Is taking a long distance Amtrak worth it in the 'post dining car' era?

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 1, 2020 9:04 PM

daveklepper

Balt, I made iy clear already that meals not served soon after departure Fron a station restaurat station (and KC and Denver are examples of en-route points) would be refrigorated for storage and microwaved for sevice.   still quality  meals in my experience.

And I do believe that the Conavirus problem will be solved.

 

The various station restaurants in KC and Denver keep standard hours

 None are open 24 hours,  some closed on Mondays. Once again you show how unrealistic your concept is because it's  not based on facts. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 1, 2020 9:06 PM

daveklepper

Balt, I made iy clear already that meals not served soon after departure Fron a station restaurat station (and KC and Denver are examples of en-route points) would be refrigorated for storage and microwaved for sevice.   still quality  meals in my experience.

And I do believe that the Conavirus problem will be solved.

 

The various station restaurants in KC and Denver keep standard hours

 None are open 24 hours,  some closed on Mondays. Once again you show how unrealistic your concept is because it's  not based on facts. 

Microwaved food?  How us that an improvement in quality?  Several people have suggested using convection ovens. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, August 2, 2020 7:05 AM

And those station restaurants probsbly don't do much of a take-out and home delivery business either.  But they could change or have some compeitioh that would feature both and provide the on-board meals as well.

I've had some microwave meals both in Israel and in the USA that were excellent, and am expecting to enjoy one this evening.  But convection currents are better for some foods, and should be part of the on-board equipment.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, August 2, 2020 7:45 AM

I think most people recognize that the station restaurant food for LD trains is not a viable strategy for numerous reasons raised by several different posters. 

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, August 2, 2020 2:53 PM

daveklepper
But convection currents are better for some foods, and should be part of the on-board equipment.

There is no magic in  'convection oven' and what it does: it is a baking oven just like the one in a kitchen range except that it has forced-air recirculation past its heating element.  

In a normal oven you have a pool of heated air that can become cooled next to, say, a big chunk of frozen lasagna or something relatively wet out of which water evaporates.  This naturally limits how much heat can be effectively transferred and the distribution of 'higher heat' in the oven cavity to accomplish the transfer.

A conventional convection oven for domestic use used to be just a little blower that circulated air through an oven with conventional bottom bake elements.  A better and somewhat cheaper approach was to make the element similar to a hairdryer and put it with thermostatic control in the circulation duct: this gets rid of the need for fixed elements in the oven cavity and the space and cleaning issues those introduce and reduce much of the mandatory preheat 'wait' needed to heat food effectively.  In a sense this is like a sous-vide bath with temperature control, but circulating temperature-controlled air instead of liquid.

One tremendous advantage over microwaves is distribution of the heating.  Obviously an oven full of trays irradiated via a magnetron and 'stirrer' up above is going to have trouble with the upper levels absorb or shield radiation from the ones above.  Combinations of waveguides and reflectors can address some of his, but they are intricate to design, somewhat insensitive when food of different absorbance pattern is used, expensive, and space-occupying.  All this before we get into the problems microwaves have with perceived food quality...

The equivalent on a convection oven is just additional shaped flat ducts/nozzles and return vents with airflow in cfm on each 'deck' fast enough that heat drop cannot greatly decrease the circulated air temperature.  One of the 40-gang ovens in a Superliner diner will happily heat that many 'containerized' meal-containing trays in parallel... or any smaller number down to one... in about the same time, with automatic implicit control over energy use as there is relatively little cavity loss over a cooking cycle. 

Microwaves certainly have their place in onboard food service, even if issued with 'deposit' to individual passengers or provided with 'whole-body liners' for more public use once the pandemic has subsided.  At least some of the 'catered' stuff loaded at periodic 'to-order meal providing points' will be much like the sandwiches and snacks provided in convenience stores or supermarkets -- kept cold, with reheat instructions, for a reasonable lifetime in hours/days and perhaps with a 'discount plan' to eliminate waste or loss from misorders and cooking errors and the like.

Be easy to set up preferential funding, say through the SBA via coordinated planning, to stimulate development and buildout of strategic 'catering' points.  This of course would be unlikely so long as the existing commissary model and staffing requirements remain as they are.  It would however aid in the necessary continuity planning needed for a true 24-hour, emergency-agile distributed supply infrastructure for many aspects of LD service.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, August 2, 2020 4:12 PM

Different methods are best for reheating different foods,  but the keys to quality are mostly in the original preparation and storage modalities.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 3, 2020 4:31 AM

Some interesting possibilities present themselves if we consider the use of rapid cryogenic-tunnel freezing together with approprate storage and prep on the trains.  This would increase the prospective delivery radius from facility to 'station', greatly remove problems with arrival uncertainty, allow for fairly rapid stockpiling for unforeseen larger quantities, and a number of other advantages.  With care the equipment might also be used for IQF of local produce for use on the train or for conveyance to other commissary points for use on other routes.

Nothing more than the methodologies already used or proven by DB would be needed to design (and test) menus, and prep methods, suited to this, and to design recipes and instructions for 'distribute' small-business sources to follow.  QC is a serious matter but relatively easy to track -- if set up right.  There are follow-on and alternative potenial 'revenue streams' for local firms subsidized into the technology and its cryogen provision streams -- association for example with local hospitals using LN2 initially separated by molecular sieve for MRI.

Onboard storage would require a slightly modified design of freezer, probably with a combination of multiple reflective shields cooled mechanically and some use of aerogel and nanoinsulation, precooled with dry ice.  Periodic top-loading of dry ice would tend to retain low temperature throughout as the resulting subcooled CO2 is denser than both air and any warming CO2 present.  Some care to avoid frosting from ambient humidity in handling and storage would be advisable, for example transportation in sealed removable overwrap.

'Reconstitution' via prompt staged-temperature convection, perhaps augmented with some judicious short microwaving for deep preheat, should be easy using the type of oven already paid for in the Viewliner diners; even if some of a meal (e.g. the signature steak) is still prepared on board, necessary prep, and prep cleanup, should be vastly reduced both for a 'seating' model (prospectively this must be accelerated if something like social distancing limits any one seating to a smaller number) and for 'room service' delivery or individual pickup when requested.  

I would also suggest that 'boutique' production of frozens might be one of the better things to 'subsidize' in the broader context of Government-stimulated 'reopening' a coherent economy from which much of the erstwhile restauranteur class has been scrubbed...

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 3, 2020 7:58 AM

Charlie, do you really expect me to give up on the idea just because you think it is unworkable, when others provide ideas to make it workable.  Should I say you sound like a broken record or like a tape loop?

Station restaurants can certainly provide quality and careful preparation and do it better and more econmically than either an Amtrak-only commisary, the kitchen of dining car, or even a commisary shared with airlines.

And the station restaurant doesn't need to be in the station, but it is better to be close-by enough so some meals can be enjoyed on departure without the freezing and heating routine.

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, August 3, 2020 8:30 AM

Dave, with all due respect, you're the one sounding like a broken record.  Nobody has supported your idea.  If it was financially viable, someone would've tried it by now.  The country has changed a lot in the last 25+ years.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 3, 2020 8:54 AM

The ideas presesented keep adding to the possibilities for the idea to survive. Een here in Jerusalem, I have come up with a plan, and hope  to help run the experiment, in North America.  But I won't discuss it, and the news will come from others.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 9:31 AM

Deleted duplicate 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 9:49 AM

Station restaurants don't need to be in the station? 

I think that statement shows the absurdity of your so-called plan. And now some grandiose experiment?  

The airline commissary food served in front cabin is pretty high quality.  That and lesser status meals could be bought from them.  They have the experience and volume to do the job. Leave it at that. 

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