Gravity toilets

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AM_ROAD

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I was reading how some countries in Eastern European countries might still have these. I think I recall using one in Texas in the late eighties on some Heritage equipment. Do any of yall recall their use on Amtrak and maybe some funny stories around them?
 

railiner

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Amtrak did indeed have these on heritage cars, until a few 'incidents' caused lawmakers to ban them forever. You can find plenty of stories on the internet about this...
 
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They had them all the way until the end of the Heritage era, which was in the 90s sometime (1996, 1997?). I rode them several times. Other than being worn down, they were great cars.

I still remember smiling to myself on one Heritage trip when a fellow passenger was going on and on about this and how shocked she was at the gravity toilet reality. If this was in the cell phone era she would’ve called her congressman right from the train!

At this point of course, gravity toilets had only been around for 100 years or so…
 

Devil's Advocate

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To be fair to the uninitiated how many classic movies and train adverts ever bothered to show or discuss the gravity toilet's incongruous merger of modern luxury and hobo practicality? 😅
 

ehbowen

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Amtrak did indeed have these on heritage cars, until a few 'incidents' caused lawmakers to ban them forever. You can find plenty of stories on the internet about this...
May not have just been Heritage cars. I understand that the first generation of Superliners was designed to spray the effluent out as a fine mist as the car ran along the tracks....
 
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I think I was 7 or 8 (1955 or so) when my dad first took me along with him on a business trip. He always took the train back then. I'd have to guess it was MKE->CHI as we lived in Milwaukee and he had a lot of business in Chicago. I remember him telling me to hold the pedal down and watch the ties zip by.

Of course, none of what came out of those toilets dawned on me 5 or 6 years later when me and my friends would be walking between the rails on the C&NW passenger line on the north side of Milwaukee and seeing little piles of hardened mush atop some ties or the ballast.

While reading my newly arrived copy from Classic Trains: "Pullman: Americas' Hotel on Wheels" one of the articles discussed the numerous setout/pickup sleepers around the country. The one thing they (intentionally?) failed to discuss was the need for 'honey buckets' under each toilet. I don't recall seeing them as a kid. But I have a clear memory of seeing them in use at the NOL station when there was still a 'through' sleeper (a 10-6) from NYP to LAX Crescent/Sunset Ltd, which spent the night in the station at NOL as a 'free' hotel for the night. I did that in both directions a couple of times and the very last time westbound the day before Superliners arrived on the Sunset Ltd. (1980/81?)

I watched the ties zip by in the many roomettes I rode in for business and pleasure from the late '70s until the 10-6s were gone.
 

railiner

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May not have just been Heritage cars. I understand that the first generation of Superliners was designed to spray the effluent out as a fine mist as the car ran along the tracks....
That is correct. They were equipped with macerator's, and you could hear them in operation...they sounded like a siren when operating. They were also designed to only spray out, when the train was moving at or above 20 mph or so, so as to not spray when entering, standing, or leaving a station.
 

railiner

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No, the Amfleets always had chemical retention toilets. That was one of the first things I noticed about them. I don't remember what the toilets in the Metroliner EMUs were like.
I believe the Metroliner's also had retention toilets.
Speaking of Amfleet plumbing, they also broke with tradition from Heritage cars, by having their fresh water in overhead tanks, feeeding the taps by gravity, rather than below car tanks that relied on air pressure to pump the water to the taps...
 

Maglev

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When my family took the Super Continental from Montreal to Vancouver in June, 1975, my brothers and I spent many hours with our heads out the open top half of the Dutch door in our sleeper. We kept wondering where all the water on our faces was coming from. What surprises me is that my father, who must have known what was going on, apparently thought the benefits of the experience outweighed the risks.
 
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Seaboard92

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They had them all the way until the end of the Heritage era, which was in the 90s sometime (1996, 1997?). I rode them several times. Other than being worn down, they were great cars.

I still remember smiling to myself on one Heritage trip when a fellow passenger was going on and on about this and how shocked she was at the gravity toilet reality. If this was in the cell phone era she would’ve called her congressman right from the train!

At this point of course, gravity toilets had only been around for 100 years or so…

It really depends on when the heritage cars were rebuilt. For instance the heritage fleet 10/6s and coaches that were rebuilt with the heritage program I believe all had direct drop toilets. But my car which was one of those initial ones was rebuilt into a crew dorm in 1996 and then they had to put a retention tank in. It's inside the car too which is a rather odd location but it works because the tank can't freeze over.

I believe some of the heritage coaches were later on rebuilt for some service in the NEC in the 1990s as well that also got retention tanks. Most of those were EX PRR Congressional cars I believe on the Clockers.

In Russia they are now getting away from the direct drop and it will show you when you book if your car has direct drop or retention tanks because they close the bathroom for an hour in either direction of a major stop in a major city.

I know of some German trains that still have them but they are very very rare at this point.
 

peteypablo

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It was my congressman, Howard Nielson, representing the third district of Utah, who led the charge, after one his constituents complained to him about her experience with the mist.
 

zephyr17

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That is correct. They were equipped with macerator's, and you could hear them in operation...they sounded like a siren when operating. They were also designed to only spray out, when the train was moving at or above 20 mph or so, so as to not spray when entering, standing, or leaving a station.
They also had a switch to override the dump cycle, which seemed to mostly to be used when passing through urban areas.

I remember riding the Starlight many times around Vancouver, WA and they'd announce for car attendants to switch the cars to "inhibit" so we wouldn't anoint the Portland metro. They only said "inhibit" though, they didn't announce what they were inhibiting.
 

railiner

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They also had a switch to override the dump cycle, which seemed to mostly to be used when passing through urban areas.

I remember riding the Starlight many times around Vancouver, WA and they'd announce for car attendants to switch the cars to "inhibit" so we wouldn't anoint the Portland metro. They only said "inhibit" though, they didn't announce what they were inhibiting.
Yes...I remember them doing that on the CZ as well, in certain areas, one of which was passing thru the Moffat Tunnel, IIRC...they also turned off the HVAC during the ten minute period.
 

jruff001

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It was my congressman, Howard Nielson, representing the third district of Utah, who led the charge, after one his constituents complained to him about her experience with the mist.
I seem to recall it was more the host railroads who didn't like their MoW employees working in sh!t from Amtrak trains who really pushed the change to retention toilets.
 

zephyr17

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I seem to recall it was more the host railroads who didn't like their MoW employees working in sh!t from Amtrak trains who really pushed the change to retention toilets.
Didn't seem to bother the railroads when they purchased those very same cars and there were many, many more passenger trains.

Seems to make a difference when they were dumping their own sh!t versus someone else's sh!t.
 
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