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Onboard the Cardinal 51(4)

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City of Miami

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2 sleepers on 51 today, only 1 on 6th and 2 on 4th. I'll go back later to see 50 which I did not see on 6th and had 2 sleepers on 4th.

1 hr later: 50 had 1 VL, 62033 which had gone west on Sunday.
 
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afigg

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Virginia
Just looking at various dates in the booking system, you seem to be correct. Even into September, the train appears to have a much larger number of available rooms than is normal. For the route I typically take (CIN-ALX), the price of a roomette is $189 for many of the dates. I've never seen a roomette that cheap on the Cardinal, so that can only mean that they've adjusted the bucket to account for the additional car.

My question is this: where did they suddenly get two additional cars to be able to do this? I get that they can schedule maintenance so that they have extra cars during holidays, but the additional sleepers appears to be much longer term than just a single holiday week.
There are 50 Viewliner sleepers. 39 are in daily use spread among the 4 sets of the Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Crescent, 3 sets for the Lake Shore Limited, and 2 for the Cardinal. Generally Amtrak aims to keep 80% of the rolling stock in use with the remainder held for standby reserves, maintenance, mandated inspections, or overhauls. Since the Cardinal runs with 2 consists, they must have scheduled the overhauls and inspections to get ahead and have 1 or 2 more sleeper cars added to the Cardinal rotation for the summer.
It would be interesting to find out if this was done primarily to boost Cardinal revenue or to get market data to determine whether the Cardinal should get a bag-dorm car and then a sleeper car early in the distribution of the new Viewliners.
 

William W.

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Based on the timing, I'd hope that the latter is the case, although I'm sure Amtrak doesn't mind the extra revenue either. It would only make sense for it to get the first crop of the new cars. The other eastern LD trains are already running at the level that they should be. They have the needed sleepers, and the heritage diners, while old, are better than nothing (or a diner-lite). I'd think that Amtrak would want to get the Cardinal, which is the most under-equipped LD train in the country, up to where it should be first, before trying to supplement already adequate trains.

If this does turn out to be the case, Amtrak will have impressed me twice in as many weeks. They will have finally gotten the message that the Cardinal is a good route, with a lot of potential, that can be made much better.

Here's the Cardinal's current consist:

Power, H. baggage, sleeper, diner-lite, coach, coach, coach

Here's what it needs to be:

Power, bag-dorm, sleeper, sleeper (maybe), diner, cafe, coach, coach, coach.

At the very least, it needs to get bag-dorms ASAP.

Once enough equipment is in place, they can construct a third consist and make the train daily, but I don't expect that to happen until late 2015 or 2016.
 
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afigg

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Based on the timing, I'd hope that the latter is the case, although I'm sure Amtrak doesn't mind the extra revenue either. It would only make sense for it to get the first crop of the new cars. The other eastern LD trains are already running at the level that they should be. They have the needed sleepers, and the heritage diners, while old, are better than nothing (or a diner-lite). I'd think that Amtrak would want to get the Cardinal, which is the most under-equipped LD train in the country, up to where it should be first, before trying to supplement already adequate trains.

....

Once enough equipment is in place, they can construct a third consist and make the train daily, but I don't expect that to happen until late 2015 or 2016.
The other LD trains all need additional sleeper capacity as well. If one were running Amtrak as a business, you would first place the new bag-dorms and then sleeper cars where you get the most revenue per room. Checking the May 2014 monthly report, for example, the Silver Meteor is generating $276 a room ($7,779,912 in sleeper revenue / 28,115 rooms sold for fiscal year to date) while the Cardinal is generating $233 a room ($1,039,298 / 4,456 rooms). Amtrak would get more revenue earlier by putting the bag-dorms and then sleepers on the LSL, Meteor, Crescent first.

However, the reports last October when the Viewliners were shown to the press at Elmira was that the plan was to first build 2 of each type for testing, then complete the diners, bag-dorms, and sleepers in that order (with baggage car assembled on a second parallel production line). So Amtrak would have 2 new sleeper cars available while the diner cars and then the bag-dorms are built and delivered. It would fit to place the 2 new sleepers on one Cardinal consist and 2 Viewliner I sleepers on the other consist, along with 2 new diner cars while waiting for the bag-dorms and sleeper production runs to be completed. All the other eastern LS trains have 3 or 4 consists, so only 2 new sleepers with 1 less roomette each don't match up as well.

The reported plan for the Cardinal is for it to be equipped with a bag-dorm, 2 sleepers, and diner car when the Viewliner IIs are completed which will make it a "regular" LD train.
 

dlagrua

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Regardless of the sleepers, the one man FSA on the Cardinal with half a café car, no grill and one convection oven, just won't be able to handle the passengers from two sleeper cars. For those of you that have not traveled on the route, the person that takes the order is also the cook ,clean-up man, and table server. They do fine with 8 or 9 sleeper passengers and can serve maybe a dozen but if Amtrak sells out both sleepers and a few coach passengers come to eat, there is no way that one man can serve everyone. What the heck is Amtrak thinking?
 

William W.

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If Amtrak had two more heritage diners available, they'd run the Cardinal with real diners. Amtrak knows that the diner-lite situation is completely inadequate, but until the new diners come in, we're stuck with it. Remember, they did try to run the Lakeshore Limited with diner-lites a few years ago, and it was such a disaster that Amtrak was forced to refurbish the diners needed to fill the gap; bad service on a mainline LD just won't fly. The reason they didn't do this with the Cardinal is that it is a more "secondary" route, and they can therefore get away with the reduced service (especially since it has only had the one sleeper for the longest time). I would think that the very least Amtrak could do while they're running a second sleeper on the Cardinal is add an additional FSA to take the pressure off the single beleaguered one (assuming they haven't already done this).
 
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tricia

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Spring Creek, NC
The second sleeper on the Cardinal has been running since the end of June and if all goes according to plan (and shop count allows) will likely last through August. They are on the head end of the train to assist with adding the local coaches to the rear at IND.
Just looking at various dates in the booking system, you seem to be correct. Even into September, the train appears to have a much larger number of available rooms than is normal. For the route I typically take (CIN-ALX), the price of a roomette is $189 for many of the dates. I've never seen a roomette that cheap on the Cardinal, so that can only mean that they've adjusted the bucket to account for the additional car.

My question is this: where did they suddenly get two additional cars to be able to do this? I get that they can schedule maintenance so that they have extra cars during holidays, but the additional sleepers appears to be much longer term than just a single holiday week.
Not through all of September, or so it seems. A few days ago, I booked (via AGR) the last roomette on the Cardinal from Chicago to Charlottesville on 9/16, and Amtrak's website is still showing no sleeper availability for that day. Seems unlikely that two sleeping cars on that route would sell out so far in advance.
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
After Labor Day traffic picks up on the Silvers, Lake Shore and Crescent Routes, so the Sleepers are needed there! The Card will get the equipment it needs when the new Viewliners come into service but just when is blowing in the wind!

Those that got low bucket rooms wwre lucky but the poor server/ cook/ bottle washer in the Diner-Lite was overwhelmed!
 
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neroden

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Remember, they did try to run the Lakeshore Limited with diner-lites a few years ago, and it was such a disaster that Amtrak was forced to refurbish the diners needed to fill the gap; bad service on a mainline LD just won't fly.
I remember it well. Service was actually good, and fast, and the meals were good, but the staff looked *physically ill*. They really didn't like trying to cook or serve in the diner-lite environment; it was painful and exhausting for them.
I tried to give large tips.
 
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City of Miami

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51 came through Charlottesville with one VL, 62033, the same one that went north on Wednesday. However, there were FOUR coaches in the now customary configuration. Lest I later start to doubt my eyes, I wrote down the numbers: 25004, 25048, 25049 & 25104. We'll see if they come back Sunday afternoon.

80 minutes later 50 came through with the expected 2 VLs, the same 2 that went west Wed. The whole consist was identical, power and everything. The difference was that the 5100 sleeper door did not open and I saw only one SCA. Perhaps the 5100 car functions like a trans/dorm, however before it did have its own attendant.

So I surmise from this brief pattern that there is one VL added to one consist of the Cardinal.
 

neroden

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I'm guessing that in some sense these are test runs trying out different equipment and OBS allocations for when the Viewliner IIs go into service. (Also squeezing out every dime of revenue they can, obviously.)
 

William W.

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Does anyone know what's up with today's Cardinal 50? It is over four hours late now, and hasn't even reached Rensselaer, IN yet.
 

lrdc9_metroplitan_sub

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The Cardinal/Hoosier State absolutely perplexes me ... many days it's on-time it within 30 minutes of it and then some times the whole system seems to falk apart and we get these massive delays prior to Indianapolis. If they could get these under control it seems they could solve most of the Cardinals reliability and OTE issues.

If this is, add it had been in the past occasionally, an issue with the crews or getting the train to the platform in Chicago on time, that would be totally inexcusable ... there are very few good reasons for Amtrak to be the primary cause of delays so often.
 

AmtrakBlue

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It left CHI 4+ hours late. Otherwise it has only lost about 30 mins.

I think every train left CHI late yesterday. There seemed to be an engine shortage.
 

City of Miami

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Today's Cardinal consists:

51 had the same consist that went north last Friday as 50, 2 VLs, but not the same cars.

50 had the exact same consist, 1 VL + 4 Amfleet coaches, that went to CHI Friday, except for the power: P42 104 which is very beat up and sad looking. This would seem to support AmtrakBlue's suggestion that lack of locomotives in CHI was the cause of the 4 hour departure delay. It was little over 5 hrs. late here.

All cars were in revenue service on both trains.
 

Thirdrail7

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51 came through Charlottesville with one VL, 62033, the same one that went north on Wednesday. However, there were FOUR coaches in the now customary configuration. Lest I later start to doubt my eyes, I wrote down the numbers: 25004, 25048, 25049 & 25104. We'll see if they come back Sunday afternoon.

80 minutes later 50 came through with the expected 2 VLs, the same 2 that went west Wed. The whole consist was identical, power and everything. The difference was that the 5100 sleeper door did not open and I saw only one SCA. Perhaps the 5100 car functions like a trans/dorm, however before it did have its own attendant.

So I surmise from this brief pattern that there is one VL added to one consist of the Cardinal.
If all goes according to plan, the second set should have its sleeper.

The second sleeper on the Cardinal has been running since the end of June and if all goes according to plan (and shop count allows) will likely last through August. They are on the head end of the train to assist with adding the local coaches to the rear at IND.
That does not explain why they have the third coach between the sleepers and the dining/cafe car. That is just baffling to me.
It is something they are trying that may or may not last long. It is being used as a buffer between the lounge and the sleepers. Thinking about it, this is the only train that has a sleeper without a diner as a buffer. We'll see how long this lasts.
 

William W.

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Messages
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Location
Arlington, VA
51 came through Charlottesville with one VL, 62033, the same one that went north on Wednesday. However, there were FOUR coaches in the now customary configuration. Lest I later start to doubt my eyes, I wrote down the numbers: 25004, 25048, 25049 & 25104. We'll see if they come back Sunday afternoon.

80 minutes later 50 came through with the expected 2 VLs, the same 2 that went west Wed. The whole consist was identical, power and everything. The difference was that the 5100 sleeper door did not open and I saw only one SCA. Perhaps the 5100 car functions like a trans/dorm, however before it did have its own attendant.

So I surmise from this brief pattern that there is one VL added to one consist of the Cardinal.
If all goes according to plan, the second set should have its sleeper.

The second sleeper on the Cardinal has been running since the end of June and if all goes according to plan (and shop count allows) will likely last through August. They are on the head end of the train to assist with adding the local coaches to the rear at IND.
That does not explain why they have the third coach between the sleepers and the dining/cafe car. That is just baffling to me.
It is something they are trying that may or may not last long. It is being used as a buffer between the lounge and the sleepers. Thinking about it, this is the only train that has a sleeper without a diner as a buffer. We'll see how long this lasts.
I'm not sure why it would need something like that. I've never seen coach passengers poking into the sleeping car. The OBS does a pretty good job at preventing that.

Plus, the last time I took it (and the first time that this consist appeared, as it happens), the "buffer" coach had pax in it.
 

neroden

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???? That doesn't make sense. Is the idea that people in the lounge will be loud and keep the sleeper passengers awake, while people in the coach won't be? Because my experience has been the reverse...
 
T

The WHISTLER

Guest
On our Cardinal trip from PHL to CHI on Sunday June 8th., the consist was the typical 6 cars with the sleeper at the rear. At IND the two Hoosier state cars were coupled on, which meant that the sleeper was now in the center of the train. The SCA thought that this was a terrible idea, because when this arrangement was used, the coach passengers walk through the sleeper and sometimes help themselves to the coffee and juice. Fortunately when we rose for breakfast, the two Hoosier state cars behind were empty. Since the passenger load was light, the conductor decided to board everyone at IND into the Cardinal coaches and the Hoosier state sat empty all the way to CHI. Tom the SCA was happy not having foot traffic through his sleeper.
 

City of Miami

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51 just went through Charlottesville approximately half an hour late. It had two sleepers and three coaches - and the cafe car is in its earlier position right behind the 5101 car. One of the sleepers was the same that went north on 50 last Sunday + a new one. The Amfleets were 3 or the 4 that were on 50 Sunday. So it looks like at Sunnyside they took off a coach [oddly, it was not the forward one by itself; they dropped the middle of the 3 rear ones], added a sleeper at the front behind the baggage car, and pushed it back together.

50 = 2 Sleepers and 3 coaches together with cafe between VLs & Amflts.
 
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