Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak sleeping cars’

Travel Downturn Keeping Some Amtrak Fares Lower

March 17, 2020

Aside from fewer people traveling, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Amtrak has meant greater availability of fares at lower levels, an analysis by Trains magazine has found.

The analysis found that coach and sleeping car fares are at their lowest price level on most routes.

Amtrak fares vary depending on demand on a given day. The higher the demand the more likely that fares are to be higher.

Trains reported that passengers who believe they will be able to travel during historic busy travel periods will find sleeping car fares higher than what can be had now but still lower than what those fares would be under normal circumstances when sleeping car rooms are often sold out.

A roomette this summer on the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited can be had for $310, which matches the current adult roomette fare.

On the Chicago-New York Cardinal, roomettes are selling for $595 whereas last year during the summer they sold for $900.

The Cardinal has long had less sleeping car space than other eastern long-distance trains and thus its sleeping car fares have tended to be higher and space is harder to get.

Nos. 50 and 51 typically operate with one Viewliner sleeper although in recent weeks sleeping car space on the route has increased slightly with the assignment of a Viewliner baggage-dormitory car to the train.

The Trains analysis spot check found that a sleeping car accommodation on the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief can be had this summer for $740 whereas it current is priced at $604.

The respective fares for the California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville, California) are $685 for the summer versus $547 now and for the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder they are $900 versus $513 now.

The COVID-19 has resulted in sleeping car accommodations being sold out northbound on the Auto Train through March 23 whereas southbound plenty of space is available.

When demand for the Auto Train is strong Amtrak has the option of expanding sleeping car consists from seven cars to eight.

The Auto Train equipment pool includes Amtrak’s only two Superliner sleepers that have only bedrooms on the upper level.

Amtrak Previews Coming On-Board Service Changes

January 9, 2020

A service advisory posted on the Amtrak website on Wednesday formally announced the return of dining service for sleeping car passengers on the Silver Star as well as briefly described other coming changes including the inauguration of Viewliner II sleeping car service on eastern long-distance trains.

Amtrak did not give a date for when the Viewliner II sleepers will begin revenue service other than it would be “in the coming months.” Nor did it say which trains would get the new sleepers.

The announcement merely said they would be assigned to “trains on the East Coast” and would be the first addition to the Amtrak sleeping car fleet in more than 25 years.

The passenger carrier said sleeping car passengers will begin using upgraded bedding, towels and linens at an unspecified date.

This change will initially be made on the Auto Train that operates between the Washington area and Florida.

Also coming is the completion of renovations to Amfleet II coaches with new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights.

Since 2015 sleeping car passengers on the Silver Star have not received meals as part of their fare as is the case on all other Amtrak overnight trains with sleeper service.

The dining service being inaugurated on the Silver Star on May 1 will be the same as that provided on the Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited and Silver Meteor.

Nos. 91 and 92 will receive a dining car reserved for the exclusive use of sleeping car passengers.

Amtrak said traditional dining service will continue to be offered on the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and for sleeping car customers aboard the Auto Train.

One Night at the Cleveland Amtrak Station

January 7, 2020

On most days if you want to photograph Amtrak in Northeast Ohio you’ll need a good tripod because the four trains that cross the region daily do so between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Back in the late 1990s I dabbled with making night photographs of Amtrak trains at the Cleveland station.

The two images shown above were made on Aug. 22, 1998. You’ve probably forgotten but it was a momentous day in railroad history because Norfolk Southern and CSX took administrative control of Conrail.

That had no effect on Conrail operations because the carrier continued to operate as normal until being formally divided on June 1, 1999.

In 1998 Amtrak’s P42DC locomotives still wore the Phase III livery in which they were delivered although some had the Phase IV look and the now ubiquitous Phase V livery would be introduced in the next year.

Shown above is dome lounge No. 2511. Like any Heritage Fleet car that was still operating in the late 1990s, this car has an interesting history.

It was built by Budd in April 1950 as Pacific Park for the Union Pacific, a 10 roomette, 6 double bedroom sleeper. At UP it was No. 1430.

It initially carried Amtrak roster 2623 and became the 2923 when rebuilt in September 1977 for head end power capability.

It was transformed into a dorm lounge in April 1998. Amtrak’s thinking at the time was that it could double as a lounge, but that apparently didn’t happen because Amtrak onboard crew members objected to having revenue passengers in their dorm car.

Amtrak retired the 2511 in June 2006. It was stored at the Beech Grove shops for several years until being offered for sale in 2018.

More Amtrak Full-Service Dining Expected to End

July 16, 2019

Amtrak is expected to end full-service dining on all eastern long-distance trains the Rail Passengers Association reported last week.

That means that sleeping car passengers traveling on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor and New York-New Orleans Crescent will be served the same fare that passengers receive on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

In early 2020, Amtrak will also end the practice of providing complimentary dinner to coach passengers aboard the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida.

Instead, coach passengers will be given the option of buying café car fare onboard or purchasing meals from food trucks at terminals in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

An Amtrak news release said all Auto Train passengers will receive a continental breakfast before their arrival.

Sleeping car passengers will continue to be served in their own dining car with “a new menu and the addition of complementary wine to the dinner service,” the news release said.

A spokesperson told Trains magazine that menus for Auto Train sleeping car passengers are still being worked out.

The Amtrak news release said other enhancements will be made to the Auto Train’s sleeping cars including “upgraded towels and bed linens and other pleasantries in each room.”

Amtrak also said it will expand sleeping-car accommodation availability to meet demand.

It is not clear how the food service changes will affect sleeping car passengers on the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

That train has not had meals prepared on board for several years, but offers a much more expansive menu for sleeping car passengers than is available on the Lake Shore Limited or Capitol Limited.

Since June 2018 sleeping car passengers aboard the Lake Shore and Capitol have received box meals with just one offering being served hot.

One complimentary alcoholic beverage is also provided per passenger per meal.

The meals are served in dedicated cars open only to sleeping car passengers. Passengers also have the option of having the meal delivered to their room.

The range of food items available, though, is limited.

RPA said the changes to food service on eastern trains other than the Auto Train will become effective on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2020 federal budget year. The Auto Train changes take effect on Jan. 15.

Food service provided on western long-distance trains will not be affected by the changes.

The New York-Miami Silver Star has not provided meals to sleeping car passengers since July 1, 2015.

Auto Train coach passengers would no longer have separate dining and lounge/cafe cars and given that Amtrak prohibits passengers from consuming in dining and café cars any food brought board the train that means anything purchased from a food truck will need to be consumed at the passenger’s coach seat.

In its news release, Amtrak said Auto Train coach passengers would be able to buy food and beverages from a cross country café car.

The coming changes drew criticism from RPA President Jim Mathews.
“The problem isn’t the food itself, it’s the way the whole experience is handled,” he said on RPA’s website. “We understand the need to make lighter fare available to match the tastes of many modern travelers. But as it’s currently executed on the Capitol and the Lake Shore, too often food items run short, there aren’t enough hot options, and the presentation is perfunctory and off-putting.”

RPA said that the food service changes are part of a strategy to “improve the financials on these routes.”

Amtrak Launches Sleeper BOGO Sale

June 5, 2019

Amtrak has announced a buy one, get one sale on sleeping car roomettes and bedrooms.

Tickets must be purchased between June 4 and 10 and travel must take place between Aug. 1, 2019, and March 21, 2020.

Amtrak said the fare is available on all trains with sleeping cars except the Auto Train.

The full fare adult and traveling companion must travel together on the same reservation.

Other terms and conditions include no changes to a trip itinerary once travel has begun and a 25 percent cancellation fee will be imposed on all cancellations.

Reservations must be canceled at least 15 days before travel and reservations canceled after that will receive a non-refundale eVoucher.

There are no blackout dates, but space may not be available on all trains at all times.

One Morning at Chicago Union Station

May 3, 2019

It is mid morning at Chicago Union Station. I’ve just stepped off the inbound Capitol Limited after boarding several hours earlier in Cleveland.

On an adjacent track is the inbound Broadway Limited. Nos. 40 and 41 are living on borrowed time and will be discontinued in just over a month.

It’s difficult to make good images of trains at CUS due to low lighting conditions not to mention the limited sight lines.

The sleepers on the rear of No. 41 caught my attention. Maybe there is just enough light to make a serviceable image on the slide film I was using.

The images turned out dark and a little blurry. But they remind me of something I can’t see anymore, which is Heritage Fleet sleepers on a train that has been gone more than a decade.

I also liked the mood of the subdued lighting, which seems well suited to portray a passenger car designed for nighttime travel.

No. 2432 in the top photograph was built by the Budd Company in 1950 as Union Pacific 1449, Pacific Waves.

Amtrak retained the name and rebuilt the car to HEP capability in June 1980. Its original Amtrak roster number was 2642.

No. 2051 in bottom image has had a more varied history. It was built by Budd in 1949 as New York Central 10360.

The Central rebuilt the all-roomette care in 1961 to a sleeper coach with a configuration of 16 single rooms and 10 double rooms.

Amtrak reapplied the name Fairport Harbor, which had been dropped by either NYC or Penn Central. At one time it carried Amtrak roster number 2001.

No. 2432 was sold in 2001 and according to the book Amtrak by the Numbers by David C. Warner and Elbert Simon No. 2051 at last report was for sale in 2011. It may have been sold or donated to a museum by now.

Amtrak Expects Delivery of 1st CAF Viewliner Sleeper

February 16, 2019

Amtrak expects to take delivery of the first of its new CAF-built Viewliner sleepers during the week of Feb. 17.

The carrier has ordered 25 Viewliner sleepers whose manufacturing and building have been delayed for several years.

The sleepers are the last cars from a 125-car order and will supplement 50 existing Viewliner sleepers that are used on long-distance trains in the East and South.

Delivery of one CAF-built baggage-dorm has been completed along with 70 baggage cars and 24 of the 25 dining cars that Amtrak ordered.

Amtrak will test the new sleepers before pressing them into revenue service, perhaps by the end of this year.

One significant different between the new Viewliner sleepers and the existing fleet is the absence of a toilet in the roomettes.

Upon delivery, the new Viewliner sleepers will be sent to Amtrak’s Hialeah yard in Miami for installation of a few items, including Wi-Fi capability.

Amtrak Offering 2 for 1 Roomette Fares

December 7, 2018

Inside a Viewliner roomette aboard the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak is offering a buy one get one free sale on sleeping car roomettes.

The deal is only available at Amtrak.com and runs through Dec. 11 for travel between Jan. 7 and May 23, 2019. There are no blackout dates.

In a news release, Amtrak said the sale allows one person in a group of two to travel for free.

Under normal circumstances, both occupants of a Viewliner or Superliner roomette must each pay for rail fare and share an accommodation charge.

The sale applies to travel aboard the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Startlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle.

The sale does not apply to the Auto Train.

The companion traveling with the customer must stay in the same roomette, and other terms and conditions apply.

To take advantage of the sale, a traveler should begin by clicking on the “Buy One Roomette and Bring a Companion for Free” page of the Amtrak website.

The sale does not show up on the normal reservations page, which is unable to calculate the discount.

Passengers will know they have booked the sale fare if they see a “promo applied” notation below the roomette fare.

Trains magazine reported that it found that the best cost savings are available for multi-night travel because rail fares are yield managed.

Amtrak to Impose Group Travel Booking Restrictions

August 1, 2018

Amtrak plans to impose restrictions on bookings for group tour travel, a change that will in particular affect tour companies.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, Amtrak will no longer permit the blocking of space for group travel, will sharply curtail the number of sleeping car rooms that groups can book at one time and will require payment for travel further in advance of the date of departure.

During the peak travel season, tour companies and groups will be limited to booking no more than 10 roomettes and two bedrooms in Superliner sleepers, and eight roomettes and two bedrooms in Viewliner sleepers.

In the off peak season, those limits will be 12 roomettes and three bedrooms in Superliner sleepers, and 10 roomette and two bedrooms in Viewliner sleepers.

Amtrak will require full payment from a group sales agent 90 days before departure whereas it previously was 45 days.

Agents will be unable to hold space on multiple consecutive departures for the same city pair, and can no longer cancel and re-book reservations as a way of avoiding the payment schedule.

Two tour companies, America by Rail and Vacation by Rail are expected to be affected by the changes. Both companies account for a significant part of sleeping car revenue, particularly during the peak season of ‪June 15 to Aug. 20.

Amtrak will no longer operate a help desk for the benefit of tour operators, instead required them to contact the group sales department, which handles reservations for groups of 20 or more passengers.

The head of America by Rail, Tim Swartz told Trains magazine, “It sounds like they think group operators are holding space too long, thus not allowing [Amtrak] to sell that space to the public.”

America by Rail is one of Amtrak’s largest single customers.

Amtrak Offers Roommette BOGO Sale

June 21, 2018

Amtrak is offering a “Roomette for Two for the Price of One,” which allows one person in a group of two to travel for free in an Amtrak sleeping car.

The far is available only at Amtrak.com between June 20 and June 26 and valid for travel between Aug. 20 and Feb. 15.

The fares are available on every Amtrak train offering sleeping car service.

There is a blackout date on Nov. 25 and other terms and conditions apply.