• Will we ever see another all-Pullman passenger train?

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Westernstar1
 
I wonder if we might ever see a return of an all-Pullman passenger train in the US. Possibly something like the "Panama Limited" from Chicago to New Orleans or possibly longer routes. Under what conditions or scenarios could we see an all-Pullman return? Could an all-Pullman train operate under the present Amtrak system? What if all Amtrak long distance trains eventually bite the dust? Could an all-Pullman help fill a gap for a discontinued Amtrak LD train? It would seem, to me, the train would need to be a private interest with first class services, amenities, food, and sleeping accommodations. What routes would be possible? Could the train have limited stops?

Your thoughts.

WS
Last edited by Westernstar1 on Fri May 29, 2020 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by Pensyfan19
 
When Amtrak gets full funding. Much more than what they are getting now.

Although, it could be possible for a private company, such as the American Orient Express or something of that nature, to run all-pullman LD trains for a reasonable price, frequent service (local and express), and amenities which Amtrak currently does not posses, such as dome cars, and high-quality levels of dining service and comfortable sleeper cars.
  by TomNelligan
 
Politically, it wouldn't work, even if equipment was available and it worked economically. An all-sleeper train would be correctly seen by Congress as a deluxe accommodation for fairly affluent travelers, like current private cruise trains, while a major part of Amtrak's mission as a public entity is to provide basic transportation at reasonable cost, especially to smaller cities and town on its long distance routes.
  by Jeff Smith
 
That sounds like it would be very capital-intensive. You'd need coaches that are Amtrak certified, and paying Amtrak fees for carriage. I doubt the demand would ever be there, certainly not daily, although you could probably look at airline point-to-point passenger loads (pre-COVID) to get an idea. Then, how many would be willing to switch?

Given the tension with current PV owners, I'd say slim to none, unless the new CEO changes Anderson's course.
  by charlesriverbranch
 
I think the only way it would ever happen would be for the railroads to do it, and there would have to be a serious pot of gold at the end of that rainbow for them to get back into the passenger rail business.

Through most of the 1960s the Post Office effectively subsidized a lot of passenger trains; when those contracts were cancelled circa 1967, passenger rail went into a death spiral from which it was saved only by the creation of Amtrak in 1971.

The transportation picture in America today would be very different if rail had been subsidized equally with competing modes such as highway and air. But that didn't happen, and instead we are treated to infrequent, inconvenient, and slow Amtrak service where there is any service at all.
  by SouthernRailway
 
It would take a route on which there is enough ridership potential to fill 300 beds in one train.

Virginia-DC-NY-Boston has that potential. But it's still hard to do; to beat planes, the train would need to:

1. Leave really late at night (maybe after 9pm) and arrive really early in the morning (before 8am). Planes leave until maybe 9pm or later and can arrive by 8am or maybe even earlier.
2. Be cost-effective.

Hard to do those two things.

As far as I know, 100% premium-class transportation is rare. Didn't United even add regular coach seats to its p.s. planes? Maybe some NY-London flights are still all business/first class.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
SouthernRailway wrote: Fri May 29, 2020 9:44 am
As far as I know, 100% premium-class transportation is rare. Didn't United even add regular coach seats to its p.s. planes?
Mr. SRY, likely before you "were", but during the 60's, United did offer an ORD-EWR flight labeled "The Executive". Men only, all First Class, on what had to be the most "oddball" jet aircraft operated by US flagged airline - the Sud Aviation Caravelle.

The menu was, you guessed it, steak; and the beverages came out of containers known as "fifths". The "Stews" passed out Boutonnières near the end of the flight.

Fun for once; but "oh so politically incorrect" today.

But believe it or not, that was not my only encounter with this aircraft. During my "365 and a wakeup", or more precisely Dec 1967, I had occasion to fly VVTS-VTBD. Going was on Air Vietnam and the return was on Thai Airways. Funny how then, and FAIK still, the Thais and the Cambodians "didn't like each other". So, while the VN flight was vectored direct, the TG had to avoid their airspace, resulting in a half hour additional flight time.

Finally, to close on topic, Auto Train is as likely as one will see again to an "All-Pullman" operation; funny how the ONE mistake EKG made with his Business Plan was that he envisioned "Coach only". When someone got to him with the hard fact that there was a demand for Sleepers, he hurriedly "punted" and rounded up some 4-4-2 ex ATSF "Regal--" and UP 5-2-2 "Ocean--" cars. They were quickly placed in the consists and operated for much of their terms wearing their railroad colors.
  by urr304
 
In 1977, I saw a four car sleeper only train on the Italian State Ry running from Milan to Rome. It had the various accommodations. That was a state subsidized train like they all are.

Now, that would be a non-starter in today's political world and the way Amtrak is perceived whether correctly or not.

The PRR still ran a train that was once called 'The Edison' that was all Pullman into IIRC the 1950s from Washington to NYC. It continued to be run into the 1960s with coaches and sleepers [no food service].

I do not think you will see an all sleeper train except on a corridor and they would have to reinvent the Slumbercoach to make it seem plebian enough to spring for the capital costs and charge a fare that covers the operating costs 100%.
  by SouthernRailway
 
If an all-sleeper train were profitable, I wouldn’t care or view it as politically incorrect but perhaps the “let’s all be equal even if it means that we all must live in poverty” crowd might. Isn’t the Acela exclusive? I don’t hear criticism of it in that basis.

Amtrak should run its trains to be as profitable as possible given its semi-public service mandate. (That doesn’t necessarily mean bare-bones and plebian.)
  by Westernstar1
 
A new all-Pullman train , run by a private interest, might well be considered a deluxe train for the upper class and wealthy. Possibly a Rocky Mountaineer-like overnight train. I've always thought we could see such a train from Portland or Seattle to Glacier Park. I imagine, however, it would be daylight only with an overnight in Spokane.

If we eventually get a Richard Anderson system, with only regional or commuter trains, could we eventually see an all-Pullman train, NY to Chicago, or Chicago to the West Coast? It would have to offer fares, sleeping accommodations, and dining options at a variety of choices and prices. I'm sort of thinking of something like the Caledonia Sleeper :

https://is.gd/fD3w8r

Regarding the famous all-Pullman trains, of the past, the Panama Limited would be one I would have liked to have taken. Another one would be the Trans-Canada Limited, Montreal to Vancouver.

WS
  by SouthernRailway
 
I still think that an all-sleeper (i.e., roomettes, Slumbercoaches and couchettes) setup is certainly feasible for most any of the current long-distance routes. I don't see why any of them need coaches when cars could be split into multiple compartments with maybe 6 seats per compartment (and 6 berths at night), at low cost.

But I've made this point before, so I'll hush.
  by TomNelligan
 
SouthernRailway wrote: Sat May 30, 2020 9:10 am If an all-sleeper train were profitable, I wouldn’t care or view it as politically incorrect but perhaps the “let’s all be equal even if it means that we all must live in poverty” crowd might. Isn’t the Acela exclusive? I don’t hear criticism of it in that basis.
With respect to the pricey Acela service, "Regionals" are available as a lower cost alternative, along with even lower-cost commuter trains over most of the Boston-Washington corridor.

If an all-sleeper Amtrak train could be truly profitable and run in parallel with current mixed consists on long distance routes, fine, but I think you'll find that "profitable" involves very high fares of the sort charged by the private cruise train operators (which incidentally don't have a great track record regarding long term survival). Try telling the Congresspeople from, say, North Dakota that the only Amtrak service available for their small--town constituents for whom the train is a lifeline in a transit-starved region will be sleeper accommodation at several times the current coach fare. The current long distance consist where sleepers are available for those who can afford them and coaches are available for those who can't is probably the only thing that will pass Congressional muster.
  by SouthernRailway
 
Any all-sleeper train would need to be in addition to current trains.

I fail to see how a couchette-type space would be much more expensive than a regular coach seat.
  by John_Perkowski
 
An all sleeper train tends to be luxurious. Amtrak’s equipment is not luxurious.
A sleeper these days runs the price of a Palmer House room in Chicago for a bedroom, and about an Embassy Suites room for a roomette.
Try getting a hot breakfast to order on Amtrak. Try getting even a we’ll drink on the house on Amtrak. Try having a lounge car with incredibly comfortable seats on Amtrak.

No, Amtrak could not do an all sleeper train if it tried. Lord knows no one else has been successful since A-Day either.
  by SouthernRailway
 
John_Perkowski wrote: Sun May 31, 2020 4:14 pm An all sleeper train tends to be luxurious. Amtrak’s equipment is not luxurious.
A sleeper these days runs the price of a Palmer House room in Chicago for a bedroom, and about an Embassy Suites room for a roomette.
Try getting a hot breakfast to order on Amtrak. Try getting even a we’ll drink on the house on Amtrak. Try having a lounge car with incredibly comfortable seats on Amtrak.

No, Amtrak could not do an all sleeper train if it tried. Lord knows no one else has been successful since A-Day either.
Exactly. I pay almost $400 each way for my commute on Amtrak, in a sleeping car. I could fly round trip in first class for less than that, usually.

I get ratty stations at both ends of the trip, a rattling, beaten-up sleeping car with a thin mattress and a perhaps $2.99 blanket and a decent dinner but a terrible breakfast, and now with the "first class lounge" (ha, that's a good one) removed from the train, I stay in a 30-square foot or so space for 14 hours straight. And on the last day of the trip, for 7 hours of daylight travel time, I get one meal- breakfast- with about $5 worth of gas station food.

It's definitely not first class, whatever they call it. The value per dollar is pretty low.

Try giving a comfortable bed, a modern room, decent food, and at least lunch when the train arrives at or after lunchtime.