Lower priced Sleeper for single travelers

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Barb Stout

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Nightjet pods are getting ready to be deployed. It will be interesting how well or not they are received by the traveling public.

In the article, the phrase "barrier-free" is used a few times. The first couple of times I thought it meant no walls, but then I read this: "Barrier-free overnight travel will also be possible with the new Nightjets. Every Nightjet will include a multifunctional car with a low-floor entrance, a barrier-free couchette compartment, and a barrier-free toilet." I know I wouldn't be too excited about a wall-free toilet, so I'm hoping that "barrier-free" means something else. So what might it mean, no steps?
 

jis

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In the article, the phrase "barrier-free" is used a few times. The first couple of times I thought it meant no walls, but then I read this: "Barrier-free overnight travel will also be possible with the new Nightjets. Every Nightjet will include a multifunctional car with a low-floor entrance, a barrier-free couchette compartment, and a barrier-free toilet." I know I wouldn't be too excited about a wall-free toilet, so I'm hoping that "barrier-free" means something else. So what might it mean, no steps?
I suspect it means something akin to accessible in some European equivalent of ADA sense.
 
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In the article, the phrase "barrier-free" is used a few times. The first couple of times I thought it meant no walls, but then I read this: "Barrier-free overnight travel will also be possible with the new Nightjets. Every Nightjet will include a multifunctional car with a low-floor entrance, a barrier-free couchette compartment, and a barrier-free toilet." I know I wouldn't be too excited about a wall-free toilet, so I'm hoping that "barrier-free" means something else. So what might it mean, no steps?
The impression I get is that it means no steps and sufficient space for mobility hindered (as JIS said above) - seems to be a Britishism/Europeanism - rather than saying accessible as we do.
 

Bob Dylan

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I remember seeing the Slumbercoaches. At that time, I thought they were too small. Particularly when I compared them to the type of Roomette which was the standard kind of that day. (Like the Cabin for one on VIA, today, I think.) If I recall correctly the Slumbercoach rooms appeared smaller than Amtrak's Roomettes are now. I am OK in an Amtrak Roomette; pretty sure I would not like a Slumbercoach room regardless of the fare differential that may exist.
Slumber Coaches weren't as small as one might think, including the fact that they had a Bathroom, and also Meals weren't included so Prices were Lower!

My favorite Slumber Coach trip was the Southern Crescent between Washington and Atlanta.

Slumber Coaches were especially good for One night trips, ( never did a Multi Night trip in one)and back in the day most Crack Trains had real Lounges, which were great for getting out of your room, and some even had Coffee Shop type Food Service Cars for those that didn't want to Pay for Meals in the Diner.
 
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Thank you. That answers my questions.

and back in the day most Crack Trains had real Lounges, which were great for getting out of your room, and some even had Coffee Shop type Food Service Cars for those that didn't want to Pay for Meals in the Diner.

That was when the food and beverage options available in the Food Service and Lounge cars were more plentiful and varied than currently.
 

jis

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That was when the food and beverage options available in the Food Service and Lounge cars were more plentiful and varied than currently.
Back then the Cafe/Lounge counter food was quite fine for me. Springing for Diner was an added luxury which I could seldom afford on my Graduate Assistantship. Indeed, I could barely afford Slumbercoach, let alone Sleeper It would have been even less affordable if I was still on my GA after the food surcharge was tacked on. It was almost not affordable with my salary while I was paying off a few loans. There were times when it was Greyhound all the way since I could not afford Amtrak Coach even. My first cross country trip was by Greyhound since I could only manage to do it using a one month Ameripass. All that seems now to be in a different Galaxy far away and far in the past! And yet was just 45 years back.
 
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Just-Thinking-51

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In the article, the phrase "barrier-free" is used a few times. The first couple of times I thought it meant no walls, but then I read this: "Barrier-free overnight travel will also be possible with the new Nightjets. Every Nightjet will include a multifunctional car with a low-floor entrance, a barrier-free couchette compartment, and a barrier-free toilet." I know I wouldn't be too excited about a wall-free toilet, so I'm hoping that "barrier-free" means something else. So what might it mean, no steps?


The whole accessible of train travel is sorely lacking in the Europe. Like people make a big deal about have AC on the train a few years back, the accessibility is not a given and is a common question when a new service starts. The nightjet is using Bilevel single level equipment so a person in a wheelchair can directly roll into a railcar with out any assistance.

I was reading specs for a Stadler railcar, they listed 5 platforms heights that they could build for. What NightJet is building are trainsets that are designed for a wheelchair user and is barrier free access.
 

jpakala

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Another accommodation was the duplex room such as this photo of Connoquenessing Creek shows. There were 12, running crosswise of the car, with a few steps the width of 2 doors providing access to the uppers, the lowers having aisle-level doors. There were 2 bedrooms (with enclosed toilet & sink) at each end or in a bit older version 2 at one end and 3 at the other because I they lacked the enclosure and so were a bit smaller. PRR had many such cars. NP had 4 similar but same-level one-person rooms under (sleeper) domes. Duplex rooms were wonderful accommodations. Is it possible at least to visit such today anywhere?
1652581319286.png
 
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When I was younger before and after Amtrak started, I frequently traveled on Slumbercoaches and really enjoyed them. I traveled on trains from the New York Central, Burlington, Seaboard Coast Line and Amtrak, I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, ND for over 3 years and use to travel on the Slumbercoach on the Empire Builder frequently. The military fare between Grand Forks and Minneapolis was $14.50 including the slumbercoach charge. The train left Grand Forks around midnight and arrived at Minneapolis Great Northern Station at 6:30AM. The fare was cheaper than a Greyhound ticket and far more comfortable. Back then the Empire Builder was on time and very reliable. The crews were ex Great Northern crews that prided themselves on how they operated "their" train. I also road the train westbound from Minneapolis and Grand Forks. In those days, Amtrak didn't offer free meals to First class Sleeping car passengers, so the cost of meals was the same. The Dining Car crews were also ex Great Northern and Northern Pacific and the food was excellent. For some reason, the portions served on the western trains was much bigger than eastern trains. I loved the slumbercoaches and traveled on them whenever they were on the train.
 

toddinde

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An "elephant in the room", apart from lack of rolling stock, is that the Slumbercoaches we all remember would be unlikely to meet today's safety standards for egress in an emergency, plus there's always ADA requirements. 🤔
People are also bigger today. I don’t think people really remember how tiny the Slumbercoach really was. Is there a market for really itty bitty rooms with tiny beds? No. The number of unsatisfied passengers this product would create would be self defeating.
 

toddinde

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I disagree. It's more suitable for a single rider, and much cheaper than a bedroom, which is more appropriate for 2.

I think the size and design are comparable to the original 1-person Roomette, as still seen on the VIA Canadian. Amtrak just added a 2nd bunk to allow for 2 riders.
The Amtrak roomettes are basically enclosed sections.
 

toddinde

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I too enjoyed the Slumbercoach back in the day, but I wouldn’t like them now. That very narrow bed in a teeny tiny room with no meals or lounges? I think you would have to be a monk to appreciate that. I would much prefer a more comfortable coach product, although I like the Amtrak coach, and frequently sleep better in it than in a roomette.
 

railiner

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The Amtrak roomettes are basically enclosed sections.
A Slumbercoach double room is approximately the same size...perhaps a little bit shorter. I loved the Slumbercoach, and used them whenever one was available, on whichever train they were on. The narrow bunk was no issue for me, and I actually liked them, as they allowed you to use the toilet at night, without the need to raise the bunk.
There were some converted Pullman Roomettee cars, (ex NYC) that became the "16-10" type Slumbercoaches. For whatever reason, Single rooms 1,2.3. and 4 were the size of the double rooms, but only had one bunk installed. Those familiar with them, would try for these rooms, as they sold at the same rate as the duplex style single rooms. They had a much larger window, more interior space, and were a real bargain...:cool:
 

cirdan

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As a kid I spent three years living in Germany and also a short stint in France and travelling in couchettes felt fairly normal for me. I first experienced them on a school trip and later made many trips by myself.

Sometimes when you got several like minded young people sharing a couchette it might turn into an impromptu party (it helped if you had some alcohol to share) until some annoyed folks in the compartment next door would bang on the door and tell you to shut up.

But yeah, at some point you get too old for that type of thing, and that is often about the same time you start having a bit more money on the side, which was why I started upgrading to sleepers. I do all I can too avoid couchettes these days.
 

ehbowen

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I too enjoyed the Slumbercoach back in the day, but I wouldn’t like them now. That very narrow bed in a teeny tiny room with no meals or lounges? I think you would have to be a monk to appreciate that. I would much prefer a more comfortable coach product, although I like the Amtrak coach, and frequently sleep better in it than in a roomette.
Um, if we had sanity in charge at Amtrak, coach and Slumbercoach passengers would be able to purchase appetizing and nutritious meals in the dining car whenever they chose; they just wouldn't be inclusive in the ticket. And there's no reason there can't be a coach lounge; Southern Pacific and Budd showed how a single-level lounge and diner could quite workably be combined in their "Pride of Texas" cars for the 1950 Sunset Limited.

The size issue is what it is, but it's not the same for all largish people. I took multiple trips doubled up in Superliner roomettes, often in the upper berth, back when I was still at 270+ lbs. and never had a problem with it (Of course, I spent three years living in enlisted berthing aboard a Navy battleship...). Why not have mock-ups of all of the Amtrak sleeping accommodations on display at major terminal stations so prospective passengers can know what they're getting into (in more ways than one!)? Besides, do you honestly believe that a "Person of Size" would be any more comfortable in an Amtrak coach seat...especially if doubled up?
 

jis

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Here is a remarkably information filled discussion thread on the subject of Slumbercoaches and Duplexes from Classic Trains that I thought many here might find interesting


Here are some Pullman car layouts on the Empire Builder. Note they had Duplexes and not Slumbercoach. The subtle differences are discussed in the thread that I have given reference to above:

acc13.jpg


And here is an interesting 3D rendition of all the types of sleeping accommodation. Specifically note the Duplex Roomette:


8ab1bb4481e3b95781544c8dbc922940.jpg
 
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TheCrescent

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I’m 6’2”, taller than the length of the beds in roomettes. I can deal with it. I could also thus deal with a smaller room. Size issues aren’t due to weight alone.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I really don’t think Amtrak or anyone else should be in the “budget sleeper” business. If you don’t want to pay for a sleeper.... ride in coach.

The cost of creating, maintaining, and operating slumbercoaches really doesn’t make sense. Which is one of the reasons they no longer exist.
 

TheCrescent

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I really don’t think Amtrak or anyone else should be in the “budget sleeper” business. If you don’t want to pay for a sleeper.... ride in coach.

The cost of creating, maintaining, and operating slumbercoaches really doesn’t make sense. Which is one of the reasons they no longer exist.

I commute 600 miles each way, every two weeks (so 600 miles of travel per week, for about $200-$370 per week). My total spending on those trips will be about $15,000 this year.

Most of that spending goes to American Airlines because Amtrak does not offer a product that’s a good value for a solo passenger. I can fly first class on American for less than Amtrak charges.

It’s a business decision: if Amtrak won’t offer a product that is competitive, it won’t get much of that $15,000. I’m not taking coach overnight. And when I do take Amtrak, I expect to continue to be the only (!) sleeping car passenger who gets off at my destination station, in a mid-sized metro area.

Amtrak, it’s your choice.
 

jis

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I really don’t think Amtrak or anyone else should be in the “budget sleeper” business. If you don’t want to pay for a sleeper.... ride in coach.
Sounds like that line of argument is fragrant with the possibility of being extended to say there should be no Roomettes either. :D
 

crescent-zephyr

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Sounds like that line of argument is fragrant with the possibility of being extended to say there should be no Roomettes either. :D

No, the roomettes fill the role.

An all roomette viewliner would have 16 roomettes plus a H room. That would have the capacity of 34 beds.

The classic slumber coach had 36 or 40 beds but no H room. With an H room the capacity would be similar to an all roomette viewliner. So just build an all roomette viewliner if the demand is there.
 

TheCrescent

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No, the roomettes fill the role.

An all roomette viewliner would have 16 roomettes plus a H room. That would have the capacity of 34 beds.

The classic slumber coach had 36 or 40 beds but no H room. With an H room the capacity would be similar to an all roomette viewliner. So just build an all roomette viewliner if the demand is there.

I don’t know if demand is there for more roomettes at Amtrak’s current pricing. I do know that there is unmet demand for the following:

1. A small number of very high-end rooms. If Iowa Pacific could fill a few attached to the City of New Orleans, Amtrak could on its long-distance trains.

2. “Cabins for One,” as Via and other railroads offer them, and I would pay for one.

3. A budget coach accommodation (surely at least some bus passengers would go for something like a commuter coach attached to Amtrak trains, at a lower price than regular coach.

Given railroads’ large overhead, and how close Amtrak has come to breaking even with a load factor of about 60%, it’s clear that one path to profitability is simply filling more seats and rooms. The marginal cost of each is low.

Airlines differentiate on pricing and product between a wide variety of customers, and niche segmentation helps them maximize revenues. Amtrak should do the same.

My American Airlines app shows 7 tickets already booked for my travel for the next 6 weeks. Amtrak could have gotten each of those trips if it simply offered a product that better matched my needs, instead of offering either a product that is too far below (coach) or too far above (roomette, priced for 2 people even though I’m traveling solo).
 
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