The Nickel-and-Diming Continues.

The Pacific Parlour Car includes overstuffed, swiveling easy chairs, a lounge area, booths for dining, and a bar with an attendant.

The parlor car includes overstuffed, swiveling easy chairs, a lounge area, booths for dining, and a bar with an attendant.

As regulars here know, the Coast Starlight is my favorite of all the Amtrak long-distance trains. It’s a very scenic ride between Los Angeles and Seattle, of course, but that wonderful Pacific Parlour Car is, for me, the difference maker and that’s true for many of the sleeping car passengers I’ve met on board the train.
The fact is, I go out of my way and incur additional expense just to travel on the Coast Starlight. When I return to Los Angeles from Chicago, instead of going direct on the Southwest Chief, I’ll often opt for the California Zephyr, getting off at Davis, California. I spend the night there, then catch the southbound Coast Starlight at 6:50 the next morning. I do that so I can spend that entire day relaxing in the Pacific Parlour Car. And these wonderful, luxurious, vintage rail cars are only found on the Coast Starlight.
Of course that’s where I hung out during much of the ride from Seattle to Oakland, where I left the train on my recent trip. Unfortunately, there was evidence of more cost cutting by Amtrak management … and some it can only be described as chickenshit.
For example, the wine tastings are back … sort of. For years, these popular events were held in the parlour cars on both afternoons of the two day trip and featured wines produced in the very areas through which the train was passing. Then, to save money, they were discontinued. Then they were reinstated … at a cost of $5.00 per person. Then they were discontinued again. And now they’re back, but instead of two reds and two whites, we were served one red and two whites. And the cost is now $7.50 per person. Should we be surprised that only seven people participated on the afternoon I rode the train last week?
And if anyone thinks I was over the top in describing some of Amtrak’s cost cutting as “chickenshit”, consider this: when I boarded the Coast Starlight the other morning, as is my habit, I tossed my bag in the roomette and went straight to the Parlour Car where I ordered a Bloody Mary. For years, parlour car attendants have garnished the Bloody Marys with three or four olives on a toothpick. Alas, olives are no longer stocked in the parlour car’s bar. “We’re saving money,” said the attendant, shaking his head.