Checking Out Amtrak Onboard Crews.
After years of riding Amtrak long-distance trains, I’ve learned that there are a few little observations you can make that will tell you what kind of an on-board crew you’ve got. These clues aren’t foolproof, but they do seem to hold true much of the time.
For example, as strange as this may seem, the French Toast served at breakfast in an Amtrak dining car can tell me if the chef in the kitchen takes real pride in his work or is just going through the motions.
Speaking as a connoisseur of French Toast, the bread slices should be dunked long enough to soak up some of the egg/milk mixture before being put on the grill. If done that way, it will come to your table crisp on the outside, but moist and soft all the way through . . . and you’ll know you’ve got a chef who’s fussy about the food coming out of his kitchen. That’s useful information, too, because it tells me I can probably count on my steak at dinner being medium rare just the way I like it.
I judge the servers in the dining car by the same standards all of us apply to the people working in the restaurants we patronize. Are they efficient? Are they genuinely friendly? (Truthfully, I cut the dining car folks a little slack. It is a very tough job.)
There are two ways to tell if you have a really conscientious sleeping car attendant. First, if he makes a point of telling you he’ll be in roomette #1 should you need anything during the night. And second, in some sleepers, you push the call button IN if you want the attendant, but in some of the Superliners, you have to pull it OUT. Don’t ask me why that is, but if your attendant makes sure you know whether to push or to pull, you’ve got a good one!
Nothing irritates passengers more than having the train stop in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. A conscientious conductor knows that and will use the train’s public address system to give everyone a brief explanation. On a recent trip on the California Zephyr, one of the conductors used the P.A system to say if any passenger had a question or a problem, he could be found at one of the empty tables in the dining car throughout the night. Now THAT was impressive!