Amtrak, in a recent poorly conceived decision, decided to retire the five Pacific Parlour Cars that were well known and appreciated on the Coast Starlight.
On February 17 and 18, 2018, these cars departed Los Angeles on the eastbound Southwest Chief where we were fortunate to catch them in Albuquerque and Lamy, New Mexico.
Evan Stair, of the Friends of the Southwest Chief, writes:
"Pacific Parlor Car Significance
The Pacific Parlor Cars were originally purchased by the Santa Fe Railway in the 1950s for the Chicago-Kansas City-Los Angeles El Capitan. The El Capitan was the first extra fare Hi-Level intercity coach passenger train.
Three types of cars were purchased. These included coaches, diners, and these lounge cars. Eventually, the Hi-Level equipment spread out over the entire Santa Fe passenger system. You would see Hi-Level coaches on trains such as the Texas Chief and the San Francisco Chief.
Amtrak took over Santa Fe passenger operations in 1971. The Hi-Level cars constituted a portion of the Santa Fe's payment for joining Amtrak. The Santa Fe transferred other cars to Amtrak, but the Hi-Level cars were unique. In fact, they inspired Amtrak to work with car manufacturers to design and build the Superliners you see today.
The cars migrated to the Coast Starlight and were renamed the Pacific Parlor Cars. These are the last first class lounge cars to run on any Amtrak passenger train. They were unique to the Coast Starlight as their simply were not enough of them to use on other routes.
Re-purposed, the Pacific Parlor Cars were intended to be only for sleeping car passengers while the Superliner Sightseer Lounge was intended for coach passengers. Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson believed these non-revenue cars were an extravagant, non-standard expense the company could no longer afford. No doubt Anderson's tenure at Delta Airlines has him cutting every possible amenity to squeeze the last penny out of ever dollar.
It is a sad day as Amtrak continues to chase the impossible dream of self-sufficiency. As it does so, even though Congress removed the for-profit mandate from law in the 1990s, it makes train travel just a bit less enjoyable in the US."