Empire Builder questions

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Joined
Jul 18, 2022
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4
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Chicago
Amtrak could MAYBE learn a thing or two from the airlines about charging more for premium (viewing lounge) seating.
You pay more you get more it is that simple
But then there is the problem with access to the cafe on the lower level
As someone who travels exclusively in coach, I can’t imagine they would do this.
The SSL is that one cool extra that is available to everyone. It’s what makes an Amtrak long-distance train unique compared to other trains and modes of transportation. When I was on the Chief, it was pretty crowded, but people just sat next to each other. The charm is that class and fare don’t matter, just in this one car.
“Pay more get more” is a Spirit or Frontier mindset. Coach passengers already agree to not have hot meals or a shower for several days. To confine them to their seats because the observation car gets busy several weeks a year seems like a pretty bad way to solve that problem.
 

WWW

No real RR Job
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As someone who travels exclusively in coach, I can’t imagine they would do this.
The SSL is that one cool extra that is available to everyone. It’s what makes an Amtrak long-distance train unique compared to other trains and modes of transportation. When I was on the Chief, it was pretty crowded, but people just sat next to each other. The charm is that class and fare don’t matter, just in this one car.
“Pay more get more” is a Spirit or Frontier mindset. Coach passengers already agree to not have hot meals or a shower for several days. To confine them to their seats because the observation car gets busy several weeks a year seems like a pretty bad way to solve that problem.
Valid point(s) - if it weren't for the lack of equipment (and staffing) adding a second SSL would be no big deal and solve some of the capacity
over (space) crowding problems.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
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Note that cars such as the SSL were traditionally considered "non-revenue" cars.

I do not have an issue with a sleeper only lounge, they were common on flagship trains back in the day and the PPC was an example under Amtrak, but as an absolute minimum, lounge space should be available to all passengers. Additional lounge space exclusive to sleeper passengers should be at most an add on. If there is one lounge car on a train, it should be open to all.
 

thully

OBS Chief
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Sep 2, 2011
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705
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Ann Arbor, MI
It seems that you can now book an Empire Builder connection from 8/28 to 354 using the multi-city option (this was previously not allowed since the new schedule started). However, this is still not offered as a connection on one-way/round-trip bookings. Perhaps they’re allowing it but just don’t want to go out of their way to advertise it?
 
Joined
Feb 5, 2022
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10
Location
NYC
How hot (or cold!) is the Empire Builder in these summer months? Thanks!
Hi! I’m in Minot ND on the Empire Builder as I type this. My sleeper car (730) is roasting and I’m kicking myself for not bringing a clip-on fan. But the next sleeper car back is freezing! I keep wandering back there for restrooms and cooldowns.

I’m on the left side going westbound so the sun has been streaming in my window most of the trip, which doesn’t help.

I’ve walked the length of the train and all the other cars seems like a good temp, although one of the coach cars was stuffy. The train is sold out so I suppose that’s to be expected.

My advice: bring a fan. Worst case you don’t need it, but it would have made this trip much more comfortable (and I’m usually cold!)
 

joelkfla

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12 miles from Walt Disney World
Hi! I’m in Minot ND on the Empire Builder as I type this. My sleeper car (730) is roasting and I’m kicking myself for not bringing a clip-on fan. But the next sleeper car back is freezing! I keep wandering back there for restrooms and cooldowns.

I’m on the left side going westbound so the sun has been streaming in my window most of the trip, which doesn’t help.

I’ve walked the length of the train and all the other cars seems like a good temp, although one of the coach cars was stuffy. The train is sold out so I suppose that’s to be expected.

My advice: bring a fan. Worst case you don’t need it, but it would have made this trip much more comfortable (and I’m usually cold!)
I assume you've already expressed your dissatisfaction to your SCA (nicely, of course.)

I suggest you also call Amtrak, ask to speak to Customer Relations, and let them know. Chances are they will at least offer you a partial voucher for future travel.
 
Joined
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I asked the SCA (Cody, who is wonderful!) about it and he was apologetic. I thought maybe I just didn’t have a vent open or something. I froze on the Lake Shore limited a couple nights ago because I didn’t realize I could close the vents under the windows! No such luck on this Superliner though.

Thanks for the advice re CR. Everything else has been great so I’m not sure I want to punish Amtrak. I know how much they struggle.

Although, the opening mechanism on the door between this car and the next isn’t working so they had to pry it open with a crow bar and then lock it in the open position. I’m the last roomette before the door and it’s making for a louder than usual trip, especially since I have to keep my door open because of the heat.

Yeah ok maybe I should ask for some compensation. Might help spur them to fix it…
 
Joined
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I asked the SCA (Cody, who is wonderful!) about it and he was apologetic. I thought maybe I just didn’t have a vent open or something. I froze on the Lake Shore limited a couple nights ago because I didn’t realize I could close the vents under the windows! No such luck on this Superliner though.

Thanks for the advice re CR. Everything else has been great so I’m not sure I want to punish Amtrak. I know how much they struggle.

Although, the opening mechanism on the door between this car and the next isn’t working so they had to pry it open with a crow bar and then lock it in the open position. I’m the last roomette before the door and it’s making for a louder than usual trip, especially since I have to keep my door open because of the heat.

Yeah ok maybe I should ask for some compensation. Might help spur them to fix it…
No matter how sorry you feel for Amtrak, I think you should request some compensation for your inconvenience. I don't think every flaw should merit compensation but I think your hot car does.

Amtrak employees are often great people and they are our friends many times. Amtrak as a corporation is not your friend. To Amtrak management, you are merely a number not a name and they don't even hang their head in shame.

Hope the rest of your trip and future trips go well.
 

Hepcat66

Train Attendant
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We’re hopping on the Empire Builder tomorrow aft in Portland on our way to Wisconsin Dells, WI. On the way there we have a bedroom, and on the way back, a roomette. Do the bedrooms have a bathroom? The other question is about tipping. So when, how much, and how often? Thinking about the car attendant in particular. We’ll be on train #28, car #2830, bedroom C going out, and coming back on train #27, car 2730, and room 005. Thanks for any info. Oh, and will there WiFi on board?
 

zephyr17

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Jul 23, 2009
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Washington State
No wifi.

Bedrooms have bathrooms, roomettes do not.

I tip 10/night per person for decent service just before or when I detrain. I do not tip in advance. Up to $20/night for outstanding service. For poor service I tip nothing. It is a hard cutoff for me, if they provide minimal service, they get $10/night, if they do not, they get $0. Poor service for me means never being available in the car, not handling putting the berths down and up, or dictating the time ("If you want me to put the beds down, I'll do it at 7").

I tip fixed amounts in the dining car, $2/3 for breakfast and lunch, $5 for dinner.

The Portland section had the lounge, the Seattle section has the diner. Dinner out of Portland will be a cold plate dinner served by your sleeper attendant. Breakfast coming into Portland will be a selection from the cafe.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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We’re hopping on the Empire Builder tomorrow aft in Portland on our way to Wisconsin Dells, WI. On the way there we have a bedroom, and on the way back, a roomette. Do the bedrooms have a bathroom? The other question is about tipping. So when, how much, and how often? Thinking about the car attendant in particular. We’ll be on train #28, car #2830, bedroom C going out, and coming back on train #27, car 2730, and room 005. Thanks for any info. Oh, and will there WiFi on board?
Nice trip!😊

No WIFI per se, but you can use your phone around Cities and along Major Highways, but thru Eastern Washington, Idaho( nightime),Montana and North Dakota service will be scarce as Henz Teeth(the Big Nowhere describes most of those States)

Your Bedroom has a Combo Shower/ Bathroom but lots of people would rather use the Downstairs Shower because it's more Roomy and you won't get your Bsthroom wet!

Your Roomette won't have a Bathroom, there is One Upstsirs by the Attendants Room(#1)
and Several plus the Shower downstairs.

You'll be in the last Car in the Consist( unless there are deadhead or PV Cars on the Train)so you'll have a walk to the Sightseer Lounge ( and Diner which is part of the Seattle Section) after Spokane where the Train is switched together for the Trip to Chicago.

Since there is No Diner between Portland and Spokane, your Attendant will serve you a Boxed Dinner on leaving Portland and a Boxed Breakfast heading down the Columbia on your Return.

Tipping is an individual choice ( see the Thread here on AU about Tipping) but if you get good service and a friendly attitude from your Car Attendants generally you should tip them $10-$15 a night, More if they go above and beyond, Less to Zerp depending on the Service.

In the Diner, since your Meals are included, lots of passengers tip by Formula if the service is OK, say $2 for Breakfast,$3 for Lunch and $5 for Dinner.

If youd car Attendant brings Food and Drinks to your Room, tip them like an extra $5 a time since they have to walk a long way to the Diner.

Please share your trip with us when you complete your Adventures!
 

John Santos

Lead Service Attendant
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Jun 24, 2018
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295
We’re hopping on the Empire Builder tomorrow aft in Portland on our way to Wisconsin Dells, WI. On the way there we have a bedroom, and on the way back, a roomette. Do the bedrooms have a bathroom? The other question is about tipping. So when, how much, and how often? Thinking about the car attendant in particular. We’ll be on train #28, car #2830, bedroom C going out, and coming back on train #27, car 2730, and room 005. Thanks for any info. Oh, and will there WiFi on board?
The regular bedrooms (and the H bedroom downstairs) have bathrooms. (It's just a curtain in the H bedroom so wheelchairs can get in and out, but the bathrooms have a door in the regular bedrooms. They are combined toilet/shower units. To use the shower, you put down the toilet lid, pull down a cover over the toilet paper dispenser so it doesn't get soaked, close the door to contain the shower water. I think the entire floor is waterproof and has a drain for the shower water, which goes to separate holding tank from the toilet (I think.) Anyway the waste water is contained and this is probably way more than you wanted to know!

The family bedroom and the roomettes do not have private bathrooms. There are 3 shared bathrooms on the lower level and one upstairs, right at the top of the stairs. (That's one of the benefits of roomettes 11-14, 4 roomettes and one family bedroom sharing 3 bathrooms vs. 10 roomettes with only one bathroom upstairs. I've found that on average, when I'm upstairs, the bathroom is occupied about 1/4 to 1/3 of the time so I have to go downstairs. On the other hand, on the few occasions I've been in a downstairs roomette, all 3 bathrooms were occupied only once. (I think one of them was broken and locked off that time...) Also, since the upstairs bathroom sees much more use, it sometimes gets smelly, but usually the attendant does a good job of keeping it clean. Yet another reason to tip them well!

I usually tip about $10 per night for sleepers, more if they provide any above and beyond service. Technically, you aren't required and they don't expect tips, but practically, I think most passengers do tip. Also, I tip the dining car attendants about what I would for a similar restaurant meal, e.g. $2-3 for breakfast, $5 for lunch and $10 for dinner. (This works out to be about 15-20% of the "list price" which used to be printed on the menus when coach passengers could buy meals in the diners. Since that isn't allowed on most trains any more, I think they no longer print the prices on the menus, making it harder to judge the tip.) Again, they get a good wage and tipping is not required, but they often go above and beyond normal service.

Don't forget the Red Caps; If they meet me at the curb and bring my luggage into the station, usually about $2/bag. However, if they bring me and my luggage to the train and help me get it on board, usually I tip $5. I think the Red Caps are much more dependent on tips than the on-board services people.

Other people will tell you other formulas, but I think mine is about average.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
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Jul 23, 2009
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Washington State
Also, since the upstairs bathroom sees much more use, it sometimes gets smelly
One small point of etiquette, I only use the upstairs one for a quick pee. For number two, I use one of downstairs heads.

Also, if you line the bowl with TP you will leave fewer um, remnants. The vacuum flush isn't always really effective.
 

thully

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
705
Location
Ann Arbor, MI
Also, the Superliner Accessible Bedroom does not have its own shower - only a toilet/sink in the same space as the bed/seat. You share the showers used by the roomettes…
 

Acela150

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Somewhere between here and there
The SSC was pretty full through Glacier but no one told people to make space for others.
Their is one Conductor from Shelby who enforces a strcit 30 minute time limit in the SSL through Glacier so others can have a chance to see it from the SSL.

I wonder how that works to pick up a room at a stop like GPK where someone has exited - there wouldn't be much time for the SCA to get the room ready. I suppose you could hang out in the diner or the SSL while they got it ready
I can tell you what happens. I used to do this routinely when I was an SCA on the EB. When the current occupants are at a meal service we change the sheets out, and do some other things that most passengers don't notice. However, if their is a difficult passenger in that room who doesn't want to leave or move their stuff, etc. We'll let them get off, and when the pax who is in that room says I'm in room XYZ what I would do is politely explain that their room was just vacanted and I would need about 30 minutes to properly disinfect and clean their room, and would either re-accomdate them in antoher room if possible, or ask them to go to the SSL. As soon as I would say that, everyone was understanding and I always got the words "Thank you"!
I asked the SCA (Cody, who is wonderful!) about it and he was apologetic.
Cody is a really good guy! He was one of my OJT trainers, and we got along really well. He was stunned that I was actaully "good". Simply because he told me that he always got the worst of the worst.

The only thing that can be done is push a button that runs cold air for 15 minutes. If we hit that button to many times then it will completely shut down the HVAC on the car.
 
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