Post WWII Dining Car Data

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Post WWII Dining Car Data
Posted by RailSpike on Thursday, August 6, 2020 12:40 PM

As I am lamenting the fact that we may never see full-service dining car service on Amtrak again, I came across some interesting data from a 2009 TRRA booklet on MKT's "The Texas Special", more commonly known as "The Glamour Train of the Southwest".  This was clearly the flagship of the railroad and was highly patronized.  The food was excellent, as on most flagship trains.

The data reflects the profit/loss figures for a period after WWII(1945-1956). In 1945 the dining cars produced a small profit.  For the next ten years, the losses varied every year, ranging from a low of $90K to almost $200K.  The railroad's Dining Car Department accepted the losses as "a cost of doing business".  

Obviously costs have risen over the last 60 years for a multitude of reasons and in the mid-fifties, train travel was on the decline. But if this train couldn't produce a profit when passenger loads were still medium to high, what makes anyone think Amtrak diners can produce a profit today?  

Can Congress accept the fact that Amtrak dining car losses are "a cost of doing business"?  Doubt it. Non-railroad decision-makers don't get it. 

 

 

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, August 7, 2020 4:57 AM

There have been disagreements posted with my approach to solving this problem, and the whole discussion can be reviewed with the thread "Are the trains worth...." on this Forum.

But my critics and I do agree that paying cooks to travel and sleep away from home is not appropriate any longer and better ways must be employed.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, August 7, 2020 9:46 AM

Break-even,  not show a profit.  This means charge enough to cover all "above the rail costs" such as labor,  food supplies or suppliers,  cost of hauling the car. If dining services are so important,  let passengers pay for it,  same as in a restaurant. Unfortunately,  some people want restaurant dining comparable to that in the 60th percentile or better and at a heavily subsidized price. 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, August 7, 2020 10:18 PM

Let us look at dinning from another aspect.  Trans Atlantic ships slowly died for lack of passengers as those passengers gravitated to  airlines flying jets with a very good meal service.  Then the Cruis industry came along but did not have much success.  Then came the TV show Love Boat with the idea of cruising with among other items the great dinning that was 24/7. 

The question then becomes if Amtrak would provide excellent dinning would that attract more passengers ?  That especially if food service would become regional specific.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, August 7, 2020 11:24 PM

blue streak 1
Let us look at dinning from another aspect.  Trans Atlantic ships slowly died for lack of passengers as those passengers gravitated to  airlines flying jets with a very good meal service.  Then the Cruis industry came along but did not have much success.  Then came the TV show Love Boat with the idea of cruising with among other items the great dinning that was 24/7. 

The question then becomes if Amtrak would provide excellent dinning would that attract more passengers ?  That especially if food service would become regional specific.

Only if you can craft a hit TV show - Love Train......

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Posted by Gramp on Friday, August 7, 2020 11:25 PM

Isn't that Rocky Mountaineer?  Orient Express?  Not transportation, but the experience.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, August 7, 2020 11:32 PM

Gramp
Isn't that Rocky Mountaineer?  Orient Express?  Not transportation, but the experience.

Orient Express in the USA failed financially.  Rocky Mountaineer is using 1st Class hotels for its overnight stays.  I could be mistaken but I suspect lunch may be the only food offering while in transit.

A friend of mine took the Rocky Mountaineer last year and had a wonderful time.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 8, 2020 4:59 AM

BaltACD
Orient Express in the USA failed financially.

But the important thing there, as with Ed Ellis' tacking a couple of luxury cars onto the end of certain Amtrak trains, is to look at why.

The basic premise of rail transportation is scheduled convenience.  Independent of actual 'take rate' on a particular date, the train needs to run, end to end, with all its services and amenities running.  AOE ran effectively until there were economic problems that (temporarily) cut their ridership below sustainable levels.  If they could have simply suspended operations without cost, they might have weathered the downturn: in practice, just like so many hobby shops in the pandemic, "gone is gone".  Ed made a potload when his cars were full; not so much when they weren't, and he was not in the 'business' of trying to make a small fortune in luxury passenger service by starting with the required large one.

Looking back, a different kind of relevant example was the original CZ, run much more as a 'cruise train' than competitive ground transportation.   Note well where the idea succeeded, where it did not... and what became of that train and why.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 8, 2020 9:21 AM

As to the CB&Q/DRG&W/WP California Zephyr, it was like a land cruise.  It took longer from Chicago to Denver than the DZ in order to maximize daylight viewing of the Rockies, which was the first day's viewing attraction for the five Vistadomes. The second day's attraction was the Feather River Canyon. 

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