for OBS personnel only.

Sunset Limited: 10 positions

Southwest Chief: 9

California Zephyr: 9

Empire Builder: 8

Coast Starlight: 13

Crescent: 9

Texas Eagle: 9

Capitol Limited: 9

Lake Shore Limited: 9

City of New Orleans: 9

Silver Star/Meteor: 10

Admittedly, this is a decade old, but I haven't been able to find a more recent contract.
 

Rule G

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Some trains will have 3 coaches and only 1 coach attendant. When they add a 4th car to that train, they are also supposed to add another attendant, but that doesn't always happen.

Coach attendants are Amtrak's most overworked employees.
 
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