Notes from the California Zephyr.

When you get a good car attendant–a really good one–you know it right away. We’ve got one. Macklin is a big guy … six-four or five … and you can tell within minutes that he likes his job and he likes people. My wife slept in this morning, luxuriating in the upper berth in our bedroom, while I had breakfast in the dining car. Macklin spotted me and asked if I’d like him to make up our room while I had breakfast. “Not if you value your life,” I said. “My wife is sleeping in this morning.”

By the way, you don’t have to seek out your car attendant in the morning to have your roomette or bedroom turned back into daytime configuration. When you head off to the dining car for breakfast, get any personal belongings off the unmade bed, pull back the drape and close the glass panel door so the car attendant can see that the bed is unmade and you’re not in the room. Have a nice leisurely breakfast; your room will be restored to its daytime configuration when you return.

The really good sleeping car attendants are not all over you. They’re friendly, but not familiar. They make sure you know how everything works in your bedroom or roomette and that you have everything you need. They do not keep intruding on you in order to give the illusion that they’re attentive. On the Coast Starlight several years ago, our car attendant made a pretense of giving great service by poking his head into my roomette about once an hour to ask if I needed another bottle of water.

I know i’ve got a good car attendant if he makes a point of telling me where he’ll be should I need something important during the night. (Even if he doesn’t, your car attendant will either be in roomette #1 or in the “dorm car”, a Superline sleeper for use by the crew at the front of the train just after the baggage car. If you’re traveling in a Viewliner sleeping car, he’ll be in the last roomette at the rear of the car, across the aisle from the shower room.)

I sat with a couple in the observation/lounge car earlier today. They are traveling in coach and said they would have booked a sleeper if they had known that dining car meals were included for BOTH of them. Never occurred to me that someone booking a bedroom or roomette would not know that.

I may have to revise my recommendation that Bedroom A is the best choice on a Superliner sleeper. It is quite a bit smaller because of space needed for people exiting the car through the vestibule. And I’ve also seen that the partitions between rooms B and C and rooms D and E are still removable, but much more substantial than previous versions that allowed even quiet conversations to be overheard. My wife and I will be in Bedroom B on the City of New Orleans, which will provide some clear comparison.


  1. In regards to the CONO, be sure to eat a great dinner before boarding (perhaps in Greektown?)

    Although I filed a detailed complaint with FRA Administrator Szabo in 2013, I understand CN proudly accepts the award for the absolute worse roadbed since the Penn Central of 1973 in Indiana and Ohio.

    You will certainly long for the former IC “Panama Limited” swift schedule (let alone services), as you will experience what an abomination this elongated schedule has become, wasting practically 2 days. If you are to shower, do it at the service stop at Memphis; after that, hold onto your Bloody Mary.

  2. In my position paper on “Customer Experience” I stated:
    1) Although Bedroom A is indeed smaller, it sure beats bedrooms B-D with the typical broken partition stuffed with papers; however, you cannot avoid the other compartment’s conversations, snoring, toilet sounds, and resulting smells.
    2) Amtrak as yet cannot competently define and explain the customer experience re size of rooms and what’s included, let alone, the meals and how to order from each section. Your info re how to signal to make up the bed is good. Too bad nothing of that common sense level is included for passengers, let alone menus and how to order from them.
    3) In respect to Mr. Macklin, I recommended to keep all of the “A’ level employees together on train runs to facilitate Amtrak management focusing on the issues of the other employees. Why should a Mr. Macklin be sabotaged by others on board?
    Can only hope cafe and diner have the requisite tabasco, bitters, and Worcestershire sauce for your morning Bloody Mary…?

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