Three Cheers! Real China Is Back!

Some years ago, following another financial squeeze applied by the anti-rail Bush Administration, Amtrak was forced into another round of cost-cutting. To eliminate one food service employee from the dining car staff on every long-distance train — the person who washed most of the dishes — Amtrak stopped using real china and substituted disposable plastic plates. Dining car meals are just not as enjoyable if your used salad bowls and plates and cups and saucers end up being shoved into large plastic trash bags. It’s also a lousy environmental example, too.

But all that, I am delighted to say, is changing.

Amtrak is now using real china in dining cars on the Empire Builder, running daily between Chicago and Seattle/Portland. And Amtrak’s Chief of Product Development, Brian Rosenwald, has just announced that real china has returned to the Coast Starlight, with daily service between Seattle and Los Angeles. Furthermore, Amtrak is looking for ways to improve service on five other long-distance routes.

Rosenwald, by the way, has long been a driving force behind more and better service on Amtrak long-distance trains and is considered a hero by all who have followed the trials and tribulations of Amtrak over the years. Among other things, he’s the person most responsible for the Pacific Parlour cars that have become a regular part of the Coast Starlight’s consist. These cars are for the exclusive use of sleeping car passengers and offer meal and beverage service, wine and cheese tastings, and a place to relax in comfortable chairs during the trip.

If you have yet to give Amtrak a try, I would recommend your first experience be a ride in one of the sleeping car accommodations on the northbound Coast Starlight. You’ll spend the first day running up the California coast, passing some of the time in one of the over-stuffed armchairs in the Parlour car. You’ll wake up the next morning to a stunning view of Mount Shasta. And you’ll enjoy your meals served on real china on white tablecloths in the dining car.
And that, my friends, is the only way to travel!