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

11826 views
173 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
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. 

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
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. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
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.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
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. 

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 12,819 posts
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.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
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.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 12,819 posts
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...

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
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.

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 876 posts
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.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
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.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 9:31 AM

Deleted duplicate 

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
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. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 3, 2020 10:57 AM

The station restaurant concept spreads the cost of providing quality food over a wider group of people than most airline catering plus the opportunity for fresh food for serving right after departure.

I recognize that I have not gotten specific support on this thread for the idea, but there do appear some people posting with ideas who may still have an open mind.

In any case, Charley, cannot past experience teach me that almost any idea I come up with is certain to get opposition from you?

Arguing accomplishes nothing.  Alternative good ideas Are Welcome.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 12:16 PM

daveklepper
cannot past experience teach me that almost any idea I come up with is certain to get opposition from you? Arguing accomplishes nothing.  Alternative good ideas Are Welcome.

Nonsense. You rejected the airline commissary idea with false assumptions.

1. An airline commissary obviously has a very wide and deep group of people served. They provide special needs cuisines, such as low-sodium and kosher, which most restaurants do not. 

2. The cost is obviously spread over far more people than any single restaurant could. 

3. Fresh?  Have you ever flown in front cabin?  Or ridden a DB train and tried its Bord Restaurant in the 21st century?

I think another poster, Backshop, nailed it. You just keep repeating the same discredited idea over and over. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 3, 2020 2:47 PM

1.  I'll be glad to stop repeating when you stop repeating.

2.  The only real arguments I've seen here is that if a 24-hor full-service restaurant were profitable, there would be one or some already.  Don't buy that argument.

3.  My acoustical consulting career had succes in part because of sucess with ideas other "experts" claimed were impossible, and I did study Transpotation Planning, in addition, at MIT.

4.  One restaurant cannot do what a good airline catering organization does, but system of a number of restaurants can do even better.

5.  Regional dishes and fresh meals served on feparture are difficult for North American airline caterers. 

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 12,819 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 3, 2020 4:46 PM

As I think part of the idea is favorable, other parts need better detail design, and some clearly need input from actual restaurateurs with experience -- my advice is to stop hashing the idea around here, actually set it up with investors and perhaps a coalition of partners as hinted, and when it has succeeded or whatever, come back here and discuss the story as a fait accompli.  (I have enough faith that I would volunteer to consult, but only if listened to.)

 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 1,141 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Monday, August 3, 2020 6:07 PM

Overmod
 (I have enough faith that I would volunteer to consult, but only if listened to.)

   I'll volunteer to consult, too, but only if I'm paid...a lot.  Then I don't care what you do with my advice.  (Sound like a real "consultant"?)

   First piece of advice (and for free, too!):  Get a Senator to put his name on your proposal.  Otherwise, well...where's my check?

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 6:31 PM

3. Your background in acoustics and MIT is irrelevant.  Some of us at least have past experiences in retailing,  a sandwich shop and generally in 21st century US and Europe.

4. A system of restaurants?

5. How would you know?   There are some regional dishes in fact and freshness is good. 

You plan to present this plan in secret?  Great,  but I'm not holding my breath.

 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 3, 2020 9:23 PM

1.  At MIT, transportation plamming and part-time job as evening truck dispatcher for anEast Cambridgw ice-crea0 company.

2.   Do you have the info on economics of DB or 1st-class airline meals?

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 3, 2020 10:38 PM

2. If you had any sense of the realities,  you would know NOBODY outside the airlines or food caterers would know the numbers on those food services. It's not public information. 

DB meals range in prices for main course lunch or dinner from 9 to 15 Euros plus salad and beverage. Breakfast about 8 euros, including coffee. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 8:07 AM

And you have no way of knowing how subsidised the meals are.

Again, the fact that there is no full-service 24-houir resetaurant does not in any way prove one won't be successful.  There are RR emloyees. heallth-care workers, police, all manner of people who work odd hours.  Such a restaurant could well be a boon to them and serve quality meals at reasonable prices, show a profit and havi railroad on-board service as a side-line of the take-out and home delivery business.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 8:16 AM

Charlie, one thing my MIT engineering education taught is not to make unnecessary enemires in trying to accoumplish something.  I am trying to help revive and preserve quality long-distance rail passenger service.  And you have not proved to me that my idea won't work, just because it has not been tried.  

So what do you wish to accomplish by repeating that it won't work?  If you wish me to stop discussing it, then you stop first, and then I'll stop.  Or do you have some other purpose, possibly finding an outlet for enmity to me persnally?

"Your background in acoustics and MIT is irrelevant."   You have absolutely no basis for that statement.

I learned the ice-cream store, restuarant, home and business delivery service business quicly enough.  And ceertainly did acoustical consulting and sound system work for restaurants, incluldling New York City's Four Seasons.  I certainly had to know something about their business to give them the advice they needed.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 3,538 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 8:28 AM

Fine. Recognizing flaws is something you seem to have forgotten from your MIT days.  So go ahead with your station restaurant idea.  It's obviously important to you to have something to believe in. 

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 16,797 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 8:38 AM

My MIT education did provide a basis for recognizing flaws----

  -----and to come up with alternative ways of correcting them.

Thank you.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy