Vewliners Offer Two Nice Extras.
Five of Amtrak’s long-distance trains feature Viewliner sleeping cars: the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star, the Crescent, the Cardinal and the Lake Shore Limited. Those trains travel over routes with tunnels or bridges that won’t accommodate the taller Superliners.
Each Viewliner sleeper has two standard bedrooms, one accessible bedroom, and twelve roomettes—all designed to accommodate one or two people. Roomette 12 at the end of the car is occupied by the car attendant and a few other roomettes throughout the train are reserved for the dining car and lounge car crews.
There are a couple of features that make the Viewliners very different from the Superliner sleeping cars. First, in the roomettes, there’s a second row of good sized windows for passengers sleeping in the upper berth. And second, unlike the Superliners, the roomettes in a Viewliner have en suite toilets and wash basins. There’s a shower room at the end of the corridor in every Viewliner.
While it reduces the amount of seating area a bit, having a toilet in each of the roomettes is really convenient, although use of the facilities can get a little awkward if you’re traveling with a companion. That’s not a problem with the large Viewliner bedrooms because, as on the Superliners, the toilet is inside its own little phonebooth-sized lavatory, which doubles as a shower. On the other hand, it’s definitely a problem if the toilet in your roomette stops working because there are no “public” lavatories in a Viewliner. If that should happen, the car attendant will move you bag and baggage into one of the empty rooms, even if it’s in another car.
Amtrak placed an order for Viewliner dining cars several years ago and the first one has recently been delivered and has supposedly been put into service on the Silver Meteor. I had dinner in the prototype diner on the Lake Shore Limited last year. I guess that means, as of today, if you take either of those trains, you have a 50-50 chance of having a meal in a Viewliner diner. (I know that doesn’t sound like much, but ANY new equipment for Amtrak is a big deal these days.)
TIP: whenever I travel overnight in a Viewliner roomette, I have the car attendant prepare the upper berth for me. Because of the window up there, I don’t feel at all claustrophobic and I can leave the curtain open all night because I’m high enough above the platforms so no one can see in. And finally, sleeping in the upper berth leaves a little moving around space down below, making it much easier getting dressed in the morning.
Bottom line: Given the choice, I personally prefer the Viewliners. The Superliner sleeping cars are bigger and heavier, providing a somewhat smoother ride, but the window for the upper berth and the convenience of lavatory facilities in all rooms tip the scales for me.