Do toilets still 'freeze' or fail during extreme cold?

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rms492

Service Attendant
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Mar 22, 2009
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I remember a long time ago, there would be problems with the toilets freezing during cold winter months. Does this still happen, or how often do toilets fail (the whole car), regardless of weather?
That is one thing I would not want to happen on my trip....finding out your entire car has non-functioning toilets.
 

Maglev

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Orcas Island, Washington
I have heard of Superliner shower drains freezing (the drain is just a hole to the tracks), but not of entire toilet systems freezing. More common is failure of the entire toilet system in one car for mechanical issues. I have experienced a brief period of toilet malfunction on the Coast Starlight, but it was rectified in Oakland. Availability of maintenance staff to correct problems at intermediate points is very limited on Amtrak. As my first wife used to say, "You pays your money and takes your chances!"
 

jis

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In the recent past I have traveled from Orlando to New York on a Viewliner II Sleeper on the Silver Meteor when none of the toilets in the car ever worked during the entire journey. Fortunately there was another Viewliner II in the consist for everyone to use.
 
Joined
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I was wondering that too - my parents quit using Amtrak after a LSL trip to Albany in a sleeper with no toilets due to frozen piping of some kind (this was probably 25 or more years ago).
 

WWW

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I remember when the toilets themselves were like that on Canadian trains in the 1940’s-50’s. You’d pull a lever or push a button (I can't remember which), the flapper would swing down, and you could see the ties whizzing by.

Ewe that is why you did NOT use the biff while the train is in/at the station -
The plop plop is not a user friendly result as well as the splish splash -
At least with modern railcars and EPA concerns the effluent is retained in a holding tank for sanitary disposal -
Shower and sink water is not in the same category - but there is no reason for that to not be a holding reservoir also.

With the airlines operating at 30k + feet temperature well below 40 F or 40 C a mix of glycol (anti-freeze) is added to the blue degerm fluid -
since it is colorless and virtually odorless it makes the blue degerm suitable for use in the blue room.
Subsequent use results in the blue turning to green and an obvious sour odor meaning a change of fluid is needed.
Faulty valves or seals can create that ugly pin stripe stream on the side of the fuselage or falling blue ice chunks -

Fortunately at ground level in a railcar this is not a concern if that railcar is heated or not left idle (cold).
 

Railspike

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Nov 29, 2020
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Houston
A few years back we were on the platform in Albuquerque (SWC) when we heard a loud bang by our sleeper car. About 20-30 minutes out, our attendant informed us that the bang we heard was the main valve that controlled the toilets and they would be inoperable until LAX. He didn't have to tell us as we could smell something was amiss. Would have been nice if he had told us right after it happened. Had to go to an adjacent sleeper to use the toilet the rest of the way. Wife wasn't happy.
 

BCL

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Nov 16, 2012
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San Francisco Bay Area
Don't they use some sort of antifreeze in the toilet water holding tanks? It's pretty common in RVs and aircraft.

688W is a ready-to-use liquid odor control agent containing antifreeze for winter use in chemical toilets on airplane, train, RV, bus, and portable toilet applications.​
 

neroden

Engineer
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Feb 23, 2014
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Ithaca, NY
Yes, they occasionally freeze in the Viewliner Is in extreme cold. Usually not in all the cars of the train at once though.
 

DCAKen

Service Attendant
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Jun 24, 2015
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I was on the Cardinal in a bedroom a few years ago departing a very cold Chicago. While the toilets worked, both my shower and the shared shower didn't.
 
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