It’s the Little Things That Count.

I carry a notebook when I travel, in which I jot down a key word or phrase to remind me of something I want to remember later: a funny anecdote recalled by a car attendant, perhaps. Maybe the highlights of an amusing incident. Earlier tonight I came across almost two full pages of scribbles made eight days ago aboard the Sunset Limited.
I was having dinner with a very nice older couple from the Bay Area who told me it was their first long-distance Amtrak ride in almost 20 years. Their earlier trip was on the Coast Starlight and they had very fond memories of that experience.
For example, they had been delighted to find two small chilled bottles of champagne in their bedroom when they boarded and she also remembered being given a souvenir coaster with the Coast Starlight logo on it. (I have one of those on my desk at home.)
The lady also noted that we were dining on plastic and said she was sure their previous dining car experience had included real china. (She was right, of course.)
They both seemed to recall that there had been a bit more of a selection on the dining car menu and at that very moment we were all disappointed to learn that ice cream was no longer one of the options for dessert in an Amtrak dining car.
As they were saying good-bye and headed back to their bedroom, the husband said (and I wrote down his exact words), “Well, this has been OK, but I do think it was better before.”
Those of us who prefer train travel will no doubt continue to do so. But what happens when the occasional travelers–the sleeping car passengers paying top dollar for the experience–come away from a long-distance train trip and think it was just OK … nothing really special about it?
My final notes from that conversation read: Cost cutting = less ridership = less revenue = big trouble!