Sleeper 9712...Wow!

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Cal

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The Sunset Limited to New Orleans or the Southwest Chief to Chicago will get you to one. :D
However, Amtrak prices can be pretty high... So it'd be easier and much less expensive to fly instead of taking one of those routes.
 

cocojacoby

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Well, there have to be steps to get up to the upper bed regardless if one of the steps is also a toilet.
That's not really true. The bedrooms don't have steps - they have ladders instead. And I've seen some pretty clever European train bedrooms that have steps that fold out from the wall like a Murphy Ladder which would really save space.

Amtrak could have easily put in a couple of steps that fold down from the wall where the toilet was so during the day the floor area would be open.

Murphy Ladder:

View attachment download.webm
 
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Cal

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IndyLions

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Now let's take a look at the accommodation of which I have the least experience - the VLII version of the Viewliner Bedroom. On our southbound itinerary, my wife and I splurged on this room. We are in our mid-fifties and in good health - so roomettes for us are no problem. But every once in a while it is fun to splurge for something more than the minimum.

Because of limited experience, I can't provide first-hand comparison's between VLI & VLII with the Bedroom. But as far as I can tell, there were very few changes.

For two people - the Bedroom is large and spacious - with two large windows for an open air feel and great sightseeing. As with all Amtrak full-sized Bedrooms, there is a large couch perpendicular to the direction of travel, and single chair facing it.

Bedroom - Seating.jpg

Like the VLI (but unlike Superliners), the chair is mounted to the floor, but can be adjusted somewhat and placed in a "stowed" position when desired.

Bedroom - Chair Stowed.jpg

Stowing the chair is not required to access the bathroom, but it does provide additional clearance. It also provides additional clearance if both Rooms A & B are purchased and the adjoining door is in use.

Bedroom - Bath Access.jpg

There is a private en suite for a toilet and a shower.

Bedroom - En Suite.jpg

There is a storage shelf for large towels and storage for shampoo and soap above the full-sized toilet paper dispenser - which comes with a cover that is effective at keeping the toilet paper from getting wet during shower use. The floor of the bathroom contains a shower drain, and the toilet can double as a shower seat.

Bedroom - En Suite Floor.jpg

The shower head is of good quality - manufactured by Delta Faucet. The shower worked very well, with hot water showing up quickly. After drying myself I used the large towel to wipe down the room. After a few short minutes the room was basically dry - and after 25 minutes there was no evidence a shower had been taken. But you will need to wipe down the room to get that result.

(Continued next post...)
 

IndyLions

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VLII Bedroom (continued)

But what about washing your hands? For that - you'll need to use the sink that's located outside of the en suite.

Bedroom - Restroom Sink.jpg

The sink area features a large mirror, along with a towel holder, light controls and a Duplex 120V outlet. The faucet controls are the "push down" ones, and worked fairly well with a minimum of oversplash. There is a permanently mounted soap dispenser. There also is a removable sink trap provided, which helps prevent clogging.

Bedroom - Sink Area.jpg

Surrounding the sink is a tiny counter space, and above and left of the sink area is a storage cabinet.

Bedroom - Sink Cabinet.jpg


Across from the sink and between the couch and the hallway is a small open closet. Directly above the couch is lighting and controls along with another 120V Duplex Outlet. Above that is the upper bunk, stowed during the day along with the portable ladder used for bunk access.

Bedroom - Couch Side.jpg

For daytime use, the VLII Bedroom earns a solid A. There were only a couple of minor issues I'll cover in future posts that prevented a higher grade. I'll also grade the Bedroom in a future post for night time use.

Is it worth the cost over a Roomette? That is highly subjective. Viewliner Bedrooms are very expensive, as there are only two per car. Even on heavily used routes like the Silvers - there are typically only 6 total on any given trip - with an absolute max of 8. Contrast that with the Superliners, where you typically have 5 full-sized Bedrooms per car, and 2 or 3 cars per train.

I will say this for sure. There is absolutely no question that the Bedroom provided a much higher level experience over the Roomette. If there is any way you can afford it - you should experience one at least once.
 
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IndyLions

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Another factor that contributed to the high grade on the VLII Bedroom is its extensive storage. I've covered the enclosed cabinet near the sink, and the open closet adjacent to the couch - but like the VLI, it also has huge luggage storage capacity.

As a matter of fact - even though my wife and I struggle to "travel light" - we couldn't come close to maxing out the storage capacity of the VLII Bedroom.

Let's start with the two storage areas below the couch - each measure a minimum of 22"D x 19"W x 9"H:

Bedroom - Storage Couch.jpg

Next is the area above the hallway - measuring at least 45"W x 16.5"D x 15"H:

Bedroom - Storage Hallway.jpg


The area we used most heavily was the sizable storage area above the bathroom:
Bedroom - Storage en suite.jpg


It's easier to see the available space when empty. The space is effectively 36"W x 24"D x 16"H, although there is a 6"W x 6"D cutout of unavailable space in the back corner, and a slim area along the back which is height restricted to 10"H.

Bedroom - Storage en suite empty.jpg

Even though using the upper storage areas is a challenge with heavy luggage - there is so much storage under the couch that it is hard not to give the bedroom a high grade for total luggage storage.
 
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joelkfla

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Another factor that contributed to the high grade on the VLII Bedroom is its extensive storage. I've covered the enclosed cabinet near the sink, and the open closet adjacent to the couch - but like the VLI, it also has huge luggage storage capacity.

As a matter of fact - even though my wife and I struggle to "travel light" - we couldn't come close to maxing out the storage capacity of the VLII Bedroom.

Let's start with the two storage areas below the couch - each measure a minimum of 22"D x 19"W x 9"H:

View attachment 21595

Next is the area above the hallway - measuring at least 45"W x 16.5"D x 15"H:

View attachment 21596


The area we used most heavily was the sizable storage area above the bathroom:
View attachment 21597


It's easier to see the available space when empty. The space is effectively 36"W x 24"D x 16"H, although there is a 6"W x 6"D cutout of unavailable space in the back corner, and a slim area along the back height restricted to 10"H.

View attachment 21598

Even though using the upper storage areas is a challenge with heavy luggage - there is so much storage under the couch that it is hard not to give the bedroom a high grade for total luggage storage.
Is that the PA speaker in the right wall over the bathroom? Perhaps one could stifle an overly loud speaker by pushing a piece of soft luggage against it.
 

IndyLions

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The VLII Bedroom at Night...

While I gave the VLII Bedroom a very high daytime score - it's nighttime score is good, but lower. We'll start with the good, then cover the two factors that lowered the score.

First, the beds are pretty comfortable. Let's start with the lower berth - the couch converted to a bed.

Bedroom - Night Lower Berth.jpg

The lower berth measures 39"W x 72"L - and while I didn't measure the headroom with the upper berth lowered - as a 6 footer I was able to sit up in bed with no issues. Someone 6'2" tall or so would need to be a little more careful. Mattress-wise, the lower berth thickness is a little under 4"

Bedroom - Night - Lower Thickness.jpg

That was the berth that I used - and overall I would rate it roomy and pretty comfortable. I'm pretty sure it will become more comfortable over time - or at least a little softer. Both the couch cushions and the mattresses hadn't been broken in yet.

For the upper berth, my wife utilized that - and I should have taken more pictures. The dimensions of the upper berth are 27.5"W x 72"L, with pretty decent headroom although I didn't measure it. The mattress is at least an inch thicker, but doesn't have the benefit of sitting on the couch cushion for extra comfort.

Bedroom - Night Upper Thickness.jpg

There are independent lighting and air controls, and some netted storage for personal items (phone, wallet, glasses, etc.)

Bedroom - Night Upper Berth Controls.jpg

Unlike the VLI, the upper berth access ladder doesn't have its own closet - it is stored in the upper berth during the day.

The mechanism for lowering and raising the upper berth was easy to use

Bedroom - Night - Upper Berth.jpg


(Continued in Next Post)...
 
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IndyLions

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VLII Bedroom at Night (continued)

So my grade? The VLII at Night earned a solid B. Why the B and not higher? Two reasons...

The biggest negative to the VLII Bedroom at night is the lack of clearance between the lower berth and the sink area. While I didn't measure it, we're talking about 4-6" or so.

The photo below was taken from the upper berth - but it does illustrate at least a little bit the lack of clearance between the sink area and the beds at night:

Bedroom - Night Sink Clearance.jpg

This lack of clearance caused my first reaction to the room to be negative - not positive. That's because we boarded at 9:45pm in Richmond VA, and they had already put the lower bed down.

Whether this is Amtrak policy or not I don't know - but it was either bad Amtrak policy or a poor choice by my otherwise excellent SCA. Along with ourselves, we had considerable baggage to get in the room through that 4-6" gap. With the lower berth down - it was very, very awkward. And for folks less nimble than ourselves - it would have been even more so.

While access to the bathroom at night was fine - access to the sink was not. That meant stumbling along the narrow opening to get to the sink in an effort to wash ones hands after using the en suite.

The last negative factor at night is the lack of a power outlet for the upper berth. In 2020, it really is silly to not provide at least a low-voltage USB port for recharging purposes.

Bedroom - Night Upper Berth Controls copy.jpg

Don't let these two negatives sway you - just be fully aware of them. The overall experience of the VLII Bedroom at night was still very good!
 
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IndyLions

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Is that the PA speaker in the right wall over the bathroom? Perhaps one could stifle an overly loud speaker by pushing a piece of soft luggage against it.
You also (in theory) have the ability to shut off the speaker altogether. The control for that in the bedroom is above the couch - immediately to the right of the Attendant Call button....

Bedroom - PA Control.jpg

...and in the Roomette it is in the control area on the non-sink side...

Roomette Controls.jpg

We didn't test whether the button was actually working or not...
 

Bob Dylan

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VLII Bedroom at Night (continued)

So my grade? A solid B. Why the B and not higher? Two reasons...

The biggest negative to the VLII Bedroom at night is the lack of clearance between the lower berth and the sink area. While I didn't measure it, we're talking about 4-6" or so.

The photo below was taken from the upper berth - but it does illustrate at least a little bit the lack of clearance between the sink area and the beds at night:

View attachment 21605

This lack of clearance caused my first reaction to the room to be negative - not positive. That's because we boarded at 9:45pm in Richmond VA, and they had already put the lower bed down.

Whether this is Amtrak policy or not I don't know - but it was a poor choice by either Amtrak policy or my (otherwise fantastic) SCA. Along with ourselves, we had considerable baggage to get in the room. With the lower berth down - it was very, very awkward. And for folks less nimble than ourselves - it would have been even more so.

While access to the bathroom at night was fine - access to the sink was not. That meant stumbling along the narrow opening to get to the sink in an effort to wash ones hands after using the en suite.

The last negative factor at night is the lack of a power outlet for the upper berth. In 2020, it really is silly to not provide at least a low-voltage USB port for recharging purposes.

View attachment 21606

Don't let these two negatives sway you - just be fully aware of them. The overall experience of the VLII Bedroom at night was still very good!
That's a surprise that there is no outlet in the Upper! Is this true of the Roomettes also?
 

IndyLions

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That's a surprise that there is no outlet in the Upper! Is this true of the Roomettes also?
Yes. Outlets in the Roomette have expanded from 1 to 2 - but both on the lower level. One adjacent to the sink (as before)...

Roomette - Middle Shelf.jpg

...and the second on the other side between the seat and the open closet...

Roomette Controls.jpg
 

IndyLions

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Now let's take a look at the VLII Common Areas.

And by Common Areas - I'm excluding the Public Restrooms, which I'll cover in a future post - and the Public Shower - which I already covered in detail and gave a high mark.

Let's start with the Look/Feel. I know it all depends on taste - but I LOVE the classic look that the rich, wood-like paneling provides. My very first impression of entering the car was more than positive. Not only the color of the paneling - but the cool, rounded look of the H Room door...

Common Areas - H Door.jpg

That rounded look made me think "Art Deco" for sure. Here's a look down the main hallway outside the bedrooms...

Common Areas - Bedroom Hallway.jpg

...and after turning the corner past Bedroom B, a look at the hallway with all the Roomettes

Common Areas - Roomette Hall.jpg

If you look closely at the ceiling - you'll see some good looking indicator lights - which change color when the occupant makes a service request...

Common Areas - Indicator Lights.jpg

And the posters at the end of the hallways look nice. Here's to hoping that Amtrak continues to use them tastefully...

Common Areas - Posters.jpg

A nice amenity I can't wait to use post-Covid is the refreshment station - which looks full-featured with coffee, ice, soft drinks, etc. It is located at the "jog" or "elbow" between the Bedroom hallway and the Roomette hallway...

Common Areas - Drink Station.jpg

At the entrance to the car (adjacent to the H room) there is even a recycling center. Nice!

Common Areas - Recycling.jpg

All in All - the VLII Sleeper makes a tremendous first impression. The VLII Common Areas are terrific - A+!
 
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cocojacoby

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Great pics and review. Thanks!

I agree about the sink accessibility problem when the lower bed is made. Maybe they should have put the sink at the other end of the countertop? It might have to be smaller though to not infringe on the toilet stall too much. It does come into the shower by a few inches in the back corner, but the present arrangement makes it almost unusable at night. Maybe it could even flip out like the roomette one so it doesn't need the intrusion into the shower module.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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Oh look... an ice machine. It only took Amtrak 50 years to think of that! :)

Love the pictures. I agree the car looks great. I love the wood paneling of the refurbished superliner sleepers as well. Really does a great job of making the train feel less sterile / plastic.
 
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How early can you get coffee in the morning without the coffee station functioning yet? Did you have to go to the “sleeper lounge” for it? Or would your SCA bring it if asked?
 

Cal

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How early can you get coffee in the morning without the coffee station functioning yet? Did you have to go to the “sleeper lounge” for it? Or would your SCA bring it if asked?
I believe you can request it from your SCA or go to the sleeper lounge, whatever you choose. The Cafe is always there too.


I love these new cars! If Amtrak could just make all cars like this, and keep them in good condition, it would be fantastic.

About the upper berth having no plug, when I was on the superliner bedroom, I just plugged my phone in to the plug by the sink and tucked my phone between the metal on the edge and the mattress. It worked fine. (My feet were by the window)
 

IndyLions

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How early can you get coffee in the morning without the coffee station functioning yet? Did you have to go to the “sleeper lounge” for it? Or would your SCA bring it if asked?
My experience in the Meteor was that the coffee was available from 6am...that's a little bit later than what I remember from pre-Covid days on other trains.
 
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I think I remember it being 6:00, with an exception here and there, depending on the SCA.

Even with the coffee station, that timing was difficult for me. I usually have my first cup of coffee at home around 5:00, and as quietly as possible, to prevent a caffeine headache.

Sometimes I carry some dark chocolate for the caffeine just in case I can’t get my coffee before there is a lot of light and noise.

After the first cup, it doesn’t matter when the next ones are.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I think I remember it being 6:00, with an exception here and there, depending on the SCA.

Even with the coffee station, that timing was difficult for me. I usually have my first cup of coffee at home around 5:00, and as quietly as possible, to prevent a caffeine headache.

Sometimes I carry some dark chocolate for the caffeine just in case I can’t get my coffee before there is a lot of light and noise.

After the first cup, it doesn’t matter when the next ones are.
I don’t have a problem with the early mornings but I have learned to always travel with a few Starbucks VIA packs in case the unthinkable happens and I don’t have access to coffee.
 

IndyLions

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One other thing I noticed about the beverage station. It isn't fitted with coffee and ice makers - it is fitted with coffee and ice dispensers. That means both ice and coffee can be made efficiently in the diner - but be accessible directly from the sleeper car.

Common Areas - Coffee Ice.jpg

I think that's smart! It keeps some of the mess in the diner where it is easier to clean up, and presumably should mean higher coffee quality because of a "better" coffee machine in the diner with higher volume.

I like it!
 

IndyLions

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Individual Feature - VLII Door Latches

In my previous sections you've seen how (by and large) I've been pretty happy with the changes that Amtrak has made from VLI to VLII.

I think those of us old enough to remember the VLI rollout remember that the door latches currently fitted on VLI's are NOT the same as those originally put into service. The current VLI latches were kind of crudely installed in Beech Grove a relatively short time after VLI deployment, when the original latches failed miserably.

Well - the VLII's have taken another swing at a new and improved latch mechanism! And my experience? Ugh.

Here are what the latches look like from the outside:

Door Latch - Outside.jpg

...and the inside:

Door Latch - Inside.jpg

What should be obvious is that you cannot reliably close the doors from the outside without a tool / key - which presumably only Amtrak personnel have access to.

They just won't stay put without latching, and there is no way to latch it from the outside without a key. That's barely an improvement over the current situation in other current Amtrak sleepers. I believe those require some sort of emergency window removal or something.

On the inside, the new latch assembly works....sometimes. Just closing the door and turning the lock works about half the time at best.

After first hand experience, what you REALLY need to do is this:
  • PUSH the door solidly shut
  • HOLD FIRMLY the door in place without reducing pressure, and
  • LATCH the door
Without PUSH-HOLD FIRMLY-LATCH, it is unlikely to actually latch. With PUSH-HOLD FIRMLY-LATCH, it works nearly every time.

The "HOLD FIRMLY in place without reducing pressure" part will be a problem for some people, especially the elderly.

So this is the first bad grade I have to give a new Amtrak feature - VLII Door Latches D+. Surely someone, somewhere has designed a decent sleeping compartment door latch in the last 25 years...
 
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