Long daytime versus overnight?

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moselman66

Train Attendant
Joined
May 28, 2021
Messages
81
Location
Milwaukee
In playing with a lot of schedules I run into the possibility of some pretty long daytime trips on existing or future routes. So my question...is that actually a desirable thing? Or would passengers prefer an overnight journey to a 16-18 hour "daytime" trip?

For example a "daytime" Capitol could in theory do something like this:

West
6:30am leave WAS
11:00pm arrive CHI

East
6:05am leave CHI
12:30am arrive WAS

This isn't specifically a city pair I have in mind but it's a good illustration of the general thing I'm asking about.

It's obviously a very long day end to end, but there is an actual bed on either end of the trip. And being on a train you're not pinned to your seat 97% of the time like an airplane. But on the flipside would most find it preferrable to pass the time sleeping over night, even in coach? Overnight saves the cost of a hotel room too unless you're buying a compartment of course. And overnight doesn't "waste a day" traveling.

Is there a fair consensus on long daytime trains as attractive or to be avoided? The Palmetto comes to mind as a real-life example for NYP-SAV -- a very long daytime trip versus the overnight Silver Meteor. It doesn't seem like the daytime Palmetto leaves the overnight Meteor in the dust for NYP-SAV travelers at first glance, but maybe there's a niche?

Thoughts or opinions?
 
In playing with a lot of schedules I run into the possibility of some pretty long daytime trips on existing or future routes. So my question...is that actually a desirable thing? Or would passengers prefer an overnight journey to a 16-18 hour "daytime" trip?

For example a "daytime" Capitol could in theory do something like this:

West
6:30am leave WAS
11:00pm arrive CHI

East
6:05am leave CHI
12:30am arrive WAS

This isn't specifically a city pair I have in mind but it's a good illustration of the general thing I'm asking about.

It's obviously a very long day end to end, but there is an actual bed on either end of the trip. And being on a train you're not pinned to your seat 97% of the time like an airplane. But on the flipside would most find it preferrable to pass the time sleeping over night, even in coach? Overnight saves the cost of a hotel room too unless you're buying a compartment of course. And overnight doesn't "waste a day" traveling.

Is there a fair consensus on long daytime trains as attractive or to be avoided? The Palmetto comes to mind as a real-life example for NYP-SAV -- a very long daytime trip versus the overnight Silver Meteor. It doesn't seem like the daytime Palmetto leaves the overnight Meteor in the dust for NYP-SAV travelers at first glance, but maybe there's a niche?

Thoughts or opinions?
A good question. Historically speaking, most travel over 12 hours or so seemed to be preferably done overnight, for reasons you cited. Most rail travel back in the days when railroads were the preferred mode, were by "commercial traveler's" or as we know them today, business traveler's. They would conduct business in one city, leave in the evening, sleep overnight in a Pullman accommodation, and arrive in the next city, refreshed, and early enough to cconduct a full day of business there. They did not lose a business day spent travelling.
Well to do leisure traveler's did likewise. It was the budget conscious traveler that railroads put on fast all day, all coach trains for...such as the original IC City of New Orleans that ran all day and evening between Chicago and New Orleans. They did not need to use hotels usually, staying with friends or family at destinations...
 
I like options.

Your flip flopping on examples.

So on the Slivers route. Can we get a home terminal departure ever 8 hours. Or better ever 6 hours. So 3 to 4 departure a day.

We currently have options for different departure, destination, connection trains. Add frequency will give better choice for the riders.

As for overnight vs long daylight trips. The purpose of your trips determines the better mode. In Europe it’s not uncommon to ride the train for the views one way, and ride the sleeper back. Hard core tourists thing.

On the Capital route add two trains, one all day and the other with night travel to the opposite of the current train. Then you have three trains that are able to service this route. Your choice is of which train travel is base on time convenient to you at both destinations.
 
In your example, the time of departure and arrival is more of a concern to me than the duration. Given a choice I would probably lean toward a daylight journey.
For that length of trip I would, at the least, book a roomette - daytime or night.
We've done LAX to EMY and reverse (day), LAX to WMJ (night), PDX to SPK (late afternoon/evening), CHI to MSP late afternoon/evening all in a roomette.
 
I've dealt with this as a customer and as a tour wholesaler.

As a customer, in 1960 my dad took me on a business trip Portland<>San Francisco. We took the overnight Cascade southbound, left our luggage at our hotel, did some sightseeing and got a good night's sleep before his morning meeting. Our return was on the memorable Shasta Daylight. The connecting PGL bus left Third & Townsend at 7:20 a.m. and the train was due into Portland at 11:25 p.m., 20 minutes before the departure of Train 401 to Seattle.

The Cascade survived to become an ancestor of the Coast Starlight. The Shasta Daylight fell or was pushed down the ICC process, ending up as a summer only tourist train. What was wrong with the orange streamliner with world class scenery?

1. The late evening arrivals at either end of the line. Big hotels don't want to have tour groups checking in at midnight -- or after, if the train was late. Small hotels may not even have someone who can help a tourist or businessperson get them to a room at midnight. We took the northbound Daylight on our homeward trip.

2. Late evening transfers or connections are tough with kids and aren't any fun for adults who may have to be awakened. Southbound there was the PGL bus transfer. Northbound, the Seattle connection was a scramble just before midnight.

3. The dark evening segments were boring. A prominent Portland travel agent talked about showing films in that time period, but the SP refused. The last time I rode the Daylight into Portland the lounge attendant was playing the new concept "talk radio" from San Francisco for the last customers.

4. Local transit and suburban service was shut down if the trains arrived late.

There are some positive points to consider in a different case.

5. If the train is part of a multi-train service, it will attract customers who ride other trains as we did on our 1960 trip.

6. The mid-route Daylight population was small. A route with more than one major city in midday could do better.

7. Chicago and New Orleans are among the best cities for passengers to arrive in the wee (whee) hours. As Amtrak demonstrates too many times, even in those cities there are problems with post-midnight arrivals.

1949 Shasta Route 002.jpg
 
I too rode the Shasta Daylight when I was a child, sometimes full length, sometimes part way - we lived in Ashland which by then no longer had rail service. I think we always had someone drive us over the mountains to catch the train.
 
One of the key factors for long daylight trains is determining whether they are more about serving the major endpoints or the stops in-between. In the original example, if the train used the current route places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh would be beneficiaries and may justify the service even if end-to-end traffic didn't materialize. The trick is to attract travellers who might otherwise fly or drive those medium distances. To that end, I think at least two classes of service would be necessary - a basic "no frills" coach service, an enhanced business class with improved seating and possibly a first class with at-seat meal service like VIA's corridor or some European long distance day trains.

A dining car open to all passengers might also be an option in addition to the usual coach cafe.
 
I get restless even after about only 4 hours in coach on the NEC, so for long distance I prefer overnight (in a sleeper). The time gets divided up nicely between meals, scenery, and some sleep.

The sleeper cost is a lot higher than coach, but you do save the cost of a hotel night.

And to compensate for the lack of scenery at night, I find sitting up in bed with the curtains open shows interesting night images, like peaceful towns closed up for the day or relatives greeting each other at train stations in the middle of the night.
 
West
6:30am leave WAS
11:00pm arrive CHI

East
6:05am leave CHI
12:30am arrive WAS
One problem with very early departures and late arrivals is that many people will not be living in easy distance of the station but must plan onwards transportation. Factor in that long distance trains sometimes run a little late (ahem) and doing that last mile or ten by public transportation becomes impossible. Also if they want to be picked up, get a taxi or whatever, that is not exactly a pleasant time to be hanging around many of the major stations, especially for female travelers.

A overnight run with more suitable arrive and departure times is much more attractive in my opinion.
 
This is an interesting question! It's actually something I've been wondering about myself recently. I appreciate the knowledge and context that others who know more than me about historic services have shared.

From my perspective, I'd be interested in taking longer (though not a 16-18-hour version of long) daytime trips opposed to some overnights, and I think a lot of people--especially younger people--would be interested in dong so depending on the route/corridor. I do think that the cost of roomettes/bedrooms these days is often prohibitive to many who would prefer train travel but don't want potentially sacrifice a night of sleep by roughing it in coach. There are lots of "younger people" (say, 35-ish and under) I know who can't afford or justify the cost of sleepers but don't want to be subjected to a night of coach, who would prefer to take trains for personal, environmental, or other reasons, but don't.

Personally I'd be good with an up to 14-hour daytime ride, especially since I could work on the train in the daytime (even without wifi, by pre-downloading work or hotspotting with my phone, etc.). For those of us without unlimited PTO, I'd say the prospect of having a pleasant day of work aboard a train en-route to a destination can be useful/efficient and in some ways, better than flying. I agree with those who don't think very early boardings (before 7 or 7:30 a.m.) and late arrivals (after 11) are all that great of an idea, though I actually think some people would like them.

Due to being from Minnesota, a couple of my pet ideas for longer to longer-ish daytime rides include:
1. Most feasible by far: Extending the upcoming 'second train' (Chicago-St. Paul) to Fargo, ND to provide a daytime frequency to Fargo/Moorhead northern MN (somewhat similar to the Cincinnati situation mentioned above, points north of St. Paul are reached on the WB EB between ~1-5 a.m.; better eastbound but Fargo is still in the 4 a.m. hour).
2. St. Paul - Kansas City (first part of the old Twin Star Rocket route Mpls/Stp-Houston). This would be on the medium-long side of things, but given that the Rocket's early schedule was around 9 hours (and who knows if if it would be faster/slower today), it fits into this category.
3. If the NLX (Northern Lights Express) does happen as planned (it is funded) and is successful, consider extending one trip Duluth --> Chicago, OR (super far-fetched version but great for tourism also) Dululth-->Kansas City or Omaha.
4. My silliest idea is a Mpls-St. Paul to Indianapolis daytime train. The trip would be somewhere on the order of 12-14 hours, serve two travel markets (MSP-CHI, CHI-IND), and of course anyone who actually wants to travel between Indiana and Minnesota.
 
I believe that the Corridor ID program in addition to identifying new routes for introducing service, is also talking about second trains on existing routes with schedules that are 8 to 12 hours removed from the current service so as to provide daytime service to areas served only in the middle of the night at present. RPA's Route Subcommittee has also been seriously identifying such to feed into the Corridor ID and other similar state projects. So it is not a question of pure either/or anymore.

In my opinion the first service on a route that requires 16-18 hours running time between major origin and destination should possibly be an overnight one for reasons articulated in this thread above. But the second or third service should be designed to cover the intermediate points in daylight as much as possible. Afterall routes like the LSL, the Cap, Silver Service, the Crescent, CONO etc. do serve many significant cities en route.

Atlantic Coast covering NE - Georgia and NE - North Carolina already has daytime service in addition to overnight service and they are quite heavily used.
 
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This is a challenging question to answer due to the data that most coach passengers - i.e. most Amtrak long distance passengers - use long distance trains as regional/corridor trains, in lieu of actual regional/corridor trains in this country.

On the other hand, sleeper passengers are more likely to travel endpoint-to-endpoint.

Running two trains per day would be a step in the right direction. For example, the most frequent Amtrak route I use is CHI-ROC - 11.5 hours travel time. A day train from Chicago to Albany would provide connectivity for Chicago, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to upstate New York. These trains could run without private rooms, though that feels like a complex question.

A second train could maintain the overnight run for people who need sleeper service.

My model is certainly not revolutionary, but it does have a few challenges to it. For example, there's a lot of passenger volume on MKE-CHI. Would these passengers be able to connect to a day train departure? Likewise for the LSL, would BOS-ALB be able to connect passengers on a day train in the other direction?

Perhaps I'm naive, but Amtrak could make major headway with populations who 1) care about climate change but don't want to suffer through an overnight Amtrak trip/won't pay for the high cost of a private room and 2) work from home.

To do this, Amtrak would have to be serious about winning new customers. Numerous on-board changes would be needed:

- Wifi that works (obviously)
- Ample food options - you can't expect everyone to pack three meals in a cooler
- Legitimate seating outside of the coach cars
- An enforcement of standards of behavior on Amtrak cars. No more music/streaming without headphones. No more private phone conversations. Perhaps a quiet car or cars is the answer (though everyone would want this?)

In many ways, what I have described is "business class," but since Amtrak has phased out business class on pretty much all but one long distance trains, I give up on that one.
 
This is a challenging question to answer due to the data that most coach passengers - i.e. most Amtrak long distance passengers - use long distance trains as regional/corridor trains, in lieu of actual regional/corridor trains in this country.

On the other hand, sleeper passengers are more likely to travel endpoint-to-endpoint.

Running two trains per day would be a step in the right direction. For example, the most frequent Amtrak route I use is CHI-ROC - 11.5 hours travel time. A day train from Chicago to Albany would provide connectivity for Chicago, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to upstate New York. These trains could run without private rooms, though that feels like a complex question.

A second train could maintain the overnight run for people who need sleeper service.

My model is certainly not revolutionary, but it does have a few challenges to it. For example, there's a lot of passenger volume on MKE-CHI. Would these passengers be able to connect to a day train departure? Likewise for the LSL, would BOS-ALB be able to connect passengers on a day train in the other direction?

Perhaps I'm naive, but Amtrak could make major headway with populations who 1) care about climate change but don't want to suffer through an overnight Amtrak trip/won't pay for the high cost of a private room and 2) work from home.

To do this, Amtrak would have to be serious about winning new customers. Numerous on-board changes would be needed:

- Wifi that works (obviously)
- Ample food options - you can't expect everyone to pack three meals in a cooler
- Legitimate seating outside of the coach cars
- An enforcement of standards of behavior on Amtrak cars. No more music/streaming without headphones. No more private phone conversations. Perhaps a quiet car or cars is the answer (though everyone would want this?)

In many ways, what I have described is "business class," but since Amtrak has phased out business class on pretty much all but one long distance trains, I give up on that one.
I don't think you're naive at all--you put what I said above ("There are lots of "younger people" (say, 35-ish and under) I know who can't afford or justify the cost of sleepers but don't want to be subjected to a night of coach, who would prefer to take trains for personal, environmental, or other reasons...) in a more direct and succinct way! I really think there's a huge untapped market for convenient day trains that have all the core amenities you mention--so much potential.

As jis pointed out above, the idea of more day trains is being examined and more may happen, but likely at the speed of Amtrak. I wish it were possible for things to move more quickly, but in many cases that would probably require the states to take a leading role, even up to the point of operating the service (but still under Amtrak's brand?) by using third-party contractors, freight RR engineers, or something else. (The beleaguered Northstar commuter rail line in Minnesota is under Metro Transit's umbrella and they pay for it + do rolling stock maintenance, but the actual service is operated by BNSF engineers and conductors)
 
Long daytime versus overnight? Thoughts or opinions?
In the case of Amtrak I rarely travel where there is more than one train operating one schedule so I rarely have a reason to think about it. If I had the option I'd probably pick daytime trips when I can sleep before departure and overnight trips when departing at the end of a workday. On flights where I have a choice I typically pick a late morning or midday departure when I can rest up or a nighttime departure when I'm departing after work or rushing back to resolve a conflict or finish a project or something.
 
Personally I think long daytime trains could be marginally feasible; the Palmetto is about 16 hours right now. Any delays compound and those traveling to one end (or close to it) have to deal with arriving well after most connections or sane transportation options are available. The challenge of such a train is making it cost-competitive with flying. Flipping some current LD train schedules twelve hours could be an alternative, though that might mean an extra night end-to-end on some trains like the CS which might work out for some people and perhaps not for others.

I rode SBA-OKJ-SFC in coach and that was about nine hours. Doable, but maybe pushing the edge of my own desires to be on a daytime train. Anything over 10-12 hours and I'm thinking about an overnight train. I recently rode a EuroCity train for seven-plus hours in First and it was a good experience, but it still had another 3-ish hours to its final destination. I'm not certain I would have enjoyed the full run as much.

I think for daytime trains to work on Amtrak they would have to offer a class of premium seating like Railjet Business Class or Leo Express Premium seats (basically a nice full recliner). Amtrak would also have to offer a good dining car service available to everyone. They can't use the seats and cafe offerings that are currently on the Amtrak Midwest sets for that kind of run.
 
When the trip gets to be more than 8-10 hours, I would much prefer to cover the distance on an overnight train than an all-day endurance run, though I really won't travel overnight anymore without a sleeper accommodation of some kind. The standard Amfleet I coach starts to feel a bit tedious to me after about six hours. Fortunately Amtrak at some point upgraded to Amfleet II cars on day runs such as the Adirondack (11 hours end to end) and Pennsylvanian (9 hours), which makes both of them much more palatable to through travelers.

Certainly there are many portions of the various long-distance routes where the addition of a six- or eight-hour daylight run would provide a really useful alternative to the current once-a-day through trains, but the attractiveness of this option diminishes when the schedule time pushes much beyond 12 hours -- such as between Chicago and the Northeast.

I am remembering the period (about 1998 to 2003) when the Pennsylvanian was extended to run from Philadelphia through to Chicago. It didn't prove to be a great success. For most of that time, the Pennsylvanian left each end about 6 or 6:30 a.m. and arrived at the other end about midnight. Although this provided service to Cleveland and Toledo at much more civilized hours than the overnight trains offered, the advertised times at both Chicago and Philadelphia were unattractive, and of course arrival into both endpoints was prone to tardiness. At Philadelphia, connections to New York and DC were unreliable or nonexistent. And food service for this very long run was nothing more than a cafe car.
 
I am remembering the period (about 1998 to 2003) when the Pennsylvanian was extended to run from Philadelphia through to Chicago. It didn't prove to be a great success.

Yes. Pushing the start and end times to the extremes, not serving New York City, and providing only short-distance-train amenities on board was sort of a three-strikes-and-you're-out deal. Wasn't it intended in part to capture express freight business rather than passenger business anyway?

A more practical option - which I seem to remember being at least *talked* about as soon as the early 90s Capitol reroute happened - would have been a New York - Cleveland day train, running 12 hours each way. That's a reasonably comfortable timeframe... sort of like Boston-Newport News or New York-Charlotte... but there don't seem to be too many city pairs in that range. There was a Washington-Atlanta day train in the early 70s that didn't do well.

Given my druthers, I would have run an additional overnight New York-Chicago train, timed to run something like Chicago 11pm departure, Cleveland 7am, Pittsburgh 11am, New York 8pm, rather than run a day train. (Not that either of us got our druthers. All we really got was an axed Broadway Limited only got half-replaced.)
 
The Vermonter is a day train, but originally through service on the line was provided by the overnight Montrealer. The Vermonter is very heavily used on the current schedule, but I think that an overnight train running close to the Montrealer schedule would serve a good deal of Vermont from White River Junction to the north fairly well. A fun fact is that in my experience, the Vermonter is actually faster than driving between White River Junction and Baltimore, thanks to the high-speed running on the NEC south of New York.
 
Yes. Pushing the start and end times to the extremes, not serving New York City, and providing only short-distance-train amenities on board was sort of a three-strikes-and-you're-out deal. Wasn't it intended in part to capture express freight business rather than passenger business anyway?

A more practical option - which I seem to remember being at least *talked* about as soon as the early 90s Capitol reroute happened - would have been a New York - Cleveland day train, running 12 hours each way. That's a reasonably comfortable timeframe... sort of like Boston-Newport News or New York-Charlotte... but there don't seem to be too many city pairs in that range. There was a Washington-Atlanta day train in the early 70s that didn't do well.

Given my druthers, I would have run an additional overnight New York-Chicago train, timed to run something like Chicago 11pm departure, Cleveland 7am, Pittsburgh 11am, New York 8pm, rather than run a day train. (Not that either of us got our druthers. All we really got was an axed Broadway Limited only got half-replaced.)
Yes, I think the extended Pennsylvanian was designed in part for mail and express business back when Amtrak was pursuing that. NYC-Cleveland makes a lot more sense to me as a day run, and could be achieved fairly easily by extending either the Pennsylvanian or one of the Niagara Falls trains and/or adding a leg to the Maple Leaf. But of course, no terminal facilities in Cleveland and not much interest on the part of Ohio in paying for anything.

The Montrealer/Vermonter seems a really good example of the overnight vs. long day issue. As a day run, the Vermonter serves VT and Mass. at much more attractive times and draws many more riders at those local stations than the Montrealer ever did. But if you try extending it northward to Montreal, which has been talked and talked about over the past two decades, you push the total length of the run from about 13 to 15 hours, which leaves you with very unattractive times at Montreal and/or Washington. An overnight run would serve Montreal through travelers much better, but of course it would probably hit Brattleboro and Northampton in the 2-4 a.m. range.
 
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I am remembering the period (about 1998 to 2003) when the Pennsylvanian was extended to run from Philadelphia through to Chicago. It didn't prove to be a great success. For most of that time, the Pennsylvanian left each end about 6 or 6:30 a.m. and arrived at the other end about midnight. Although this provided service to Cleveland and Toledo at much more civilized hours than the overnight trains offered, the advertised times at both Chicago and Philadelphia were unattractive, and of course arrival into both endpoints was prone to tardiness. At Philadelphia, connections to New York and DC were unreliable or nonexistent. And food service for this very long run was nothing more than a cafe car.
And further back in history, in the PRR-NYC era, neither road ran an all-day schedule between NYC and Chicago, even when they ran multiple trains. The first departure was around noon, and the last was before midnight. There were trains outside those times, but not through. The longest all day trains were in the New York to Detroit range....
 
Yes. Pushing the start and end times to the extremes, not serving New York City, and providing only short-distance-train amenities on board was sort of a three-strikes-and-you're-out deal. Wasn't it intended in part to capture express freight business rather than passenger business anyway?

A more practical option - which I seem to remember being at least *talked* about as soon as the early 90s Capitol reroute happened - would have been a New York - Cleveland day train, running 12 hours each way. That's a reasonably comfortable timeframe... sort of like Boston-Newport News or New York-Charlotte... but there don't seem to be too many city pairs in that range. There was a Washington-Atlanta day train in the early 70s that didn't do well.

Given my druthers, I would have run an additional overnight New York-Chicago train, timed to run something like Chicago 11pm departure, Cleveland 7am, Pittsburgh 11am, New York 8pm, rather than run a day train. (Not that either of us got our druthers. All we really got was an axed Broadway Limited only got half-replaced.)

Practically speaking, given the infrastructure in Cleveland today, unless a very significant amount of money is spent there I don't think any train can reliably terminate and turn in Cleveland. The logical place to do so which has the facility today would be Toledo. Fortunately that is quite doable with a schedule similar to that of the Palmetto as far as origination and destination times go. A 7am departure and 9pm arrival is quite feasible even with today's bloated schedules.

Similarly, Washington - Atlanta would be quite feasible, and after the completion of restoration of service at 110mph through Henderson between Petersburg and Raleigh, even a New York - Atlanta may become feasible, even if marginally so.

Actually, the Palmetto has quite a remarkable schedule performance covering 829 miles in 15 hours, given today's challenges in scheduling over host railroads. We can only wish we could get such on other routes.

And further back in history, in the PRR-NYC era, neither road ran an all-day schedule between NYC and Chicago, even when they ran multiple trains. The first departure was around noon, and the last was before midnight. There were trains outside those times, but not through. The longest all day trains were in the New York to Detroit range....
New York to Detroit would become feasible as a day train after the Toledo - Detroit line is upgraded to reasonable passenger speed. Before that going beyond Toledo starts reducing the usability of the train a bit.

Potentially, on the Water Level Route + old Broadway Route, day trains from NYP to Toledo/Detroit and Chicago to Pittsburgh via Cleveland would both be very useful trains I should think.
 
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And further back in history, in the PRR-NYC era, neither road ran an all-day schedule between NYC and Chicago, even when they ran multiple trains. The first departure was around noon, and the last was before midnight. There were trains outside those times, but not through. The longest all day trains were in the New York to Detroit range....

And Amtrak kept the NYC-Detroit train until 1978, 14 hours each way (and then dropped it in favor of Niagara Falls and Toronto.) Does anyone happen to know whether it did a good business or not?
 
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