Re-Designing the Superliner Sleepers

First, a disclaimer: I have no prior knowledge of any specific plans for new equipment on the long-distance trains. But, based on God-knows-how-many miles traveled in Superliner sleepers, I do think I have some valid suggestions for a second generation of these sleeping cars.

1. I would prefer single-level sleepers, but if the design team’s marching orders are for a second generation of the bi-level sleeping cars, they need to improve the stairway to the upper level. In today’s Superliners, the stairway is steep, it’s narrow, and it’s hard to negotiate, even with a small suitcase. There are times when the car attendant isn’t available and I’ve had to lug my small suitcase up that steep, narrow stairway and it’s difficult!

2. The combination lavatory/shower in the large bedroom is fine in theory, but doesn’t work very well in practice. It really should be one or the other and my vote is for keeping the toilet. After all, how many of us wake up at 3:00 a.m. urgently needing to take a shower? And then there’s the matter of someone using the toilet facilities, but hitting the shower button instead of the flush button. Yes, it happens and more often than you would think.

3. There are removable partitions between bedrooms B and C and bedrooms D and E.  The concept is fine: remove the partition and you have a four-bed “suite”. However, the partition is so thin and lightweight that any conversation in Bedroom B must be whispered or it’s easily overheard by anyone in Bedroom C. Much better soundproofing is needed in the removable partition or, better yet, forget about the suite option entirely.

4. Please—this is the most important item on my list—please add a window for the upper berth in the Superliner’s roomettes. I find the existing upper berths to be borderline claustrophobic, but even a small window would transform the upper berth experience which for me is barely tolerable to one that would actually be pleasurable.  

(NOTE: Roomettes in Viewliner sleepers have a large window for the upper berths and when I’m traveling on an overnight train in the East*, that’s where I sleep by choice. There are two pluses to that arrangement: first, you’re high enough so that you can go to sleep with the curtains open because people boarding the train from the platform can’t see you. And, second, you’ll have the space between the seats down below to move around as you’re getting dressed.)

I’m sure the people who are designing a new generation of rail cars for Amtrak have long lists of changes and improvements they’re planning the make, but if they take care of these four, the new generation of sleeping cars for the long-distance trains is off to a good start.

* Viewliner sleepers are used on the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star (New York-Miami), on the Crescent (New York-New Orleans), on the Cardinal (Chicago-New York via Washington) and on the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago to Boston and New York).