North American pool of sleeping/dining cars

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
468
Given Amtrak’s reduction of sleeping car and dining car services, despite having received numerous new sleeping and dining cars in the past few years, I think that another provider of sleeping car services should be found.

Perhaps the new provider could provide cars to Amtrak and Via, and having a larger marketplace would allow a larger pool of cars to be shifted around where needed.

The new provider could pay Amtrak for hauling sleeping and dining cars and for overhead.

Given 2022’s air travel meltdown, it’s ridiculous that Amtrak hasn’t stepped up with more sleeping car services; it’s failed to expand its market share when doing so should not be hard.

Enough of derelict trains, too few sleeping cars, etc.

I know that there are a lot of obstacles to this (including funding, dealing with US/Canadian permissioning, etc.) but enough is enough. We need night trains that actually fulfill a market need, not an overpriced, bare-bones and unreliable service.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
61
What made the Pullman Company business model work were the economies of scale of offering sleeper services on a nationwide basis. Individual railroads operating on a smaller scale couldn't match those efficiencies.

Amtrak is the (shabby) modern-day equivalent of Pullman in the sense that it, too, captures efficiencies by offering nationwide sleeper services. Adding Via's sleeper service to the mix wouldn't be enough to change the economics enough to make a standalone Pullman-type company viable.
 
Last edited:

cirdan

Engineer
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,067
Hmm, you are pretty much proposing to reinvent the Pullman Company. You accurately described their operation and business model.

Good luck.
I was thinking this could work more as a ROSCO model with there being a pool of sleeping, dining and other special purpose cars that are leased or hired out but with the actual staffing and operation being in the hands of Amtrak, VIA etc.

The leasing company would by their charter be required to perform a minimal investment every year, be it in retiring and replacing old cars or in upgrading them to ensure that they don't die of old age and there are always cars of an acceptably modern standard available.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
24,875
Location
Austin Texas
I was thinking this could work more as a ROSCO model with there being a pool of sleeping, dining and other special purpose cars that are leased or hired out but with the actual staffing and operation being in the hands of Amtrak, VIA etc.

The leasing company would by their charter be required to perform a minimal investment every year, be it in retiring and replacing old cars or in upgrading them to ensure that they don't die of old age and there are always cars of an acceptably modern standard available.
And one would hope that the VIA Model was followed rather than the "Run them till they fall apart" Operation Amtrak is using!
 

Siegmund

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 19, 2018
Messages
387
Location
northwestern Montana
And one would hope that the VIA Model was followed rather than the "Run them till they fall apart" Operation Amtrak is using!

Oh, that is VIA's model too.
40 years ago, they had enough 1950s-era equipment to run the Canadian, and the Super Continental, and the Ocean, and the Atlantic, every day, plus the Skeena, Hudson Bay, and other remote services 3 times a week.
A quick peek at an early 80s schedule shows these needing 9, 9, 3, 3, 2, 2 trainsets. (Different timing could probably have reduced this from 28 to 25 sets.)

They still own, supposedly, sixteen dining cars, though I don't believe all are in working order. The pre-covid schedule could be covered by nine.
They do have a whole lot of sleepers in storage -- but I don't know how many are in working order and how many were cannibalized for parts or left to rot.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
Oh, that is VIA's model too.
40 years ago, they had enough 1950s-era equipment to run the Canadian, and the Super Continental, and the Ocean, and the Atlantic, every day, plus the Skeena, Hudson Bay, and other remote services 3 times a week.
A quick peek at an early 80s schedule shows these needing 9, 9, 3, 3, 2, 2 trainsets. (Different timing could probably have reduced this from 28 to 25 sets.)

They still own, supposedly, sixteen dining cars, though I don't believe all are in working order. The pre-covid schedule could be covered by nine.
They do have a whole lot of sleepers in storage -- but I don't know how many are in working order and how many were cannibalized for parts or left to rot.
VIA never HEP'd their "Blue Fleet" of ex-CN CC&F Cor-Ten steel cars back in the early 1990s. Those outnumbered the ex-CP stainless Budd cars by quite a margin. Cor-Ten was subject to rusting and VIA likely evaluated that it wasn't cost effect to HEP them since their useful life was very limited due to body rot. They were scrapped in large part in the 1990s, with some sold, a few are still floating around on some tourist railways. Only former CP Budd cars were kept.

They have been physically unable to run a 1980s schedule since about 1992 with the Blue Fleet not HEP'd and subsequently scrapped.

They've been scrupulously maintaining their aging Budd fleet as far as they've been able, but it is old and more and more get past the point of no return. In many cases the weak point is the much newer retention toilet system, installed about 1992 during the major HEP rebuild.

In general, my experience is that the average 67 year old VIA Budd car is in better shape than than the average, newer, Amtrak car.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,837
Given Amtrak’s reduction of sleeping car and dining car services, despite having received numerous new sleeping and dining cars in the past few years, I think that another provider of sleeping car services should be found.

Perhaps the new provider could provide cars to Amtrak and Via, and having a larger marketplace would allow a larger pool of cars to be shifted around where needed.

The new provider could pay Amtrak for hauling sleeping and dining cars and for overhead.

Given 2022’s air travel meltdown, it’s ridiculous that Amtrak hasn’t stepped up with more sleeping car services; it’s failed to expand its market share when doing so should not be hard.

Enough of derelict trains, too few sleeping cars, etc.

I know that there are a lot of obstacles to this (including funding, dealing with US/Canadian permissioning, etc.) but enough is enough. We need night trains that actually fulfill a market need, not an overpriced, bare-bones and unreliable service.
The problem is people. Amtrak supposedly looked at the feasibility of trying to find a contractor to complete some of the Superliner refresh work and was unable to find anyone suitable - because potential vendors are also understaffed. It’s easy to say fire incompetent Amtrak - hire this company to take this over! But the problem right now is all those other companies are having the same problems Amtrak is. I’m not sure where such an outfit is going to come up with suitable equipment and a workforce.
 

railiner

Engineer
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
9,945
Location
X
The problem is people. Amtrak supposedly looked at the feasibility of trying to find a contractor to complete some of the Superliner refresh work and was unable to find anyone suitable - because potential vendors are also understaffed. It’s easy to say fire incompetent Amtrak - hire this company to take this over! But the problem right now is all those other companies are having the same problems Amtrak is. I’m not sure where such an outfit is going to come up with suitable equipment and a workforce.
Good points...a solution would be for Amtrak (and other industries) to develop an excellent trade school of their own to lure promising high school grads into the field, even those with no experience, but otherwise tested to prove their aptitude in that direction. Those not wishing or capable of going to college, should not be faced with a life of low paying service jobs. There is talk of offering free college tuition to all...that should include incentives to enroll in trade schools, as well. Major airlines are training new hires with no prior flying experience to address the pilot shortage...

Amtrak could use their existing facility in Beech Grove or Delaware and make a training academy on the site. They could have a program where students would get free tuition, so long as they stay on the job for a contracted period, or else, they would have to reimburse Amtrak for the costs.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,333
Location
NYC/Queens
 

Bonser

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2019
Messages
350
Location
Jersey City
Good points...a solution would be for Amtrak (and other industries) to develop an excellent trade school of their own to lure promising high school grads into the field, even those with no experience, but otherwise tested to prove their aptitude in that direction. Those not wishing or capable of going to college, should not be faced with a life of low paying service jobs. There is talk of offering free college tuition to all...that should include incentives to enroll in trade schools, as well. Major airlines are training new hires with no prior flying experience to address the pilot shortage...

Amtrak could use their existing facility in Beech Grove or Delaware and make a training academy on the site. They could have a program where students would get free tuition, so long as they stay on the job for a contracted period, or else, they would have to reimburse Amtrak for the costs.
Amtrak can't run a railroad and I doubt they could run a trade school.
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
61
Amtrak supposedly looked at the feasibility of trying to find a contractor to complete some of the Superliner refresh work and was unable to find anyone suitable - because potential vendors are also understaffed.
If Amtrak didn't issue an RFP (which they didn't) or even an RFI (which they haven't) then they haven't really tried to find a vendor or seriously assess their options. Maybe Amtrak is too understaffed to do any serious trying or assessing - I'd buy that as a possibility. But I'm not buying the explanation (rumor, really) that Amtrak made a good-faith effort to find a vendor to outsource Superliner refreshes to and came up empty.
 

GDRRiley

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 16, 2022
Messages
53
Location
SF bay/LA
the only way a pool of sleeper cars would work is if we had open access like Europe. I really don't see any new sleeper trains running outside of Amtrak for the future.
Amtrak and VIA both need all new LD fleets.
 
Top