A Scary Message from Amtrak.
A chill ran up my spine when this email from Amtrak was forwarded to me:
“We are contacting you today to inform you that starting January 6 through March 1, 2016, the Pacific Parlour car will be removed from the Coast Starlight trains for maintenance. During this period, the dining car and Sightseer Lounge car will continue to be available for passengers.”
I’m addicted to the Pacific Parlour Car—which is found only as part of the Coast Starlight consist—and, as I have said here before, I have often gone out of my way, adding a day or more to an existing itinerary, just to ride in style and bask in 60-year-old luxury. These wonderful old cars have eight overstuffed swiveling arm chairs, a lounge area, some booths whereto can choose to take your meals instead of going to the dining car.
In all honesty, and as much as the Parlor Car adds to the incentive to travel on this train, it’s a great ride anyway, running daily in both directions between Los Angeles and Seattle. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve taken it, either for all or part of it’s 1400-mile route. The scenery is outstanding, from running for more than an hour just a matter of yards from the Pacific Ocean to boring on a single track into the evergreen wilderness of the Cascade Range.
More often than not, when traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, I take the Zephyr to Davis, California, where I overnight before boarding the Coast Starlight early the next morning. From Davis, it’s about a 14-hour ride down to L.A. The Parlour Car is only for sleeping car passengers, so I reserve a roomette from Davis to L.A. for about $100. Because dining car meals are included in my fare, that means I get breakfast, lunch and dinner for my hundred bucks … plus the privacy of my roomette when I want it … and, of course, I have access to the Parlour Car.
But, and it’s a big but, there have been rumors for a long time—years, actually—that Amtrak will eventually find an excuse to do away with the Parlour Cars as part of their never-ending cost-cutting effort. After all, it’s an extra car to haul and there is an attendant who must be paid. Now you know why I hate hearing that Amtrak is temporarily taking the Parlour Cars out of service.
In fact, I don’t even wanna think about it!
I haven’t been as lucky as you to make as many trips on the Coast Starlight and other west coast routes but I am booked with my husband to go the week of April 5. I just got an email saying the Parlour Car’s last trip will be Feb 2 (they had another Feb date too). I was shocked they would summarily end the Parlour Car that way. No one said a word when I booked my reservation.
Anyway, if it would help to get a petition or signatures to keep the Parlour Car, you seem to be the likely person to do it. I liked the idea of having a bartender, serving local wines….what a great idea and a moneymaker for them too!
I’m calling Amtrak tomorrow to find out who I can talk to about it.
Why the surprise, beyond how much longer the Pacific Parlour lasted than expected? Certainly, we should expect to hear the kvetching of excuses pulling this car off–costs, costs, costs–the LSA, maintenance & repair, extra fuel and sand for the power, etc, etc. Just think about the lost potential for extra revenue if the Parlour was operated as a real bar with a trained bartender; the many vineyards en route anxious to provide wines to sample and purchase!
Frankly, we can only hope that when the next management crew takes over at Amtrak, they will embrace a more consistent understanding, and expectation, of what customer service is all about.