Future Amtrak sleeper?

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frequentflyer

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With strong rumors that the LD replacement fleet may be single level, and most likely Siemens. Here is the new Gen NightJet made by Siemens debuting in Europe. Notice at 1:13 the new "mini suites", to me looks like the Slumber Coach of the 21st century.

 

JWM

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We have a great design for new sleeping cars that needs some updating. It originally came from Budd, Pullman Standard and ACF. The Duplex Single Rooms under the dome on Northern Pacific's "North Coast Limited" were great. Pennsylvania also had Duplex and Bedroom cars that were comfortable as well. The Union Pacific's Bedroom, Compartment and Drawing Room cars too. I've taken the current "Comfortline" sleeping cars in Europe many times. I applaud the new "Nightjet" sleeping cars, but for U.S. multi-night travel, no. Bring back full-length dome cars too. I have always hated Amtrak's seating arrangements in the "Sightseer" cars. The "Pacific Parlour Cars" on the CS were great (ex SF "El Capitan" lounge cars.)
 

zephyr17

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I have always hated Amtrak's seating arrangements in the "Sightseer" cars. The "Pacific Parlour Cars" on the CS were great (ex SF "El Capitan" lounge cars.)
The seating in the remodeled PPC configuration was nothing like when they were in Santa Fe El Capitan service. No swivel seats, for example. That was an entirely Amtrak designed configuration.
 

Mailliw

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The new Nightjet sleepers design could easily be adapted for North America (just replace the deluxe bedroom with an accessible bedroom), but the minisuites would only work on the Night Owl. Otherwise a daytime configuration is needed. A North American equivalent to couchettes would be some version of open sections or roomettes.
 

rs9

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The new Nightjet sleepers design could easily be adapted for North America (just replace the deluxe bedroom with an accessible bedroom), but the minisuites would only work on the Night Owl. Otherwise a daytime configuration is needed. A North American equivalent to couchettes would be some version of open sections or roomettes.

This is probably not feasible, but maybe Amtrak could be creative with this. For example on the Lake Shore Limited, the mini suite car would run Chicago-Buffalo. At Buffalo, the car is detached and an additional coach added. You would need to adjust times on the return voyage to make this work.

This presumes that 1) a person can be in some sort of seated position in their mini bed and 2) there is some sort of communal gathering space like a lounge car for those not quite ready for bed upon departure.
 

jis

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This is probably not feasible, but maybe Amtrak could be creative with this. For example on the Lake Shore Limited, the mini suite car would run Chicago-Buffalo. At Buffalo, the car is detached and an additional coach added. You would need to adjust times on the return voyage to make this work.

This presumes that 1) a person can be in some sort of seated position in their mini bed and 2) there is some sort of communal gathering space like a lounge car for those not quite ready for bed upon departure.
You are correct. Operationally that will not happen. The additional cost of doing that will never be recovered even in a small part. It is better to design a car that can run through effectively. Given that Americans won’t do Sections and are probably even less likely to do Coffins, frankly there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Amtrak Roomette design and I am sure Siemens or whoever is quite capable of building cars with whatever furnishing Amtrak specifies.
 
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rs9

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You are correct. Operationally that will not happen. The additional cost of doing that will never be recovered even in a small part. It is better to design a car that can run through effectively. Given that Americans woon't do Sections and are probably even less likely to do Coffins, frabkly there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Amtrak Roomette design and I am sure Siemens or whoever is quite capable of building cars with whatever furnishing Amtrak specifies.
Out of curiosity - I have zero expertise on this subject whatsoever - would would the additional costs look like in my made-up scenario? Obviously track storage, labor to change the cars, possible additional rolling stock. What else am I missing?

As has been noted many times on this board, Amtrak needs a product between coach and roomette. I am a bit skeptical Americans would go for the 4 to 6-person berths common in Europe. I'm not sure there's enough societal trust, and people's attitudes about shared spaces in the post-COVID world might be different, too.
 

jis

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Out of curiosity - I have zero expertise on this subject whatsoever - would would the additional costs look like in my made-up scenario? Obviously track storage, labor to change the cars, possible additional rolling stock. What else am I missing?

As has been noted many times on this board, Amtrak needs a product between coach and roomette. I am a bit skeptical Americans would go for the 4 to 6-person berths common in Europe. I'm not sure there's enough societal trust, and people's attitudes about shared spaces in the post-COVID world might be different, too.
You will need additional staff at Buffalo to detach and attach cars. At present there is none such. That will be significant additional labor. In addition there will be one time cost of constructing a siding with shore power facilities for storing the cars. Also, there will be ongoing additional cost of servicing the cars stored there. That is just a SWAG. I am sure if Thirdrail7 was around he would add a few more items that I have not thought about.

I think Americans are looking for the impossible. They will either have to accept something akin to Sections, perhaps with more robust night time enclosures that can be taken down during the day time, or they will have to accept Couchettes. Absent those they will just have to live with Roomettes. Maybe something like the Duplex Slumbercoaches can be tried again as an alternative, but that is more complex internal furnishing, though could be designed as modern modules perhaps using materials available today that were not available back then. No need to try to fit a commode and sink in the individual cubbies.
 

rs9

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You will need additional staff at Buffalo to detach and attach cars. At present there is none such. That will be significant additional labor. In addition there will be one time cost of constructing a siding with shore power facilities for storing the cars. Also, there will be ongoing additional cost of servicing the cars stored there. That is just a SWAG. I am sure if Thirdrail7 was around he would add a few more items that I have not thought about.

I think Americans are looking for the impossible. They will either have to accept something akin to Sections, perhaps with more robust night time enclosures that can be taken down during the day time, or they will have to accept Couchettes. Absent those they will just have to live with Roomettes. Maybe something like the Duplex Slumbercoaches can be tried again as an alternative, but that is more complex internal furnishing, though could be designed as modern modules perhaps using materials available today that were not available back then. No need to try to fit a commode and sink in the individual cubbies.
That all makes sense.

For what it's worth, I'd like to see a business class car that has 2x1 Superliner-type seats with a bit more recline, maybe 60% instead of the current 40% ish. I haven't found the cafe/business 2x1 seats all that comfortable for sleeping in.

More importantly though, I think Amtrak could be a lot more deliberate about where business class cars are placed in the consist. When the LSL had business class, I have ridden in that section with the cafe facing the Boston sleeper and BC facing the Boston coaches. For a 17 hour journey, there was a ton of foot traffic, and - here I'll be selfish - coach passengers using the BC bathrooms.

A true BC car would go a long ways to filling the gap.
 
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There’s no way Americans will accept couchette style sleepers, and I think it’s largely for cultural reasons. Probably similar as to why hostels are less popular here as well.

I mentioned this over a year ago on the forum in a different thread, and got rudely chewed out for saying it, some saying this claim was completely unfounded; yet it largely stands true.

Couchette style sleepers won’t be popular here.

I like the new Nightjet sleepers, and agree that there needs to be something in between roomette and business class (which is really a glorified coach at this point).
 

Mailliw

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I think roomettes could fill the niche occupied by couchettes if only their supply were increased (ie a bunch of all-roomette cars). Sections would have a big advantage if ADA requirements similar to chair cars could be applied instead of having to have an accessible ensuite bedroom.
 

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Given that Americans woon't do Sections and are probably even less likely to do Coffins, frankly there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Amtrak Roomette design and I am sure Siemens or whoever is quite capable of building cars with whatever furnishing Amtrak specifies.
In my view the Amtrak Roomette is not big really enough for two people but also wastes more space than one person needs to facilitate a second passenger. To me that's the core flaw. I could probably acclimate to using Sectionals but I'm too old to find Couchettes appealing.

There’s no way Americans will accept couchette style sleepers, and I think it’s largely for cultural reasons.
Keep in mind that we're talking about a group that numbers in the hundreds-of-millions and invented privacy-eschewing concepts like couch surfing. Some Americans expect lots of privacy but other Americans are willing to share close quarters with complete strangers. The bigger issue is how to deal with the potential liabilities.
 
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In my view the Amtrak Roomette is not big really enough for two people but also wastes more space than one person needs to facilitate a second passenger. To me that's the core flaw. I could probably acclimate to using Sectionals but I'm too old to find Couchettes appealing.


Keep in mind that we're talking about a group that numbers in the hundreds-of-millions and invented privacy-eschewing concepts like couch surfing. Some Americans expect lots of privacy but other Americans are willing to share close quarters with complete strangers. The bigger issue is how to deal with the potential liabilities of hosting bad actors, financial opportunists, and neurotic defectives.
Nobody couch surfs in people's houses they don't know. I say this rhetorically (I understand exceptions), but in general nobody does that. There is much more evidence to suggest the vast majority of Americans prefer not to sleep with strangers.

People (myself included) prefer not to sleep with people they don't know very well.
 
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NES28

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Does anyone remember the Budd "Sleepercoach", with very small single rooms in kind of a staggered, interlocked design. There also a few double rooms in the car. They came out in the 1950s and were sold as a premium form of coach; a first class ticket was not required. About a half dozen railroads used them. Illinois Railway Museum has an example.
 

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Nobody couch surfs in people's houses they don't know. I say this rhetorically (I understand exceptions), but in general nobody does that. There is much more evidence to suggest the vast majority of Americans prefer not to sleep with others. People (myself included) prefer not to sleep with people they don't know very well.
Many Americans do sleep in shared environments even if we are disinclined to believe so. The aforementioned couch surfing, hostels, and dorms are but three such examples. Americans also sleep in the homes and bedrooms of strangers via American-based services like abnb & vrbo with a high potential for privacy invasion and very little oversight. On Amtrak today singles traveling in coach are expected to sleep with strangers in reclining loveseats with no dividers. That confers even less separation than a couchette. A train full of mixed couchettes would probably fail miserably but shared sleeping quarters grouped by gender might work. It's hard to say for certain until someone actually tries it.
 
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jis

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I thought that a significant proportion of not so well to do people do share living quarters and sometimes bedrooms too, but I guess on this board everyone is rich enough to put that section of population out of sight and out of mind. Afterall they could not afford Amtrak driven by the desires of today’s Sleeper aficionados anyway, like I could not when I was a student and did share living and sleeping quarters. 😉
 

rs9

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I think we would be wise to keep in mind why Americans are, or are not, using Amtrak.

The 4-6 berth sleepers in Europe are popular because overnight trains, despite generally operating at a slower pace than high-speed trains, actually save time for travelers and are often cheaper than a hotel room. Especially for young American tourists, you could spend half your day flying from place to place, a full day on a train, or just take an overnight and have the full day to your leisure.

Those conditions do not exist in the US. Besides the ubiquity of air travel, there are very few bona fide tourist or business destinations point-to-point on Amtrak's network that can be accomplished in an evening-to-morning train, outside of possibly the NEC. The Capitol Limited might qualify in this definition, but even that is taking up half your day upon arrival in DC, or half your day upon departure from DC.

The Lake Shore Limited corridor of Chicago-western NY is probably the best business corridor I can think of.

Given that most of Amtrak's coach passengers are using long distance trains as "corridor routes," I think the following questions are helpful:

1. Are expanded overnight offerings and capacity meant to earn new ridership?
2. Are expanded overnight offerings and capacity meant to earn marginal revenue from existing customers?
3. Would expanded sleeper offerings and capacity better convert first-time riders to regular riders?

I would think questions 2 and 3 are more relevant than #1, but I'd be interested to hear others' opinion on that.
 
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Americans also sleep in the homes and bedrooms of strangers via American-based services like abnb & vrbo with a high potential for privacy invasion and very little oversight.
Not to be argumentative, but (granted, I don't have figures) aren't most airbnb's and vrbo's no longer couch-surfing or a room in somebody's home, but stand alone apartment or cabin rentals these days?
 
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On Amtrak today singles traveling in coach are expected to sleep with strangers in reclining loveseats with no dividers. That confers even less separation than a couchette. A train full of mixed couchettes would probably fail miserably but shared sleeping quarters grouped by gender might work. It's hard to say for certain until someone actually tries it.
It's been said before, but I'll repeat. It's one thing to be sleeping next to a stranger in an open space with 50 other strangers. It's something else to be sleeping in a small room behind a closed door with 1-3 strangers.
 

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Not to be argumentative, but (granted, I don't have figures) aren't most airbnb's and vrbo's no longer couch-surfing or a room in somebody's home, but stand alone apartment or cabin rentals these days?
I believe you are correct. My main point is only that shared sleeping does seem tolerable to some Americans despite issues of privacy and safety. I do not think it would be easy to implement couchettes for liability reasons but I do think some people would consider them at the right price.

It's been said before, but I'll repeat. It's one thing to be sleeping next to a stranger in an open space with 50 other strangers. It's something else to be sleeping in a small room behind a closed door with 1-3 strangers.
When you put it that way it sounds like the door is part of the issue and that can be removed from the floor plan. To be clear I doubt most Boomers and Gen X would try couchettes but Amtrak also carries Gen Y, Gen Z, and foreign customers who might book couchettes at the right price.
 
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Although it's been mentioned before in other threads, the answer is still some variation on airline "lie-flat" seats in an open-coach environment as the lower cost alternative to an actual enclosed bedroom. The historical example is CN/VIA Rail's Dayniter concept, which has also been discussed at length. Count me among those who think couchettes in North America won't fly.
 

zephyr17

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VIA/CN's Daynighter was not lie flat. It was a coach seat with a good recline and seat pitch. It was not that different from Amtrak's current offerings, although somewhat better. It was roughly equivalent to what Santa Fe offered on the El Capitan (the best LD seats, ever).

If you want to equip Amtrak coach with modern equivalents of top end Sleepy Hollow coach seats, you've got a Daynighter.

It was a very good quality LD coach, nothing more.

I agree, couchettes absolutely would not fly in North America. I am not a fan of Europe's shared First Class full sleepers, either.
 
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