Sleeping cars sold out?

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muralist0221

Active Member
Recently made a rail trip from Kansas City to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York and am most confused. Tried to take the Lake Shore on the return from N.Y. to Chicago, but (even three months ahead)), both the coach and sleeping cars were sold out for May 13th and 14th. The busy season hasn't started yet. Rode coach on the Southwest Chief from K.C. to Chicago. The conductor claimed sleeping car and most coach seats was sold out. Got bedrooms both ways on the Capital Limited, but every room had an occupant in both of its sleeping cars (I checked). The Chicago Metropolitan Lounge (for sleeping car passengers only) was standing room only. In the past, it was filled with discretionary senior travelers. This time half the sleeping car patrons were young passengers with children.

Why are so many people traveling in this poor economy? Many on here point out that sleeping cars are so much more expensive than cheap airfares, yet space is sold out. In the old days, they just added pullman cars to the consist. The Twentieth Century Limited ran in nine sections during Christmas season in the 1920's. Amtrak's underfunding and lack of Superliner sleeping cars is certainly not helping reduce the deficit on long haul trains. Rode four Northeast Direct trains with long consists and they were filled. Couldn't find two seats together for my wife and I.

Also, the Southwest Chief came into K.C. Union Station with a clean engine and exterior. Is it being washed somewhere en route? A few years ago, they weren't even washing Amtrak trains.

I thought people didn't take the train anymore!
 

otlocal

New Member
Wow,very different from a few years ago_One thing i would do when i found there where no sleeping car spaces available, and was stuck in coach,was to inform the conductor that if nobody shows for a certain space, i would take it.Many times, people don't show for one reasons or another so i would get that space, often times cheaper than an advanced reservation.
 

NM_RailNut

Member
Recently made a rail trip from Kansas City to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York and am most confused. Tried to take the Lake Shore on the return from N.Y. to Chicago, but (even three months ahead)), both the coach and sleeping cars were sold out for May 13th and 14th. The busy season hasn't started yet. Rode coach on the Southwest Chief from K.C. to Chicago. The conductor claimed sleeping car and most coach seats was sold out. Got bedrooms both ways on the Capital Limited, but every room had an occupant in both of its sleeping cars (I checked). The Chicago Metropolitan Lounge (for sleeping car passengers only) was standing room only. In the past, it was filled with discretionary senior travelers. This time half the sleeping car patrons were young passengers with children.

Why are so many people traveling in this poor economy? Many on here point out that sleeping cars are so much more expensive than cheap airfares, yet space is sold out. In the old days, they just added pullman cars to the consist. The Twentieth Century Limited ran in nine sections during Christmas season in the 1920's. Amtrak's underfunding and lack of Superliner sleeping cars is certainly not helping reduce the deficit on long haul trains. Rode four Northeast Direct trains with long consists and they were filled. Couldn't find two seats together for my wife and I.

Also, the Southwest Chief came into K.C. Union Station with a clean engine and exterior. Is it being washed somewhere en route? A few years ago, they weren't even washing Amtrak trains.

I thought people didn't take the train anymore!
The #3 and #4 always gets a pretty thorough washing here in Albuquerque, as this is a crew change and refueling point for both trains; there isn't a car washer available anymore, but the servicing crew here does a pretty good job just with long-handled brushes and lots of soapy water!:) Part of the reason why both trains are getting better cleaning is the addition of several water hose reels along the #2 main track (which is used by the Amtrak trains to avoid conflicts with the noon and afternoon RailRunner Express trains) and replacement of the existing reels, which makes servicing cars much easier than before (including washing!).

Keep in mind that those "cheap airfares" either have strings attached or mean a lack of any amenities (i.e., no meal service, snacks, drinks, etc. unless you're willing to pay through the nose for them, and that's even assuming they're even offered during the flight!) and being stuck in the "cattlecar" section with several other folks whose company you and your significant other would prefer to do without, less than stellar service at the ticket counter, the ever-wonderful passage through airport security checkpoints;), praying that your baggage is at least headed in the same general direction that you are (if not on the same flight or flights), and trying to get to and from the airport terminals without removing some idiot driver from the gene pool. Given all that, it's not too surprising that more folks would rather take a little extra time and use a mode of transportation that is at least a little bit more civilized (if not less stressful!!:eek:).
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Sleeping car?

Thank you for the information about Southwest Chief washing. Yes, I am well aware of the problems with air travel and those "cheap airfares". Don't know if you saw the U-tube done by a group of middle aged Irish women called "cheap airfares", very funny. They said the same thing you stated only in song.
Many, including some guys on here are anti Amtrak and draw a comparison between Amtrak and air travel 30 years ago. Back then air travel was fun. Maybe these protagonists haven't flown since 1975. Unfortunately I have.
 

andrewjonathon

New Member
I am not anti-Amtrak but I do recognize that for most of us spending three or four days on a train to cross the country is not an option in today's world. And with little kids neither is it desirable. Personally I don't find air travel the objectionable for a few hours even with the TSA involved.
 

fulltritty

CSX Fan
I just returned last Sunday from a 17 day trip for 2 conferences which had me travel on the Capital Limited, Wolverine, Southwest Chief, and return Southwest Chief and Capital Limited. Not one sleeping accomodation was empty and in fact, almost half of the available rooms in the crew dorm were filled with passengers.
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Think most travelers feel the same way you do, so I was puzzled by the lack of sleeping car space, hence the reason for this blog. As far as "a few hours" in the air, sometimes a "few hours" becomes 12 hours with all the airline industry problems. This occured on a K.C. to Fort Lauderdale trip for me in January. Since I'm retired, transportation delays are not a real problem. All the Amtrak trains on my last trip ran on time except for one leg which was half an hour late.
 

andrewjonathon

New Member
I think you have to keep in mind that even if Amtrak sold out every available seat for an entire year the number of train passengers would be miniscule compared with the number people flying on planes. So even though the trains appear full finding a person on the street who has taken a train recently is challenging because they such a small percent of total travellers.

Also, I would suggest the nightmares of planes being delayed by hours and hours make for a good news story but don't represent the experience of most travelers. I know I haven't experienced it and looking at the arrivals/deparutre boards in the airports indicate most don't either. I would still prefer to go by train if I didn't have small kids (they'll be excited about being on a train for about 30 minutes) and if my boss would give the time off. Take my recent experience as an example. I took two weeks vacation. Flew the family from Seattle to Orlando. Left Seattle at 12:00pm (on time) and arrived 8 hours later in Orlando. The was a problem in that my bags didn't arrive with us. We waited 1.5 hours in Orlando airport and the bags arrived on the next plane. Still only 9.5 hours to cross the country. Two weeks later we flew out of Greenville, South Carolina leaving ontime. Changed planes in Nashville and left about 15 minutes late. However we arrived in Seattle about 5 minutes early about 7.5 hours after leaving. Greenville. If we'd taken the train it would have taken about 4 days each way to get to Florida for a total of 8 days travel and only 6 days at our destination. Tickets on the plane cost $302 and we spent no more than 10 minutes getting through secuirty in each direction.

If it was just me, I would love the train ride (I took it cross country a lot back in college) but with family in tow I'll suck it up for a few hours on the plane.
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Given your situation, travel between South Carolina and Seattle with time constraints, air is only the viable choice. The airlines will continue to serve travelers going long distances in the future as was originally intended. It may cost you a small fortune, but even with delays, it's the only practical solution.

However, the under 400 mile traveler might be better served by highER speed rail, as has been discussed on this blog before. Have read somewhere that the airlines themselves claim they make less profit (if any at all) on shorter routes. The jets were designed to reach 40,000 feet and stay there for hours. The constant up and down wastes fuel.

You are comparing rail to air but have forgotten that a sizable number of people drive long distances and perhaps the new sleeping car passengers may be those who were put off by high gas prices. The sleeping car is therefore in lieu of a $70/night motel stay.
 

andrewjonathon

New Member
I agree completely with your comment. For example, if Amtrak went between Orlando and Atlanta (our interim destination) we likely would have considered taking the train over driving between the two cities especially if it was HSR. I can guarantee I would have preferred (and the kids as well) being on the train vs. the long distance drive we took. I can't remember how many times we had to tell the kids to stop fighting. :)

My wife and I have traveled in Europe on HSR and I would suggest they are competitive up to 1000 miles. They are a wonderful way to travel. And I do understand the airlines have basically exited the markets where HSR exists up to 600 miles.
 

wigwagfan

Passenger
Keep in mind that those "cheap airfares" either have strings attached or mean a lack of any amenities (i.e., no meal service, snacks, drinks, etc. unless you're willing to pay through the nose for them, and that's even assuming they're even offered during the flight!) and being stuck in the "cattlecar" section with several other folks whose company you and your significant other would prefer to do without, less than stellar service at the ticket counter, the ever-wonderful passage through airport security checkpoints;), praying that your baggage is at least headed in the same general direction that you are (if not on the same flight or flights), and trying to get to and from the airport terminals without removing some idiot driver from the gene pool. Given all that, it's not too surprising that more folks would rather take a little extra time and use a mode of transportation that is at least a little bit more civilized (if not less stressful!!:eek:).
Let's see.

Trip from Portland to Tacoma on Amtrak: Stand in a long line to get your seat reservation. Walk quarter mile to car only to find your "reserved" seat has already been reserved by someone travelling through Portland. Go back to Conductor, he helps a dozen passengers before bothering to issue a new seat assignment. Trundle back to new assignment only to find same problem. Back to Conductor. He doesn't even want to deal with you, makes you wait...finally decides to help you. Gives you a new seat assignment.

En route (two and a half hours), treat myself to a $2.00 can of pop and try to distract the child from the not-so-appropriate movie on the overhead screens (but at least edited for content).

On trip back from Tacoma, group of drunk passengers listening to radios loudly, Conductor no where to be found.

Trip from Portland to Long Beach via Jet Blue. Get to ticket counter, ticket agent calls you by name the second you approach the computerized check in and they proceed to assist us. Advises we are welcome to pre-board because of a child. At TSA, TSA agents also are friendly and assist us through security. At gate, gate agent approaches us and reminds us that we are encouraged to pre-board. On flight, free beverages and snacks for the two and a half hour flight; as well as free, personalized entertainment.

Sure, Amtrak cost half as much as Jet Blue, but Jet Blue got me five times further in the same time, with better staff service, better amenities - and hardly the "cattle car" that I was in on Amtrak where people don't bother to avail themselves of the FREE baggage allowance and instead piled up their luggage into the aisle of the car, making it difficult to get out of the car and to the restroom or the lounge car. (For the record, JetBlue allows a free checked bag as well.) And, yes, all my bags (which travelled for free on JetBlue) arrived on time, and without damage.
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Have never been to the Pacific Northwest. Not sure I'll ever go there. Heard it rains alot. I give Wigwamfan the benefit of the doubt relative to the Edenic conditions he describes on Jet Blue in his area. However, in Kansas City the air experience is more likely to be as Railnut describes. I do not condemn TSA. Imagine what it must be like to walk in their shoes or to be a Southwest Airlines employee? The long lines at KCI are usually the result of newbie or really stupid people traveling through security. What part of remove metal from your person don't you understand? A few month ago saw a busty senior lady being frisked by a female TSA rubber gloved employee. She giggled throughout the fondling. Hadn't had that much fun since her honeymoon.

An equivalent short haul trip on Amtrak's Missouri River Runner cost $49 (business class) vs $150 (or up to $250) via air. The rail equipment needs to be replaced on this route and recent funding may help. It can be faster to drive, but future track upgrades to 110 MPH may change that. In spite of these problems along with lack of advertising, the trains come to within $200,000 of farebox recovery. If this route is streamlined, I'm sure there are many who will still elect to fly. That's what America should be about, choices!
 




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