Pennsylvanian, Business Class and various questions

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Jennifer

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Hi I'm new here. I have never traveled on Amtrak (trains in Europe but not here) so I am a complete newbie. I will be traveling from Pittsburgh to Newark Penn Station and back again. Now I was going to buy a BC ticket but I have read that the "new" BC arrangements on this route are not great. However, I do value quiet and (hopefully) fewer people so I'm wondering if, for me, a BC ticket is still worthwhile. I am particularly interested in this in relation to the return trip. I gather from what I have read, "reserved" means very little. Is it really true that you can have a ticket and then have to stand? Or did I read that wrong? If that is the case, would a BC reservation stand me in better stead, particularly getting on at Newark?

TIA
 

uptheirons29

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First of all, hello :) and welcome to Amtrak Unlimited Forum.

Well, I have never been on that particular Amtrak route, but a similar train that I have taken here numerous train would be the Pacific Surfliner, and yes, having an unreserved coach class ticket on an Amtrak commuter or regional train means that your seats are not guaranteed and that you could be left without a seat if it is crowded enough.I've only gone through that once in my rides on the Surfliner. A business class ticket will guarantee you a seat, and could also get you additional perks such as more legroom, complimentary snacks and beverages, outlets, and newspaper. If you want to be in relative solitude on the train ride, I would highly suggest you book the business class section of that train.
 
J

Jennifer

Guest
What about a "reserved" coach seat? Would the same hold true? It would appear that on this route you have to reserve either a coach or business class seat, hence the question. Mind you, while I'm not particularly concerned about beverages etc, power points would be good, plus I understand that BC passengers get their own restroom (and frankly, I'm at the age where such things are worth paying for :D ).

Steve: so are the BC seats still better than the coach seats now? I have read a couple of trip reports here that indicate that since August, this route has gone to a 2-2 configuration.

I have a very basic question as well. This train starts at Pit so how early do they normally start boarding?
 
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The seat is reserved so Amtrak "shouldn't" over sell the train.

I just rode New York to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago in the new BC car frankly coach was just as quite and more comfortable then BC. The train wasn't really that full out of New York so if you got on in Newark you would have no problem getting a window seat in a long distance coach. Just a tip, when you board a car board a car that starts with a 2 (2xxx) as opposed to a car numbered 8xxx. The cars starting with 2 are the long distance coaches that give you an extremely generous amount of leg room, and have a leg/foot rest.
 

The Metropolitan

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I have to agree with Long Train Runnin' on this one, particularly if the BC Car has changed from the prior setup. The Long distance coaches he references with the 25xxx numbers are extremely comfortable and should give you all the leg room you'll ever need. Interestingly, the windows on these "coach" cars are actually a bit LARGER than those on the premium "business class" car, offering a nicer view if you care to take in the scenery.

All things considered, I wouldn't plunk down $52 extra r/t just for the privlege of being able to say you rode "BC" and got a couple of beverages. I've ridden the Penny in both b/c and coach, and don't remember the coach trips being too noisy for my tastes (I cherish quiet too). You might be less likely to be near a crying baby in BC but more likely to be near an obnoxious cellyphone yapper.
 
J

Jennifer

Guest
Thank you all. That info about the 25** cars is just the sort of info a newbie needs. I'll give coach a whirl (hey it can't be any worse than being stuck in coach on a transatlantic flight).
 

The Metropolitan

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Coach on Amtrak is pretty much a far better experience on Amtrak.

I've ridden the Pennsy at least 6 times, once in BC. I've always viewed it as pleasant, scenic, and quite dependable. I hope you find it to be the same.

As much as I cherish quiet, I also don't like wasting money. At present, there are probably three or four trains that I'd readily spend the money for a BC Upgrade if I was going most of their distance: Carolinan, Vermonter, Downeaster, or overnight Regionals 66/67. Pretty much anything else I'm content with Coach.
 
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One other little note I thought of when you board in Newark all the seats will be facing opposite of the direction of travel. Don't worry it won't be that way for the whole trip! You switch engines and travel the other way all the way to Pittsburgh.
 
J

Jennifer

Guest
I know this is going to sound seriously pathetic, but bear in mind this is an entirely new experience for me, but what is the procedure for boarding? Both in Pittsburgh and at Newark. I mean, are you responsible for finding the "right" car, are you guided or what? Bear in mind I'm from the UK originally and that is how I expect trains to work - if you're in the wrong car when you get on, you simply walk to the correct car but it sounds a bit different here.

Can I just say: I've read all the threads on the forum that relate to newbie train travelers, but they really aren't, for the most part, sufficiently basic for a real newbie. :D Oh and nowhere did I see the tip about 25*** cars so someone might what to add that.: )
 

The Metropolitan

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When I last took the Pennsylvanian, I seem to recall Conductors asking where people were heading and directing them to an appropriate car for their destination. They tend to do this mostly to be able to spot the train at smaller stations and have the people in that car be right near the exit. This also tends to help boarding customers have less space to walk to find an open seat.

Seating is generally open. If the train is heavily sold (more likely on weekends vs weekdays), the Conductor may assign you a seat next to a stranger to keep pairs open for those travelling together, though I don't recall this ever happening on this particular route, and I've caught it at least twice when sold out.

I've never boarded #43 in Newark but would expect your train would be called and the Conductors on the train might direct you towards the appropriate car.
 

p&sr

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Bear in mind I'm from the UK originally and that is how I expect trains to work - if you're in the wrong car when you get on, you simply walk to the correct car but it sounds a bit different here.
It really is as simple at that. Since there are no Sleeping Cars on this Train, you can board at any car and then walk inside the train to any other car. Your "reserved coach" ticket is good for any coach car, that is, any car except Business Class. For a Business Class Ticket, the Train Crew will direct you to the proper car.

If the Train Crew prefers for you to sit in some specific car (based on your destination), they will tell you as you board.
 
J

Jennifer

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OK - it's clear I'm over-thinking this. Thanks to everyone for laying out the procedure for me.
 

ALC Rail Writer

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I don't know what the "new" arrangement you're referring to is-- it hasn't changed and I ride it RT from PGH to NYP every two months or so...

BC is comfortable 2-1 seating with space in between you and your partner and DEF. worth the extra money. As much as Stephen and I agree on a lot of things, we disagree on this--

1. While they usually try and make sure that long-distance pax are put in the long-distance coaches there is one short-haul (corridor) coach that serves as the last car on the Penny. TWICE out of PGH I have been seated in that car... it can be a full train and have few opportunities to change seats.

2. Like I said above, it can be a very full train, which means you'll be sharing your car with another sixty or so people, and only two bathrooms. In BC you and only 17 other people share 1/3 of the car and one bathroom and private luggage rack. It is usually much quieter if the train is full.

3. The café car and BC car are one and the same, so you don't have to "train surf" from one end of the train to the other if you want some grub, it's just ten feet behind you.

4. Unlike other routes, drinks are unlimited and the attendants I know make an effort to put the soda cans in a spare freezer if they have one. There was one awhile back who limited it (he's gone, he may have been a temp replacement) but even then you could have one out of NYP, one after PHL, and one after HAR.
 

Eric S

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I don't know what the "new" arrangement you're referring to is-- it hasn't changed and I ride it RT from PGH to NYP every two months or so...

BC is comfortable 2-1 seating with space in between you and your partner and DEF. worth the extra money. As much as Stephen and I agree on a lot of things, we disagree on this--
I rode the Pennsylvanian PGH-PHL August 9, and it was still the 2-1 seating half business class/half cafe car. But there have been many indications (sightings posted on this board, and elsewhere) that Amtrak may have changed to the NEC 2-2 seating full business car plus full cafe car on the Pennsylvanian.
 

ALC Rail Writer

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Never heard or seen that, and I rode the Penny two weeks ago myself. I don't see any reason to do this.

I did just look it up on YouTube and saw conflicting spotter videos, there's a couple with the "new" arrangement but most aren't.

Then I forgot about this when I found this piece of sugar:


No wonder the freights got POed at Amtrak for hauling freight on their lines :p
 

Eric S

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Never heard or seen that, and I rode the Penny two weeks ago myself. I don't see any reason to do this.

I did just look it up on YouTube and saw conflicting spotter videos, there's a couple with the "new" arrangement but most aren't.

Then I forgot about this when I found this piece of sugar:

Perhaps it's hit-or-miss right now with the type of business class on the Pennsylvanian. Guess that's just more of a reason to go ride it again fairly soon.

I never had the fortune/misfortune to ride the incarnation of the Pennsylvanian shown in that video. I did, however, ride the fairly mail-and-express-laiden Three Rivers around 2000 or 2001.
 

ALC Rail Writer

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I don't see why they would change it-- as stated above it makes no sense. People who pay for BC are actually getting inferior seats to the LD coaches. Amtrak won't stand to make more money as they now have to haul another coach, even if they could fill it up. It could have been a bad-ordered car, which would mean the Penny would have it for at least two days, one trip to PGH and one back. There aren't many of these cars running around but they could find a spare if they needed to the next day...
 

arrow3

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I don't see why they would change it-- as stated above it makes no sense. People who pay for BC are actually getting inferior seats to the LD coaches. Amtrak won't stand to make more money as they now have to haul another coach, even if they could fill it up. It could have been a bad-ordered car, which would mean the Penny would have it for at least two days, one trip to PGH and one back. There aren't many of these cars running around but they could find a spare if they needed to the next day...
That's what I was thinking too. The Amfleet I business class cars have worse seating than the Amfleet II coach cars have. I was on the Pennsylvanian about 2 years ago NYP to PGH in business class and I can definitely say that it was money well spent to relax in the "old" business class (1/2 cafe) car.
 
J

Jennifer

Guest
There - I'm now more confused than I was. I don't know if this is indicative of anything but I've just checked on Amtrak and no PGH - NYP is sold out in BC for the next two weeks, and if they were still using that 2-1 car would you not expect that it would be?

Decisions decisions.
 
J

Jennifer

Guest
Yes, that was my point - I would have expected to see that train sold out in BC at least a few times in the next couple of weeks if it had only 18 BC seats and it isn't, which leads me to believe that they are using the bigger BC car.
 
J

jennifer

Guest
Just closing out the thread for future reference.

Yes it was the "new" business configuration, which made me relieved that I hadn't spent the extra money. For people who don't know: sit on the right side of the train out of PGH if you want to see horseshoe curve (I didn't). Having said that, I saw a a lot of herons from the left side so that was good. Also, the coach carriages have two power sockets at each seat, so that was useful as well. Coffee PGH to Newark was awful, but not so bad coming back so no conclusions one way or the other.
 

BigRedEO

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I don't know what the "new" arrangement you're referring to is-- it hasn't changed and I ride it RT from PGH to NYP every two months or so...

BC is comfortable 2-1 seating with space in between you and your partner and DEF. worth the extra money. As much as Stephen and I agree on a lot of things, we disagree on this--
Not sure when you last rode it. I rode it in June (PGH to TRE and back) and it was the 2-1 seating, but when I rode it at the end of August (PGH to NYP and back), it was a 60 seat 2-2 setup. The Cafe Car was separate. But both going to NYP and back, there were never more than about 30 people in BC, so everyone had 2 seats to themselves, unless they were in a group of 2 or more. And it was very quiet - except for one kid who was watching some movie on a little hand-held device without headphones when we first left PGH, until the conductor told him he couldn't.

I was told the 2-2 setup was staying by several employees.
 
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