Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak western long-distance trains’

Traditional Dining to Return to Most Western Long Distance Trains on June 23

June 4, 2021

French toast will come with fruit and whipped topping when traditional dining resumes late this moth. (Amtrak photo)

Amtrak this week announced the return of traditional dining-car service aboard its western long distance trains effective June 23.

The announcement played up “a redesigned menu,” new appetizers, and table service with glassware, cutlery and linen tablecloths. Ceramic dishware will be added later this year.

However, the change comes with a number of caveats.

This includes traditional dining being limited to sleeper class passengers. Coach passengers must continue to rely on café car offerings.

Another caveat is that traditional dining for now is not being reinstated on the Texas Eagle.

Texas Eagle passengers continuing beyond San Antonio will be able to take advantage of traditional dining service aboard the Sunset Limited, which operates between New Orleans and Los Angeles and carries through cars between Chicago and Los Angeles that are interchanged in San Antonio.

The Rail Passengers Association reported recently that the Eagle will for the time being continue to operate with one food service car and it won’t be a Sightseer Lounge.

Amtrak reportedly plans to assign Sightseer Lounges to the Texas Eagle at a later but unspecified date.

Trains that will have traditional dining include the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited.

The announcement said nothing about whether eastern long distance trains are being considered for reinstatement of traditional dining.

Those trains for the past two to three years have featured what Amtrak bills as “flexible dining” in which food is prepared off the train and served aboard.

The Amtrak announcement this week indicated that the traditional dining aboard the western trains will have meals prepared by an on-board chef and have table service and communal seating.

Traditional dining had been removed from western long distance trains in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amtrak’s announcement indicated that passengers will still be expected to wear facial masks when aboard a train except when they are eating or drinking.

Dining cars will be for the use of sleeper class passengers only. Those passengers will have the option of being served meals in their rooms.

Amtrak said is planning to revamp its café menu this summer by adding more fresh selections. The announcement did not indicate what that might include nor did it indicate when or if the passenger carrier plans to resume selling dining car meals to coach passengers.

As for the traditional dining car experience, it will feature some changes from the pre-pandemic service.

This includes offering three-course dinners that have an appetizer, main course and dessert. The breakfast and lunch menus will be similar to what has been offered in the past.

All trains will have the same menu, a practice that has been in place for the past several years. There also will be a children’s menu.

One feature of flexible dining that is being retained with the return of traditional dining is passengers receiving one complimentary alcoholic beverage.

On its website, Amtrak said passengers can make reservations for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. while dinning hours will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Final seatings will be at 9:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. with a last call made 15 minutes before the dining period ends. Exceptions may apply based on train schedule or in the event of a delay.

As for what is on the menu, breakfast offers four selections, including a continental breakfast, French Toast, three-egg omelet, or scrambled eggs.

The omelet and scrambled eggs come with a choice of cheese, tomatoes, breakfast potatoes and a croissant. Both entrees also can come with red and green peppers and onions.

Sides include bacon and sausage, either chicken or pork.

The lunch menu features a Caesar salad, grilled cheese sandwich, angus burger and vegan chili. The grilled cheese sandwich comes with turkey and bacon. The chili is served in a baked potato or a bowl with a choice of toppings.

The two sandwiches come with a side of cole slaw and Terra chips. All lunch entrees also include a dessert from the dinner menu.

As for the dinner menu the first course is one of three appetizer, including a lobster crab cake, green chile cheese tamale or a mixed greens salad with baby brie.

Entrees include flat iron steak, pan roasted chicken breast, grilled Atlantic salmon and tortellini with pesto cream.

All entrees except the tortellini come with vegetable side dishes. The steak also comes with a choice of cheese polenta or baked potato.

Desserts include a flourless chocolate torte, Philadelphia cheesecake and carrot cake. Passengers receive unlimited soft drinks.

The Way They Began Service

May 25, 2021

Amtrak’s Superline fleet lounge cars are today known as Sightseer Lounges, but when those cars began revenue in the early 1980s they were named “lounge cafe” cars.

Note also the broad red and blue strips with white accents that ran the length of the car.

When this image was made in Albuquerque in early November 1981, Superliner equipment was still relatively new. The car shown is in the consist of the eastbound Southwest Limited, which later would be renamed the Southwest Chief.

Lounges to Remain Absent from 2 Trains

May 24, 2021

Sightseer Lounge cars won’t be returning to two long distance trains when they resume daily operation.

The Rail Passengers Association reported on its website that it has been told by Amtrak that the absence of the popular cars from the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle is temporary.

“While temporary, we do not yet have a defined timeline for increasing Sightseer Lounge availability, and have placed the other five Western [long distance] routes at a higher priority for deploying these popular cars,” said Larry Chestler, Amtrak’s vice president of the Long-Distance business unit. “We also are maintaining the Sightseer Lounge on the City of New Orleans due to our long-standing axle count requirements in Illinois.”

That means the Capitol Limited and Texas Eagle will will continue to operate with a single food-service car.

Chestler said Amtrak has a shortage of the lounge cars due to coronavirus contingencies. He said the cars will be restored once it’s possible to do so.

The Capitol Limited is scheduled to return to daily operation on May 31 while the Texas Eagle will resume daily operation today (May 24).

In a related development, Amtrak expects to resume full-service dining aboard Western long distance trains as early as June. Last May it switched to the contemporary dining model as a response to COVID-19 pandemic.

The passenger carrier is recalling furloughed workers and getting them qualified.

RPA said it was told that once traditional dining returns to the Western trains, Amtrak will begin work on “improvements to dining services on other [long-distance] routes, including the Eagle.”

Tags: Amtrak onboard service, Amtrak Sightseer Lounge, Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, Capitol Limited, COVID-19 pandemic, dining aboard Amtrak

An Eagle and a Commuter

May 21, 2021

Appearances to the contrary, the train the left is not an Amtrak train. It is a Trinity Railway Express commuter train using leased Amtrak equipment.

That included a pair of F40PH locomotives and two Horizon Fleet coaches.

On the next track over the Texas Eagle is making its daily stop at the Dallas Union Terminal. Note that the Eagle has a new P40 on the point and a veteran F40PH trailing.

When this image was made on March 4, 1997, such mixed motive power consists were not unusual and would continue through the late 1990s until the P42 fleet began arriving.

Bill Introduced to Create Front Range District

April 15, 2021

A bi-partisan bill has been introduced in the Colorado state senate to establish the Front Range Passenger Rail District.

The district would plan, build, operate and maintain passenger service connecting the major cities along the east side of the Rocky Mountains as well as provide a connection service to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr.

Senate President Leroy Garcia, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement that establishing rail passenger service along the Front Range has been a top priority of his since being elected to the legislature.

The legislation calls for cooperation with the Denver-area Regional Transportation District and says that if appropriate the two agencies should share capital costs on a portion of the route. District members would be appointed by April 1, 2022, with the first meeting the following month.

Full-Service Dining Expected Back on Amtrak Long Distance Trains

March 14, 2021

An Amtrak manager has told the Rail Passengers Association that full-service dining will return to six western long-distance trains once they resume daily operation in late May or early June.

Larry Chestler, who oversees Amtrak’s long distance trains, said the passenger carrier expects “something close to normal” this summer for sleeping car class bookings.

Chestler indicated that Amtrak wants to be able to offer a dining-car experience while tending to those who are anxious, fearful or do not desire the traditional communal dining experience that was common in dining cars before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a post on its website, RPA said Amtrak managers said the carrier is still developing plans for dining service restoration that may include “some new options targeting improved safety and improved meal quality.”

Since late last spring, Amtrak has offered its flexible dining model aboard all western long distance trains.

Initially begun in June 2018 aboard the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited, the flexible dining model involves serving prepackaged meals to sleeping car passengers in either the dining car or in their rooms.

The model, which was initially known as contemporary dining, was later expanded to all eastern long distance trains.

It meant a more limited offering of menu items and no more onboard food preparation other than heating already cooked meals.

It was a cost-cutting measure for Amtrak because it reduced dining service from three or more positions to one.

Onboard Amtrak food service workers displaced by the practice on the western trains were moved to the extra board.

Winter Conditions Cause More Service Disruptions

February 18, 2021

Harsh winter weather continued to lead to delays and cancellations for Amtrak on Wednesday, including in the Midwest.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a week of temperatures near zero caused a series of “weather-related equipment issues.”

A Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water round trip was cancelled on Wednesday as a result.

Reportedly, the problem involved the train’s two Charger locomotives and Amtrak maintenance was unable to fix the issue.

The same day the Chicago-bound Pere Marquette, which originates in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was terminated at its first intermediate stop in Hollard, Michigan, due to equipment problems.

Passengers were transferred to a bus to complete their journey to their destination.

Several corridor and long-distance trains that did operate on Tuesday and Wednesday encountered lengthy departure delays from Chicago.

After a late Tuesday arrival in Chicago from Carbondale, Illinois, the Saluki was canceled on Wednesday and its counterpart to Carbondale, the Illini, was cancelled that day.

Both trains were cancelled on Wednesday. Reportedly the problem that led to the cancellation of the Illini was a computer issue on the locomotive that locked up the brakes so that they would not release.

Elsewhere, Amtrak canceled trains in Virginia and the Carolinas ahead of a winter storm expected to bring ice and snow to the region.

The Auto Train was cancelled in both directions on today. Also cancelled were trains that terminate at Norfolk, Newport News, and Roanoke in Virginia, and the Palmetto to Savannah, Georgia.

The northbound counterparts to these trains have been cancelled for Thursday and Friday.

In the West the Coast Starlight has resumed operating over its entire route.

However, Wednesday departures of the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles and New Orleans were cancelled.

The Texas Eagle will originate in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday as scheduled. The westbound Texas Eagle will resume departing from Chicago on Friday.

The Oklahoma City-Fort Worth, Texas, Heartland Flyer remains suspended until Feb. 20.

Winter Leads to Delays, Cancellations

February 17, 2021

Harsh winter weather led to lengthy delays for Amtrak’s eastern long-distance trains and the cancellation of some western long-distance services.

Among the trains that were canceled were the Heartland Flyer, Feb. 14-16; Texas Eagle, Feb. 14 and Feb. 16 in both directions; Sunset Limited, eastbound on Feb. 14 and westbound on Feb. 15; Coast Starlight, cancelled between Portland, Oregon, and Sacramento, California, on Feb. 15; Southwest Chief, Feb. 14 in both directions; and the City of New Orleans, southbound on Feb. 15 and northbound on Feb. 17.

Some trains that continued to operate were subject to lengthy delays.

The Coast Starlight that departed Seattle last Saturday was more than 15 hours late arriving in Los Angeles and more than 25 hours late reaching Seattle on Sunday.

The delays were prompted by heavy snow and downed trees between Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

Those same conditions led to the lone daily Cascades Service train between Seattle and Eugene to operate only between Portland and Seattle on Saturday and to be cancelled on Sunday.

The Empire Builder was more than six hours late reach both Chicago and Seattle on Saturday.

The eastbound Lake Snore Limited was held for 39 minutes on Saturday to accommodate connecting passengers from inbound No. 8.

The eastbound California Zephyr was more than four late into Chicago on Monday.

Trains along the Atlantic Seaboard also suffered lengthy delays, including the Carolinian from New York and Charlotte, North Carolina; and the Palmetto between New York and Savannah, Georgia.

The northbound Palmetto that is scheduled to reach New York at 11:56 p.m. on Sunday arrived Monday at 8:03 a.m.

Aside from weather issues the train was stalled by freight train interference and delays in changing crews en route.

Also affected were the Auto Train and Silver Star.

California Zephyr in Colorado

January 15, 2021

It is late June 1988. The photographer and a friend had ridden Amtrak’s California Zephyr to Denver to spend a week railfanning Denver & Rio Grande Western lines in Colorado.

They managed to catch Amtrak Nos. 5 and 6 numerous times on the Moffat Tunnel route. In those days three F40PH locomotives was the standard motive power consist.

In the top photograph, No. 6 is cruising along the Colorado River in Byers Canyon. In the middle, No. 5 is coming into Winter Park as it exits Moffat Tunnel. In the bottom image, the westbound Zephyr is at Rollins, Colorado.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Heading Out of Big D

December 1, 2020

An Amtrak conductor waits to throw a switch as Amtrak’s Texas Eagle leaves Dallas Union Station.

The conductor will reboard the train after the switch is lined back to it normal position.

The image was made on March 5, 1997. At the time P40 locomotives were fairly new and some F40PH locomotives could still be found in motive power consists.