Quantcast

New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1, 2019

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

lordsigma

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
919
Not necessarily unreliable. OTP on the lake shore has been ok lately. Not perfect but not too bad. Good enough that I have been using it for short distance trips to BOS from SPG in the last year, and haven’t had any problems.
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,821
Location
Ithaca, NY
Just got back on the LSL. The "flexible dining" is still complete inedible garbage; the passengers had apparently figured this out and weren't even bothering with it. Ridership was lower than it usually is for this time of year (I travel this time of year a lot).

Train was almost on time, though -- the court win over the OTP standards seems to have scared NS and CSX straight.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
2,861
I was wondering the same thing! Is it where they sit singletons with strangers to fill the tables. Sound like fun to me!
It is fun, and a great way to meet interesting and intelligent people from all walks of life and different states and countries.

It's exactly what we had when we had real dining cars with real meals instead of a flexiteria with garbage.
 

Samsbigtrip

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
Messages
99
Location
Wiltshire, UK
It is fun, and a great way to meet interesting and intelligent people from all walks of life and different states and countries.

[...]
I usually travel alone so that's exactly why I like trains - although this will be my first experience of train travel in the USA. Another thing to tick off my bucket list - and to see Montana!

A sleeper from Naples to Milan was roomy but hell - stuck in Rome overnight, people shouting at each on the platforms and it was unbearably hot. The scenery was lovely though :)
 

fdaley

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
72
It is fun, and a great way to meet interesting and intelligent people from all walks of life and different states and countries.

It's exactly what we had when we had real dining cars with real meals instead of a flexiteria with garbage.
It was fun, and meeting other travelers over a meal was one of the great pleasures of long-distance train travel. But in my four experiences on Amtrak's eastern trains since real dining service ended, I have not seen any strangers being seated together.

In my one experience traveling alone, returning from New York to Albany on a Sunday afternoon, a roomette on the Lake Shore was only $1 more than business class on the Ethan Allen, so I took the roomette. When I went to the diner, all of the tables on the river side were occupied by parties of two. No one offered me a seat, so I sat on the land side till my meal was nuked, and then, since I had room on the river side, I took the food back to my room.

I don't understand why Amtrak would want to wreck the experience that most distinguished long-distance trains from other modes of travel, but that's what they've done.
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
816
Location
QB 101
I don't understand why Amtrak would want to wreck the experience that most distinguished long-distance trains from other modes of travel, but that's what they've done.
The apparent goal of Anderson et al is to discourage LD travel, plain and simple. But it goes further than that in my opinion. Drive away LD passengers first, Congress will have no choice but to give the axe to LD funding of most trains.

Then...

Replace a couple of the axed trains or even a still existing LD train with an 'experiential' train akin to VIAs' Prestige Class on the Canadian...and charge an arm and a leg for it, too. And presto chango....the train is wildly profitable! From what I've read, the Canadian is profitable and sold out far in advance...especially with its 2.5 round trips per week (or whatever the reduced schedule is). The Rocky Mountaineer is another always sold-out 'experiential' train.

There is a market for it that the likes of the American Orient Express tried to capture but failed. Perhaps it was due to the exorbitant prices they had coupled with a too-frequent schedule. Or maybe it was simply poor timing that the 2008 recession wiped out the market for them.

From an outsiders' perspective, it's simply wait and see what Anderson comes up with to make all trains on Amtrak 'profitable'. Given time, I have little doubt he will accomplish his goals.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
From what I've read, the Canadian is profitable and sold out far in advance...especially with its 2.5 round trips per week (or whatever the reduced schedule is). The Rocky Mountaineer is another always sold-out 'experiential' train.

There is a market for it that the likes of the American Orient Express tried to capture but failed. Perhaps it was due to the exorbitant prices they had coupled with a too-frequent schedule. Or maybe it was simply poor timing that the 2008 recession wiped out the market for them.
I don't think the Canadian is profitable and I know that VIA rail as a whole is not.

American Orient Express was profitable at a time... their demise is a long complicated story.
 

Siegmund

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
175
Location
northwestern Montana
I was wondering the same thing! Is it where they sit singletons with strangers to fill the tables. Sound like fun to me!
It has always been done, and is still done, on the full-service diners out west. The Empire Builder in winter takes this to its logical (or illogical) extreme: they will crowd 16 people into 4 tables at one end of the diner -- and have two or three seatings so that all 30 or 40 people who want to eat get accommodated -- and avoid messing up the place settings and paper "tablecloths" on the other 14 tables.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
It has always been done, and is still done, on the full-service diners out west. The Empire Builder in winter takes this to its logical (or illogical) extreme: they will crowd 16 people into 4 tables at one end of the diner -- and have two or three seatings so that all 30 or 40 people who want to eat get accommodated -- and avoid messing up the place settings and paper "tablecloths" on the other 14 tables.
I enjoy eating with other passengers, but I wish they would seat solo passengers alone on 1 side of the booth when the room allows. It can be awkward sitting that close to a stranger, especially if they sit in such a way that you have very little room. Obviously if the diner is going to be full, it’s understandable.

For what it’s worth, even Pullman rail journeys used this practice, so it’s just something that trains do.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,544
Location
Texas
There is a market for it that the likes of the American Orient Express tried to capture but failed. Perhaps it was due to the exorbitant prices they had coupled with a too-frequent schedule. Or maybe it was simply poor timing that the 2008 recession wiped out the market for them.
Luxurious or not, I doubt any long distance train can profitably survive in a financial market where the wall street investor class feeds us through a boom-bust meat grinder every ten years or so. The recession of 2008 not only wiped out aspirational blue collar travelers, but also the basic business credit market. We're almost due for yet another crash with no rainy day fund and trillions of dollars in debt load. The Fed can only prop us up for so long before other forces will begin to exceed their influence.
 
Last edited:

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,183
Location
Gator Country Florida
Yes, but, according to management/annalists at Amtrak - the Millennials do not like/want to sit with others ... and since they are the ones buying tickets and riding trains, those few of us from the older generation must change :rolleyes:
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
Yes, but, according to management/annalists at Amtrak - the Millennials do not like/want to sit with others ... and since they are the ones buying tickets and riding trains, those few of us from the older generation must change :rolleyes:
That part I agree with.... in a perfect world you would have the option of traditional sit down service or a counter service option but all featuring food that is prepared in a full kitchen. I pretty much just described the concept for the original cross country cafe ;).

But I can see the desire to let people sit at tables and use them more like modern counter service / coffee shop style places like a Panera bread or something. I see pros and cons of both types of service.

I only see cons in eliminating the chef and minimizing the menu.
 

Samsbigtrip

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
Messages
99
Location
Wiltshire, UK
I will be travelling on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago in May - ticking "crossing the USA by train" off my bucket list and in light of this thread I am wondering if I should abandon all hope of getting a decent meal (I have a roomette) and take rations with me!
I understand there is a very good deli open on Sundays around the corner from King Street Station so I might need to stock up there.
Any suggestions would be most welcome!
 

erierail

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 4, 2015
Messages
97
On time performance for Amtrak is driven by two factors. The first, is the level of freight traffic on the host railroad. Currently freight traffic, accross all segments are down nearly 10 percent. Between the bottom falling out of the coal business, tariffs impacting intermodal, agricultural and steel production segments, the class one railroads are hurting.
Most of the class ones have adopted " precision railroading, which reduces train counts by combining trains, with freight trains going from 100 plus cars to 150 plus cars. While looking good on paper, and on the balance sheets, they create operational issues which creates bottlenecks. With that said last week, train 30 was an hour and 45 minutes late into Cleveland, causing 29 to be 15 minutes late. We lost an additional 30 minutes because csx dispatchers managed to put us in the hole for every East bound freight. CSX was never a freind of Amtrak from a dispatch point of view, and given a chance this will not change.
The other, is maintenance of way is shut down till spring. once track work resumes, this unavoidable slow down will begin again. The variable is, who will get track first, the host railroad with a never ending number of opposing freight trains or one passenger bearing Amtrak train. I think we all know the answer.

In regards to dining car service, the diner is dead, the new reality is the food service being offered presently. Hopefully Amtrak will tweak it to make it bearable. My perception is it could be made better by the on board crew providing better service and perhaps additional staffing. Dinner selection's we're ok, the break fast was awefull.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2018
Messages
1
Just got back on the LSL. The "flexible dining" is still complete inedible garbage; the passengers had apparently figured this out and weren't even bothering with it. Ridership was lower than it usually is for this time of year (I travel this time of year a lot).

Train was almost on time, though -- the court win over the OTP standards seems to have scared NS and CSX straight.
I agree 100%, Just rode the Cardinal from CHI to NYP. 2 dinners and 1 lunch, all terrible.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2020
Messages
5
I will be travelling on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago in May - ticking "crossing the USA by train" off my bucket list and in light of this thread I am wondering if I should abandon all hope of getting a decent meal (I have a roomette) and take rations with me!
I understand there is a very good deli open on Sundays around the corner from King Street Station so I might need to stock up there.
Any suggestions would be most welcome!
You will LOVE it! At least I did. The scenery is incredible. in may they will have an NPS volunteer to give commentary about the trip. That’s in the viewing car. The food is good (no. You don’t need to bring food!!!) and it’s fun to meet others during meals as you watch the remarkable views. Now the food is not 5* dining, but it’s very good, considering the logistics involved. And plenty of choices for a two day trip. Steak, burgers, salmon, just some of the choices. Oh, I even had steamed mussels on the Southwest Chief. Enjoy your trip!
I will be travelling on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago in May - ticking "crossing the USA by train" off my bucket list and in light of this thread I am wondering if I should abandon all hope of getting a decent meal (I have a roomette) and take rations with me!
I understand there is a very good deli open on Sundays around the corner from King Street Station so I might need to stock up there.
Any suggestions would be most welcome!
 

JoeBas

Conductor
Joined
Dec 30, 2011
Messages
1,098
There is a market for it that the likes of the American Orient Express tried to capture but failed. Perhaps it was due to the exorbitant prices they had coupled with a too-frequent schedule. Or maybe it was simply poor timing that the 2008 recession wiped out the market for them.
Let's also remember that the bottom was cut out of their market by, ironically, Amtrak still offering long distance train travel at much lower (relatively speaking) rates. So people who just needed their "Train fix" but were more budget-conscious still had a viable alternative.

Once Amtrak LD is whacked, AOE type service becomes a captive audience.
 

Barb Stout

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
479
I will be travelling on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago in May - ticking "crossing the USA by train" off my bucket list and in light of this thread I am wondering if I should abandon all hope of getting a decent meal (I have a roomette) and take rations with me!
I understand there is a very good deli open on Sundays around the corner from King Street Station so I might need to stock up there.
Any suggestions would be most welcome!
The people complaining about the food are the ones that use the trains east of the Mississippi River. Although Chicago is east of the Mississippi River, The Empire Builder operates primarily west of it, so is a western train. The western trains still have the traditional dining. The eastern trains used to have traditional dining, but recently changed to a menu with a lot less options and got rid of the onboard chef. Many people don't like the taste of the food on the eastern trains either. I'm not among them as I am not a foodie. However, because you're taking a western train, you are fine and don't need to worry about the food unless you expect hundreds of items on the menu. Since you have already paid for the meals by getting a roomette, don't bring a bunch of excess food onboard unless you have severely diet restrictions or just have a must-have certain type of snack jones.
 
Top