Is This “Aloha” to Dining Cars on the Lake Shore Limited?
Whoever said, “Timing is everything”, was right. I’m leaving again tonight for a trip that has been planned for six months or so. It starts with a flight from here to Chicago, then continues the following day to Boston on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.
But two days ago, I learned that Amtrak is taking the dining car off of the Lake Shore Limited and replacing it with two café-lounge cars. One will have some kind of food service, the other will apparently function strictly as a lounge car. And of course the change takes effect the day before I will be on that very train. Swell.
As far as I’m concerned, the is no adequate substitute for a full-service dining car. Anyone who’s had a few meals in an Amtrak diner knows that it’s part of what makes train travel so enjoyable. You sit down for a meal with total strangers and, far more often than not, you will leave the diner an hour or so later having made some interesting new friends.
This latest development is troubling. What’s going on? And, by that, I mean what’s really going on? There are, I’ve been told on excellent authority, five dining cars now out of service and sitting in Chicago because of needed repairs … repairs that would cost about $150,000 for each.
OK, so why weren’t those dining cars taken out of service and repaired one at a time?
What happened to the new Viewliner dining cars we were told had been ordered several years ago?
And—this is what we’re all wondering—is this a permanent move? Is the Lake Shore Limited going the way of the Silver Star: subtract one dining car; add one cafe/lounge car; and reduce fares.
That leads us to the jackpot question: are we eventually going to lose all the dining cars on all the one-overnight routes? That would include the Crescent, the Capitol Limited, the Silver Meteor, and—God forbid!—my favorite train, the Coast Starlight.
Lots of questions, and no clear answers yet. But here’s what is most troubling: when someone from Amtrak does respond and assures us that there are no such plans, what he will really mean is there are no such plans . . . today.