Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Ocean View’

Last Amtrak Dome Car Sold

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s Ocean View is shown in Oakland, California, in the consist of a National Railway Historical Society excursion.

Amtrak’s last dome car has been acquired by a private operator who plans to return it to service in excursion service in 2021.

Paxrail said it bought full-length dome Ocean View, a 92-seat passenger car built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle.

In recent years the car ran sporadically, most recently assigned to the Adirondack and Downeaster during the fall.

Amtrak retired the car in 2018 and offered it for sale last year. At the time the intercity passenger carrier said the car had become too expensive to maintain.

“We’re excited to now be a chapter in this wonderful car’s history,” said Paxrail President James Evenson.

“The Ocean View is a beautiful art-deco car offering a spectacular panorama for over 70 passengers in the dome. We’re looking forward to welcoming guests back aboard in 2021.”

Paxrail maintains a fleet of more than 20 historic passenger cars and provides the cars for excursions, day trips and corporate events.

Full-length domes, also known as great domes, also operated on the Santa Fe and Milwaukee Road.

At one time Amtrak owned all six full-length domes once used by the Empire Builder. Those cars were replaced in 1979 by Superliner equipment.

A few of the cars operated on Amtrak’s Auto Train in the 1980s and 1990s.

Passenger Cars such as Ocean View Was the Difference Between a Train Ride and a Bus Ride on Rails

September 4, 2019

Trains magazine passenger writer Bob Johnston had a valid point when he argued on the magazine’s website on Tuesday that Amtrak’s retirement of its last dome car means the carrier is losing a valuable promotional tool.

But how valuable? Amtrak management might argue that whatever the value of the Ocean View was as a promotional tool was no longer worth the cost to maintain it.

The news broke last week that Amtrak has retired its last dome car, former Great Northern Great Dome Ocean View, which had been built in the 1950s for the Empire Builder.

Ocean View had in recent years appeared on special occasions, including operating on the Adirondack in upstate New York during the fall foliage season.

It operated on the Hoosier State when Amtrak took back control of that train from Iowa Pacific, it ran on the Cardinal, and it ran on the Downeaster during a marketing promotion.

Ocean View also made appearances on special Amtrak moves.

The official line from Amtrak is that Ocean View is old and the cost of keeping it going had become too much.

That same reasoning was given for the retirement of the Pacific Parlour Cars, which had been built as Hi-Level cars for the Santa Fe.

Amtrak has all but been out of the dome car business since retiring its Heritage Fleet of short domes that once operated on such trains as the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and City of New Orleans more than a decade ago.

Some of those domes are having third or fourth lives as private varnish or on tourist railroads.

Johnston noted that some Class 1 railroads have done cars in their executive fleet, including Union Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern.

“Current Amtrak management’s current intense focus on cost cutting, however, dictates retiring the type of equipment its host carriers continue to value,” Johnston wrote.

And what value do dome cars have? Johnston argues they help make a good impression when a railroad hosts movers and shakers to show them the property.

That’s probably true but the value of a dome car in that context is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

The cost of maintaining the Ocean View can be demonstrated in hard numbers, but not so much the public relations value of the car.

You could argue that Ocean View is worth X number of passengers on a train such as the Adirondack who might not have ridden had the Ocean View been absent from the consist.

But can you prove that? Amtrak management believes that if it wants to stimulate ridership on a given route at a given time it can do so with a flash discount fare sale.

The carrier has other equipment it can use to show off its routes to VIPs, including office car Beech Grove. It’s not a theater car per se, but does have full length windows on the rear.

Amtrak could lease a dome car from a private owner if it desired.

The lamenting by some of the retirement of Ocean View has less to do with its role as a “promotional tool” than it does the belief that dome coaches, full-service dining cars and Pacific Parlour cars are what distinguish riding a train from riding a bus.

Passenger train supporters have convinced themselves that these feature cars are necessary to entice ordinary people to ride trains.

Otherwise, the Amtrak experience would be rather mundane.

At a time when Amtrak management has professed its desire to do away with long-distance trains generally and transform those left into experiential services, whatever that means, the retirement of Ocean View and, for that matter, the Pacific Parlor Cars, is a loss, but imagine what it would be like if there were fewer trains intercity trains operating across America.

Which is the greater loss that you’d like to have back?

Amtrak Dome Ocean View Has Been Retired

September 2, 2019

The great dome car that was used in recent years for special duty on Amtrak trains has been retired.

The carrier’s last dome car is thought to be in storage at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

In recent years the car had been assigned to the Adirondack between Albany, New York, and Montreal during the fall foliage season.

Known as the Ocean View, the dome was built in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder.

It was acquired by Amtrak from the Burlington Northern and given roster number 9361.

After being rebuilt in March 1985 to head end power, the car was renumbered to 9300(2) and assigned to the Auto Train.

It was renovated in 1999 and given roster number 10031 at which time it was assigned to Amtrak’s corporate services unit.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told the Times Union newspaper of Albany that the Ocean View was retired “due to the age and expense of maintaining this vintage car.”

Gary Prophet, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, told the newspaper he was “very sad and disappointed” that Amtrak decided to retire the car rather than repair it.

He described the Ocean View as “a huge benefit for passengers riding through the Adirondacks.”

All That is Left

February 16, 2019

Amtrak once had a few dozen dome cars, but only great dome Ocean View is left.

The car is in storage most of the year, only being brought out for special occasions and revenue service in the fall.

It is shown here at Jack London Square in Oakland, California, in the consist of a chartered train that operated during the 1999 National Railway Historical Society convention.

That was built by Budd in 1955 for the Great Northern Railway.

I did not ride in Ocean View on this trip and I probably have never ridden in it. My only memory of riding in a full-width dome dates to February 1976 when I rode in one aboard the Empire Builder from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Amtrak Dome Car running on Downeaster Route

August 24, 2017

Amtrak has assigned its dome car Ocean View to the Downeaster route through late September.

The car, a former Great Northern Railway full-length dome car, ran on the route in August and September 2016.

The car will make four daily trips on the route between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Seats in the dome section are available to all passengers at no extra charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Among the view passengers will see are the coastline, marshes and streams. The dome car will operate on the Downeaster route through Sept. 24.

Amtrak Takes Over Hoosier State Today

March 1, 2017

Amtrak has announced that it will provide Wi-Fi, business class and a Café Car on the Hoosier State when it takes over the train today (March 1)

It will also assign its great dome car Ocean View to the train for the month of March.

Amtrak logoThe equipment lineup for Nos. 850 and 851 will include 68-seat Horizon fleet coaches and a café car with an attendant that will provide table seating at one end and 14 business class seats at the other.

All cars will have power outlets, reading lights and tray tables  at each seat and free cellular-based AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi that combines mobile data from multiple carriers along the route.

Business class will provide 2-1 seating with leather seating surfaces, foot-rests and leg-rests.

Passengers booking business class aboard the Hoosier State will receive a 25-percent points bonus for Amtrak Guest Rewards members, complimentary coffee or tea, and use of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago, which offers priority boarding.

Ocean View will provide upper level seats for coach passengers on a first come, first served basis at no extra cost. The car was built in 1955 by the Budd Company for the Great Northern Railway.

One-way adult ticket prices for coach service to and from Chicago range from $25 to $48 from Indianapolis, $25 to $47 from Crawfordsville, $23 to $45 from Lafayette, $17 to $30 from Rensselaer and $12 to $22 from Dyer.

Children ages 2-12 are half-fare and discounts are also available for students, seniors, military and others.
The additional charge each way for business class is $21 from Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, $20 from Lafayette and $14 from Rensselaer and Dyer.

Amtrak and Indiana Department of Transportation, which provides some funding for the service, are offering a “buy-one, get-one” fare during March, so two adult passengers can travel for the price of one.

See the Deals tab on Amtrak.com for applicable requirements for fare code V216.

The Hoosier State operates from Indianapolis to Chicago on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and  Friday mornings. It operates from Chicago to Indianapolis on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

The Chicago-New Cardinal operates on days and time slots that the Hoosier State does not operate.

Since July 2015 Iowa Pacific Holdings had provided equipment, on-board service and marketing for the Hoosier State with Amtrak providing operating personnel and maintaining relationships with the host railroads.

IP pulled out of the Hoosier State after INDOT refused its request for additional money to provide the service.

Amtrak Dome Ocean View on Pere Marquette

July 1, 2016

Amtrak’s full-length dome car Ocean View is operating on weekends on the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette through July 24.

The car is the last Amtrak-owned dome car and its appearance on the Pere Marquette is being sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Michigan DOTIn a news release, Amtrak said the dome car is part of an endeavor to enhance on-board service and build ridership during a time when there is extended daylight for viewing the passing scenery in both directions.

The car was built in 1955 for Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder.

The Horizon fleet coaches and food service car assigned to the Pere Marquette will continue in service as usual.