What was it like to travel in a Heritage Sleeper?

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zephyr17

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PS, at night on the old equipment I zipped the curtain, AND closed the door. That way if I had to raise the bed, I could just open the door, step the side, and do it.
 

John Bobinyec

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The one interesting thing for me was the roomettes. They only had a lower bed, which was all one piece. It folded up into the wall on one side. When it was down in the sleeping position, it

  • covered the toilet
  • filled up the room so much that you couldn't stand on the floor between the bed and the door.
[ed. Actually, you could stand on the floor between the bed and the door, but in order to put the bed up, you had to get out of the way.]

So, if you had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, here was the process:

  1. Secure the curtains on the inside of the door
  2. Open the door
  3. Step down off of the bed onto the floor with your feet partially in the hallway, but you were still covered by the curtain
  4. Fold the bed up into the wall.
  5. Step into the room and close the door.
  6. After business was take care of, reverse the process to put the bed back down.
jb
Just a minor correction...the zippered curtains were on the outside of the roomette doors (the aisle side)....
Why would they stick curtains on the aisle side? That totally compromises privacy.
The curtains were fully secured to the walls on the sides, no compromise to privacy. The only thing that opened was the zipper in the middle
Right, but (and not to get hung up on this) couldn't someone outside just unzip it and see the occupant 'using the facilities'?
No. See Step 5.

jb
 

Lonestar648

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I remember a few rides on the PRR, B&O, and the Santa Fe. The Pullman Porters were tops in customer service. I don't remember them ever sleeping, they were always available when you called. These cars,1950's 1960's, kept up in good condition. I remember as a young boy travels to/from NYC, WAS, LAX, with grandparents and my parents, and finally by myself. Amtrak made some improvements with the new sleepers, but the old Pullman cars were great. Again, I think the Porters working for Pullman, made the whole experience what it was.
 

Skyline

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I rode Heritage Sleepers on The Broadway, The Capital Limited, and the LSL. The equipment was already worn out when Amtrak inherited the cars, there were much better pre-Amtrak. I remember some cars worse than others, in how much you got tossed around. The beds were comfortable and wider than today. In the roomette, the night procedure for using the toilet was inconvenient. The bedrooms were comfortable. There were no showering facilities hut no one minded not having something they never had.
Humans don't NEED to shower every day, just clean up at a sink. Even with showers on today's sleepers, many pax don't use them. Nice they're offered tho...
 

Skyline

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The one interesting thing for me was the roomettes. They only had a lower bed, which was all one piece. It folded up into the wall on one side. When it was down in the sleeping position, it

  • covered the toilet
  • filled up the room so much that you couldn't stand on the floor between the bed and the door.
[ed. Actually, you could stand on the floor between the bed and the door, but in order to put the bed up, you had to get out of the way.]

So, if you had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, here was the process:

  1. Secure the curtains on the inside of the door
  2. Open the door
  3. Step down off of the bed onto the floor with your feet partially in the hallway, but you were still covered by the curtain
  4. Fold the bed up into the wall.
  5. Step into the room and close the door.
  6. After business was take care of, reverse the process to put the bed back down.
jb
Just a minor correction...the zippered curtains were on the outside of the roomette doors (the aisle side)....
Why would they stick curtains on the aisle side? That totally compromises privacy.
The curtains were fully secured to the walls on the sides, no compromise to privacy. The only thing that opened was the zipper in the middle
Right, but (and not to get hung up on this) couldn't someone outside just unzip it and see the occupant 'using the facilities'?
The zipper pull faced inwards so would be difficult for someone outside to open. Up until Amtrak stopped smoking on trains, one could smoke in their sleeping accommodation so they always smelled like smoke. I prefer the 10-6 roomette over Superliner and dearly miss the Slumbercoach.
Agree. Slumbercoaches were remarkably and efficiently well designed, and definitely priced right. Back in the day I chose them over roomettes or better when possible. Also lamented their absence on most trains. I wish Amtrak would include a true economy sleeper in a future order for new equipment. No frills, no meals included, just comfortable-enough private horizontal sleeping space.
 

railiner

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I rode Heritage Sleepers on The Broadway, The Capital Limited, and the LSL. The equipment was already worn out when Amtrak inherited the cars, there were much better pre-Amtrak. I remember some cars worse than others, in how much you got tossed around. The beds were comfortable and wider than today. In the roomette, the night procedure for using the toilet was inconvenient. The bedrooms were comfortable. There were no showering facilities hut no one minded not having something they never had.
Humans don't NEED to shower every day, just clean up at a sink. Even with showers on today's sleepers, many pax don't use them. Nice they're offered tho...
Back in the pre-Amtrak era, many major stations and terminals had large rest rooms where you could 'rent' a shower for just some change, including fresh bar of soap, and clean towels. So someone doing a transcontinental trip could shower when changing trains at Chicago or St. Lous, for example.

Back in those days, you could rent pillows on overnight trains....everything seemed "more civilized" back then....lots of coin lockers, and other accommodations for budget traveler's.

Those were the days of "commercial traveler's" (salesmen), riding trains everywhere....

Sometimes I wish I was born earlier.....
 

Larry H.

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I rode the Empire Builder one month before Amtrak Took over the passenger business. I rode the UP to San Francisco around 1961, the Panama Limited several times in the 60's. The Canadian National around the late 60s. There was no doubt that the Pullman Company insisted on maintaining a quality of service right till they ended their part in rail travel. The cars which were varied were more solid feeling than today and the constant rattles or banging of doors was generally not heard. The rooms were more like small hotel rooms than what Amtrak had built to replace them. As mentioned the beds in roomettes were better than the latter designs. On the Canadian National from Toronto to Vancouver we had a bedroom but that train carried lots of pullman type cars, some still with the upper and lower berths with just a curtain to enclose you from the hall way. A lot of people were using them still and the train carried 22 cars, not including several baggage and dorm cars. On the americas trains of better quality buying a first class ticket was not the outrageously higher cost than coach seen today. And you usually had a first class only lounge and card room or bookcases and desk with postcards to send. Some trains carried a first class diner as well as a coach diner. I remember the City of Los Angles met up with the City of St. Louis and then had a diner in a dome car. The most wonderful part of travel by train then was the fact that each company had its own special idea of decor, and color schemes on the exterior. When you said you were riding the Empire Builder it actually meant something, now its just getting on the same cars no matter where your going. And the speed of the trains was considerably faster as well. The Panama Limited was rated at 100 miles an hour on much of its run. I recall coming out of New Orleans at night and hearing he wheels hitting the sides of the tracks on curves and sparks flying from the wheels. If I recall correctly it left Chicago heading south around 6pm and was in New Orleans in the early morning unlike the late after noon it now takes to make the same trip. The food in those days on good trains was usually far better than what we see now. Our congress has a funny idea that ruining the dining experience is a good idea, I think not.

We did have one memorably bad sleeper experience on the Missouri Pacific going to Colorado Springs. It was Christmas and the St. Louis Union Station was absolutely packed with travelers. We had made reservations for my Grand Parents way out thinking that would provide a decent car. It didn't turn out that way, they got a ancient sleeper with old fashioned style bedrooms that had a flat wheel to boot. That thing was almost unbearable and the new pullmans were smooth as glass. I guess at least we got to see what the previous generation of sleepers was like too.

And I nearly forgot till I read the previous post that in those days many people still wore suits and ties and women wore dresses on board. The lounges were elegant with over stuffed chairs and lamps arranged in interesting designs. I recall the Broadway Limited I think it was that had the serpentine wavy walls behind the bar with painting on it, very deco and quite striking.
 
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Lonestar648

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I remember my father, who worked for Westinghouse, traveling by train all over the country. Electric razor, toothbrush, and his comb plus an extra shirt and tie in the brief case with his files. He did take a suitcase when he went to the west coast. He was a regular on the B&O between Pittsburgh and Washington,DC., Pittsburgh and Chicago, and some how to Knoxville (Oak Ridge), but don't remember how. He got to know several of the Pullman Porters by name and who remembered him when we got to see him off some evenings. There were several trains in the grand PRR Station, plus the B&O station across the river at the base of Mt. Washington. My father found the trains a perfect place to write his reports and memos so the secretary could type them when he returned to the office. Occasionally, my mother would travel out west with him and my sister and I on the shorter trips east.
 

Philly Amtrak Fan

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Agree. Slumbercoaches were remarkably and efficiently well designed, and definitely priced right. Back in the day I chose them over roomettes or better when possible. Also lamented their absence on most trains. I wish Amtrak would include a true economy sleeper in a future order for new equipment. No frills, no meals included, just comfortable-enough private horizontal sleeping space.
Wish they existed today.
 
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bratkinson

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I managed to ride Amtraks' sleepers quite a bit both pre-HEP and post-HEP. Compared to todays' Superliners or Viewliners, the old sleepers were like heaven, in my book. Even when they showed too many trips without being refurb'ed, they were still the way to go.

On the good side:

1. Beds were far more comfortable

2. Beds were almost 'twin sized'

3. Other than the door, there never were any rattles that needed a piece of two of shim stock to cure

4. As all the roomette curtains were in the carpeted halls, the cars seemed to be more quiet than any of the 'new stuff' (all of which is 20-38 years old already!)

5. The backside of the door held a full mirror

6. They had a 'medicine chest' above the sink that held soap, extra toilet paper, and whatever one put in there themselves, such as shaving items, etc.

7. They had far larger windows than todays' equipment

8. If you had the muscle to do so, there was a shelf on the wall in the 'holds the upright bed' wall that was big enough to hold a very large suitcase, as well as maybe 12" vertical clearance under the couchette for luggage, too.

9. The window sill was about 4" wide and horizontal. Was perfect for setting a scanner on it!

10. The shades, not curtains, did a very good job of blocking out ALL light from the room at night.

11. They had a pouch on the 'head board' to put ones glasses and other items into when the bed was lowered. As that headboard moved down as the bed folded up, it was not accessible when the bed was up.

On the bad side:

1. When originally converted to HEP, the removed the tiny toilet (smaller than that in a RV!) accessible from the hallway, and extended roomette 10 to make it into a handicap bedroom.

2. There was only one thick metal wall between roomettes so if you had loud neighbors, you heard 'em. I don't know how the new equipment limits adjoining room noise.

3. In most of the 10-6's, there was a 4" long lever sticking out of the 'front' wall (if you are seated on the couch, the lever is on the opposite wall) that gets pushed down by the bed when lowered. That lever prevented the sink from being opened up when the bed was down. I suspect that was done to keep men and boys from peeing in the sink when the bed is down.

4. It was always interesting to watch the ties go by if you held your foot on the flush pedal for the toilet. No holding tanks on those cars!

5. It was rare, indeed, if the carpeting had any 'fuzz' left on them, or, if so, the carpet pile was packed full of who knows what. It didn't take long to realize that I needed to travel with a pair of beat up moccassins to keep my feet clean unless I didn't mind grubby socks. I do the same, today.

6. I've seen passengers with dogs of all sizes, even a german shepherd in the rooms. Not all were house trained.

7. Ditto #6 for kids.

8. In the days of steam heat (pre-HEP), there were trips where it could not be turned up warmer, turned off while travelling to Florida, or even producing ANY heat as the sleepers were always in the rear and a freeze up ahead resulted in my sleeping fully clothed, overcoat and all!

9. If someone in the next room was stinking up the place while on the toilet, the odors wafted through to the next roomette.

10. Because it was a simple spring loaded 'flapper' that would open up when flushed, sometimes...no...make that oftentimes it didn't close sufficiently to eliminate all track/rail/wheel noise from entering the room. Probably, the spring was weaker than needed. I learned to take some wetted toilet paper and put it in the bottom of the toilet to stop the noise.

11. As a portend of Viewliner roomettes, some sleepers had a narrowed down end a couple of inches as the sink/medicine chest stuck too far into the room for the bed to clear it. I think those were former Union Pacific cars, but don't shoot me if I got the wrong RR!

12. There was no table, not even a small one like Viewliners and Superliners. You had to ask the porter to bring it. One end sat in/on a ledge under the window and a single leg folded out from under it. As I recall, it was 18-20" wide and maybe 36" long.

13. There was a small 1940's style oscillating table fan mounted on a small platform or bolted directly to the wall, maybe 8" diameter from outside to outside of the unprotected rubber blades near the ceiling that was seldom quiet running. I sometimes had to turn it off if I wanted to sleep they were so noisy!!!

14. Some of the roomettes, maybe most of them, had a little metal ring attached to the wall that dropped over the bed release lever (at the foot of the bed, adjacent to the sink-lock lever) that had to be pulled slightly to unlock it from the down position before raising it. The beds had strong springs, like those for a overhead garage door, that reduced the apparent weight of the bed. Not all 'bed lock' latches stayed latched all night. The result was that the bed could start to close up by itself if not fully latched down, and secured with the little metal ring that prevented it from going up more than an inch or so.

While it wasn't done with the original HEP'ing of the equipment, in later years, they DID put a shower in some of the cars! They removed roomette #9 (#10 was the handicap room) and replaced it with a shower more cramped than in Viewliners and Superliners today. I definitely recall the showers being on the Three Rivers before it was terminated. Perhaps the shower was installed only for that run for crew members and/or as it was the last LD train with Heritage Fleet equipment, they wanted to make it comparable to the Superliners and Viewliners having showers.
 
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OBS

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The one interesting thing for me was the roomettes. They only had a lower bed, which was all one piece. It folded up into the wall on one side. When it was down in the sleeping position, it

  • covered the toilet
  • filled up the room so much that you couldn't stand on the floor between the bed and the door.
[ed. Actually, you could stand on the floor between the bed and the door, but in order to put the bed up, you had to get out of the way.]

So, if you had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, here was the process:

  1. Secure the curtains on the inside of the door
  2. Open the door
  3. Step down off of the bed onto the floor with your feet partially in the hallway, but you were still covered by the curtain
  4. Fold the bed up into the wall.
  5. Step into the room and close the door.
  6. After business was take care of, reverse the process to put the bed back down.
jb
Just a minor correction...the zippered curtains were on the outside of the roomette doors (the aisle side)....
Why would they stick curtains on the aisle side? That totally compromises privacy.
The curtains were fully secured to the walls on the sides, no compromise to privacy. The only thing that opened was the zipper in the middle
Right, but (and not to get hung up on this) couldn't someone outside just unzip it and see the occupant 'using the facilities'?
The zipper pull faced inwards so would be difficult for someone outside to open. Up until Amtrak stopped smoking on trains, one could smoke in their sleeping accommodation so they always smelled like smoke. I prefer the 10-6 roomette over Superliner and dearly miss the Slumbercoach.
Actually the zipper had pull tabs on both sides of the curtain.
 

dlagrua

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Can't say that I've traveled in any Heritage sleepers but I did have chance to explore them at the Illinois Railroad Museum. The Slumbercoach was the most interesting. They were designed with 40 beds per car, There were 24 single private rooms and 8 bedrooms on both sides with a hall down the center. The single rooms were arranged in a duplex (staggered up/down) fashion and during the day the seat measured 26" wide and the bed when put down was 24" wide and 6' long. Each room featured a light, mirror, fold-away wash basin and private toilet. It was an amazing and efficient use of space for a single level car. The rooms were a bit small and the beds a little narrow but single traveler could have a small private room for just a little more than coach fare. It was a very affordable way to enjoy an overnight trip and the Slumbercoach held more than 2/3 the capacity of a std coach that had 56 seats.. I don't understand why the design is not used anymore. For a single traveler it was ideal.
 
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Thirdrail7

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Can't say that I've traveled in any Heritage sleepers but I did have chance to explore them at the Illinois Railroad Museum. The Slumbercoach was the most interesting. They were designed with 40 beds per car, There were 24 single private rooms and 8 bedrooms on both sides with a hall down the center. The single rooms were arranged in a duplex (staggered up/down) fashion and during the day the seat measured 26" wide and the bed when put down was 24" wide and 6' long. Each room featured a light, mirror, fold-away wash basin and private toilet. It was an amazing and efficient use of space for a single level car. The rooms were a bit small and the beds a little narrow but single traveler could have a small private room for just a little more than coach fare. It was a very affordable way to enjoy an overnight trip and the Slumbercoach held more than 2/3 the capacity of a std coach that had 56 seats.. I don't understand why the design is not used anymore. For a single traveler it was ideal.
I've always felt they should return to this concept. It should supplement, not replace the existing sleeper fleet. The only thing is the potential plumbing nightmare. The coach you observed dumped the toilet waste directly on the tracks...and a Florida Congressman!
 
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Lonestar648

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The option would be to return them with out the toilet and have a public toilet instead, thus eliminate the plumbing nightmare. Sounds like a great option, plus a good way to increase revenue. At this point Amtrak is too low on inventory to make a different car from the stock they have, but with new sleepers, Maybe Beech Grove could rebuild one into a Slumber/Duplex Sleeper to run as a test for passenger acceptance and what works and doesn't.
 

chakk

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They weren't shabby at all when I rode them in 1969 and 1970 (pre-Amtrak) on B&O, NYC, CN, SP, UP, ATSF, N&W, WP, DRGW, and CB&Q
And on all of these roads, the porter would shine my shoes during the night if I left them in the shoe locker expressly designed for that purpose.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

OBS

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They weren't shabby at all when I rode them in 1969 and 1970 (pre-Amtrak) on B&O, NYC, CN, SP, UP, ATSF, N&W, WP, DRGW, and CB&Q
And on all of these roads, the porter would shine my shoes during the night if I left them in the shoe locker expressly designed for that purpose.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
Amtrak did that also for many years. I was issued a shoe shine kit as part of my "tools" when I hired on in the 1980's.
 

Seaboard92

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The problem is you would need at least two or three to test a slumbercoach product out. So you could have one available on all departures. The LSL requires a minimum of three, the SS has a minimum of four, same with the SM. The cardinal would require two.
 

railiner

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When I lived in Denver, in the 70's and 80's, I used to take the train back to New York once or twice a year on vacations As a station employee, I got to know the crews pretty well, and leaving Denver, they would "take care of me"....

They would let me ride in the trans-coach-dorm, which was not used for passenger's, off-season. So I had 40 seats to myself. I would turn the front pair around, and raise all four legrests, to create a nice 'bed'. And they would give me a blanket and pillow. In addition, they let me use the nice big crew shower on the lower level, which was appreciated, as I would often work that train, right up until departure time, to extend my vacation a day.

East of Chicago, I would buy a Single Slumbercoach on either The Broadway, or the Lake Shore. Besides the 24-8 type Slumber's, well described by diagrua above, I would sometimes get one of the 16 Single, 10 Double type, that were converted from all-roomette cars. These had four 'bonus' single rooms, that were actually double rooms, but only were built with one bed in them. They were very roomy, plus had the larger window. These were always rooms 1 through 4. Why they were built that way, I can only guess....

At the time they were completed, there may have been a much larger call for single rooms than doubles, so they adjusted their plans, but could always change them back, if needed relatively easily. Then, they would have been 12 Single, 14 Double slumbercoaches....

I liked to party until 'closing time' in the lounge cars back then, and one nice feature of all the slumber's was that you could still use the toilet at night, without the need to raise the bed.
 

railiner

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They weren't shabby at all when I rode them in 1969 and 1970 (pre-Amtrak) on B&O, NYC, CN, SP, UP, ATSF, N&W, WP, DRGW, and CB&Q
And on all of these roads, the porter would shine my shoes during the night if I left them in the shoe locker expressly designed for that purpose.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
Back in the Pullman days, IIRC, they would even sponge and press your suit on request...not sure about that one though....

but they would use a 'whisk broom' and brush you off as you departed....
 

PaTrainFan

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A lot of memories reading through the recollections of others on this topic. I was fortunate enough as a child to ride the Denver Zephyr, California Zephyr and the Great Nothern's Western Star, as well as The Canadian (CP) and Super Continental (CN), among others, when quality mattered. I only wish I could have experienced the Broadway Limited and 20th Century Limited at their peak. To echo what has been stated several times, the best part of the older sleepers was that the beds were at window level so it was easy to lay in bed and watch the countryside go by. That's why, on my first and only trip in a Viewliner a couple of years ago, I chose to sleep in the upper berth, as it allowed me the view that I wanted. Agree with others that the cars were better built and rode better. One issue I have with Superliners is that in the bedrooms the beds do not parallel the windows. That said, still thinking of the era, the dining car was an experience unto itself as well as the lounges.
 

cpotisch

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If every slumbercoach room had a toilet, and the rooms were staggered, doesn't that mean that someone could be 'using the facilities' two feet above your head? That sort of grosses me out.
 

Big Iron

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If every slumbercoach room had a toilet, and the rooms were staggered, doesn't that mean that someone could be 'using the facilities' two feet above your head? That sort of grosses me out.
Not really, maybe over your feet. The link below has a side view diagram but does not seem totally accurate to me. It makes the rooms look larger.

https://thelibrary.org/lochist/frisco/history/Images/presentation/side2-panel-k.jpg

I found the link in this RAILforum thread.

http://www.railforum.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/11/5116.html
 

chakk

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I think it was the other person's feet above your head in the duplex single rooms on the Slumbercoach. The "other" head in the room was offset from the bed.

And I recall that for awhile the slumbercoaches on Amtrak's Crescent where actually standard configuration 10-6 sleepers -- you just didn't get the free meal(s) with your room reservation.
 

Steve4031

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I rode in one of the 10-6 slumber coaches on 51 once. I thought the regular slumber coach was bad ordered.

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