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Way to cut down losses on long distance trains

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me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,259
Food trucks do a good business in many communities. How about food trucks at track side during a stop?
Think of the time it would take to service the number of customers.

Much better to have the ability to pre-order (and pay for) food BEFORE the stop then all one has to do is pick it up (or have it loaded and passed out by onboard personnel). Amtrak could take a cut from the vendor's price.
 

tgstubbs1

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
126
Think of the time it would take to service the number of customers.

Much better to have the ability to pre-order (and pay for) food BEFORE the stop then all one has to do is pick it up (or have it loaded and passed out by onboard personnel). Amtrak could take a cut from the vendor's price.
If they cook to order, but I bet they could unload a lot of breakfast burritos, slices of pizza, etc, pretty fast.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,135
Location
Baltimore. MD
Food trucks do a good business in many communities. How about food trucks at track side during a stop?
1) Given Amtrak's usual performance regarding arrivals on schedule, when are these food trucks supposed to show up?
2) Ever buy food from a food truck? If they're popular, the line is long and it takes forever to get served. How long is the train supposed to remain standing in the station?

If one wants to use trackside catering, it would be better if passengers would pre-order (either by a phone app, or calling, or having an attendant take orders at the start of the trip) and have the meals delivered en masse and distributed on-board. I've seen travel documentaries that show something like that on some Indian trains.

Of course, the problem is that Amtrak trains have problems keeping to the schedule, so it's not clear where the trackside caterer should be located. Although I guess it wouldn't be too much of a problem to put the orders into a delivery truck and get it to wherever the train is located at delivery time.

I'm not sure what the regulatory environment would be for that sort of service. Local health department? Or the more complicated federal regs that Amtrak food service appears to have to be in compliance.
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,524
Location
Toronto area
1) Given Amtrak's usual performance regarding arrivals on schedule, when are these food trucks supposed to show up?
2) Ever buy food from a food truck? If they're popular, the line is long and it takes forever to get served. How long is the train supposed to remain standing in the station?

If one wants to use trackside catering, it would be better if passengers would pre-order (either by a phone app, or calling, or having an attendant take orders at the start of the trip) and have the meals delivered en masse and distributed on-board. I've seen travel documentaries that show something like that on some Indian trains.

Of course, the problem is that Amtrak trains have problems keeping to the schedule, so it's not clear where the trackside caterer should be located. Although I guess it wouldn't be too much of a problem to put the orders into a delivery truck and get it to wherever the train is located at delivery time.

I'm not sure what the regulatory environment would be for that sort of service. Local health department? Or the more complicated federal regs that Amtrak food service appears to have to be in compliance.
Common sense. 👍
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,135
Location
Baltimore. MD
There's no reason why Amtrak shouldn't be able to meals at least equivalent to long haul Business class. Via appears tpdoes this on the Ocean.
1) Via looks like it would like to cancel the Ocean, so maybe that's not the best example.
2) Flex dining cheaps in two ways, first, the lower food quality, second, the reduction in waiter service. It's certainly true that Amtrak could improve the quality of the actual food, but that might not really save much money. The real savings is that they're running the dining car the same way they run the cafe car, with only one attendant. That part doesn't really bother me, although I can see that if the train is busy, they should probably have more than one attendant on duty to pass out the meals.

Airlines aren't exactly comparable, because the flight attendants are not only servers, but the're also aircrew. It would be kind of like Amtrak conductors passing out meals. (And it's even less comparable, because the Amtrak head conductor is the "captain" of the train. Ever seen an airline captain handing out meals?)
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
MARC Rider, good points.

Maybe it's time to start giving conductors (and crew generally) flexibility to do more jobs.

For example, when I board the Crescent at Penn Station in NYC, I pass by an Amtrak employee at the top of the escalator that leads to the track. I then pass by a sleeping car attendant as I board. Then I am greeted by the sleeping car attendant once inside. And then a conductor comes around and scans my ticket.

Why can't any of the people I've already passed by scan my ticket?

And why couldn't a conductor pass out meals? Are Amtrak crew members busy during the entire trip?
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,492
Location
Here
MARC Rider, good points.

Maybe it's time to start giving conductors (and crew generally) flexibility to do more jobs.

For example, when I board the Crescent at Penn Station in NYC, I pass by an Amtrak employee at the top of the escalator that leads to the track. I then pass by a sleeping car attendant as I board. Then I am greeted by the sleeping car attendant once inside. And then a conductor comes around and scans my ticket.

Why can't any of the people I've already passed by scan my ticket?

And why couldn't a conductor pass out meals? Are Amtrak crew members busy during the entire trip?
There might be an argument here for going to a VIA-style of operation & crewing, where the conductor and engineer are in the locomotive, handling all of the railroad operational matters, and the train is staffed by, essentially, all OBS, with (I believe) a “train manager” as the main person in charge.

Good luck getting the unions to go for it, though. Essentially, it would replace an engineer, second/assistant engineer (on segments that require it), conductor, and one or more assistant conductors, with just one engineer and one conductor, both in the locomotive. Then you’d have whatever combination/quantity of OBS as warranted by the train in question.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,150
Location
South Florida
1) Given Amtrak's usual performance regarding arrivals on schedule, when are these food trucks supposed to show up?
2) Ever buy food from a food truck? If they're popular, the line is long and it takes forever to get served. How long is the train supposed to remain standing in the station?

If one wants to use trackside catering, it would be better if passengers would pre-order (either by a phone app, or calling, or having an attendant take orders at the start of the trip) and have the meals delivered en masse and distributed on-board. I've seen travel documentaries that show something like that on some Indian trains.

Of course, the problem is that Amtrak trains have problems keeping to the schedule, so it's not clear where the trackside caterer should be located. Although I guess it wouldn't be too much of a problem to put the orders into a delivery truck and get it to wherever the train is located at delivery time.

I'm not sure what the regulatory environment would be for that sort of service. Local health department? Or the more complicated federal regs that Amtrak food service appears to have to be in compliance.
Oh heck...let's just eliminate all on board food service, and resurrect the old "Harvey House" network. Early or late, "Mr. Fred's" mantra was: "The Train Must Be Fed"....🤣:oops:
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,524
Location
Toronto area
1) Via looks like it would like to cancel the Ocean, so maybe that's not the best example.
I believe the route itself is safe, but the idea of two day trains, each going half the distance without sleepers and diners has certainly surfaced - most recently in tandem with the announced retirement of the Renaissance fleet. Covid19 could expedite this considerably.

This, of course, further supports your point.
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
497
There might be an argument here for going to a VIA-style of operation & crewing, where the conductor and engineer are in the locomotive, handling all of the railroad operational matters, and the train is staffed by, essentially, all OBS, with (I believe) a “train manager” as the main person in charge.

Good luck getting the unions to go for it, though. Essentially, it would replace an engineer, second/assistant engineer (on segments that require it), conductor, and one or more assistant conductors, with just one engineer and one conductor, both in the locomotive. Then you’d have whatever combination/quantity of OBS as warranted by the train in question.
Amtrak could do crew reform, which would mean fewer people working on trains, but Amtrak running more trains. The problem with this is getting Congress on board to fund the running of more trains. That could be a hard sell or could not depending on what expansion Amtrak's leadership would ask for.
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
Amtrak could do crew reform, which would mean fewer people working on trains, but Amtrak running more trains. The problem with this is getting Congress on board to fund the running of more trains. That could be a hard sell or could not depending on what expansion Amtrak's leadership would ask for.
Agreed that it would be a hard sell to reduce staffing, as long as Democrats control at least one house, but why would more trains need to be tied into a staffing reduction? Not looking to argue; I'm just curious.

Amtrak trains just seem to have staff members that aren't that busy--on my last few trips, part of one side of the cafe car was full of crew members who seemed to be on break. The crew on the Crescent is generally delightful, but I just don't see the need for so much labor.

And 2 locomotives on LD trains- that seems like a waste. Maybe get one powerful locomotive that works?
 

sttom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
497
Agreed that it would be a hard sell to reduce staffing, as long as Democrats control at least one house, but why would more trains need to be tied into a staffing reduction? Not looking to argue; I'm just curious.

Amtrak trains just seem to have staff members that aren't that busy--on my last few trips, part of one side of the cafe car was full of crew members who seemed to be on break. The crew on the Crescent is generally delightful, but I just don't see the need for so much labor.

And 2 locomotives on LD trains- that seems like a waste. Maybe get one powerful locomotive that works?
The point would be to employ the same amount of people, but have fewer people working per train. Which would mean more trains to divide the people working them over. I think the Republicans could be sold on increasing Amtrak service, but we would need a national plan, not just the classics like "daily Cardinal and Sunset Limited" or "restart the Desert Wind and Pioneer" we'd need to be talking service expansions beyond that. Which would include getting rid of the 750 mile rule. But this would require money from Congress, which might be easier in a depressed economy. Since a new train line, the factory making the equipment and the support services would mean more jobs.
 

Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,637
Location
South Carolina
Good...
How about the Frisco Sunnlyland, from Kansas City to Pensacola?😊
Here we go.

My guide that I have is the 1952 guide so I don't have the Sunnyland going from Kansas City to Pensacola. But I do have the Sunnyland going Springfield, MO-Pensacola, and St. Louis, MO-Atlanta, GA.

Springfield, MO-Memphis, TN: It is an active mainline for BNSF between Kansas City, MO and western points to eastern railroads at Memphis, TN.

St. Louis, MO-Memphis: This is also an active mainline for BNSF between St. Louis, MO and the gateway at Memphis, TN. This line runs alongside ole man river for a fairly good distance along it's route.

Memphis, TN-Amoy, MS: This is also an active mainline for BNSF between western points and Birmingham, AL. I believe it sees a fair amount of coal trains.

Pensacola Section

Amoy, MS-Pensacola, FL: This is a Class II Regional railroad the Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway which is a G&W property. Track speed is somewhere between 20-30 mph which isn't god awful for a shortline. But the line is intact. High Iron Travel ran a charter train over it a few years back.

Atlanta Section

Amoy, MS-Birmingham, AL: This is the BNSF mainline into the Birmingham metropolitan area. Heavy coal traffic and mixed freights. The BNSF Office Cars take this route twice a year on the way to and from the Master's Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA.

Birmingham, AL-Atlanta, GA: This was the Southern Railway's mainline and is now the incredibly busy Norfolk Southern mainline that Amtrak's Crescent uses.


How about when the Silvers used to go through Waldo, Fl - what route did they take sine it would have precluded Palatka

Before Amtrak there used to be passenger trains in Gainesville, Fl - no longer possible since the tracks leading into Gainesville have been taken up.
When the Silver Meteor, and Silver Star went via Waldo they were running on the original routings of both of those trains on the former Seaboard Airline Railroad. Here is where things get a bit difficult there was an east coast and a west coast train, the east coast went to Miami, and the western train went to several Florida branchlines. I'll do my best to cover it.

For starters the mainline from Plant City, FL-Baldwin, FL and on up to Callahan, FL is the main CSX line in Florida these days. After Sun Rail started running in Orlando CSX moved most of the trains over to the S Line. There used to be a cutoff that diverged at Coleman, FL and went straight for Auburndale, FL. Amtrak uses the line from Auburndale, FL to Miami, FL, while the section from Auburndale to Coleman has long been abandoned.

Waldo, FL used to have thru car service to Miami, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Sarasota-Venice, FL, and New York, NY. Waldo in 1952 had four trains daily in each direction.

Gainesville, FL was located on the Atlantic Coastline railroad, and really in my opinion more of a secondary line for them. In 1952 they had two trains a day in each direction between Jacksonville, FL-St. Petersburg, FL. That route ran via Raiford, Burnetts Lake, Ocala, Leesburg, Trilby, and Clearwater. One train was an all stops local that stopped at every station between Jacksonville and Clearwater, while the other was the streamlined West Coast Champion. Itself a section of the larger train that split at Jacksonville.

From Jacksonville, FL to Alachua, FL the line was abandoned and torn out sometime after the SCL merger if I was to guess I would say 1970s or 1980s.

From Alachua to just north of Gainesville the line is an active CSX Branch, one of the customers has an unrepainted Atlantic Coastline GP7!!!

Gainesville-Lowell, FL was abandoned at some point as well. Probably along with the rest of the line north of Alchua. Around Ocala it is active as the Florida Northern Railroad which was just sold to a new operator.

Lowell, FL-Clearwater, FL was abandoned probably at the same time as the other abandonments. The line took a tour of a few secondary lines to get into Clearwater from what I can tell. It is a shame on the area along the coast where it could be a useful commuter train.

Clearwater, FL-St. Petersburg, FL is still an active CSX branch line.

This line from Gainesville did not do overly well in staying active.
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,186
Location
Gator Country Florida
Not sure when the passenger service ran from Waldo to Gainesville but my Father-in-law remembers that it used to. It ran from Waldo to Cedar Key along the route that is now State Road 24 - it was a former branch of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. This branch was originally owned by the Florida Railway and Navigation Company, I know the tracks are no longer there and no trace of them can be found except for a small section of rail right in Waldo. There was nit any "rails-to-trails" for these tracks since that are was used to widen Hwy 24 into a dual-lane road.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,150
Location
South Florida
Seaboard92....
Great research...thanks!
In an earlier post, Willbridge mentioned the E-L Lake Cities. How much of that route between Hoboken and Chicago survives?
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
263
Location
Michigan
What do we know about the passenger market for Long Distance trains? How do we expand that?

As far as I can see from anecdotal experience, it's mostly:

* Die Hard Rail Fans who will take Amtrak long distances and pay for a room because it's cool.
* Europeans/Backpackers/Retirees who are taking a one-and-done for the experience of it
* People who cannot/will not fly and it's a better alternative than Greyhound

Until we expand that market (and that market segment is expanding) we're not going to be able to sell any more service improvements.

How can we make the Long Distance trains we have get fully booked--which will justify more service along them?
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
What do we know about the passenger market for Long Distance trains? How do we expand that?

As far as I can see from anecdotal experience, it's mostly:

* Die Hard Rail Fans who will take Amtrak long distances and pay for a room because it's cool.
* Europeans/Backpackers/Retirees who are taking a one-and-done for the experience of it
* People who cannot/will not fly and it's a better alternative than Greyhound

Until we expand that market (and that market segment is expanding) we're not going to be able to sell any more service improvements.

How can we make the Long Distance trains we have get fully booked--which will justify more service along them?
The Crescent is already (pre-COVID-19) sold out pretty often, particularly in sleeping cars.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,135
Location
Baltimore. MD
Where's the data on specific trains?
The rail Passengers Association is your friend: Amtrak Ridership Statistics | Rail Passengers Association | Washington, DC

They give ridership statistics and revenue for all the "business lines." Long distance trains are one of the "business lines." They also provide stats for individual long distance trains (under "routes"). Unfortunately, they don't give the number of passengers riding the train at any particular segment of the trip. What would be most useful in terms of developing on-board service would be the number of passengers aboard during meal times. That would give the potential market size for food service.
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
263
Location
Michigan
The rail Passengers Association is your friend:
I've been a member since I started riding Long Distance trains! The discount pays for the membership more than once over every year.

There's a lot of great suggestions here, but it seems like the ability to implement any of them is lacking.

Are they still prohibited from taking on additional rail cars? I know I saw one that was attached on one of my LD runs. Would it be at all possible to test out some of these ideas on an attached car?
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
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Mar 30, 2019
Messages
461
Location
Denver
I think the midwest is full of amazing short routes that would really be good contributors. I'll outline all of the low hanging fruit on this post.

1. Cleveland, OH-Cincinnati, OH
Track Owners
-CSX: Cleveland, OH-Columbus, OH
-Norfolk Southern: Columbus, OH-Cincinnati, OH

Potential Stations: Wellington, OH, Greenwich, OH (Willard, OH), Shelby, OH, Galion, OH, Delaware, OH (New York Central), Columbus, OH, Springfield, OH, Dayton, OH, and Hamilton, OH (Would have to leave for the CSX EX B&O at Dayton for Hamilton).

This is a route I think that could easily become the midwest version of the Piedmont. You could even potentially extend one train all the way to New York, NY via Buffalo, NY, and make that an overnight train across the Empire Corridor. Filling a demand for a Buffalo-New York overnight trip, and could take up the Mid Morning departure from Cleveland.

2. Cincinnati, OH-Detroit, MI via Toledo, OH
Track Owners
-CSX: Cincinnati, OH-Toledo, OH EX B&O
-CSX: Cincinnati, OH-Detroit, MI EX NYC

Potential Stations: Hamilton, OH, Dayton, OH, Troy, OH, Piqua, OH, Sidney, OH, Lima, OH, Deshler, OH, Weston, OH (Bowling Green, OH), Toledo, OH, and Monroe, MI.

Another route that I think could be a very strong corridor. Connecting three major cities to each other that now to travel by rail between one must go to Chicago first. It's a fast all mainline route that should be doable in under 6 hours. Back in 1952 there were two routes one via the New York Central, and one via the Baltimore & Ohio. The B&O operated 3 Pairs a day, the New York Central operated two pairs daily.

3. Cincinnati, OH-Detroit, MI via Columbus, OH and Toledo, OH.
Track Owners
-Norfolk Southern: Cincinnati, OH-Columbus, OH EX NYC (EX Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle London-Columbus)
-CSX: Columbus, OH-Toledo, OH EX C&O
-CSX: Toledo, OH-Detroit, MI EX NYC

Potential Stations: Hamilton, OH, Dayton, OH, Springfield, OH, Columbus, OH, Delaware, OH (C&O), Marion, OH, Upper Sandusky, OH, Fostoria, OH, Toledo, OH, and Monroe, MI.

This route while not as fast as the direct route on the EX B&O adds two major cities (Springfield, OH, and Columbus, OH), and can provide overlapping service between Columbus-Cincinnati that can provide more often service between those two cities.

4. Cincinnati, OH-Chicago, IL via Indianapolis, IN
Track Owners
-CSX Cincinnati, OH-Chicago, IL following the Cardinal route.

Potential Stations: Hamilton, OH, Connelsville, IN, Indianapolis, IN, Crawfordsville, IN, Lafayette, IN, Rensselaer, IN, Dyer, IN

This route is a major low hanging fruit. It already sees passenger service tri-weekly. Low freight traffic volumes on all but the Hamilton-Cincinnati, and Chicago portions of the route. Back in 1952 the route was served by the New York Central, and Pennsylvania Railroads. New York Central fielded 5 trains a day each way. The Pennsylvania Railroad fielded 3 trains a day each way.

Neither of the historical routes exist anymore the New York Central is abandoned between Greensburg, IN and Shelbyville, IN and Zionsville, IN and Lafayette, IN. The Pennsylvania Railroad is abandoned between New Castle, IN and Kokomo, IN and Logansport, IN and Chicago, IL. So while the hodgepodge of EX B&O, PRR, and MON may not be the best route historically it's the only route now.

5. Columbus, OH-Chicago, IL
Track Owners
-CSX Columbus, OH-Dunkirk, OH
-Chicago, Fort Wayne, & Eastern: Dunkirk, OH-Gary, IN
-Norfolk Southern: Gary, IN-Chicago, IL

Potential Stations: Marysville, OH, Kenton, OH, Lima, OH, Fort Wayne, IN, Warsaw, IN, Plymouth, IN, and Valparaiso, IN.
New Infrastructure: Connection leg at Dunkirk, OH, and Gary, IN

This is a no brainer route Ohio's capitol city to the hub of the midwest. In fact the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1952 fielded three trains on this route by a route that is now mostly abandoned. But rerouting this up to the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line gives Fort Wayne service.

6. Cleveland, OH-St. Louis, MO via Indianapolis
Track Owners
-CSX Cleveland-St. Louis

Potential Stations: Wellington, OH, Greenwich, OH (Willard), Shelby, OH, Gallion, OH, Bellafontaine, OH, Sidney, OH, Union City, IN/OH, Muncie, IN, Anderson, IN, Indianapolis, IN, Greencastle, IN, Terre Haute, IN, Marshall, IL, Effingham, IL, Vandallia, IL, Greenville, IL,

Another strong route with three major cities along it, as well as quite a few minor cities along it as well. It would be a longer route than the others listed but I think it would tie in well.

7. Detroit, MI-St. Louis, MO via Toledo, OH and Fort Wayne, IN
Track Owners
-Norfolk Southern Detroit, MI-St. Louis, MO EX New York Central (Detroit-Butler), EX Wabash (Butler-St. Louis)

Potential Stations: Monroe, MI, Toledo, OH, Bryan, OH, Fort Wayne, IN, Huntington, IN, Logansport, IN, Lafayette, IN, Danville, IL, Tolano, IL, Decatur, IL, Taylorville, IL, and Litchfield, IL.

Another route that lasted up until the day Amtrak took over. Connecting three of the midwest's largest cities without going into the mess that is Chicago. An added bonus is with the other Cincinnati-Detroit routes Toledo-Detroit would host very frequent rail service. And it is shorter than driving the interstate between Detroit and St. Louis.

8. Detroit, MI-Indianapolis via Toledo
Track Owners
-CSX Detroit, MI-Toledo, OH
-Norfolk Southern Toledo, OH-Muncie, IN
-CSX Muncie, IN-Indianapolis, IN

Potential Stations: Monroe, MI, Toledo, OH, Bryan, OH, Fort Wayne, IN, Blufton, IN, Montpelier, IN, Hartford City, IN, Muncie, IN, Anderson, IN

Another simple route between three of the midwest's largest cities, and one that is never really mentioned. It would further boost the Detroit-Toledo corridor, it would boost route No. 7 as far as Fort Wayne. And it would boost the Cleveland-St. Louis train from Muncie to Indy.

9. Detroit, MI-Chicago, IL via Grand Rapids
Track Owners
-CSX Detroit, MI-Porter, IN
-Norfolk Southern Porter, IN-Chicago, IL

Potential Stations: Plymouth, MI, Howell, MI, Lansing, MI, Grand Rapids, MI, Holland, MI, Bangor, MI, and Saint Joseph, MI.

Another simple route that links three of Michigan's major cities, and would give the Pere Marquette the additional frequency it needs.


And that's just some of what I think about east of Chicago. Wait till you hear about west of Chicago.
This is what I suspected, but I try not to be too certain outside of the ICC Western Region. But being a juice fan, I'll add that a number of those line segments had competing interurbans including freight service until the highway lobby ruined the fun.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
461
Location
Denver
Think of the time it would take to service the number of customers.

Much better to have the ability to pre-order (and pay for) food BEFORE the stop then all one has to do is pick it up (or have it loaded and passed out by onboard personnel). Amtrak could take a cut from the vendor's price.
The NP's Fargo-Hawley-Winnipeg RDC picked up pre-ordered box lunches in Grand Forks. The conductor collected the cash (no checks or credit). In 1967 I was toward the end of my cash so I just got to sniff the aroma of what smelled like really good fried chicken from a hometown café.
 
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