Pacific Parlour Car Permanently Retired February 2018

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zephyr17

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I do like how they justified it as part of "fleet modernization" considering they have no real modernization plans for the Superliner long distance fleet.

However, I have that thought that the PPCs have been on borrowed time for a long time, so I am not at all surprised. I also read into the "...Amtrak is reviewing amenities..." note that the amenities are gone, they are really not contemplating using Diner-Lounges or SSLs to provide PPC service. "Review" in many circumstances is a euphamism for "quietly let die". The Starlight will become just another standard Superliner LD.

Thank you, Brian Rosenwald, for creating it. It was great while it lasted.
 
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cpotisch

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I do like how they justified it as part of "fleet modernization" considering they have no real modernization plans for the Superliner long distance fleet.

However, I have that thought that the PPCs have been on borrowed time for a long time, so I am not at all surprised. I also read into the "...Amtrak is reviewing amenities..." note that the amenities are gone, they are really not contemplating using Diner-Lounges or SSLs to provide PPC service. "Review" in many circumstances is a euphamism for "quietly let die". The Starlight will become just another standard Superliner LD.

Thank you, Brian Rosenwald. It was great while it lasted.
However, if the reason for PPC retirement is maintenance of the equipment, then I don’t see why Amtrak would want to ditch the CS first class lounge altogether. An unstaffed CCC or SSL would cost them nothing but diesel.

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crescent-zephyr

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GML "I doubt an extra $50 per passenger revenue would come close to making the car have a positive return on investment."

What does it cost then? I was actually saying $50 per room... Which would be $1,000 per sold out sleeper. Since rooms can be sold multiple times... That's $2-3,000 per trip. If a car makes 2 trips a week that's $312,000 per year.

I thought I was pretty clear that I wasn't saying that service had to be the heritage hi-levels. I was arguing the finances of having the service.
 

zephyr17

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I do like how they justified it as part of "fleet modernization" considering they have no real modernization plans for the Superliner long distance fleet.

However, I have that thought that the PPCs have been on borrowed time for a long time, so I am not at all surprised. I also read into the "...Amtrak is reviewing amenities..." note that the amenities are gone, they are really not contemplating using Diner-Lounges or SSLs to provide PPC service. "Review" in many circumstances is a euphamism for "quietly let die". The Starlight will become just another standard Superliner LD.

Thank you, Brian Rosenwald. It was great while it lasted.
However, if the reason for PPC retirement is maintenance of the equipment, then I don’t see why Amtrak would want to ditch the CS first class lounge altogether. An unstaffed CCC or SSL would cost them nothing but diesel.

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There are still costs associated with keeping those cars available in a dedicated pool. Now the Starlight becomes just another standard Superliner consist requiring no dedicated equipment at all. Not really defending it, but I can definitely see the management reasoning for it. Besides, Amtrak management really doesn't give a lusty crap about anything outside the NEC anyway.

I'll miss them, I loved those things. But, as I said, I've been expecting it for a long time. I'll keep riding the Starlight, because it serves where I live and it goes where I want to go. For a better train riding experience than run-of-the-mill Amtrak, the Canadian is easily accessible for me. I like domes better than a Hi-Level lounge anyway. Plus there's all that "extra" time on board Via is providing these days, courtesy of CN...
 
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Anderson

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I'm not sure some people get the concept of trying to maintain a 62-year-old antique in revenue service like this, especially as things break and super-special customized parts have to be fabricated every time something does. Rail cars being operated in regular service the way these were do NOT last for ever. I doubt an extra $50 per passenger revenue would come close to making the car have a positive return on investment. Heck, $50 a day is about the revenue sleeper passengers would bring in at menu prices for a dining car, and those still don't make a profit.

The way this happened suddenly, after Anderson (CEO) made comments about no intention for amenity cuts for sleeping passengers, I'm going to guess that the budget for keeping these cars on the road for another year came across his desk and he had a cow.
Which is, pardon the phrase, no way to run a railroad. Turning around and demanding that the cars be cut basically overnight, with no plan coming out, really rankles (especially since IIRC two of them had already been overhauled and were likely still usable at least for the 2018 season). Had they announced that the reduced schedule would continue through the end of the year, with an extra CCC-or-something filling the role during the summer for other dates? We'd grumble, but there's grumbling and there's looking at the train and getting a really bad feeling on issues with cutting the added space, etc.
 
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This always happens to me. Our first Amtrak trip was in a roomette. We were expecting a diner car. A few months after we booked the trip they said they were doing a trial of discontinuing the diner car from this train. We have taken several other trips with diner car since then. We were finalizing our trip today for the Fall on the Coast Starlight, and very much looking forward to the Parlor car. So sad we will miss this.
 

flitcraft

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Ironic that this past Monday, I got an email from Amtrak responding (after several weeks!) to my inquiry about when the PPC's would be back permanently. The email said:

"The Pacific Parlour Cars will return to the Coast Starlight beginning Thursday, March 15, 2018. We hope this is helpful. "

Immensely.

Incidentally, I still haven't gotten an email concerning my March booked CS regarding the elimination of the PPC. Notwithstanding my specific inquiry.
 

Thirdrail7

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There's a lot to tackle in this thread so we'll take it in no particular order.

You may want too keep those comments to yourself, about employees showing you confidential documents... It could cost someone their job.

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Seriously? And how is my post going to cost someone their job when I don't (and would NEVER) give out the names of said employees... doesn't make any sense. Get a life.
Were someone in management to take in interest, it probably wouldn't be that hard to figure out.

We get it, you're deeply hurt by Amtrak taking your toys away, but telling an employee to "get a life" when they express a concern about fellow employees should be beneath you.
Yep, "management" is going to be able to figure out which out of thousands of ticket agents called me on my personal cell phone from their personal cell phone to tell me the news... Seriously?

Maybe Whooz' favorite secret agent Patrick Lynch will be put on this one... (anyone remember those posts!)
Rtabern, you can afford to have a cavalier attitude because you have nothing to lose. While it is true that they may never be able to find your source (if they even bothered to search), it still puts the rest of the people under the gun. I know for a fact the previous regime had a corporate presence on TO and Railroad.net. Letters were sent to the employees homes about posting information found on the INTERNAL intranet. Termination is possible if the IG got involved. I don't know what would happen if the IG or law enforcement demanded the identity of an employee on this board but it hardly seems worth it. That is why so many former employees have vanished over the last couple of years. While I'd like to think the current regime isn't as obsessed with privacy and images, the policy still stands (and if you're an employee that hasn't seen it for some reason, send a PM so you can see exactly what you're up against.).

So, Rtabern, if someone tells you something from an internal source, perhaps you should take a cue from people that "drop hints' *cough cough*, say nothing until it becomes public (like Anderson) instead of blurting out that people are showing things you aren't supposed to see. Such an act has the potential to put this board under the watch as well and even if it doesn't, the other side affect is information that was previously easy to find has been buried under levels of clearance or in some cases, has been removed from the intranet. This doesn't help anyone.

That being said, I think we are seeing the previous discussed concepts from the Greenville, SC (GRV) to be Unstaffed Effective June 15, 2017. Notably:

I noticed one thing about the previous regime. While they lobbied Congress for support, you rarely saw them approach them for additional funds between appropriations. You rarely saw them saying 'if we don't cash now, we'll have to shut down this or that." As such, something has to give. Even though Amtrak has managed to find funds for certain things, each year is costs more and more to accomplish the same things. Each day, the cars grow older and require more (specialized) maintenance. Each year, the ties grow older and more costly to maintain. Each year, the P-32AC/DMs get older and since GE stopped making parts for them, they become more expensive to maintain and repair. Each year, the tunnels and infrastructure surrounding NYP grow older with more trains operating on them ever. Yet, funds are flat.

What to do?

One of the easiest targets is labor. How much are you getting for the labor that you are providing? While I agree that some of these cuts will definitely impact ridership, the people making these decisions are looking at it from a cost center point of view. Period. It is easy for them since they are not actually passengers. Additionally, you'll find that most rail providers aren't top heavy with actual railroaders. They are top heavy with employees with financial backgrounds, focused on the bottom line. That doesn't necessarily make them bad railroaders but it does mean they may not understand "the product." During the last years of the Boardman tenure, you saw an influx of airline employees moving into key positions. They still think like airline employees and it shows. They were also fixated on the short to medium distance passengers and a lot of the policies show it. However, they were given a mandate:" this is the money you have...work with it and see how we can survive. " As such, they may not even be interested in what the product "was" or "could be" and may go with "this is all it is going to be or we'll run out of money."The vision lurches from year to year based upon the funds granted. That is no way to run a railroad.
Unfortunately, the long distance traveler may be the victim when it comes time to the budget. Rtabern's letter spells it out in spades. What is the cost? What "provable" revenue does it generate? I don't know why these cars need so much maintenance but assuming it isn't a ploy, would we rather spend money on these cars or the engines that pull them?

Personally, I think it is a mistake to whittle away at the amenities. This was done before and it didn't work out. Trains don't have an advantage of speed like a plane nor do they have the cost structure of a bus. So, what exactly is Amtrak bringing to the table? It should be something memorable to justify the costs. It should be something to bring you back. It should be something to make you say "do you remember that time?" Otherwise, what is the point? If you wanted to ride a bus on steel wheels, then you might as well ride an actual bus.

Maybe Tricia is right! As Amtrak continues to cut station personnel, maybe they should mothball the new baggage cars as well. How much revenue are they generating?


I think I will continue the rest of my rant in the CEO thread.
 
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Thirdrail7

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The show is indeed over as indicated. Its time. For what the cars and offerings are today its a highly overrated experience. The goal is to reduce expenses and car miles. If the parlour cars have to be the sacrifice to make the financials of the Coast Starlight better, so be it.
This may be true but it doesn't answer why. It didn't have to be an overrated experience based upon the offerings. Someone CHOSE to take everything that made that car special and lobbed it right in the budget cut bin! Now, that may have been because someone decided it wasn't worth it, but that was a choice. The same can be said for the Auto Pain. The cuts have eliminated the perks and the riders have noticed. Sure, you can blame OTP but it's not like that train had the best OTP prior to the cuts. The difference is the passengers felt like they were getting something for their money. They weren't just getting transportation. They were getting a trip.

I can respect that there are real issues with skinny budgets and deteriorating assets, but it takes money to make money. Not everything should be measured in direct revenue generation particularly if you have no way to definitely track it (like checked baggage) because what's the plan if this causes more bleeding?
 

Thirdrail7

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The way this happened suddenly, after Anderson (CEO) made comments about no intention for amenity cuts for sleeping passengers, I'm going to guess that the budget for keeping these cars on the road for another year came across his desk and he had a cow.
It "probably" has more to do with him riding the train, seeing it in person and deciding the money to preserve these cars was better spent on other things. Hell, maybe you can all pitch in and buy them.


Too bad they won;t fir in electrified territory. There were some AEM-7s for sale too! You could have a whole train!
 
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neroden

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Thought this might be worthy of a new thread.

The PPCs are being retired from service. The last northbound trip from LAX will be on Friday, February 2 returning from SEA on February 4. Nothing was mentioned about a separate First Class Lounge continuing or not in place of the PPC.

With the last of the Heritage Diners quickly making their way to the exits as well, 2018 will mark the end of a very long era.
I am not surprised at this.

I'm glad I managed to experience a PPC a couple of months ago when I went to Seattle & Portland to see the Tacoma Narrows route before the train moved to the Point Defiance Bypass. I thought it was my last chance at the Narrows... turned out it was the last chance at the PPC.

Despite riding the Coast Starlight many times before, the PPC had *always* been broken and replaced with a Sightseer Lounge on my previous trips, year after year... so it was obvious to me that they were barely holding on. I'm surprised they lasted this long.
 

neroden

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Is the amenity of a separate lounge space for sleeper passengers actually being removed from the Coast Starlight, or just the Hi-level equipment? Previously, plans from Amtrak indicated the Parlor Cars would be replaced by (remodeled/rebuilt) Cross Country Cafe diner-lounge cars (but this also wasn't supposed to happen for a few years). Presumably, plans have changed.

So, the very last Heritage cars on Amtrak are finally at an end. Had anyone suggested in 1971 or even the early 80's that some of these cars would be operating into 2018, you'd have been laughed right off the railroad. Quite a remarkable achievement (about seventy years of service for some diners). Other than company service cars, I have to wonder when the last Heritage baggage cars will finally be withdrawn (axle count service).
The announcement wasn't specific regarding the actual lounge amenity, just that the Heritage PPCs are being retired due to age and cost. I certainly hope the separate lounge space continues for First Class guests, but we shall have to wait and see.
I'm going to make an educated guess that the separate lounge will be available during the busy season. That's the primary reason for the PPC -- in the busy season the regular lounge is overcrowded and the regular dining car is overbooked, so the separate lounge takes the pressure off. A number of reports were saying that they needed one on the Empire Builder in busy season too. They may not have a separate lounge in the winter low season.
 

neroden

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I find it funny Canadians are majorly griping about the prestige class, and the addition to them getting private park car access almost the entire day. Yet people here seem to think it's a great thing.

I'm going to take a NARP/RPA viewpoint for once and say trains are for modern transportation not to be seen as vintage or as a cruise. That's what's going to be the Canadian's downfall it's slipped from intercity passenger travel to foreign tourists taking a land cruise.
I've said this repeatedly, but anything less than daily service is unusable. The Canadian has slipped from daily, to four a week, to three a week, to two a week in the low season... what's next, one a week? There's basically no way I can use it. I've got a very flexible schedule but I cannot make it work.
 

neroden

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While I do plan on doing that, it's hard to take foreign trains for transportation when I need to travel in the USA... Even when I took the Canadian, I still needed to get from NYC to the west coast... I just took a route that was a bit out of the way ha.
These days for most of my US trips I drive or fly. Amtrak timekeeping is not dependable enough for most of my trips and in many ways has become little more than a nostalgic (and expensive) joyride at this point. I live fifteen minutes away from an airport with nonstop flights to every major hub, two hours away from an airport with nonstop flights to every major metro, and three hours away from an airport that has nonstop flights to virtually every commercial airport of statistical relevance. So maybe it's time to complete your journey to the dark side. It's faster and easier and sometimes they even serve cookies! But on more serious note, once you're done mourning the loss of the PPC you might want to consider making time and money available for a few joyrides in other countries. Foreign HSR is here to stay and growing rapidly, but foreign sleeper trains are disappearing quickly and will soon be relegated to the history books.
There are a lot of sleeper trains going away in Europe, and if you want to experience them, do it now. But I don't think sleeper service as a whole is going away. It seems to be alive and well in both China and Russia, both of which have some *very* long train routes; China actually has HSR sleepers, and I doubt the Trans-Siberian sleepers will ever go away. The main thing which happened in Europe is that HSR makes Western European trips too quick to make sense as sleeper routes. They're just about long enough if you go from one side of Germany to the other, but Deutsche Bahn didn't want to run sleeper service for the benefit of people travelling from one non-German location to another non-German location; they dropped their sleeper trains but Austria promptly picked up most of them, because Vienna is one of the primary beneficiaries of the routes.
 

neroden

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As for the actual retirement, I do think Amtrak missed an opportunity for some extra revenue and do a proper send-off. Given that they have at least a couple of good cars left, they could have done something akin to the UA 747 retirement, even if only announced a month or two in advance. Have a special "last train" celebration. Heck, maybe even run them on the SW Chief (as a nod to their ATSF) heritage, en route to Beech Grove (if that's where they're going to go in retirement).
Doing this as an advertised special -- PPC from LA to Chicago, five days only! -- would definitely raise some extra cash! Why not?

They have to be "good to roll" to get them from LA to Chicago. Why not make them a special, advertised, extra-cost amenity for five days (five SWC departures)?
 
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neroden

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The worst part is the idea that the very busy New York/ Chicago Lakeshore has or had, a awful lounge consisting of an old Amfleet dinner with little to no upgrade to make it seem the least appealing.
The LSL situation is, indeed, terrible. I did a lot of calculation at one time :) and figured out that the LSL has the most profitable sleeper cars in the system -- apparently it attracts the least price-sensitive clientele. It's also documented to have the largest coach passenger usage of the dining car of all the trains.

This is a train where a nice lounge and a decent dining car *will* bring in revenue. But the idiots at Amtrak who don't know how to count beans have left it without even a proper dining car for years on end.
 

Chey

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For what it is worth, I have already booked three trips(February, April, June) using portions or all of the Coast Starlight route in 2018 in roomette on each trip. No consideration was given to whether the PPC would be available. I did use it for meals last June on a trip LAX to Portland but literally froze and wore a light weight coat while eating in the PPC. I would not repeat that experience even if offered. The Coast Starlight is only third in my favorite LD routes. California Zephyr is number one and Empire Builder is number two. I always find adequate space available when passing through the sightseer lounge on those two trains but admit I don't travel in peak seasons.
It may sound like heresy to some, but even though I liked my two experiences with the PPC, I'd take the Surfliner business class over the CS with the PPC in a heartbeat, any day, if only it went to SJC.
 

Ryan

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TR7 pointed out that the operative word in your post was “unstaffed”, since the PPC obviously wasn’t unstaffed.

My poor joke was picking an obviously wrong operative word, but I guess that’s only funny if you understood the point he was making.
 
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