Amtrak’s Cost-Cutting Continues.

Where does it all stop? An official Amtrak memo dated July 11 and marked “Confidential. For internal use.”, has just surfaced. It contains confirmation of more cuts to food service. Here are the specifics:

Effective October 1st, the Cardinal, the City of New Orleans, the Crescent and the Silver Meteor will all lose their dining cars and—this is a direct quote from the Amtrak memo—“Onboard meal preparation will be replaced with a small variety of quality ready-to-serve meals.”

Passengers in sleeping cars will be able to dine in their accommodations or, as an alternative, they will have exclusive use of tables in the “sleeper lounge”, which is what we will then be calling the Viewliner dining cars.

Those of us traveling in sleepers will get “higher quality meals”—Higher than what?—and “increased beverage accommodation”, which translates to one-free-alcoholic-beverage and all the Ginger Ale we can handle. Seriously? That’s all we get to compensate for the loss of the dining cars?

But wait! There’s more! 

A few paragraphs farther along in the memo comes this description of the food that will be provided to those of us who will be traveling in sleepers: “Ready-to-serve and pre-packaged ambient temperature meals …Translation: if your roomette is 68 degrees, your dinner will be 68 degrees.

The Auto Train has often been described as “Amtrak’s only truly profitable train”, which of course means that it will be hit with more changes than the latest four trains.

Effective January 15, 2020 . . . 

—No more dining car and lounge car for coach passengers.

—Meals no longer included in coach class tickets.

—Cross Country Café replaces dining car for coach passengers; all items for purchase.

—Dining car apparently becomes exclusively for use by sleeping car passengers. (Memo is unclear, but best guess is: if you’re a sleeping car passenger, you may choose to sit and eat your meal in what was the dining car, but is now called a lounge car.)

These changes mean that as of October 1st, the Coast Starlight will be the only long-distance train with a one-overnight route that still has a traditional full-service dining car. They already took the Pacific Parlour Cars. I’m booked on that train from Sacramento to Seattle on October 21st. What are the odds?