Dining Car Do’s and Don’ts.

Amtrak dining cars on the long distance trains operating west of the Mississippi River have a system that’s unique to their operation and it really helps if passengers are aware of the “rules”. Here’s how it all works:

The dining car usually opens for breakfast at 6:30. There is no public address announcement, but you can go to the diner whenever you’re ready to eat and they will seat you assuming there’s an available seat. When it fills up, the crew member in charge starts a waiting list. The first P.A. announcement comes about 7:15 and you’ll be called when it’s your turn: “Jim, party of one.”

Around 11 o’clock, a member of the dining car staff will go through the train offering a choice of times for “seatings” in the dining car for lunch and for dinner. Again, when they’re ready for the next seating, an announcement will be made on the P.A. system.

Whatever the meal, when your name or seating time is called, go to the diner, but wait at the entrance until a crew member beckons you to come in and indicates where you should sit. The center aisle is narrow, you’re on a moving train, and the servers are carrying trays of food. The last thing they need are passengers in their way.

Once seated, you will be given a slip on which the various choices are listed for that particular meal.  In the spaces provided at the bottom of the form, sign your name and fill in your car and room numbers. That’s all. Do NOT check off the items you want to eat for that meal. Your server MUST do that for you.

Relax, take your time and enjoy your meal. But when one of the dining car crew politely asks you to wrap things up, please do so. There are more people coming in for the next seating.

Finally comes the question of tipping, but I’ll have to save that for another time.