Sleeper expansion

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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:56 pm

Mr.Nas, here is what Seat 61 has to say regarding Night Jet and the withdrawal of the DB sponsored City Night:

http://www.seat61.com/citynightline.htm

You note that OBB got the cars on the cheap. The remaining longer distance routes all seem to traverse Austria.

If no State owned road is interested in routes such as Paris-Berlin, or Paris-Rome, then, despite the OBB's initiative, I think the overnight Sleeper is dead over there. It is also dead over here.

Let us be thankful that Amtrak ordered the additional 25 Sleepers. Somehow, I doubt if the objective was to dream up new 10 hour overnight routes, but rather it was to replace half of the cars they "thought were in the bag" during 1995.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Jan 01, 2017 10:19 pm

Greg Moore wrote:One: I think with enough equipment, Amtrak could easily remake the Palmetto into the Silver Palm and keep 3 sleeper runs to Florida busy (or even more, but I think it's a limited market compared to Southwest).

Two: and this is the one that I think the LSL almost does well, and the Crescent from WAS-ATL does well is: overnight business.


I think returning the Silver Palm to Florida would be a mistake. It would soak up a tremendous amount of the new cars and then also add on the additional labor of a new dining car service line (labor + multiple cars covering the trainsets).

The best possible deployment pattern would be the one that allows Amtrak to flexibly deploy sleeper capacity around the system where it can follow peak demand. The last time this happened Amtrak was still running the old seasonal Florida service.

For the Atlantic Coast Service this would mean adding sleeper capacity on trains that already have them, the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor specifically. This solution would be true capacity expansion for minimal additional cost that would also help gain market share by reducing "sold out" status for popular dates.

The Cardinal which is frequently sold out of sleeper space in the summer could greatly benefit from the addition of capacity during high demand periods.

As everyone else has noted the one truly obvious option for a service restart is 66/67 (formerly the Twilight Shoreliner) which seems to be "all but" a guaranteed success.

The Crescent and the Lake Shore Limited are both good options for demand based capacity expansion. I believe that if Amtrak were better able to meet demand that they would grow their overall market share. Sell outs are a terrible curse and given the flexibility of train consists should almost never be allowed to happen.

Beyond any of this the only other obvious choice would be bringing a Silver Service train back to Boston. Given the slot restrictions it would have to be done at the expense of a Northeast Regional train. I'm not convinced that this would work well at all and remain steadfast in my belief that simply adding capacity to follow seasonal market demand is by far the best option.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:04 pm

The idea of a traveling hotel is interesting (although my idea of turning Toledo Union Station into part hotel using sleepers is more stationary).

The big thing is capacity, followed by timing. Yeah, I'd love the idea of overnighting it. That's what the Capitol Limited does between WAS and CHI.

I can't see that for WAS/NYP. That run is about 3.5 hours at most, and you got several bottlenecks to address first. If you're going to add trains, you gotta four-track the entire line, and that's not there yet. Plus, both WAS and NYP don't have capacity to let trains sit. I doubt BOS does ether, which makes more sense to go up on, that's more of a 6+ hour trip.

A new WAS station with stacked tracks may work on that end. Skip NYP, it's a thru station, not an end station. BOS is the end station. Unless that gets reconstructed, it won't work. Ether way, there's no room in ether city for one or two trains to shack up for the night. You're storing them for what, 16 hours per day when they could be out making money?

Interesting idea, yes. Practical, no.

It does remind me, I need to plan out a BWI-BOS trip. Gotta hit the MIT Flea Market one of these days.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:29 pm

Worth noting for the purposes of this discussion that Amtrak has indicated very clearly that they have more than enough equipment to cover the Winter Park Express using Superliners. Last indication was demand so strong that they may be adding a sleeper car to use as a dayroom (my inference, not yet confirmed). All of that being the case I would not be surprised to see the Cardinal cut back to Washington and run with a Superliner again if Amtrak feels they can get better utilization of the single level equipment on the Florida trains. To me that would be a natural response to any change in policy that seeks to allow those trains to run with consists that are more responsive to demand.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby electricron » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:43 am

gokeefe wrote:Worth noting for the purposes of this discussion that Amtrak has indicated very clearly that they have more than enough equipment to cover the Winter Park Express using Superliners. Last indication was demand so strong that they may be adding a sleeper car to use as a dayroom (my inference, not yet confirmed). All of that being the case I would not be surprised to see the Cardinal cut back to Washington and run with a Superliner again if Amtrak feels they can get better utilization of the single level equipment on the Florida trains. To me that would be a natural response to any change in policy that seeks to allow those trains to run with consists that are more responsive to demand.

But the ski season is during the non peak Superliners usage period, where Amtrak does have extra Superliners lying around and available. It's the summer peak period when they don't. And new daily services or routes need more Superliners year 'round, not just during the ski season.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby bratkinson » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:34 am

Perhaps the biggest 'negative' for the overnight business market is punctuality. Way back when...say 1955 or so, the Broadway and the Century could be counted on arriving within a minute or two of schedule. The same was true for the other crack trains of each railroad. Back then, railroad management was still of the belief that 'sell' the railroad to shippers by 1st class accommodations on their passenger trains, and they will likely use your railroad to ship freight as well. Schedules were 'tight' and the trains ran on time perhaps 98% of the time. My father regularly boarded a setout sleeper in Milwaukee and got up in the AM in Minneapolis. I did that twice in the late '70s on the North Star (no setout sleeper, though). I also did Milwaukee to Pittsburgh overnight each way...although a 6AM or so in PIT there is nothing open except a dive diner across the street...that was '79 or so.

Another requirement for overnight business traffic is having 'choices' just in case your business activities are running late, etc. Practically every big city airport has multiple flights to/from each destination. So if you need to stay put for an extra 2-3 hours, there's usually no problem getting on a later flight...for a price. One train per day does NOT fill that bill. If you miss it, you're screwed...or take a taxi to the airport and hope for the best. I had to do just that coming out of Denver when the brand new Superliners were put on that route about 35 years ago.

Lastly, having traveled extensively on business 30-40 years ago, I dreaded the times I had to 'stay cheap' at discount motels and rent compact cars. My preference was either Ramada Inns or Travelodge, but when the company was flush with cash, I stayed in more upscale hotels. Is there anyone here that would consider any sleeping accommodation on any overnight train on Amtrak more than just 'a bit' better than the cheapest discount motels of today? And if you're really lucky, you even get a real diner on your overnight train!!! Oh...and my boss thought I was nuts taking the train so often, but I proved it saved them $$$ to/from some destinations! (but that was before airline deregulation)

While there's a market for overnight business travel on the NEC or NYP-ATL, the number of briefcase- and garment-bag- toting business travellers I've seen on those trains I can count on 1 hand. I still ride 66/67 about once per year. NYP-CHI? 9-10AM arrival in CHI (on a good day) and 5PM or so arrival in NYC eliminate that choice. Other than corridor routes on the NEC, from CHI or LAX, the overwhelming majority of travelers are of the non-business variety. Amtrak should do what it can to attract more leisure travelers on the overnight trains and keep the business travelers in the corridors.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby east point » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:47 am

Once there are enough V-2 sleepers in service it may be that a cut off sleeper(s) will happen on the Crescent. Granted a switcher would have to be assigned in ATL to handle the switch outs proposed in the PRIIA for the Crescent. One sleeper ATL <> NOL is all that is ever required on that route. On the other end maybe cut some off in WASH seems appropriate but working out the maintenance cycle rotation will need some thought.
It may be could rotate with Silvers as well ?
Then for ease of the switching out consist line up will need changing.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:07 am

bratkinson wrote:Lastly, having traveled extensively on business 30-40 years ago, I dreaded the times I had to 'stay cheap' at discount motels and rent compact cars. My preference was either Ramada Inns or Travelodge, but when the company was flush with cash, I stayed in more upscale hotels. Is there anyone here that would consider any sleeping accommodation on any overnight train on Amtrak more than just 'a bit' better than the cheapest discount motels of today? And if you're really lucky, you even get a real diner on your overnight train!!! Oh...and my boss thought I was nuts taking the train so often, but I proved it saved them $$$ to/from some destinations! (but that was before airline deregulation)


Is Mr. Atkinson ever on the mark with this captioned point!!!!

If Amtrak were to operate viable overnight business travel segments as presented in this topic, just think how much "reeducation" would be required of the travel outlets through which corporate travel is arranged. What if a Fortune 100 employee desiring to use rail travel took up employee time justifying using rail to a travel source which knows planes and cars. Such employee might have "people saying things" - deadly in a workplace.

I have noted around here how The Times' columnist Gail Collins, went to the Bakken oil patch in search of a piece (whether The Times sent her or she wanted to go is whatever duties/prerogatives she holds with Gray Lady). In the column she notes how she "endured" the two hour drive from Minot. It certainly appears she flew to Minot and rented.

Now Gray Lady's travel source (in house "desk" or whatever) obviously knows of Acela and Regional - safe assurance she puts "a mite bit copper in Amtrak's hopper". But when Ms. Collins (I really enjoy reading her work) had/wanted to go "out there", somehow I doubt if the "travel desk" even knew of the Empire Builder with it's convenient MSP (or even CHI)-WTN schedule.

But oh well, she added a little "color" with the "city sophisticate in the Oil Patch" to the two columns she wrote.

(edited by author to properly report where Ms. Collins traveled )
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:15 am

Agreed. Having worked in a Fortune 50 company with an "official" travel agency (with an internal travel booking site) and a company-negotiated deal with one of the legacy airlines, which we were required to use absent some extreme circumstances, it would be almost impossible to use Amtrak. Bosses would think that employees who did so were crazy, and it would have caused a spectacle.

Amtrak's target market for business sleeper travel would have to be small businesses OR Amtrak would have to cut deals with large companies' travel departments. The latter is unlikely since I believe that arrangements with airlines are sometimes exclusive (or a minimum level of business with those airlines is required), resulting it being very difficult to use other providers.

However, does Amtrak have negotiated deals with large corporations for Acela travel? That might be an opening, allowing Amtrak use to be broadened by starting that way.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:38 pm

Here's are the noted two columns Ms. Collins wrote regarding the Oil Patch during '12. And a whoops on my part; she must have flown to Minot, and rented onward to Williston:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/opini ... s-are.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/28/opini ... oters.html
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:29 pm

A few years ago while living here in South Florida I took a rather interesting and unusual trip by car and by Amtrak. I left Fort Lauderdale and drove to Raleigh, NC to visit family for a couple of days. Leaving Raleigh I intended to drive up to Richmond and leave my car there but 98 was very late and the first train out of Richmond in the morning would not have gotten me to New Haven in time for what I wanted to do. I ended up driving up to New Carolloton, Maryland and leaving my car there for Saturday and Saturday night. I had to take Metro in to Union Station as the train I intended to take to New Haven did not make that stop but it worked out all right. I took the train from Washington to New Haven did my train show there and visited with friends, then late that afternoon I took an NEC train from New Haven to Boston for supper at Durgin Park which did not work because the place had a long line just to get in the door. I ended up at the food court across the street and did OK. I took the sleeper (it still ran than) from Boston to Washington (got off at New Carolloton where my car was parked on an early Sunday morning. Drove through Washington on local street with no traffic, it worked quite well. Ended up at Lorton, Virginia where I took Auto Train south that afternoon. Checked in kind of early but I already had reserved coach accomodations. I went to the ticket clerk and asked about a sleeper upgrade, she gave me a very favorable deal so I upgraded to sleeper. I went by sleeper from Boston to Sanford, Florida but with an automobile drive through Washington, DC on an early Sunday morning. All in all that was a great trip. Back in the days I did some really odd-ball trips by train. Lots of memories!!
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby AgentSkelly » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:10 am

Regarding business use of sleepers, I can think of a few times I ran into such travelers:

One was on actually on the LSL; two gals worked in the same publishing firm was going from NYP-CHI on a Saturday as they were going to work out of their Chicago office on Monday for a few weeks; they apparently get a stipend for transportation they can use anyway they want.

The second was on the Auto Train; according to my friends who work in DC, lots of federal employees and contractors use the Auto Train on the company or agency dime so they can use their assigned agency/company at either end.

And interestingly, I asked my boss's boss at my work (who would sign off on all travel arrangements) and he said he would have no problem with a sleeper if the need arises if it saves money verses driving a car/hotel.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby bdawe » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:11 am

I did some US work for a UK-based consultancy a few years back, and we were specially instructed to travel by train where reasonable, and a few Cascades trips between Portland and Eugene were expensed as needed.

However, when it became time for me to return to Vancouver, and my travel had to be booked from London, they couldn't figure out what to do with Amtrak and stuck me on a plane instead, despite by request.
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby AgentSkelly » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:35 am

bdawe wrote:However, when it became time for me to return to Vancouver, and my travel had to be booked from London, they couldn't figure out what to do with Amtrak and stuck me on a plane instead, despite by request.


Ha! On one of the travel forums I am a member of, there was one member who was a "location consultant" that would go prep locations for film shoots; he I think was out of Scotland as I remember he used the reservations concierge service from British Airways to do all the travel arrangements. Well, he needed to get to Glacier Park for a commercial shoot; he was advised by the client he should "Take the train to Essex, stay the Izaak Walton Inn and you can get rental cars there" Well, the gal at BA's concierge service couldn't figure out how to book Amtrak with her tools, so the poster ends up calling 1-800-USA-RAIL himself and made the booking on the Empire Builder.

But he thought it was odd, so he followed up with BA about this. He ended up getting this card from BA that said something like "Thank you Sir XXX for bringing this to our attention. After some research, we found out we do have the ability to book transportation on the US passenger rail system Amtrak thru our computer network, Sabre and will advise our concierge agents on how to book with this provider. Attached is 500 pound BA voucher"
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Re: Sleeper expansion

Postby gokeefe » Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:34 pm

Cross posted from the 66/67 thread ...

gokeefe wrote:
Jeff Smith wrote:Add 25 V-II's, you've now got 75 Viewliner sleepers in the fleet. I'm sure they could find a couple in there for 66/67.

It really does start to look like a very large addition when you assume that there will not be any new routes (other than 66/67). All kinds of interesting possibilities come to mind. Executive sleepers are one. Flexible consist management is another. I have started to wonder if running the one of the Silver Service routes as a "mostly sleeper" train might be considered. When demand warrants more Atlanta set out cars seem likely for the Crescent. The Cardinal may even return to 7 day service. The Palmetto could be converted back to the Silver Palm and run sleeper service without diners like the Silver Star. If that happens I think there's also a chance that the Silver Meteor could originate from Boston and restore direct service to Florida for points northeast of New York. The Lake Shore Limited seems unlikely to experience any changes beyond additional Viewliners as demand warrants them. There could always be something creative like a through sleeper on the Pennsylvanian via the Capitol Limited as well.
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