Gone—Despite Popular Demand.
It’s official. In a cold one-sentence statement, Amtrak says that in two weeks the Pacific Parlour Cars will no longer be part of the Coast Starlight experience.
Yes, I’m upset. But what I find so discouraging is the passive acceptance coming from so many of the same people who have enjoyed experiencing these vintage lounge cars for so many years. “Well,” they say, “those rail cars are more than 60 years old and they’re just too expensive to maintain.”
To which my response is “Nonsense!” VIA Rail in Canada continues to run their wonderful Toronto-to-Vancouver train using rail cars that are probably as old as these parlour cars. Amtrak hasn’t been providing the Pacific Parlour Cars out of the kindness of their corporate hearts. It’s strictly business:
Amtrak has provided us with a very desirable amenity, the parlor cars, which we, as sleeping car passengers, have paid for through significantly higher fares compared with other long-distance trains. And we’ll continue to pay extra for these luxurious cars right up to the very moment they take them away from us.
I’m not going to do exhaustive research on this, but here are a couple of numbers to illustrate the point:
–On Wednesday of next week, the cost of a roomette on the California Zephyr for the 1300-mile ride from Denver to Sacramento is $356.
–On that very same day, the cost of a roomette on the Coast Starlight for the 1274-mile ride from Seattle to Sacramento is $523.
Two trains traveling almost the same distance, but the fare is 47% higher for one . . . the one with the Pacific Parlour Car.
And that begs the question, if we want it, and we’re paying for it, why are they taking it away?
In case you hadn’t heard, VIA itself has admitted that there are structural problems with the Budd cars, and that they will have to be replaced. Also, VIA has over 150 of the old Budd cars, and parts are far easier to find and cars far easier to swap than the five, very unique, Parlor Cars that were the last five hi-levels running anywhere.
I too have ridden the Parlor Cars. My most recent (and perhaps last?) trip was northbound out of LAX to Portland (I can never remember PDX vs PDL) in 2012. It was in October and the car was definitely underused. My wife and I were the only diners for the noon meal (yes, sleeper passengers had the regular diner car option as well),and at other times I was the only rider…kind of creepy so like the other riders I chose the regular, more crowded, but also more conviville (sp?) lounge car
Hey Jim – you are the rail advocate – please post a number or email or both where we can lodge our complaints! I began reading your blog a few months ago when I bought an AMTRAK pass. I haven’t used it yet and riding in those cars was going to be part of my experience. Now I feel as if I’ve lost something precious without ever starting. Here’s the thing though: Being a part of resisting this awful administration has taught me that a seemingly impossible outcome can be overcome by raising a ruckus. Tell us how! Maybe post a link to follow to give feedback? Thanks in advance.
Hey back, Carol …
I’ve always had the best results going right to the top:
Richard H. Anderson
President & CEONational Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
Is there an email or phone number?
I’ll post it when/if I get one that will actually reach someone with real influence.
Thank you Jim!
Yes, I’m upset, this decision is extremely disappointing. I’ve ridden the Coast Starlight and enjoyed the Parlour Car. As a matter of fact, in April of this year, I was planning on another trip from Fargo to Chicago, to LAX and up to Seattle. Looks like I’ll have to readjust my trip. Very sad, indeed.
Where’s the outrage from NARP/ARP?
I thought Boardman took everything away that could be taken away. Looks like Anderson is taking it one step further.
I was planning on taking the Starlight in July and experiencing the Parlour Car. I find this very discouraging. Who do you suggest we contact to voice our concerns regarding this? As someone who enjoys traveling on the Western trains in the sleepers, I appreciate your blog and your views. Thanks. John
I couldn’t agree more, of course. I have not heard anything yet, but it is my hope and expectation that RPA (formerly NARP) will register a very strong protest with Richard Anderson, Amtrak’s new president. I’m going to do the same as an individual and I’d suggest you might do the same. I have no bright ideas beyond that.
I was also hoping to ride it this August. I’m amazed that Amtrak isn’t proposing a commemorative “final ride” as the parlor cars are returned to Chicago, like what many airlines are doing as they retire the 747.