Budd "Slumbercoach" 24-8 Sleeper - Open Discussion

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Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Aug 18, 2005 6:34 pm

I do recall, Mr. Payne, from reading TRAINS during that era, that was the usual "line" set forth by the roads that chose not to offer Slumbercoach service. They feared the revenue loss.

As you noted earlier, the CZ operators converted 16 Section "Silver (trees)" cars to 52 seat Coaches, as did the Union Pacific convert 14 Section "Alpine--" to 44 seat Coaches (UP was the most generous with space in their cars) and opted not to include economy sleepers in their consists, save a short lived UP attempt to emulate the "Q" Chi-Denver.

I believe another factor was simply "o tempora o mores". During 1956, when the Denver Zephyr was re-equipped, travelers were more willing to rough it than today. Lest we note the premier aircraft then was a Douglass DC-7 or a Lockheed Super G Connie (oh, a quick OT for airfans. The John Wayne Estate, as rightsholder, has finally released The High and the Mighty - absolutely positively THE most nail biting and superbly acted air disaster flick - ever; to my knowledge, the only media it has been near in the past is theatres) . Jet aircraft were two years away. Air fares were mighty expensive making Pullman travel look mighty "competitive" Highway travel was generally in non air conditioned autos with on board audio entertainment of an AM radio, and kids had to content themselves with "99 bottles of beer on the wall' and who has the seen the most state license plates. Overnight stops were at all too often non-air conditioned "tourist courts", or maybe "Motels" - only relief was a possible swimming pool; likely no TV in the room. Food? well let's say 'regional specialties'. How many others than Col. Perkowski, Mr. Langdon, Mr. East Cleveland, and myself recall having a burger served to you on a piece of waxed paper? Interstate highways? "they're coming' and when you encountered one, you could be sure the ominous sign "Expressway Ends 1 Mile' was not far ahead.

In short, the traveling public expects so much more today. People were willing to accept the discomfort of rail Coach travel because the alternatives such as an auto trip were neither faster or more comfortable. Air travel was quite elitist; hardly back then mass transport in the sky.

So considering what I have outlined above, why offer the Slumbercoach?. The roads, that sincerely looked at their premier trains as their showpieces to the world, knew the only way economy sleep as such could "pay" would be a car designed to maximize capacity. 'Recycled' heavyweight Section cars stripped of amenities simply would not do it. In short, the CZ operators and the UP simply knew an economy sleeper would not attract any additional business and that the 52 seat Coach had more revenue yield potential. That's why they opted as they did. Rest assured there was no "gee, why didn't we think of that?".
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Fri Aug 19, 2005 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Deluxe Viewliners

Postby jp1822 » Thu Aug 18, 2005 6:53 pm

I echo Mr. Norman's comments and I also share in the thinking that Amtrak should weight its next Viewliner order toward "bedrooms" or what used to be called "deluxe bedrooms." Although this would be fewer bedrooms, the extra fare should offset the space two roomettes would take up. In addition, would a regular Viewliner (12 roomettes, 1 Handicap room, and 2 bedrooms) coupled with the new Viewliner offering approximately 9 or 10 deluxe rooms be suitable for one sleeping car attendant to take care of both type cars - rather than assigning one attendant per Viewliner, as is practice now. You have a scenario where revenue could increase and labor stay flat.
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Postby Sam Damon » Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:12 pm

While we're at it, does anyone here have an idea of how much of a load factor VIA gets out of the few section seats it still runs on some trains?

To keep this somewhat on topic, I'll mention I saw somewhere that VIA had reached pretty much the same conclusions jp1822 reached, and wanted cars with more bedrooms and double bedrooms.
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Postby railfanofewu » Fri Aug 19, 2005 4:44 am

D.Carleton wrote:Sorry to differ Mr. Norman but several ex-Northern Pacific 24-8 slumbercoaches received HEP including the Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. I saw and rode them many times on the Silver trains through Ocala, FL. I'll take a slumbercoah over coach any day. Then again I'd stay home rather than ride a bus.


I rode one on the Broadway Limited and Cardinal 11 years ago. Good accomodations for being nearly 40 years old. Would be nice for Amtrak to be able to bring back something like the old Slumbercoaches, and Pullman Floor Plans.
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Postby AmtrakFan » Fri Aug 19, 2005 10:50 am

How about a 14-1 Economy Sleeper? Which would be similar to a Viewliner.
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return of the slumbers

Postby Budd1964 » Fri Aug 19, 2005 1:43 pm

After reading everyones comments on this subject . I find it fascinating that we have so many ideas . As you know I rode the Empire Builder this summer in Roomette. Got used to having a seprate toilet and bathroom. If Amtrak was going to bring back the Slumbercoach's. I say that we need to do this. Since we need to be ADA complient. the Coach should have one enlarged wheelchair accessible bedroom at one end of the train. The Bathroom and showers will need to be on the opposite end. This will reduce the accomadations in the coach, but Amtrak could make it up by charging half the superliner and Viewliner roomette rate instead of the old modest surcharge. Also Slumbercoach passengers should also have to pay for their meals. It could be a step up from coach and a discount accomadation for those who cannot afford full first class.
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Postby VPayne » Fri Aug 19, 2005 10:16 pm

I'm here helping my wife get ready for school. Well I guess the point has been made that the 16 section sleeper was not to be used as coach sleeper with an overcapacity of room cars around in the 1960's. I guess the tourist class 16 section was even the early version of the room coach sleeper, such as the slumbercoach. I suppose even the CZ 16 Section sleeper was somewhat of an experiment to see if the stigma of older heavyweight cars was the only thing holding people back from using a full section car in the mid 50s period.
For today's situation I would suggest that if one wanted to save the ~$0.85/mile a porter for each car runs and run say two cars per porter, uhm attendant, then a room configuration is needed. Not only that but a room configuration that has locking doors as one of the functions of the attendant is supposed to be to keep the rooms somewhat secure. I have envisioned a bar-coded self-printed ticket that acts as a room key. Anyway, I think we are moving toward an economy of self-service where the actual production of the goods does not cost that much money. If you doubt what I am saying then take a look at the OBS labor costs versus the costs for the rest of the Amtrak organization.
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Postby David Benton » Sat Aug 20, 2005 3:49 am

i must wonder if Airlines , hotels and crusie ships take much notice of what did or did not sell over 35 years ago . I do think that Amtrak could look at whole new markets , it is currently attracting a very small % of the travelling custom .What travellers using amtrak now want is important , but perhaps more important is what would attract travellers not currently using amtrak .
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Postby railfanofewu » Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:13 am

David Benton wrote:i must wonder if Airlines , hotels and crusie ships take much notice of what did or did not sell over 35 years ago . I do think that Amtrak could look at whole new markets , it is currently attracting a very small % of the travelling custom .What travellers using amtrak now want is important , but perhaps more important is what would attract travellers not currently using amtrak .


Would have been nice to have kept a few Heritage Coaches, Slumbercoaches, and Sleepers in storage for surge capacity. Nothing major, just enough to launch emergency service to areas that might need it. I am not sure how bad North Dakota will be hurt, but Northwest is probably the only major carrier that flies in there. If Amtrak had the ability to surge their fleet, perhaps an emergency schedule could have been worked out for some kind of service over the former Northern Pacific line, which has not had Amtrak service for 25 years.
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Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sat Aug 20, 2005 9:46 am

Possibly, I should clarify; the 16 Section sleeper on the Zephyr was not sold at any discounted rate. The fare basis was First Class plus accomodation charge.

Had some kind of discounted arrangement been offered, such as Coach fare plus Accomodation, that would have simply resulted in less revenue yield and no reduction in operating expense.

Lest we note again, I was employed by the one road that built brand new (in company shops, may I add) Tourist class open section sleepers. They were brandedTouralux and in ways, with their natural light wood veener wall coverings and pastel colored ceilings made for the "light and airy" interior design look of today fifty years ago, they made standard Pullman sleepers with their "OR" decor look drab in comparasion.

I think you can guess what happened; they flopped. I'll be the first to admit, "The Northerns' were wise not to follow siut.
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Postby scannergeek » Sat Aug 20, 2005 11:24 am

I didn't read through all 4 pages of this thread to see if this has been covered, but anyway.

Amtrak continued the tradition of Slumbercoaches being "in between" coach and first class. When traveling on an Amtrak Slumbercoach, meals were not included. I don't think you got a paper or juice/coffee in the morning either. However, the car did have its own attendant who made up the room and helped you with baggage.

The First class sleeping cars included all the amenities available to sleeping car passengers on Amtrak today. The cars were 10-6 sleeping cars.
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Postby VPayne » Sun Aug 21, 2005 3:08 pm

Mr. Norman,
Thanks for the information of the Touralux sleepers. I love taking a look at this forum due to the depth of knowledge of so many of the members. I guess I need to clarify my viewpoint. I do sincerly think that only a room sleeper will work in this day and age due to the general lack of manners of most people and the ability of the room to dampen the noise of passing people. However, I do think that extreme capacity say beyond 28 to 30 on short hauls and 40 or so for the long multi-night trips, is really not needed as a lot of the costs for the total transportation package are outside of those needed to move and maintain a car.
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Postby bratkinson » Sun Aug 21, 2005 4:14 pm

One of the factors that must be considered IF Amtrak were to even consider an 'economy sleeper' would the potential for financial gains.

As stated earlier, the potential profit of a coach would outweigh the potential profits of an economy sleeper/slumbercoach in any configuration. Add to the "cost", or, more appropriately, the necessity of ADA compliance, thus losing another room. Further add that the car is not "usable" without a regular sleeper or two riding with it. Eg, you could not simply run a slumbercoach/coach train....

Bottom line, for me, is, that to introduce a new car-line, Amtrak would have to invest millions that it doesn't have, for a product that may or may not be 'acceptable' to a travelling public that is accustomed to two choices only...coach or first class. Note that in Europe, there are multiple classes of sleepers, but not here.
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Postby John_Perkowski » Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:07 am

Mr Payne,

I think we can meet in the middle here.

Use the footprint of a classic 14 section sleeper. Enclose the sections, BUT DO NOT REDUCE THE WIDTH OF THE BERTH.

In other words, a folding ladder can stick into the hallway at night.

I honestly believe the worst single thing Amtrak has done in its sleepers is the 20" wide upper berth.

Mr Atkinson,

At some point in the future, Amtrak will have to life cycle procure new cars. One of the reasons the heavywights (and to an extent, the lightweights) lasted so long is they HAD TO BE over-engineered. A slide rule is only good to 2 decimal places.

Modern computer modeling can shave pounds down to the specification ... but leaves no reserve for the occasion where the spec gets exceeded (as in wreck).

When Amtrak procures new equipment, the right mix is an appropriate policy topic on the table; hence this discussion has merit (to me).

Mr EWU,

There is no benefit crying over spilt milk. The heritage cars are gone, and they're not coming back. Whether or not it was a good/bad policy decision is moot. How many more times do we have to say that?

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Postby CarterB » Mon Aug 22, 2005 2:38 pm

Does anyone have/know of where online one can see floor plans for either the 14 sec. or 16 sec. sleepers?
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!
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