Viewliner II Part 2: Dining Car Production, Delivery, Speculation

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railiner

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That got me thinking...
Perhaps Amtrak should revise their PV policy....if they carried them on the “axle-count trains”, they could reduce the number of deadhead cars...a “win-win” for PV owners and Amtrak...:)
 

MikefromCrete

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Is there a big demand for private cars on the Illini, Saluki and the River Runners? I don't think so. And you couldn't count on private cars running every day, so the "axle count" baggage cars, cafe cars, whatever would still be needed on non-private cars days. I'm surprised that CN and UP have been allowed to get away with this. It amounts to an admission that the railroad is not being operated safely since gates won't operate for every train. Fix the circuits, not demand a certain train length.
 

jis

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That got me thinking...
Perhaps Amtrak should revise their PV policy....if they carried them on the “axle-count trains”, they could reduce the number of deadhead cars...a “win-win” for PV owners and Amtrak...:)
They would need to go and come back too with the same consist to be able to substitute for an axle count car.

A better choice would be to acquire a few additional Coaches and just run a longer train providing higher capacity.

Of course that will possibly require an additional crew and impact yield management adversely from the management’s POV.
 

me_little_me

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We're talking about California, where "axel" is correct, according to Caltrans.

[Picture deleted]

(To be fair, this is a Google Street View image from 2007 -- a few years after this, they put a sound wall along this stretch of I-5, and put up a new sign with the correct "axle" spelling.)
Caltrans doesn't want truckers jumping around while driving so they prohibit triple axels. Double axels are accepted as many skaters and dancers can do them. :)
 

Seaboard92

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Another thing on the PV front you need to think about. Who is paying for it?

Is the PV owner paying the milage fee, and switching fee? Or is Amtrak waiving it for the help meeting requirements.

Is Amtrak paying a rent to use the car, or contributing to maintenance to keep it road worthy?

What would happen if the PV owner had a charter somewhere else they wanted to do?

I like the outside the box thinking. But I don’t think it’ll work.

Now for the Surfliners needing the extra axles that might benefit Bill Hatricks and the trail cars.
 

jis

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So with the newly built diners going to storage, how difficult would it be to repurpose them as sleepers?
Who said they are going into storage? I suspect it is more likely that innovative uses as lounge/food service cars or such will be found for them and they may potentially replace cafe cars on mid-distance trains like the Palmetto and such, before anyone thinks of spending enormous amounts of money to gut and rebuild their interior.

My wild a$$ guess is that it will cost half of the original cost of the car or more. to repurpose them as Sleepers. I can almost bet that this is not going to happen at least in the near future.
 

jis

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Specially since RPA has verified that even the Silver Star will get this service in 2020!
 

Ziv

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I haven't seen this food in person but the breakfast sounds lame. Lunch and dinner sound fair at best. Not horrible dishes, just not very good.
Sad to see the dining experience cheapened to this degree on those routes but this is something that may be reversed in the future if Amtrak gets better management. I hope.
 

Dakota 400

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I haven't seen this food in person but the breakfast sounds lame. Lunch and dinner sound fair at best. Not horrible dishes, just not very good.
That is also my opinion. Dining on a train is part of the rail experience that I enjoy and is a reason why I would consider going out of my way (due to where I live with no Amtrak service) to travel on Amtrak. Diluting this part of my experience does not make me more eager to book Amtrak.
 
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railiner

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Good to hear about the improved food service, but what really got my attention in that article was the statement from Roger Harris that Amtrak next year for the first time, will not lose any money, and become profitable, or at least recover all its operating costs thru revenue...

That is amazing, if it is true!
 

jis

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Good to hear about the improved food service, but what really got my attention in that article was the statement from Roger Harris that Amtrak next year for the first time, will not lose any money, and become profitable, or at least recover all its operating costs thru revenue...

That is amazing, if it is true!
That is apparently what is primarily behind all these bordering on the absurd, cost controls. I suspect that is on Anderson's goals list for his bonus ... err ... the only compensation he could collect from Amtrak.
 

railiner

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Still...if he achieves that goal, whether one loves or loath’s him, he certainly will be respected, and might be recognized some day as one of Amtrak’s better presidents. Even more so, if Amtrak can grow as a result...
 

jis

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Still...if he achieves that goal, whether one loves or loath’s him, he certainly will be respected, and might be recognized some day as one of Amtrak’s better presidents. Even more so, if Amtrak can grow as a result...
That exactly is the silver lining I am hoping for and have cut some slack on Anderson and Co for that reason, much to the chagrin of many of my more dyed in the wool railfan friends. But we will have a while to wait before the proverbial fat lady sings on that one.
 

Ziv

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Railiner, Jis, I read the article above and I have to admit that I don't know what Harris means by "breaks even". Does that mean that Amtrak won't need a Federal subsidy? If so, that would be huge. Harris stated:
"Roger Harris, Amtrak chief marketing and revenue officer, said the line expects to BREAK EVEN for the first time next year. Twenty years ago, Amtrak operated at a $1 billion deficit."
I find it hard to believe that Amtrak won't need a subsidy next year, because in the past my reading has indicated that Amtrak has gotten a federal subsidy in the amount of at least $1Bn per year, and some of the documents I have read have indicated that it has actually averaged between $1.3Bn and $1.7Bn per year.
It seems like just getting the federal subsidy under $1Bn would be a huge achievement and one worth celebrating. If they can get to breaking even that would be great news and could be a sign of good things to come.
I am sorry if I am missing the point here, or asking newby questions, but I am really curious to hear your interpretation of what Harris means by that statement.


Good to hear about the improved food service, but what really got my attention in that article was the statement from Roger Harris that Amtrak next year for the first time, will not lose any money, and become profitable, or at least recover all its operating costs thru revenue...

That is amazing, if it is true!
 

jis

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It won't need Operating subsidy. It will still need Capital subsidy. Of course this depends also on what is characterized as Operating and what is characterized as Capital. At least the Auditors have to agree about the characterization in GAAP reporting.

It is well known that Amtrak's accounts were in utter shambles for quite a while. There were years when cash flow got so bad that Congress had to rescue it midterm too. Fortunately those days have been behind us and Boardman left it in very decent shape, notwithstanding all our bellyaching about various things did or did not do.
 

Ziv

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Thanks for the explanation, Jis. That is not my idea of how a company can "break even", but it makes sense from a PR angle.


It won't need Operating subsidy. It will still need Capital subsidy. Of course this depends also on what is characterized as Operating and what is characterized as Capital. At least the Auditors have to agree about the characterization in GAAP reporting.

It is well known that Amtrak's accounts were in utter shambles for quite a while. There were years when cash flow got so bad that Congress had to rescue it midterm too. Fortunately those days have been behind us and Boardman left it in very decent shape, notwithstanding all our bellyaching about various things did or did not do.
 

drfonta

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Thanks for the explanation, Jis. That is not my idea of how a company can "break even", but it makes sense from a PR angle.
Here's an article from July that has the breakdown of operating losses and earnings for 2018 by route. Acela and NE regional being the big earners of course. I assume it's factual, HOWEVER, I did just read the RPA article of Aug 2018, which slams Amtrak's route accounting so take these numbers with a grain of salt. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-07-18/amtrak-s-long-distance-routes-lose-the-most-money
 
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I'm surprised they don't lease out the dining cars and let independent restaurants/diners operate them. Sort of like what is done at stadiums where companies like Aramark operates the concession stands. Maybe even a Denny's franchise.
 

frequentflyer

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I'm surprised they don't lease out the dining cars and let independent restaurants/diners operate them. Sort of like what is done at stadiums where companies like Aramark operates the concession stands. Maybe even a Denny's franchise.
Probably union contracts, this idea has been around for years, outsourcing the food.
 
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