Overnight Coach Configuration Ideas

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Re: Overnight Coach Configuration Ideas

Postby electricron » Sun Sep 02, 2018 11:51 am

Tadman wrote:There's no right/wrong answer here, but given the upcoming Acela Mk II, the time is right to explore options.

Amtrak is not going to offer a lesser class service on their Acela 2 trains, where they charge a smaller fare. They also aren’t going to offer, for the same reasons I wrote before, first class on their regional trains either.

One train just doesn’t have to offer every class of service.

Acela offers first class and business class, regional offered business class and standard class services, while the commuter operators running on the NEC offer third class or commuter services.

The various classes of services are being provided on the NEC, but they are provided on different trains with different fares. It does not matter what you call the various classes of services, but a simple look at the different seats and the amenities provide explains all you need to know about them.

Acela trains running on the NEC do not need lay flat seats, as just about if not all all these trains complete their journeys before midnight. No one expects to nor can they sleep all night on them.

Amtrak only runs one overnight regional train in each direction on the NEC. At best, they are the only trains that could possibly use lay flat seats in one car which would put first class seats in a regional train. Can you believe Amtrak would spend extra to order two or three cars configured this way within a new 500 car order? I don’t. It would be far cheaper for Amtrak to add a single Viewliner 2 sleeper car to these trains and provide a better first class experiences where they can charge an even higher fare. Golly, these two trains could use a few of the new 10 Dorm-Baggage Viewliner 2 cars if they can’t sell 30 bunks (15 rooms and roomettes) in a traditional Viewliner sleeper car.
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Re: Overnight Coach Configuration Ideas

Postby SouthernRailway » Sun Sep 02, 2018 5:37 pm

All long distance trains, and even lengthy routes such as the Carolinian, would probably be able to sell a good number of tickets for a discounted private room class of service. Call t Slumbercoach or lie-flat seats with walls. The Silver Starve has shown that there is a market for service between coach and first class sleeping car space. The “business class” on long distance trains was silly because it was simply a regular coach; there is a market for a distinct class above coach.
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Re: Overnight Coach Configuration Ideas

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Sep 02, 2018 6:47 pm

electricron wrote:Amtrak only runs one overnight regional train in each direction on the NEC. At best, they are the only trains that could possibly use lay flat seats in one car which would put first class seats in a regional train. Can you believe Amtrak would spend extra to order two or three cars configured this way within a new 500 car order? I don’t. It would be far cheaper for Amtrak to add a single Viewliner 2 sleeper car to these trains and provide a better first class experiences where they can charge an even higher fare. Golly, these two trains could use a few of the new 10 Dorm-Baggage Viewliner 2 cars if they can’t sell 30 bunks (15 rooms and roomettes) in a traditional Viewliner sleeper car.


It'll be far cheaper for Amtrak to skip adding sleepers on the NEC, period. A three hour trip between DC and NYC? That's more nap territory than overnight snooze territory. Get a neck pillow from Faber, maybe a light blanket, set an alarm, recline the seat some, and hope you can check in way late at your destination hotel.

If you're doing something more long distance, then it's a maybe. That means something at least 8 hours long and runs overnight for one run.
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Re: Overnight Coach Configuration Ideas

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Sep 02, 2018 7:58 pm

So, if I remember this thread correctly, we really need to split Long Distance service a bit more finely into "Overnight" (over 8 hours at night end to end) and "Multiday" (entire run takes 24 or more hours). The following would be overnight trains (per the schedules posted as of today):

  • Auto Train
  • Cardinal (DC to Chicago, which barely squeaks in at 23 hours)
  • City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans)
  • Lake Shore Limited (Boston to Chicago)
  • NE Regional Newport News, VA to Boston, MA (#66 at 5:20pm to 8:00 am?!?), #65/67 (9:30pm to 1pm/1:30pm next day)

Most of these have sleepers. That said, I'm mistaken on the NE Regional 66/65/67, and I can see a Viewliner sleeper being slapped on here now, but it really should be a dedicated line and be called the Atlantic Overnight. The only thing that would solidify it would be the numbers of folk taking the entire length VA to MA and back. I can't see justifying a full sleeper if it's not going to be 75% full on a regular basis.
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Overnight Services?

Postby tomj » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:14 pm

This is a topic that came up in the Amfleet replacement tab, but I think it is something that should get talked about on its own. One idea that I brought up is that some the existing Amfleets should be refurbished into a mix of open sections and an adapted version of intercontinental business class from airlines. I say this because everyone is wanting a lower tier sleeper back. As much as some people would want slumber coaches back, I am not sure if it would even be possible given that punching windows into an existing car body might not be advised. So something else would have to be adapted to fit the bill.

As for the "business roomette", its dimensions could work as follows. Based on the width of the seats on Amfleet cars, you have 4 feet per side of the train. So there is 4 feet of room to play with. So the size of roomette beds is 6'6" and ~2 ft wide. Based on a rough drawing I did, you can fit 17 per side if they are staggered(or 34 per care compared to a 24-8 slumber coach) . Based on how airlines design their seats, the part where people's legs would sit would be storage for the person sitting at one. This would give people the option of having a lie flat seat for hopefully not the full price of a sleeper or at least shouldn't. I am also assuming a 1 class configuration.

I also think bringing back open section is an idea merits an experiment. Based on the same dimensions, I did another sketch that showed that an Amfleet car could fit 36 seats if it was all one seat type. As far as running both goes, since neither option has been seen on Amtrak, it would be worth experimenting with. So as the Amfleet replacements come in, take 36 of them and convert them into 1 car with larger bedrooms and accessible rooms, 2 of the "business roomettes", and 3 of the open sections. Then find at least 3 city pairs that can be traveled between in 12 hours and run them as experiments to see if they could work and if people take to the new seat design. Which would mean not having coach cars so people can get a feel for the new offerings.

As for running overnight trains, one thing that Amtrak doesn't have consistently besides a decent number of day trains is that a lot of the long distance trains don't run between city pairs at hours that would make sense for an easy overnight trip. Just along the California Zephyr; it runs between Chicago and Omaha in 9 hours, same thing with Omaha and Denver, 15 hours from Denver to Salt Lake, and a similar amount of time from Salt Lake to Sacramento. Only the Denver-Salt Lake and Salt Lake-Sacramento portions are timed where you could get on at night and arrive the next day in the following city. Adding extra, better timed night trains with affordable accommodations that could attract people. I

know this would cost money and take time to plan, but its best to start planning before the Amfleet replacements come in and the Amfleets start heading to the scrap heap. I am not up on every detail of the replacement, but given the current political climate, I don't see an Amfleet 1 replacement order being much larger than 500 cars. Relocating the Amfleets to other, potentially new corridors would make sense given that Amtrak is in an equipment shortage and that is likely to get worse over time. Trying to get another 15 years out of the Amfleets even if for experimental purposes would be a wise thing to do. And piloting a budget sleeper and a few better timed overnight routes would be a wise thing to push for.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby John_Perkowski » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:35 pm

The current airline model isn’t much more than the Duplex roomette patented by Pullmanin 1942. In fact, it’s a bit less, no sink and toilet.

Imhope you meant 36 berths, not 36 sections in the open section format. At 6’6” per section, including partition, 18 sections is 117 feet long, a smidge longer than a standard 85’ car.

In doing your planning, you forgot to deduct men’s and women’s baths, and dedicated attendant space. Realistically, your capacity will be 30. Here’s a link to a diagram at the Newberry Library in Chicago.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby tomj » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:38 pm

John_Perkowski wrote:The current airline model isn’t much more than the Duplex roomette patented by Pullmanin 1942. In fact, it’s a bit less, no sink and toilet.

Imhope you meant 36 berths, not 36 sections in the open section format. At 6’6” per section, including partition, 18 sections is 117 feet long, a smidge longer than a standard 85’ car.

In doing your planning, you forgot to deduct men’s and women’s baths, and dedicated attendant space. Realistically, your capacity will be 30. Here’s a link to a diagram at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Yeah I meant beds. It will be edited for future reference. So it would be 9 sections. And based on the assumption of 60 useful feet lengthwise, it is 9 sections with 2 feet left over at the end. With the same for the "business roomettes"

I have mocked up the drawing I made, but in Paint. So it isn't totally to scale.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby John_Perkowski » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:49 pm

Go to the Newberry. There are quite a few plans of real cars there that you can draw information from.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby benboston » Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:47 pm

Amtrak should have on their website information that says how much of the duration of your trip will be spent awake versus asleep. To do this people would put in when they plan on sleeping. This would make the trips a lot more reasonable, and it would probably increase ridership.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby tomj » Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:03 pm

I figure adapting something used by airlines would be more likely (especially if converting an existing car like a Horizon or Amfleet). Not to mention doing that took me about 20 minutes.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby electricron » Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:42 am

tomj wrote:
John_Perkowski wrote:The current airline model isn’t much more than the Duplex roomette patented by Pullmanin 1942. In fact, it’s a bit less, no sink and toilet.

In doing your planning, you forgot to deduct men’s and women’s baths, and dedicated attendant space. Realistically, your capacity will be 30. Here’s a link to a diagram at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Yeah I meant beds. It will be edited for future reference. So it would be 9 sections. And based on the assumption of 60 useful feet lengthwise, it is 9 sections with 2 feet left over at the end. With the same for the "business roomettes"

I have mocked up the drawing I made, but in Paint. So it isn't totally to scale.

Just count the possible bunks in your drawing, whether it is 60 feet or 85 feet in length.
On the bottom side of the aisle with 9 sections, top and bottom beds totals 18 bunks. On the top side of the aisle, there are 16 bunks. Your airline business class seats loses 2 possible bunks.

if the whole purpose is to provide cheaper bunks than an all roomette sleeper, for Amtrak to break even you have to have more bunks.
If you desire 50% lower sleeper fares, you have to have 200% more bunks. $1x100% = $.50 x 200%.
If you desire 75% lower sleeper fares, you have to have 133% more bunks. $1x100% =$.75 x 133%
You have failed to squeeze in twice or 133% as many bunks.....so your solution makes Amtrak less money.

Airlines goal is not to charge less money for their business class lay flat seats, it's very much the opposite, to charge higher fares. The very few airlines that have suites charge even higher fares for them. Amtrak already has the suites (rooms and roomettes). Providing a lower class sleeper service at lower fares does not make Amtrak more money....unless you find a way to squeeze more of these type of bunks onto the train.

It seems every 6 months or so somebody introduces an entirely new thread over this issue which we have debated over and over again, and yet no one to date has been able to find a way to balance the books.
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Re: Overnight Serices?

Postby tomj » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:09 pm

electricron wrote:It seems every 6 months or so somebody introduces an entirely new thread over this issue which we have debated over and over again, and yet no one to date has been able to find a way to balance the books.


My thought behind "balancing the books" would be to appeal to people in coach rather than people who are already riding in sleeping accommodations. So I am imagining it being more a way to get more out of people in coach. Will some people downgrade? Probably. But given that Amtrak doesn't seem to have an issue selling sleepers, unless everyone down graded, I don't see how it wouldn't be more than a short term disruption. Its not like Amtrak isn't ordering more sleepers or looking to. One way to prevent a disruption would be to stick them on the overnight Northeast Regionals, reviving the Spirit of California and other such routes as an experiment before adding them to existing trains. If Amtrak does have a budget option, then they could focus on the tourist segment and the frequent rider segment rather than trying to serve both and from what people complain about, serve neither.
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Re: Overnight Services?

Postby CarterB » Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:56 pm

As I have opined many many times before on railroad.net....the Budd 24/8 slumbercoach design was and still would be the best.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!
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Re: Overnight Services?

Postby Arlington » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:08 pm

CarterB wrote:As I have opined many many times before on railroad.net....the Budd 24/8 slumbercoach design was and still would be the best.
I tend to agree. Trains have height that planes have not.
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Re: Overnight Services?

Postby tomj » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:00 pm

I don't see how the turning Amfleets or Superliners into Slumber Coaches to milk 10 years out of them would be worth while given their internal design. Not to mention everyone thinks it will empty out the roomettes if a budget option was added to Amtrak. Assuming there are 36 roomettes on a Superliner train or 20 on a view liner train, even if a quarter of the roomettes have single travelers and 3/5 of them would down grade, Amtrak would be fine. Based on the cost of tickets on the Starlight, it gets at least $118 for its "Business" class. If it had open berths instead, It would still work. Especially if you are starting with the people downgrading and Business class being so in demand (and not looking like a real upgrade over coach) it would work. It also could have the added benefit of taking away the excuse of keeping roomettes in an attempt to offer a "budget" option and transition to make it a first class option again. If people using Amtrak for transportation instead of for the experience taken care of with an open section or whatever. So the more price sensitive people who don't want the bells and whistles won't need to be considered as much when planning to upgrade dining service quality or possibly bringing back real beds. Even if the room prices go up a little, a true first class service would be worth it to someone riding a train for the experience.
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