Revival of Night Owl/Twilight Shoreliner

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BlackDiamond

Streetcar Motorman
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
2,214
Location
The Slate Belt
At one time Amtrak had a decent overnight service on the NEC between Boston, New York and Washington with amenities for sleeper passengers, a lounge and cafe service, and comfortable A2 coach seating. There was also a New York sleeper that could be boarded early or disembarked late that was added/ removed from the train during the night.

This all went away at some point even though it was popular as I understand it. They did half heartedly revive the sleeper for a while then discontinued it again during COVID.

I'm wondering given the riding popularity of overnight sleepers in Europe with operations such as NightJet, if it is time again to try offering a real overnight sleeper service on the NEC, not just a token tack a sleeper on a regional but a true effort to create and market something that would attract people. Bring back the New York sleeper that can be occupied at 10 pm southbound or occupied until 8 am northbound. You wouldn't need much food service, just a cafe open in the evening and early morning plus maybe complimentary continental breakfast for sleeper passengers as they do in Europe.

It would run Boston/New York to Washington and return. Could consider extending it to Richmond, beyond that it becomes more of a day train. Ideally you could get as far as Charlotte to tap the research triangle but would need faster track to make that practical, perhaps if and when SEHSR happens.

I realize equipment is an issue especially once Airo takes over, this train would probably need Venture cars plus Viewliner sleepers thereby being an oddball in the NEC equipment pool.
 
Some practical issues is bridge work that preventing night traffic into NYP from Boston.

Additional issues would be drop and hook rail cars at various locations.

The last major issue would be a weird sorting of train end points past Washington. Which would be an operation pattern that could be change to service Charlotte. However train paths south of Washington are heavily subsidized which adds another level of complexity.

I am not sure if we can do a NightJet setup but definitely would be interested in a night service originally Boston and NYP ending south of Washington at a location such as Charlotte.
 
At one time Amtrak had a decent overnight service on the NEC between Boston, New York and Washington with amenities for sleeper passengers, a lounge and cafe service, and comfortable A2 coach seating. There was also a New York sleeper that could be boarded early or disembarked late that was added/ removed from the train during the night.

This all went away at some point even though it was popular as I understand it. They did half heartedly revive the sleeper for a while then discontinued it again during COVID.

I'm wondering given the riding popularity of overnight sleepers in Europe with operations such as NightJet, if it is time again to try offering a real overnight sleeper service on the NEC, not just a token tack a sleeper on a regional but a true effort to create and market something that would attract people. Bring back the New York sleeper that can be occupied at 10 pm southbound or occupied until 8 am northbound. You wouldn't need much food service, just a cafe open in the evening and early morning plus maybe complimentary continental breakfast for sleeper passengers as they do in Europe.

It would run Boston/New York to Washington and return. Could consider extending it to Richmond, beyond that it becomes more of a day train. Ideally you could get as far as Charlotte to tap the research triangle but would need faster track to make that practical, perhaps if and when SEHSR happens.

I realize equipment is an issue especially once Airo takes over, this train would probably need Venture cars plus Viewliner sleepers thereby being an oddball in the NEC equipment pool.
To be clear, Amtrak revived sleeper service between Boston and DC after COVID. There are numerous videos on YouTube detailing the service. I have no idea why the service was withdrawn but I’m sure Amtrak has some unfulfilling excuse as to why they no longer operate the sleeper.

As for the different end points argument that is only an issue because Amtrak allows it to be. Every single train that travels south of DC does an engine change. Simply make the sleeper the first car in the consist and cut it and add it with the sleeper. Shouldn’t be any different than the engine change IMO. If there was the will Amtrak would find a way.
 
The original Night Owl (and its predecessor, the Federal) only went between Boston and Washington. Once the bridge work is done, I suspect trains 65/66/67 will go back to providing this service on a more reasonable schedule. I rode that train quite a bit during the era 2008 and 2018, and it was pretty well patronized. Of course, back then, it didn't have a sleeper. I usually sprung for business class in order to get the deeper recline and window curtains, which were very helpful in blocking outside lights that disturbed my sleep.

Getting a sleeper back on the train WAS-BOS shouldn't be a problem, even if the northbound and southbound trains have different end points in Virginia, the sleepers can be dropped and hooked up in Washington as needed. This might even allow for early occupancy in Washington for 66 and allow people in the sleepers on 65/67 to sleep a bit longer upon their early arrival in Washington.
In the early 200s and 1990s, the train went to Newport News with the sleeper. I'm not sure whether the train was state-funded or not, though it seems like if one wants to extend the sleeper, the easiest thing to do would be to make 65/66/67 originate and end in the same place.
 
I would love it if a sleeper on 66/67 ran through to and from Roanoke. But the main market is between Boston and Washington. The sleeper that ran on the Night Owl between those points was always well used, and I rode it quite a few times in the '80s and '90s, especially on 66 from NJ/PA to Boston. I remember reading at the time that Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court justice who retired a couple of years ago, took the Night Owl sleeper from Boston to Washington on his way to be interviewed for his appointment to the court in the '90s.

After the Twilight Shoreliner began running on an earlier schedule with a sleeper to Newport News, we took it once in the summer of 1997 from New York (leaving about 1:30 a.m.) in one of the new Viewliner roomettes to Richmond. The Metropolitan Lounge stayed open till we boarded. Almost everyone in the car detrained when it arrived into Washington about 6 a.m. After a long stop in DC, we arrived at Richmond about 9. I think there was maybe one other room occupied south of Washington.
 
Revenue wise I do wish that the Night Owl could have sleepers. It is short mileage and high fares. However, there are several items that make it not feasible in the future for at least 8 years.
1. The closure of the Hell Gate section every night delays train # 66 and the preceding Acela until ~ 05:30 unless they take a longer delay arriving BIS ~10:00. These closures may go as long as the next three years?
2. Sleeper equipment to completely cover the night owl would require 6 sleepers and at least 1 spare.
3. There is going to be further demand for single level sleepers very soon.
a. If the Capitol goes single level then at least 3 single level sleepers will be needed.
b. A daily Cardinal will need another 2 sleepers
c. The Crescent and Silvers need another sleeper for 12 train sets = 12 additional.
d. The DFW - Meridian - and to who knows where train, is going to need more single level sleepers. ( 4 - 6 ?).
4. Where is Amtrak going to get more single level sleepers? CAF, very unlikely? Siemens? maybe as part of the Airo order or separate number. Siemens design, approval, and finally construction maybe 6 - 7 years?
5. Passenger demand? a very unknown although with constrained airplane seats because of Boeing troubles suspect demand will outstrip availability for at least 10 years.
6. Amtrak management's attitude about LD trains in the east.
7. Political interference, a very likely happening that can affect all the above.
 
2. Sleeper equipment to completely cover the night owl would require 6 sleepers and at least 1 spare.
It requires 3 Sleepers and no dedicated spares. The spare pool in the Northeast is enough to cover it.

If the Sleeper can be dropped in Washington then it requires just two. There is good reason to drop off at Washington since occupancy has been abysmal south of Washington. Just stick the Sleeper next to the loco, and take it off or put it on with the Electric Loco.
 
It requires 3 Sleepers and no dedicated spares. The spare pool in the Northeast is enough to cover it.

If the Sleeper can be dropped in Washington then it requires just two. There is good reason to drop off at Washington since occupancy has been abysmal south of Washington. Just stick the Sleeper next to the loco, and take it off or put it on with the Electric Loco.
I figure a sleeper WAS - BOS, WAS - NYP. & NYP - BOS = 3 and another 3 the other direction. That totals to 6? Used 1 spare due to Amtrak's 20% system wide spares.
 
I figure a sleeper WAS - BOS, WAS - NYP. & NYP - BOS = 3 and another 3 the other direction. That totals to 6? Used 1 spare due to Amtrak's 20% system wide spares.
It won't happen. Not in our lifetime. But one can dream I suppose.

I think it is quite possible that a single Sleeper may be restored on the Night Owl or as it is known today 65/66/67. This train allegedly is not slated to get Airo sets assigned to it, so it is possible that it will operate more as an LD train perhaps even under the LD BU with a further extended run south of Washington DC. IMHO that scenario is more likely than having separate Sleeper cars for each significant city pair.
 
It won't happen. Not in our lifetime. But one can dream I suppose.

I think it is quite possible that a single Sleeper may be restored on the Night Owl or as it is known today 65/66/67.
Have to agree. The lack of sleepers goes back to the decisions not to reequip the Heritage sleepers. Also not ordering 100 V-1 sleepers or not initiating the options for V-2 sleepers. I have often wondered if Amtrak had the same belief that Europe had that sleeper travel was dying out. It does seem to be Amtrak is still having that belief and only thinking the present sleeper traffic is an aberration??
 
Have to agree. The lack of sleepers goes back to the decisions not to reequip the Heritage sleepers. Also not ordering 100 V-1 sleepers or not initiating the options for V-2 sleepers. I have often wondered if Amtrak had the same belief that Europe had that sleeper travel was dying out. It does seem to be Amtrak is still having that belief and only thinking the present sleeper traffic is an aberration??
Actually the intended order was for 100, but then Congress cut funding so the actually placed order was for 50. So strictly speaking it is Congress that decided there should be fewer Sleepers, not Amtrak. But that is a matter to discuss on some other thread some other day, and stick to 65/66/67 here.
 
One of Amtrak's goals should be to maximize equipment utilization. It is not efficient to have a whole train or even just a few cars (sleepers) sit idle all day and only be used for an overnight run. To this end, when 65 / 66 / 67 last ran, the southern endpoint and start point of the overnight trains were different (Roanoke and Norfolk?). The overnight consists rotated to other day trains, and had no special cars.
 
One of Amtrak's goals should be to maximize equipment utilization. It is not efficient to have a whole train or even just a few cars (sleepers) sit idle all day and only be used for an overnight run. To this end, when 65 / 66 / 67 last ran, the southern endpoint and start point of the overnight trains were different (Roanoke and Norfolk?). The overnight consists rotated to other day trains, and had no special cars.
I would have thought it is inherently more rational to use infrastructure counter-cyclically. So if maintenance shops for example are working night shifts to turn around day trains for the next day, having a night train serviced during daytime hours is merely creaming off otherwise unused capacity.
 
I would have thought it is inherently more rational to use infrastructure counter-cyclically. So if maintenance shops for example are working night shifts to turn around day trains for the next day, having a night train serviced during daytime hours is merely creaming off otherwise unused capacity.
That is more or less exactly what Indian Railways does at major terminal servicing coach yards. Overnight Rajdhani and Durontos get serviced in daytime while daytime Shatabdis and Vande Bharats get serviced at night time.
 
I would have thought it is inherently more rational to use infrastructure counter-cyclically. So if maintenance shops for example are working night shifts to turn around day trains for the next day, having a night train serviced during daytime hours is merely creaming off otherwise unused capacity.
This was pre-Amtrak common practice. Given the cost of hotel rooms in NYC a moderately to well advertised drop off sleeper in Penn Station should consistently be full, particularly from the south. Could possible do well from both directions. As to the Hell Gate Bridge work, that is going to come to an end at some point, preferably soon. Say open to occupancy until 8:00am, and available around 8:00pm. The last may seem early, but after finishing your business day and having supper, what are you going to do? Relax in your space, do work, watch something or play games on your computer, or simply take the opportunity to sack out early.
 
Thanks Willbridge for the brochure. I also thought it was a nice advertisement for the train to have it listed as the first and last service of the day on a timetable.
That sort of first and last listing is helpful, but not always done where it should be.

I rode that train from Boston to Washington in an Amfleet-1 coach once, in 1987. It was an emergency, but it made a good Rail Travel News story. The Army was using it for troop movements -- I know from experience that they like overnight travel with a full day of duty on each end.

1987 010.jpg
 
A number of posts discussing interesting ideas about rerouting trains around track outages and related possible infrastructure improvement around New York that are of general interest beyond "Reviving the Night Owl" have been moved to its own thread:

https://www.amtraktrains.com/thread...operations-ideas-for-the-new-york-area.87300/

Please continue discussion of this important and interesting area in this new thread and confine the discussion in the Night Owl thread to the Night Owl.

Thank you for your understanding, cooperation and participation.
 
That sort of first and last listing is helpful, but not always done where it should be.

I rode that train from Boston to Washington in an Amfleet-1 coach once, in 1987. It was an emergency, but it made a good Rail Travel News story. The Army was using it for troop movements -- I know from experience that they like overnight travel with a full day of duty on each end.

View attachment 36582
Look at the shine on those shoes! Both the soldier's and the conductor's.
 
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