The Silver Star’s Dining Car: Gone, But Not Forgotten.
Well, it’s official: the dining car is gone from Amtrak’s Silver Star. Permanently. Is anyone actually surprised?
I haven’t seen any public announcement yet, but the word started going out to Amtrak employees two days ago.
The official if cryptic notice originated in an email from Mark Murphy, Amtrak’s General Manager for Long Distance Services: “We are extending the Diner less Silver Star on an indefinite basis effective immediately.” That’s pretty clear, the missing hyphen notwithstanding.
Murphy is an affable, likable man. I had a chance to get to know him just a bit not quite a year ago when I sat next to him at the luncheon concluding NARP’s annual Spring meeting in Washington.
(During the meal, several of us offered comments and suggestions and Murphy had the same response each time. He’d smile and say, “I’ll have to look into that.” But what struck me at the time—and I remember very clearly—is that he never once took out a pen and notebook to jot down a reminder.)
The concern—no, it’s more than that—the fear shared by most of my NARP colleagues is that this same “experiment” will be undertaken on some or even all of the Amtrak long-distance trains that operate over one night. That could include the Lake Shore Limited, the Capitol Limited, the Crescent, the Texas Eagle, the Coast Starlight and the City of New Orleans. The Cardinal operates over one night, but already has a Café Car serving microwaved meals to sleeping car passengers.
Long-distance trains operating over two-night routes will presumably keep their full-service dining cars. Those include the Empire Builder, the California Zephyr, the Southwest Chief and the Sunset Limited.
So far, all we have is speculation, but it’s safe to assume that more cuts and more changes are coming, and none of them will be for the better. Zero, zip, nada.
Meanwhile, someone has already suggested a new name for the first train to be affected: The Silver Starve.
If interested in learning the game plan, go to Amazon and purchase the books on how the Southern Pacific put a knife into its once great passenger train fleet in the 1960s decade. It always starts with food and beverage–cut the diner and convert club cars to a diner-lounge; discourage enough first class that the parlor and sleepers come off; now, all you need is an Automat car with vending machines. Oh, and reduce to a tri-weekly schedule.
For NARP and other rail advocates, the real concern should be how much damage can Amtrak’s current CEO’s management group inflict upon the long distance routes in the eight months remaining of their watch? And will the new management team coming aboard be able to salvage and turn around Amtrak from the deliberately inflicted death throes, devoid of any sense of marketing; indifferent to customer service?