1st Class, Coach Class, and No Class.
When I was about 12 years old, I took a train ride all by myself for the first time. I was going to spend a weekend with my cousin, Bruce, who lived in Darien, Connecticut. I boarded the train in Hartford for what was, and still is, about a two-hour ride. When he put me on the train, my father tipped the car attendant—they were “porters”, then—and asked him to keep an eye on me and make sure I got off at Darien.
I remember that train ride very well to this day, and not just because it was my first time traveling on my own. It was memorable because my mother made sure I was properly attired: a long-sleeved dress shirt and a tweed sport coat were purchased especially for that trip. My shoes were shined and I wore one of my father’s ties. All that for a two hour train ride.
The last time I flew to the mainland, there were passengers in T-shirts and tank tops, baggy shorts and rubber slippers. Yes, a lot of them were coming from a vacation on Maui … and I certainly don’t think coat-and-tie should be the dress code for travel these days. But we have turned into a nation of slobs.
I must say, compared to the airlines, I haven’t seen as much of the “slobbing down” of passengers on Amtrak. Indeed, some people actually dress up a little for dinner. I suppose some of that is because sleeping car passengers are aware they’ll be sharing a table in the dining car with others. So men slip on a sport coat and ladies add a dressy sweater.
Of course, it could just be Amtrak’s universal A/C system which is always on full blast and is impossible to adjust. That’s OK . . . whatever works!
From my perspective accumulated over so many rail trips, only in Canada do passengers continue to understand and accept the norms for traveling with the public. On all my trips over decades on VIA, in particular “The Canadian” and “The Ocean,” I have never witnessed slobs in any public areas of the train.
As the quality of dining has deteriorated on Amtrak, apparently so too has the culture of common courtesy and decency. Nobody takes ownership anymore of what is acceptable–not the crew, not the passengers. What stops Amtrak from printing on the E-ticket (which most people use now) a commentary of appropriate attire-and behavior?