Water, coffee, general train excitement.

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Cina

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Messages
333
Hi! I've been lurking around reading these forums ever since I booked my second rail trip for this summer. I took the CZ from LNK to SAC a few years ago to visit a friend, and I'm doing something similar June 3rd (CZ from LNK to SAC, CS from SAC to LA, Surfliner from LA to IRV) I'm ridiculously excited. I'm going coach on the way there and have a roomette on the Zephyr for the return trip.

Anyway, I had a question about the feasibility of taking my travel French press and a container of pre-ground coffee. Is hot water available? Will I have to pay for it? I brought cup noodles last time I was on the CZ but can't for the life of me remember how I acquired hot water :p

Any other tips are appreciated, I read the "what to bring" thread and loved some of the suggestions there. The lamenting about bad coffee got me thinking about bringing my own (I'm a bit of a coffee snob :)
 

FrensicPic

Conductor
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
2,997
Welcome! You might be able to get hot water in sleeper. I know there is a coffee pot there for the sleeper passengers but, don't recall if there was hot water available for tea (in your case, coffee). Your SCA should be able to help you out. In coach, you'll probably be able to get hot water in the cafe in the Sightseer Lounge car.
 

oregon pioneer

Conductor
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,248
I am a tea drinker, so I can tell you that there is NO hot water for tea available in the sleepers. The only reasonable way to get hot water is to go to the Cafe (downstairs in the Sightseer Lounge car), and ask for it.

(begin rant/) Even if you have your own container, they will put the hot water in an Amtrak paper cup. Then they have to account for the cup (check "hot water given away" on their list of exceptions). They do it this way even if you are getting a "refill" (more hot water, but using the original tea bag and cup) on a cup of tea that you purchased. It's a disgusting waste of time and resources for a cup of hot water, but their archaic accounting system and pathalogical fear of inside theft drive the system. (/end rant).

I think there are some exceptions to the rule that the only way to get hot water is to go to the cafe car (but it sounds like none of them apply to you):

  1. You can go the Pacific Parlor Car (but only if you are in sleeper on the CS), and the attendant will usually fill your own cup with hot water quite cheerfully.
  2. If a certain SCA named Charles (who I had on the EB a couple of years ago) is yours, you are very lucky, because he has an electric teakettle, which he keeps full and ready to plug in, in roomette #1 (along with a bunch of other goodies to enliven your trip).
  3. You can ask your SCA to go to the cafe and get it for you (but I would never do this unless I were too disabled to go myself, and I would expect to tip for the service).
I always have my own thermal mug and tea bags with me for the trip, but I bow to the inevitable if I can't find an easy way to get hot water. For me, the inevitable is to relax in the Lounge Car with a hot Lipton tea (with lemon and sugar, which I never put in *good* tea). Not so bad after all!
 

oregon pioneer

Conductor
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,248
Further thoughts: there is a 110V outlet in each roomette, marked with some low wattage limit, I think. An electric teakettle uses over 1,000 Watts. If the SCA does it,it's one thing. I would not try it myself. I stick to small electronics.
 

Cina

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Messages
333
Ugh, that is archaic. So that means when I ask for hot water for my travel press (which holds about 16oz) I'm going to have to ask for a cup of hot water, have him get me a (probably tiny) cup of hot water, pour it into my press, then immediately ask him for a SECOND cup of hot water so that I can fill it up the rest of the way. The lounge car attendant is going to LOVE me :p

I feel like this could all be alleviated by having one of those bunn self-serve coffee makers with the hot water tap on the outside, but I suppose that would make too much sense for Amtrak xD
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,442
I am a tea drinker, so I can tell you that there is NO hot water for tea available in the sleepers. The only reasonable way to get hot water is to go to the Cafe (downstairs in the Sightseer Lounge car), and ask for it.

(begin rant/) Even if you have your own container, they will put the hot water in an Amtrak paper cup. Then they have to account for the cup (check "hot water given away" on their list of exceptions). They do it this way even if you are getting a "refill" (more hot water, but using the original tea bag and cup) on a cup of tea that you purchased. It's a disgusting waste of time and resources for a cup of hot water, but their archaic accounting system and pathalogical fear of inside theft drive the system. (/end rant).

I think there are some exceptions to the rule that the only way to get hot water is to go to the cafe car (but it sounds like none of them apply to you):

  • You can go the Pacific Parlor Car (but only if you are in sleeper on the CS), and the attendant will usually fill your own cup with hot water quite cheerfully.
  • If a certain SCA named Charles (who I had on the EB a couple of years ago) is yours, you are very lucky, because he has an electric teakettle, which he keeps full and ready to plug in, in roomette #1 (along with a bunch of other goodies to enliven your trip).
  • You can ask your SCA to go to the cafe and get it for you (but I would never do this unless I were too disabled to go myself, and I would expect to tip for the service).
I always have my own thermal mug and tea bags with me for the trip, but I bow to the inevitable if I can't find an easy way to get hot water. For me, the inevitable is to relax in the Lounge Car with a hot Lipton tea (with lemon and sugar, which I never put in *good* tea). Not so bad after all!
I wish the forum had a FAQ with answers like this. Thanks for clueing the rest of us in on what our options are. I've been a coffee drinker for as long as I can remember, even back when I was a kid, but the coffee Amtrak serves has gotten so bad that it makes my stomach turn. I've been tempted to start making my own coffee or tea and was never quite sure how the process worked. Seems like a microwave or hot water spigot would be far easier for passengers and far less tedious for Amtrak staff. Oh well.
 

D.P. Roberts

Conductor
Joined
Aug 16, 2006
Messages
1,316
I have seen inventories being done at many fast food restaurants / Starbucks / cafes, and every one I know of keeps an inventory of the paper cups. It's basically the only way to make sure that employees aren't taking (or giving away) free drinks. So, I'm not surprised that Amtrak does it too.

In most cases, though, the employee/server doesn't have to mark it down on a sheet while you wait. He or she is usually more customer-service oriented, and will take care of his/her inventory AFTER taking care of you.
 

FrensicPic

Conductor
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
2,997
Immersion heater? Can't find the power consumption but surely less than an electric teapot.

http://www.rei.com/product/781694/rei-immersion-heater-120240
An interesting possibility, I wonder if I can find one that could work in a plastic mug.
If a plastic mug can withstand boiling water, should be ok. As long as there is liquid in the mug, it can't get hotter than 212° F. If it goes dry, could be interesting! Easy to test at home.
 

Cina

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Messages
333
True; I was thinking where the heater clips to the side could be a problem but I would probably have to hold it regardless.

The thing that sounded the most inconvenient (for the attendant) was the part about getting a new cup of water and marking it down even if you were just refilling a previously purchased cup for tea. Unless I was reading that wrong?

We kept track of water cups when I worked at a coffee shop, but people were allowed to self-serve black coffee and hot water, or to fill their personal mugs and we'd charge them a "refill" price. It was a lot less hassle!
 

PerRock

Conductor
Joined
Sep 16, 2006
Messages
1,865
Immersion heater? Can't find the power consumption but surely less than an electric teapot.

http://www.rei.com/product/781694/rei-immersion-heater-120240
An interesting possibility, I wonder if I can find one that could work in a plastic mug.
When we took the EB from CHI to PDX we brought one of those along. This was before the outlets by your seats & we used the outlet in the women's changing room (or more my mother did). I can't recall if we ever used it in a plastic up before or not, but I don't thing it would matter to much. Any part of the device that is supposed to be touching the cup is plastic, I would just make sure I unplug the item and let it cool before letting it touch dry plastic. (Tray table, the empty mug, etc)

True; I was thinking where the heater clips to the side could be a problem but I would probably have to hold it regardless.

The thing that sounded the most inconvenient (for the attendant) was the part about getting a new cup of water and marking it down even if you were just refilling a previously purchased cup for tea. Unless I was reading that wrong?

We kept track of water cups when I worked at a coffee shop, but people were allowed to self-serve black coffee and hot water, or to fill their personal mugs and we'd charge them a "refill" price. It was a lot less hassle!
The attendant would do the paperwork. The only real issue for you there is that s/he may decide to do the paperwork before giving you the cup, so you'd have to wait.

None of the food and drinks are accessible by the general public in the cafe car. In order to self-serve coffee you would have to go behind the counter. In sleepers there is a multi-cup coffee maker which you can use at your leisure.

peter
 
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tomfuller

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
829
I just saw one immersion heater available on Amazon that is rated as 125 watts. Most of the others I saw were 1500 to 3K watts. The price including shipping was about $25.

On a December trip on the CZ in coach one of the coach cars had little if any heat overnight. The guy the cafe gave away a lot of coffee after you bought the first one.
 

oregon pioneer

Conductor
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,248
  • 125 Watts will not trip a breaker that is rated for razors and other small electronics. And 125 watts will probably not get hot enough to melt a plastic cup. But it will take a while to boil a cup of water. Read the review on the REI product, and test to make sure it works while you have time to exchange it.

I don't remember if ALL the cafe attendants felt they had to put refill water into their Amtrak cups, but I specifically remember giving an empty cup to the attendant, only to have them throw it away and fill a fresh one for me (arrghhhhh).
I am sure the attendant was marking the list while I was dunking my teabag. I just saw that they had to do it.
They USED to have those big coffeemakers with hot water spigots on top in the single-level LSL cars back east. The last time I was on the LSL (Nov/Dec 2012), they had removed them. My SCA said they were "too much trouble" (meaning I suppose that they had maintenance issues), so they were gone. Arrrghhhh again.
 

FrensicPic

Conductor
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
2,997
  • 125 Watts will not trip a breaker that is rated for razors and other small electronics. And 125 watts will probably not get hot enough to melt a plastic cup. But it will take a while to boil a cup of water. Read the review on the REI product, and test to make sure it works while you have time to exchange it.
  • I don't remember if ALL the cafe attendants felt they had to put refill water into their Amtrak cups, but I specifically remember giving an empty cup to the attendant, only to have them throw it away and fill a fresh one for me (arrghhhhh).
  • I am sure the attendant was marking the list while I was dunking my teabag. I just saw that they had to do it.
  • They USED to have those big coffeemakers with hot water spigots on top in the single-level LSL cars back east. The last time I was on the LSL (Nov/Dec 2012), they had removed them. My SCA said they were "too much trouble" (meaning I suppose that they had maintenance issues), so they were gone. Arrrghhhh again.
REI happened to be the first Google hit I found to show an example...the immersion heater should be available lots of different places...Walmart, etc.?
 
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Cina

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Messages
333
Maybe I'll just light a camp fire in my roomette and boil a kettle. Won't use any electricity that way! Yes/no? Frowned upon maybe?

Seriously though, I'm going to look into lower-watt immersion heaters. I saw a few on amazon, just wish they got better reviews!
 

oregon pioneer

Conductor
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,248
  • 125 Watts will not trip a breaker that is rated for razors and other small electronics. And 125 watts will probably not get hot enough to melt a plastic cup. But it will take a while to boil a cup of water. Read the review on the REI product, and test to make sure it works while you have time to exchange it.
  • I don't remember if ALL the cafe attendants felt they had to put refill water into their Amtrak cups, but I specifically remember giving an empty cup to the attendant, only to have them throw it away and fill a fresh one for me (arrghhhhh).
  • I am sure the attendant was marking the list while I was dunking my teabag. I just saw that they had to do it.
  • They USED to have those big coffeemakers with hot water spigots on top in the single-level LSL cars back east. The last time I was on the LSL (Nov/Dec 2012), they had removed them. My SCA said they were "too much trouble" (meaning I suppose that they had maintenance issues), so they were gone. Arrrghhhh again.
REI happened to be the first Google hit I found to show an example...the immersion heater should be available lots of different places...Walmart, etc.?
In my experience, they all have the same limitations: some are dead "out of the box", some fail rapidly, but if they work (and you gain a little experience with how long they take), you'll be a happy camper.
 

Green Maned Lion

Conductor
Joined
Dec 27, 2007
Messages
8,209
I wouldn't use an immersion coil with plastic covering the coil. Far too much leaching. Get one with an exposed metal coil.
 

leemell

Conductor
Joined
Oct 5, 2009
Messages
1,536
Immersion water heaters and tea have been discussed to death in other threads over the years. I just can't find them right now as every time I try to search I get a Google popup that never loads.
 

third rail 1200

Train Attendant
Joined
May 21, 2013
Messages
35
The sleeping car attendant will bring you hot water for tea from the diner if you just ask. Since I like a herbal tea between meals, I did just this three time a day on my just completed trip on the CZ.
 

Michigan Mom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
628
the onboard coffee is drinkable, IF I remember to bring my own half and half. Those little containers are bad half the time.
 

brentrain17

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 21, 2013
Messages
160
If you are in the Portland Sleeper on the EB and you have Charles for a TA he will get almost anything you need including hot water. Have a great journey!
 
I

Ivan Denisovich

Guest
Can't they just keep a samovar going just inside the vestibule, the way they did on the Trans-Siberian Express in Bolshevik days?
 

Ted Bell

Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
166
Dear god this is so retarded. If you don't like the steak do you bring your own beef and a grill to cook it?
 

SarahZ

Conductor
Joined
May 8, 2011
Messages
8,071
Dear god this is so retarded. If you don't like the steak do you bring your own beef and a grill to cook it?
Yes, because bringing a small French press is exactly the same as loading a Weber grill onto the train.
 
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