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Slow LD Passenger Trains

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Posted by erikem on Sunday, August 05, 2012 12:31 PM

daveklepper

I don't think name calling is called for, and I think Lucious Beeb did make enough of a contribution to railfandom that he should be left to rest in peace.

Having thoroughly enjoyed reading many of Beebe's books, I would rather think that he would have considered being called a Victorian snob more of a compliment than an insult. The whole selling point of his book, "Mansions on Rails", was a peek into the life of the upper crust in the Victorian era, including some zingers aimed at some of the less refined members of the PV community. He did mention that a few of the PV occupants had a strong preference for traveling cross country at 30 MPH.

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The Slow Train
Posted by Trains are the Future on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 3:51 AM

Ideally there would be both. Fast trains where they make sense on intercity corridors and slower, less expensive trains on tourist routes.

Some nostagia from England:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6OHD2uCpfU

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 8:31 AM

Possibly Beebe would not mind being called a Victorian snob.   You may be right.

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Posted by Sunnyland on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 4:30 PM

I agree, to me the train is the journey and I never mind delays as long as nothing hazardous happens.  But I can understand the frustration of people who are on a time crunch. I was on Eagle a few days ago with a local railfan group. We were riding just to experience the reroute due to high speed rail through IL.  The train ended up being over 3 hours late. One couple in our car were trying to make a wedding at 7:30 pm and they knew they would be late when we arrived at 5:30. They had to rush to a hotel, changes clothes, freshen up and head out again. So I can see people getting aggravated over that, but they were actually very nice about it and were not complaining.

We did miss our connecting train to Champaign where a bus was to meet us. But the leader of our group was on the phone quickly with Amtrak when he could see what was happening and they had a bus waiting for us when we arrived in Chicago. They put a few other people on our bus who had also missed the train due to traffic congestion in Chicago with a storm and evacuation of Lollapalooza rock fest. We got home safe and sound, just later than expected, but that happens. I did hear that Amtrak was putting people up in hotels who had missed their LD connection-try getting airlines to do that today.  And they had a flock of buses outside CUS taking people to different places in MI or IL.  

But I have always loved trains, so it doesn't upset me, but I have friends who would not feel the same way.  Today, planes are just not pleasant and way too expensive, that's why I haven't flown in over 10 years.  I don't have to fly anywhere, so I don't.  When TWA went under, that did it for me, they were the best and no one else can compare to their level of service "back in the day."   Southwest seems to be a decent line, but I've never flown them.  

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Posted by Sam1 on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:09 PM

Sunnyland

But I have always loved trains, so it doesn't upset me, but I have friends who would not feel the same way.  Today, planes are just not pleasant and way too expensive, that's why I haven't flown in over 10 years.......   Southwest seems to be a decent line, but I've never flown them.  

Whether a plane trip is more expensive than a train trip depends on where you are going and how far in advance you book a ticket.  

The Amtrak coach fare from Austin, TX, to New York, NY on September 19th is $212.  The cost of a roomette on the Texas Eagle would be $194 whilst a roomette on the Capitol Limited would set one back $368. If you are amongst the 2.2 per cent of Amtrak's passengers who can afford to ride sleeper class, the cost would be $774.  If coach class is selected, in addition to the fare, one could expect to spend approximately $50 for food and drink. 

The train would take 48.3 hours plus dwell time in Chicago to complete the trip.  The airplane would be 5.16 hours on Southwest.  The Wanna Get Away fare on Southwest, which is my first choice amongst airlines, is $141.  Even if one waits until just one week prior to travel, the one way fare on Delta is only $156.  However, last minute walk-up fares could be as high as $550.

If the airplane is full, as tends to the the case for most flights this year, the ride is nothing to write home about. But it is over quickly. Riding in one of Amtrak's coaches may not be more pleasant. I have ridden coach class from Austin to Dallas and screaming kids turned the ride into a nightmare.  

I like trains also.  But the above cost and time comparison is one of the points in my argument that long distance trains don't make any sense.  The only people who are going to ride from Austin to New York on a train are train lovers, those who are afraid to fly, and a few rich people who can afford to book a sleeper at rates that are equal to or exceed the cost of a first class hotel room.  On the other hand, taking a train from Temple, TX to Dallas, TX, especially if we had good corridor service, would be a desirable option.

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Posted by schlimm on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:34 PM

Sam1
I like trains also.  But the above cost and time comparison is one of the points in my argument that long distance trains don't make any sense.  The only people who are going to ride from Austin to New York on a train are train lovers, those who are afraid to fly, and a few rich people who can afford to book a sleeper at rates that are equal to or exceed the cost of the first class hotel room.  On the other hand, taking a train from Temple, TX to Dallas, TX, especially if we had good corridor service, would be a good option

Hear, hear!!  And quite a few other potential corridors, as well, could see service if we rationally prioritize passenger rail services, rather than continue to feebly perpetuate a mode that was already dying 50 years ago.

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Posted by henry6 on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 2:00 PM

We can't run trains without deciding on why a train should run. It has to have a market study o determine who is going to use it, when, and why and all the little questions that follow along.  Yes there are tourists and rail buffs and those who can't or won't fly or drive.  There might be some businessmen who utilze services for one reason or another...tight corridors like NY-Boston or NY to D.C. are great for business trains.  But Boston to Chicago either via NYP or Albany probably are not business trippers by most.  And across the Northern Tier of States, the route of the Empire Builder, is an example of a train being important because fo the lack of super highways and airline services  entirely.   SO trains, schedules, routes, stops, type of equipment, etc. are different for each application of service and we, therfore, cannot make a blanket statement about or cookie cutter concept of a passeger train.  Each application is going to be different.  Private railroads had it easy.  They could design a train for schedule and route by more than one train or reason for a train; it was a minor application of man and technology.  Amtrak does not have that kind of property and from a management standpoint they are country wide but also encompass many different and overlapping routes and needs for service.  Private railroads also served as a delivery system for the United States Post Office which helped determine and suport routes and schedules.  Maybe instead of breaking things up we might do well to put things together.  Merge Amtrak with the USPostal Service.  Or merge the two and put it under the Department of Defense.  Or whatever to bring as much income under one roof to support all?  Wild, wild, wild thought.

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Posted by Bjorn88 on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 11:56 AM

I suspect you can only say that LD trains are mainly for  "land cruising" is because you haven't travelled on one in many years.  On my trips to the Northwest using the Empire Builder I see people getting on and off at small towns across North Dakota and Montana even at wee hours of the night.  It is not just a "cruise" for most of the passengers.  By the measure of passenger miles rather than just numbers of passengers the long distance trains do much better than the "corridors".

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Posted by runnerdude48 on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:49 PM

And so for about the same cost, you get there in a couple of hours rather than 2 days and that is if the unlikely happens and the CZ is on time.  Last time I took it we were nearly 6 hours late.  Missed my connection in Chicago and had to take a bus 6 hours across Illinois and Indiana to catch up with the Cardinal which ended up being over 7 hours late by DC.  Could have made the whole trip SF to DC in about 5 hours and in alot more comfort and for alot less money.  It'll take me alot of time to get up the courage to ride Amtrak long distance again.  Those who refer to the airlines as having cattle car conditions obviously haven't spent 3-4 days on a cross country coach train that is significantly delayed.  Chicago Union Station was a horror show.  Like I've heard so many times before - "never again".

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Posted by John WR on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:05 PM

Certainly flying across the country is faster than taking the train, Dude.  I think you were wise to choose to fly and if you do it again I think you should fly.  But even with delays some of us prefer the train.  These days long distance trains are pretty full.  

I agree with you that in planes you do not get cattle car conditions.  The seats are jammed so tight and are so narrow that they are more like a gestation crate where you cannot turn and can barely move.  

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Posted by henry6 on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:28 PM

 Not everybody travels for the same reason.   You might have a need to get from NY to LA as fast as possible but you may also have enough time on the return to enjoy a train ride thorugh the Rockies.  Some take a train because they fear flying.  OR because they get sick on a bus.  Some are business trips, some vacation trips, some, the trip is the trip.  In the case of the Empire BUilder, it is the transportation lifeline where there are no airports nor 70 mph interstates.  One cannot make blanket statements about why somebody is travelling nor why they've chosen the mode they're riding.

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Posted by Sam1 on Friday, August 24, 2012 6:03 PM

Bjorn88

I suspect you can only say that LD trains are mainly for  "land cruising" is because you haven't travelled on one in many years.  On my trips to the Northwest using the Empire Builder I see people getting on and off at small towns across North Dakota and Montana even at wee hours of the night.  It is not just a "cruise" for most of the passengers.  By the measure of passenger miles rather than just numbers of passengers the long distance trains do much better than the "corridors".

I pulled the numbers for FY10 re: fully allocated costs and losses for the NEC, short corridor trains, and long distance trains.  I used the monthly operating reports and the audited annual financial report.  I assumed that 80 per cent of Amtrak's depreciation and interest charges are allocable to the NEC, with 10 per cent worn by each of the other two product lines.

The average fully allocated loss per passenger for the NEC was $48.67 vs. $21.68 for the short corridor trains and $144.15 for the long distance trains.  On a passenger per mile basis, after full allocation of all costs, the average loss was 20.8 cents for the NEC, 16.5 cents for the short corridor trains, and 23.1 cents for the long distance trains.  

The long distance trains lost $575.5 million in FY10 before depreciation, interest, and other charges.  This compares to an operating profit of $51.5 million for the NEC and a lost of $231.1 million for the short corridor trains.  In FY11 the long distance trains lost $615.4 million.

It is true that the long distance trains don't lose as much per passenger mile compared to the other two product lines as many people believe.  Nevertheless, the taxpayers must write a bigger check to cover the losses incurred by the long distance trains.  Moreover, as some folks with inside knowledge have pointed out, Amtrak probably is not reimbursing the hoist railroads for the fully allocable cost of carrying its long distance trains.

If a competitive business had three product lines, one of which was losing millions of dollars and had little if any probability of breaking even, it would drop it and concentrate its efforts on the product lines that are covering their costs or are likely to be able to do so.

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Posted by John WR on Friday, August 24, 2012 7:41 PM

Sam,  

If you look at "Railway Post Office" in September's Trains (the paper magazine)  you will find a letter from Robert J. Stewart, the Chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.  He addresses exactly the issue you bring up and some other important issues to.  I can't reproduce the whole letter but her is a little bit of it:  "Ticket revenues for many of these [long distance] trains cover 75 per cent of operating costs and up to 95 per cent of the costs of labor, fuel, supplies, cleaning, and maintenance.  Contrast that with the highway system where taxes and tolls cover only 52 per cent of costs."

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Posted by schlimm on Friday, August 24, 2012 8:25 PM

One can make a case for looking at those numbers as above, but on a per passenger carried basis, which reflects more accurately how many customers are served regardless of the distance they ride.

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Posted by Sam1 on Friday, August 24, 2012 8:37 PM

John WR

Sam,  

If you look at "Railway Post Office" in September's Trains (the paper magazine)  you will find a letter from Robert J. Stewart, the Chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.  He addresses exactly the issue you bring up and some other important issues to.  I can't reproduce the whole letter but her is a little bit of it:  "Ticket revenues for many of these [long distance] trains cover 75 per cent of operating costs and up to 95 per cent of the costs of labor, fuel, supplies, cleaning, and maintenance.  Contrast that with the highway system where taxes and tolls cover only 52 per cent of costs." 

My numbers came from Amtrak's financial reports. NARP is an advocacy group that spins numbers, without any meaningful supporting data, to make its case.

I belonged to NARP for a year or two, but gave up my membership because of their tendency to distort data. 

Several years ago NARP noted on it webpage that the FAA had received an infusion of $1.6 billion from the federal government for the Aviation Trust Fund. They claimed that it all flowed to the commercial airlines.

FAA operations cover commercial, general aviation and military operations in civilian airspace. Commercial aviation accounts for approximately 30 per cent of tower controlled operations and 35 per cent of enroute control operations as per the FAA performance reports. Allocating the total transfer to the commercial airlines is improper cost accounting. I brought this to NARPs attention. It did not register because they did not want it to hear it.

Frankly, I believe little if anything that I read in the popular press without checking primary source documents.  If I want to know about the accounting and finance for an activity, I dig into the public and private financials.  More often than not I download the data to an Excel spreadsheet and run a variety of analytic tests on it.   

The issue is whether long distance trains, which are used by less than one per cent of intercity travelers, are worth a $600 to $650 million raid on the pubic treasury. Highway subsidies, which is a complex issue, has nothing to do with long distance trains or any other trains.  

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Posted by schlimm on Saturday, August 25, 2012 7:52 AM

Along these lines, I was wondering if sleeper travel on Amtrak is correctly priced.  I checked a 1962 NYC timetable for a roomette CHI-NY on the 20th Century Limited.  The fare is $84, not including meals in the dining car.  In today's dollars, according to the BLS calculator, that is $637.24$149 or   However, if I were to book a roomette on the Lake Shore Limited, the fare is only $564, including food.  If in 1962, one spent $10.00 in the dining car, that would equal $75.86 today.  So the current service is 1. Not as fast (20.5 hrs today vs 16 hrs then) or comfortable as 50 years ago, and 2. it is underpriced by $149, or 26%.  Other LD routes are probably comparable.

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Posted by Sam1 on Saturday, August 25, 2012 9:08 AM

schlimm

Along these lines, I was wondering if sleeper travel on Amtrak is correctly priced.  I checked a 1962 NYC timetable for a roomette CHI-NY on the 20th Century Limited.  The fare is $84, not including meals in the dining car.  In today's dollars, according to the BLS calculator, that is $637.24$149 or   However, if I were to book a roomette on the Lake Shore Limited, the fare is only $564, including food.  If in 1962, one spent $10.00 in the dining car, that would equal $75.86 today.  So the current service is 1. Not as fast (20.5 hrs today vs 16 hrs then) or comfortable as 50 years ago, and 2. it is underpriced by $149, or 26%.  Other LD routes are probably comparable. 

An interesting point!  Here are two factors that may be impacting the pricing.

The most popular sleeping car in 1962 was the 10 and 6, which had 10 roomettes and 6 double bedrooms.  The Viewliner has 12 roomettes, two double bedrooms, and an accessible bedroom.  A comfortable load for the 10 and 6 car would be 22 passengers, i.e. one in each roomette and two in each bedroom, although more people could be squeezed into the bedroom if necessary.  A comfortable load on the Viewliner is 30 people, i.e. 2 passengers in each roomette, 4 passengers in the bedrooms, although more can be accommodated, and 2 passengers in the special bedroom.  Accordingly, the fixed and variable costs can be spread over more units.

The other impact on pricing would be who is buying the space.  In 1962 the 20th Century Limited, along with the Broadway Limited (both were all sleepers) still had a respectable brief case trade between Chicago and New York, although it was diminishing rapidly because of the introduction of the jet airplane. Most of the brief case trade was traveling on an expense account, I imagine, so they could wear a higher price. Based on my experience, most of today's first class passengers on the long distance trains are vacationers (domestic and foreign) who probably are paying the fares out of their own pockets.  According, it appears that the pricing conforms to the notion of what the market will bear.

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Posted by schlimm on Saturday, August 25, 2012 9:32 AM

1. Why only one person in the 10-6 roomette but two in the Viewliner roomette?   Are the latter especially larger?

2. Amtrak having to provide LD trains with sleepers, etc. as a necessity is like saying we should provide transatlantic liners as were running still 50 years ago.  Jetliners made both obsolete as a mayor transportation conveyance by the end of the 1960's.

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Posted by NittanyLion on Saturday, August 25, 2012 10:32 AM

There are transatlantic liners.  Cunard still operates transatlantic sailings.  New York to Southampton, just like the old days, in seven days.  No tooling around at a few knots and laying off some port so you can get fleeced by locals for little wooden trinkets.  Real honest to goodness oceanic transportation.

Not cheap though.  Costs about $2800 round trip in the most basic cabin.  

Don't need to have government backed oceanliners.  Someone else already has it covered.

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Posted by Sam1 on Saturday, August 25, 2012 12:40 PM

schlimm

1. Why only one person in the 10-6 roomette but two in the Viewliner roomette?   Are the latter especially larger?

2. Amtrak having to provide LD trains with sleepers, etc. as a necessity is like saying we should provide transatlantic liners as were running still 50 years ago.  Jetliners made both obsolete as a mayor transportation conveyance by the end of the 1960's. 

The roomettes in the 10 and 6 car were designed for one person. The roomette had just one bed, which pulled down from the wall.  The Viewliner roomettes have two beds.  One makes up from the seats and the other pulls down from the ceiling. 

One can still experience a 10 and 6 car on the Indian Pacific and Ghan in Australia. I believe that they also run on the Canadian.

On several occasions I have priced a roomette from Austin or Dallas to NYC. The total price was cheaper by taking the Capitol Limited to Washington and an NEC regional train to NYC as opposed to taking the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to NYC.  The reason, I suspect, is because the Capitol Limited has Superliner cars, which can accommodate more than 40 people.

BTW, the current on-line edition of USA Today has a nice travel log re: The Coast Starlight. One veteran traveler likens the food on Amtrak to Denny's.  Being a frequent partaker of Denny's offerings, I cannot disagree with his observation. 

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Posted by schlimm on Saturday, August 25, 2012 6:48 PM

NittanyLion

There are transatlantic liners.  Cunard still operates transatlantic sailings.  New York to Southampton, just like the old days, in seven days.  No tooling around at a few knots and laying off some port so you can get fleeced by locals for little wooden trinkets.  Real honest to goodness oceanic transportation.

Not cheap though.  Costs about $2800 round trip in the most basic cabin.  

Don't need to have government backed oceanliners.  Someone else already has it covered.

In the six months, April-Sept. 2013, Cunard has 12 RT crossings.  These are not transportation, but luxury sea cruises, taking 7-18 days, prices ranging from $1230 (inside cabin) one way for a few voyages up to $14,900, plus fuel surcharge.

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 10:43 PM

Quoting Sam1: "One can still experience a 10 and 6 car on the Indian Pacific and Ghan in Australia. I believe that they also run on the Canadian."

Sam, VIA does not have any 10-6 sleepers. The only cars used on the Canadian are those built for the CP's Canadian. Except for extraordinary traffic only the Manor cars (3 sections, 4 roomettes, 5 bedrooms, and 1 compartment (which is sold at the same price as the bedrooms are, and both accommodations are listed as "cabins for two;  ask for beroom F, and a shower that takes the place of the 4th section) and the Park car, which has a drawing room and at least 2 bedrooms are used on this train. The Ocean has used both the Renaissance sleepers (nothing but bedrooms) and the Chateau sleepers (a mixture of sections, duplex roomettes, bedrooms, and 1 drawing room), and sometimes a Park car.

Johnny

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 11:35 AM

NittanyLion

There are transatlantic liners.  Cunard still operates transatlantic sailings.  New York to Southampton, just like the old days, in seven days.  No tooling around at a few knots and laying off some port so you can get fleeced by locals for little wooden trinkets.  Real honest to goodness oceanic transportation.

Not cheap though.  Costs about $2800 round trip in the most basic cabin.  

Don't need to have government backed oceanliners.  Someone else already has it covered.

Cool!  But, eight days to get to Southhampton from NY!  One sailing a month!  Uh, that's not much of a schedule.

I'm talking weekly service, 3 day transit, like the good old days!  

But, actually, two people in an inside cabin for 8 days, including food, for a total of $3000 isn't a bad price.  It would cost you $1200 for two plane tickets and 8 days of food for two people is probably worth $1600 or so.

So....maybe Cunard knows a thing or two about operating "cruise ship transportation"?  Could Amtrak learn anything from them?  Has Amtrak looked or benchmarked?

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by ecoli on Thursday, September 06, 2012 5:51 PM

(Sorry, forgot the "quote" button. Deleted this post, trying again.)

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Posted by ecoli on Thursday, September 06, 2012 6:11 PM

n012944

DwightBranch

 

 YoHo1975:

 

 

Also, I'm curious, I realize this was a long time ago, but is that $500 a bereavement fare? When my dad Died, I got next morning ticket on United San Diego to O'hare for a steep discount due to it being a bereavement fare.

It would be nice if Amtrak provided the same.

Can't remember, but I'll bet they banned that now, too.

 

 

 

I'll take that bet.

 

http://www.delta.com/planning_reservations/special_travel_needs/bereavement/index.jsp

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/bereavement-airfares-cheap-emergency-flights-death-illness/story?id=9922168&page=2#.UAXxSWFR3FI

 

"Of the "Big Five" airlines, only US Airways does not have bereavement or "compassion" fares"

 

I followed your link to the ABC News article, and it describes the bereavement discounts as "all but meaningless", often only 5%. So, while bereavement fares do technically exist, they are dramatically more expensive than the fares most people are accustomed to paying (because, for example, 95% of a $1000 last-minute air fare is a lot more than a $300 fare for the same reservation made 2 weeks in advance.) It is plausible that a last-minute Amtrak fare would be much cheaper than an airline's bereavement fare.

I'l leave it to the two disputants to settle the bet themselves...

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Posted by ecoli on Thursday, September 06, 2012 8:08 PM

schlimm

I used the term "land cruise" as analogous to what almost all passenger ship traffic is and has been for years, a voyage where the ship's myriad of activities is the primary draw, not just transport to the destination(s).  There are few travel activities that do not rely in part on publicly funded facilities, even if some folks argue they are paid for by user fees.  That said, it seems to me that LD trains are: 1. not primarily used as a means of transportation, and 2., are far more heavily subsidized by most metrics than corridor trains. Therefore I just don't see how their continuance, particularly the sleepers, can be justified.

I've ridden long distance trains enough in the past 5 years to get sufficient Amtrak Guest Rewards points for a free three-zone trip, but somehow I've missed out on the land cruise. Where on the Sunset Limited between Tucson and LA do I find the all-you-can-eat buffet with the ice sculptures? The nightclub? The plunge pool? The trivial pursuit contest operated by the cruise director's assistant? Dinner with the captain?

On my last westbound trip I clambered into my coach seat in Tucson at 7:30pm (gratefully--it used to be 10:30pm) and thanked my lucky stars that the adjacent seat was occupied by a quiet young woman wearing headphones, and not the woman across the aisle who was explaining in a loud voice how unreasonable it was that the court told her she couldn't leave the state, and how she was going to do so anyway because they couldn't expect her not to look after Freddie because after all he's family...and on and on. Or the man in the do-rag, wife-beater undershirt, and tattoos who kept complaining (to the coach attendant, the conductor, and everyone else within earshot) that the car smelled like "***" (a word he evidently enjoyed using, because he repeated it over and over), and that was totally unacceptable, etc, etc. (I didn't smell much of anything, but the coach attendant headed downstairs with a mop.) Or the woman with the two-year-old who, despite her best efforts to control him, would periodically launch himself down the aisle, headed for the door at the end of the car which, unfortunately, was open more often than not thanks to the incessant traffic of passengers headed back and forth to the lounge car for snacks. He only made it through the door and into the next car a couple of times, fortunately. The train was half an hour early for its 5:30am arrival in LA; normally I would have resented the loss of sleep, but I had been awakened some time before by a loud cellphone conversation on the part of a woman who was being picked up at the Ontario stop by an evidently randy significant other. At the end of the conversation, she snapped closed the phone and announced to us all, " He's asking me if there's a quiet place near the station where we can park and 'do it'! Who does he think we are, a couple of teenagers?"

Land cruise, eh. Do you have a clue what riding on an Amtrak long distance train is like?

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Posted by Sam1 on Thursday, September 06, 2012 8:29 PM

ecoli

schlimm

I used the term "land cruise" as analogous to what almost all passenger ship traffic is and has been for years, a voyage where the ship's myriad of activities is the primary draw, not just transport to the destination(s).  There are few travel activities that do not rely in part on publicly funded facilities, even if some folks argue they are paid for by user fees.  That said, it seems to me that LD trains are: 1. not primarily used as a means of transportation, and 2., are far more heavily subsidized by most metrics than corridor trains. Therefore I just don't see how their continuance, particularly the sleepers, can be justified.

I've ridden long distance trains enough in the past 5 years to get sufficient Amtrak Guest Rewards points for a free three-zone trip, but somehow I've missed out on the land cruise. Where on the Sunset Limited between Tucson and LA do I find the all-you-can-eat buffet with the ice sculptures? The nightclub? The plunge pool? The trivial pursuit contest operated by the cruise director's assistant? Dinner with the captain?

On my last westbound trip I clambered into my coach seat in Tucson at 7:30pm (gratefully--it used to be 10:30pm) and thanked my lucky stars that the adjacent seat was occupied by a quiet young woman wearing headphones, and not the woman across the aisle who was explaining in a loud voice how unreasonable it was that the court told her she couldn't leave the state, and how she was going to do so anyway because they couldn't expect her not to look after Freddie because after all he's family...and on and on. Or the man in the do-rag, wife-beater undershirt, and tattoos who kept complaining (to the coach attendant, the conductor, and everyone else within earshot) that the car smelled like "***" (a word he evidently enjoyed using, because he repeated it over and over), and that was totally unacceptable, etc, etc. (I didn't smell much of anything, but the coach attendant headed downstairs with a mop.) Or the woman with the two-year-old who, despite her best efforts to control him, would periodically launch himself down the aisle, headed for the door at the end of the car which, unfortunately, was open more often than not thanks to the incessant traffic of passengers headed back and forth to the lounge car for snacks. He only made it through the door and into the next car a couple of times, fortunately. The train was half an hour early for its 5:30am arrival in LA; normally I would have resented the loss of sleep, but I had been awakened some time before by a loud cellphone conversation on the part of a woman who was being picked up at the Ontario stop by an evidently randy significant other. At the end of the conversation, she snapped closed the phone and announced to us all, " He's asking me if there's a quiet place near the station where we can park and 'do it'! Who does he think we are, a couple of teenagers?"

Land cruise, eh. Do you have a clue what riding on an Amtrak long distance train is like? 

This is the best write-up that I have seen on these forums in years. I have had similar experiences between Temple and Dallas, which is not nearly as long a haul as yours, but there is no way that I could express them as eloquently as you have. 

I suspect that many of the participants in the forums who extoll the virtues of Amtrak's long distance trains don't ride coach.  In fact, I'll bet most of them don't use the long distance trains. 

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 5,448 posts
Posted by schlimm on Thursday, September 06, 2012 10:44 PM

I guess the land cruise on the Sunset is more like one of those Caribbean horror ship cruises you hear about where the food runs out, no A/C, broken toilets, etc.

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, September 07, 2012 10:59 AM

ecoli

Land cruise, eh. Do you have a clue what riding on an Amtrak long distance train is like?

Sounds like Amtrak COULD learn a thing or two from Cunard (or others...)
I have had similar experience on the Crescent....

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • 1,806 posts
Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Friday, September 07, 2012 11:48 AM

ecoli

On my last westbound trip I clambered into my coach seat in Tucson at 7:30pm (gratefully--it used to be 10:30pm) and thanked my lucky stars that the adjacent seat was occupied by a quiet young woman wearing headphones, and not the woman across the aisle who was explaining in a loud voice how unreasonable it was that the court told her she couldn't leave the state, and how she was going to do so anyway because they couldn't expect her not to look after Freddie because after all he's family...and on and on. Or the man in the do-rag, wife-beater undershirt, and tattoos who kept complaining (to the coach attendant, the conductor, and everyone else within earshot) that the car smelled like "***" (a word he evidently enjoyed using, because he repeated it over and over), and that was totally unacceptable, etc, etc. (I didn't smell much of anything, but the coach attendant headed downstairs with a mop.) Or the woman with the two-year-old who, despite her best efforts to control him, would periodically launch himself down the aisle, headed for the door at the end of the car which, unfortunately, was open more often than not thanks to the incessant traffic of passengers headed back and forth to the lounge car for snacks. He only made it through the door and into the next car a couple of times, fortunately. The train was half an hour early for its 5:30am arrival in LA; normally I would have resented the loss of sleep, but I had been awakened some time before by a loud cellphone conversation on the part of a woman who was being picked up at the Ontario stop by an evidently randy significant other. At the end of the conversation, she snapped closed the phone and announced to us all, " He's asking me if there's a quiet place near the station where we can park and 'do it'! Who does he think we are, a couple of teenagers?"

Land cruise, eh. Do you have a clue what riding on an Amtrak long distance train is like?

The same ensemble cast travels by airline as well and occupies seats in the departure lounges and the two seats on either side of your middle seat.

The difference is that the trip takes place a little bit quicker.  Not a lot of bit quicker owing to Security and changing planes at your Hub City, but a little bit quicker than the train.

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?

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