Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak on-board service’

Amtrak Upgrades Capitol, Lake Shore Food Service

January 17, 2019

Amtrak has upgraded the meal offerings to sleeping car passengers traveling on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Effective this week, those passengers will now have a choice of three hot lunch/dinner options plus a hot breakfast offering.

Dinner and lunch now includes chicken penne alfredo, beef provencal, Asian noodle bowl, antipasto plate and a children’s meal.

Breakfast offerings are deluxe continental breakfast items that include muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal and now a hot breakfast sandwich.

The menu also shows that improved Kosher meals have been included on the menu.

However, the basic concept of the “fresh and contemporary” dining service that Amtrak launched on both eastern long-distance trains on June 1, 2018, remains in place.

That service, which relies on prepared box meals served in a passenger’s sleeping car room or in a dining car devoted to sleeping car passengers, has draw criticism for its limited menu, particularly at breakfast.

The Rail Passengers Association described this week’s changes as a first step toward restoration of “more traditional dining options.”

RPA said Amtrak has outfitted its dining cars with new type of oven that can cook up to 24 meals simultaneously.

That replaces the former practice of heating one meal at a time in a microwave.

The new high-speed convection oven will reportedly cook food more evenly.

Improved Food Service May be Coming to Amtrak

December 17, 2018

A post on the website of the Rail Passengers Association hints that improved food service options are coming to Amtrak.

That announcement followed a meeting with RPA President Jim Mathrews RPA vice president Sean Jeans-Gail met Amtrak management.

RPA said that Amtrak is working on some service enhancement measures that it might begin implementing as soon as January.

Although the RPA posting said it can’t release details on those until contracts are announced, it did say that better food, and more hot options are on the way.

“We also this week received explicit assurances that the long-term vision for the National Network is an improved service “with more traditional dining options,” Mathews wrote.

Empty Tables

May 4, 2018

When Amtrak introduced the Cross Country Cafe concept, it was seen by some as a downgrade in food service.

The passenger carrier modified a few dining cars to remove their traditional table seating in favor of booths. Half of the car was to be a lounge, thus reprising the long-time concept of a diner lounge.

The cars were assigned to the City of New Orleans, Texas Eagle and Capitol Limited.

Shown is a Cross Country Cafe on the northbound City of New Orleans in March 2012.

The top image shows the lounge area while the bottom photograph shows the dining area.

Note the difference in tables. In my experience, which is admittedly limited, the lounge area on Nos. 58 and 59 didn’t catch on that well.

Why sit here when the train had a Sightseer Lounge in the consist?

These images were made not long after No. 58 departed from New Orleans in early afternoon. The car isn’t open and meals are not yet being served.

With the changes coming to dining service on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited on June 1, 2018, some might wish that Amtrak had retained the Cross Country Cafe concept.

Last Dinner on the Broadway Limited

February 3, 2018

It Saturday night in the dining car on Amtrak’s eastbound Broadway Limited. Despite the train having departed Chicago at 8:55 p.m., the dining car is open and serving.

At first glance, there is nothing out of the ordinary about these scenes. What is playing out has occurred countless times aboard this car, whose heritage predates the creation of Amtrak by two decades.

It was built in 1948 by Budd for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which named it Silver Cafe.  Amtrak modernized it when it rebuilt the car in June 1980 for head-end power as part of the Heritage Fleet.

Tonight every table and nearly every seat in the Silver Cafe is taken as train No. 40 roars toward New York through Indiana on CSX tracks that once belonged to the Baltimore & Ohio.

But this trip was different because it would be the last run of the Broadway Limited.

The next day, Nos. 40 and 41 will began operating only between Pittsburgh and New York and will be renamed the Three Rivers.

The change was part of a route rationalization plan launched amid a budget cut and the cutbacks could have been more severe than they were.

These images that I made during the last dinner on the Broadway Limited were made on color print film and turned out grainy.

Nonetheless, they remind me of one of my most memorable dinners aboard Amtrak.

The entree, I believe it was trout with a mustard sauce was served with steamed carrots and a rice pilaf, and was quite tasty. The desert was chocolate cake that I recall was embellished by the server, John Long.

Despite it being a last run, the dining car crew was courteous and seemed to go out of their way to make the event something special and worth remembering.

Those Lost Little Touches

January 18, 2018

There was a time when Amtrak offered a number of small touches for passengers holding sleeping car tickets.

Notice this display inside my room in a Viewliner sleeper on the Lake Shore Limited out of Chicago in June 2010. The car attendant has left a printed greeting with his name.

Another touch was the artificial flowers and the chocolate mint. You could also expect to get a newspaper delivered to your room in the morning and a route schedule to be there as well. Back in the day, as they say, Amtrak even provided route guides.

Now all of these things are gone, victims of cost cutting and changes in service philosophies.

Amtrak’s New Magazine Hits the Tracks

October 4, 2016


Amtrak is now distributing its new magazine, The National, onboard its trains.

The free publication is being placed in seatbacks and replaces, Arrive, a magazine that was distributed primarily in the Northeast Corridor.

“We are dedicated to enhancing our customers’ onboard experience, highlighting the unique elements that Amtrak offers and The National does just that,” said Rob Friedman, Amtrak’s vice president of brand management and marketing, in a news release.

Freidman said the magazine will focus on personalities, culture and destinations along Amtrak routes

The first issue of The National features travel essays, fiction, poetry and fine-art photography.

The magazine is produced in New York by Ink, a travel media company.

Amtrak to Launch New On-board Magazine

July 29, 2016

Amtrak is planning to launch a new on-board magazine that will be distributed nationwide and replace its current publication, Arrive.

Amtrak logoThe magazine will be named The National and is part of a marketing effort by Amtrak to portray itself as a more upscale travel brand.

The National is set to launch in October and will be published bimonthly by Ink, a British travel magazine publisher that plans to emphasize beautiful travel photography and long-form journalism.

“It’s much more about Americana, the view from the train, the whole country,” Ink Chief Executive Simon Leslie said. “There will be stories about things going on around the network and stories about people on the train.”

Amtrak’s current magazine Arrive is oriented toward the Northeast Corridor although it has made its way westward on some long-distance trains such as the Lake Shore Limited.

The staff for The National will be based in New York. Ink publishes custom titles for the London-to-Paris Eurostar train service and for American and United airlines

Such publications often involve little to no cost for the carrier and the publisher makes money from advertising sales. In some instances, the carrier gets a cut of the ad revenue.

The carrier is responsible for placing the magazine in seatbacks.

Amtrak Trial Includes No Meals With Sleeper Fare

April 20, 2015

In what may be a precursor of things to come, Amtrak said it will conduct a trial period of selling sleeping car accommodations that do not include meals.

Between July 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, the New York-Miami Silver Star will carry a café-lounge rather than a full-service diner.

Amtrak said sleeping class fares on Nos. 91 and 92 will be 25 and 28 percent lower for Viewliner bedrooms and roomettes.

“Customers have been clear they want more options,” said Mark Murphy, Amtrak senior vice president and general manager responsible for the long-distance trains nationally. “From this summer through early next year, passengers will be able to opt for different service levels between our two daily trains to Orlando and Miami.”

Murphy was referring to how those who travel between New York and Miami aboard the Silver Meteor will still have full-servicing dining and sleeping class tickets will include meals in the fare.

For several years Amtrak has included meals in the price of a sleeping car ticket on all long-distance trains.