Long Distance Trains? Questions Answered.

Q: What’s the difference between a Superliner roomette and a  Viewliner roomette?

A:   To start with, there are two versions of the Viewliner roomette. The older sleepers have both a sink and a toilet in each roomette. If you find yourself in one of the new Viewliner sleepers, you’ll have to use one of two lavatories at the rear of the car. The fold-down sink remains in the new version. But in my opinion, the best feature, which you’ll find in both old and new versions of the Viewliner roomette is a window for the person sleeping in the upper berth. 

The Viewliner sleepers are found on most of the overnight trains running east of Chicago; the two exceptions are the Capitol Limited and the City of New Orleans. Both of those trains continue to use the Superliner sleepers.

Although you can travel quite comfortably in a Superliner roomette, it has almost none of the nice features found in a Viewliner roomette. . . . specifically the sink and the window for the person riding in the upper berth.

Q:  I’m a very shy person and would rather not share a table with strangers in the dining car. Can I arrange to have meals served in my roomette?

A. Yes, of course you can, although in my opinion you’ll be missing out on one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of a long-distance train ride.

If you do decide to take all your meals in your sleeping car accommodations, please be aware that it will be appropriate to tip your car attendant generously . . . no less than $5.00 for each meal because he or she has to make three trips between your roomette and the dining car for every meal to accommodate your wishes: once to take your order to the diner, a second time to pick up your food when it’s ready; and a third time to take your dirty dishes and utensils back to the diner when you have finished your meal.

If you’re traveling on the California Zephyr from the Bay area to Chicago, those seven meals mean minimum tips of $35 to $50 in tips just for bringing food to your accommodations. In addition, your attendant will be making your bed twice and bringing your luggage to your roomette from the storage rack on the lower level of the sleeper. By the time you leave the train in Chicago, you should have tipped your car attendant a total of about $100. And the sad thing is at least half of that amount is for bringing meals to your accommodations so you can avoid what most travelers consider to be the best part of the trip—sharing meals in the dining car with fellow passengers.