A Tale of Two Companies
Amtrak has just announced the sale of some “Surplus Rolling Stock”, most of which has been assembled at Amtrak’s huge repair and maintenance facility in Beech Grove, Indiana. There are baggage cars, Horizon coaches, more than 20 diesel locomotives and, it pains me to report, all five of the Pacific Parlour Cars.
For those who have not experienced the look back into the Golden Age, one of these cars was part of the Coast Starlight’s consist, coupled between the first sleeper and the dining car.
One section of the car featured eight overstuffed swiveling armchairs.
Next came some sofa-style seating with small permanent tables each large enough to accommodate several beverage glasses. It was in this area that wine tastings were held as the train passed through the California wine country.
Continuing along the length of the car, one came upon several booths in which passengers could take their meals instead of heading for the dining car. Next to these booths was a large bar from whence an attendant would dispense beverages, including wine, beer and mixed drinks. A Bloody Mary was my choice when, as was my usual habit, I would board the southbound Coast Starlight at about 7:00 a.m. in Davis, California, and enjoy the 14-hour ride down to Los Angeles, spending most of that time in one of those wonderful, classic cars.
Oh, yes … there was also a small theater on the lower level where, for a time, movies were shown for any children traveling in a sleeper.
On the grounds that these beauties were too expensive to operate, one of Richard Anderson’s first publicized cost-cutting acts after taking over as Amtrak’s president and CEO was to take these wonderful cars out of service.
Also this week, VIA Rail Canada has announced the awarding of a $12.6 million (US) contract to refurbish four dining cars which are used on their marvelous transcontinental train, the Canadian. The refurbished dining cars will all be in service by mid-2020.
So did that bit of positive news make you feel any better? No? Me either.
Your constant comments in favor of VIA really undercut one key point: VIA is completely irrelevant to the vast majority of Canadians and intercity rail travelers. It is expensive, slow, and uses ancient equipment that is at this point just being cannibalized for parts. At least Amtrak offers daily, affordable, and decently quick service.
Jim, one potentially mollifying ointment would be if VIA Rail would just buy the Pacific Parlour Cars. Here’s a chance for them to prove Amtrak wrong – and it appears there may be other opportunities as well. It doesn’t seem like “The Canadian” lacks for passengers.
Lovely idea, but the Pacific Parlour Cars are bi-level, while all the VIA equipment is single level. Damn!!