The Amtrak leadership is continuing its cost-cutting, despite negative response from Rail Passengers Association and almost universal opposition from numerous sources, including individual travelers.
The new directive says that, effective October 1st, all overnight trains east of the Mississippi River will transition from whatever it is they are now doing to what Amtrak persists in calling “Contemporary Dining” . . . which is to say meals heated in the Café-Lounge car’s microwave and consumed either at a table in the lounge car or in the passenger’s sleeping car accommodations.
I assume this means the Crescent and the Silver Meteor will lose their dining cars, and the Cardinal and the City of New Orleans will transition from microwaved meals to Contemporary Dining meals, which should probably be considered a lateral move.
Incidentally, earlier this week, a fellow passenger on the California Zephyr reported that his car attendant on the Capitol Limited refused—perhaps that’s too strong a word—declined to bring the boxed meal to his roomette. According to the passenger, he was told he would have to personally collect his dinner in the lounge car at which time he could choose to eat it at one of the tables there or bring it back to his accommodations and dine alone in his roomette.
I have no reason to disbelieve the man who told me of this incident. However, he had come away with the impression that it was Amtrak policy to have the passengers go to the café-lounge car to get their meals, whereas it’s my best guess that he just happened to draw a lazy car attendant. I would be glad to hear from anyone with better information on this subject.
The greater point, of course, is that Amtrak leadership is continuing to diminish the overall travel experience for their sleeping car passengers … a policy that will, in the end, almost certainly result in declining revenue for the long-distance network.
One additional note: while partaking of a meal in the Zephyr’s dining car, several passengers complained mildly that there had been no changes on Amtrak’s dining car menu since they had started out on their rail vacation several weeks earlier. They were right, of course. I was, at that very moment, holding a menu in the Zephyr’s dining car that was identical to the menu presented to me on the Sunset Limited almost a month earlier. Still pancakes for breakfast instead of “Traditional Railroad French Toast”.
Little by little, we’re gradually losing bits and pieces of the traditional long-distance train travel experience. Somehow, we’ve got to make that stop!