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Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

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  by David Benton
Well it seems coach is been neglected there . is it relatively expensive , or do you think that its a sign that if sleepers are avalible , people will take them ? or the schedule just doesnt suit coach riders ?

  by Gilbert B Norman
Without encroaching too far on the excellent material presented at Mr. Ken V's VIA Rail Forum, let's examine just how much more Sleeper capacity is offered by the Canadian when compared with the "closest to the 49th Amtrak has" the Empire Builder.

Let's "do some math':

VIA Canadian:

12.5 Sleepers (Park is the .5) X 22 passengers each X 3 departures per week = 825 beds per week.

Empire Builder:

3 Sleepers X 45 passengers each X 7 departures per week = 945 beds per week.

Now I realize this is based upon theoretical capacity and does not recognize that a Roomette is really a single person accommodation that just happens (wisely) to have two beds. Whatever portion of Amtrak Roomettes arre sold as single accommodations will cut down on the Amtrak 'advantage". Case in point; if all Roomettes were singly occupied, the capacity would be reduced from 945 beds to 651.

As far as VIA fare levels go (and I should defer to our colleagues North of the 49th); the days of CN's aggressive giveaway Rouge Blanc Bleu pricing structure (and CP's half hearted match with Faresaver) are long gone. VIA Sleeper is higher priced than Amtrak, although there is overwhelming testimony out there that their on-board service product is far superior to Amtrak's.

In common with all of Canada, tourism represents a far greater %tge of their GNP than here in the US. Sleeper space is reportedly sold in blocks to tour operators from overseas. Asian languages reportedly are as indigenous while on board as the "Mother tounge" and other European languages.

Now what impact events at EGPF will have on the tourism outlook remains to be seen. There was a segment on Fox News yesterday (yes I watch it; need balance with my New York Times reading) regarding tourism and the recent events. Their pundit concluded that those booked will still travel (after all, in common with any organized tour, the money was laid down quite a while ago), but later?.....well it might be a "winter in August' for VIA and others in the tourism industry.

  by David Benton
What or where is egpf .?
I think Amtrak could do alot more to attract tourists to thier trains . i guess if theres a lack of sleeper space there may not be much to attract them to , but its certainly a huge market . Nz's trains would not exist without tourists .

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Without encroaching too far on the excellent material presented at Mr. Ken V's VIA Rail Forum, let's examine just how much more Sleeper capacity is offered by the Canadian when compared with the "closest to the 49th Amtrak has" the Empire Builder.

Now what impact events at EGPF will have on the tourism outlook remains to be seen.....
This post was presented to show the shorter consists now running for the summer months in contrast to the shoulder season 30 car trains which included 5 domes, 3 diners and 18 sleepers. Fares are slightly less in the spring and fall so more tourists are travelling then. (Nothing like seeing 30 cars of Budd Stainless Steel complete with 5 domes doing 85mph across the prairies!)

My favourite time to ride the Canadian is late November or early December when a typical consist would include only 3 sleepers, 2 domes, a diner and a coach. Now that’s when you get VIA’s personalized service! After Christmas the consists start to increase again as the Canadian is promoted as the “Snow Train” .

I must admit that the Empire Builder is a favourite of mine and I have been on several times. Equipment and service is fine. But contrast that to a trip I had on the CZ: with a lazy attendant and dining car crew that could best be described as nasty I was ready to bail at Denver half-way through the trip. Perhaps if Amtrak could provide the consistent on-board product that VIA does they would also find people willing to pay a premium fare for the top notch service that VIA provides and you would have 30 car CZ’s South of the 49th too!

(EGPF ??: Why not use the more common IATA Code for Glasgow Airport “GLA” ?)


Mr Benton asked about coach travel on the Canadian. A third coach has been added recently as there are now student exchange groups and a general increase in the “back-pack” travellers for the summer months. But two coaches are normally able to handle the traffic even on the 30 car trains. The Canadian is a different train from the Ocean or Chaleur where there is considerable local and overnight travel into the larger cities. You do find local travel between cities across the prairies but a lot of coach passengers through Northern Ontario are just accessing remote cottages and communities where no other means of transportation is available.

edited by moderator

  by Gilbert B Norman
EGPF is the ICAO code for Glasgow/Prestwick. Those are the codes we always used when I was in the Air Force - and Prestwick was a US military facility "when I was in".

Mr NS, a decoding of such is as readilly available on the web as are those for three letter IATA. Here is one such site:


  by David Benton
A google search turned up the same info . However it would be alot easier to use commonly used names or codes .
i don't think the somewhat bizzare events at Glasgow will have much effect on the plans of European travellers , other than the extra security problems short term .(and bad taste jokes about indian taxi drivers )
It seems to be taken alot more seriously in the USA , so may have some effect on the number of americans flying to canada for trips on the Canadian .( the media here reported how the scottish authorities were somewhat bemused by the amount of interest they were recieving from American media ) .

  by Gilbert B Norman
OK; this month let’s take a look where the Northeast Corridor has “come to” over the past forty one years:

PRR 121 Midday Congressional (dp Penn 11AM 3‘50“ to Wash) observed Wilmington Sep 23, 1966 (drove up from Dover AFB for some railfaning):

GG-1 4818
REX 6561 BoxCar
6564 (those numbers could translate to same style car)
PRR “Congo” Parlor Miles Standish (sp is correct; New Haven had a Diner Myles Standish)
Casmir Pulaski
Kitchen Lounge 4625
Full Diner 4624
“World’s Fair PRR” Coach 1523
“Congo” 1579
“World’s Fair N&W” 1498
“Congo” 1569
RF&P Coach 855 NY-Bhm to RF&P/SAL 21 Silver Comet
SAL 6239
10-6 Winter Haven
11BR Venice NY-Atl

“Congo” refers to Budd PRR equipment delivered 1952 and intended for specific assignment to the “Congressional” and “Senator”, however by about 1960, Pennsy had simply pooled these cars amongst all NY Wash trains.

“World’s Fair PRR” refers to Coaches rebuilt from Budd 21 Roomette “--Inn’ during 1963 “World’s Fair N&W” refers to Coaches rebuilt from Budd N&W 10-6 “--College” during 1964.

As can be noted, the Corridor trains had become “Maid of all Work” with both the Railway Express Boxcars on the head and interchange cars for RF&P.

So let’s “fast Forward” to present day and consider what Amtrak now offers. This is Regional 125 dep Penn 1135A arr Wash 255P or 3’20”. This train likely has an eight car consist (Business, Café, six Coach likely AEM-7 on the head) AND Acela 2117 (Penn 12N ar Wash 245P or 2’45”). That consist is of course a six car set..

Of course no Amtrak locomotive has the looks of a pin striped (or even solid stripe large Keystone) GG-1, but to the passenger “plunking the plastic down” for a ride (cash, anyone still use that stuff?) they could only conclude that rail service in the Corridor has markedly improved under Amtrak’s stewardship.

However, I guess with PRR you could enjoy a cooked on board Luncheon, but the menu had largely been relegated to cold Turkey and Ham sandwiches and maybe a 6oz Club Steak.

Of course as with anything in this life, "you get what you pay for"; back then PRR quoted $10.65 NY-Wash (any time any train); Amtrak notes at page 115 of the System Timetable a range of $67-128. I defer to others to make the necessary inflation adjustment.

Related discussion

  by Gilbert B Norman
  • 'Listen to the jingle the rumble and the roar as she glides along the woodland
    ore the hills and by the shore
    hear the rush of the mighty engine hear the lonesome hobos call
    he's riding through the jungle on the Wabash cannon ball
Wabash combined #4-124, the Cannon Ball and Blue Bird 1/27/62 (rode StL to Chi):

E-7 1016 Stl-Det
Alco PA 1052
Mail Storage 1052
RPO 448
Storage 375 Stl-Decatur
Hwt Parlor City of Lafayette
Diner 50 Budd
Dome Coach 202
Coach 1425 PSCM acquired from B&M
Bagg Buffet 650 Budd
Coach 1227 (Hwt) StL Det
1417 (x-B&M)

The Wabash (wisely some may say) never made much investment in lightweight passenger equipment. All they acquired for local service was one train set from ACF with aluminum construction, one from Budd with four dome cars, and some six Sleepers to 12Rm-4Br configuration that were tacked on to their order for the interline Wab-UP City of St Louis.

First, they operated the ACF equipment as a dedicated train City of Kansas City and the Budd as the Blue Bird. The rest of their local trains, save the six Sleepers, were heavyweight.

However, with the acquisition of twelve second hand lightweight cars from the Boston & Maine, they spread the equipment around so that by 1962, all trains had lightweight equipment. The Hwt was relegated to peak periods.

Unlike Amtrak today, Wabash had the periodic COT&S air brake work done and kept the cars roadworthy for the "peaks' ; they did not turn on- line college students away lest they be in a position to route freight traffic in the future (WAB has always had heavy auto industry and agrigultral processing traffic; what if a Millikin Univ grad went to work with AE Staley in their Decatur traffic dept?; or a Wayne State for Ford or GM in Detroit?).

  by Sam Damon
(cross-posting from Amtrak forum discussion)
Here is the consist of #30, Amtrak's Capitol Limited in order, when it arrived at Harper's Ferry, WV at 1:12p, 57 minutes late on August 21, 2007:

16 - P42DC
40 - P42DC
512 - P32-8
1754 - Baggage (marked "US Mail Only")
82569 -- Amfleet I coach
32069 (all three sleepers)
38032 -- Diner
33023 -- SS Lounge
34132 (all four coaches)

  by Gilbert B Norman
This month, let’s review consists of two PRR secondary trains that I observed at “Old Penn”. I had a summer job and resided in Manhattan that summer; an evening pastime was to go to Old Penn and ‘take in the action’.

PRR 30 Spirit of St Louis Aug 18, 1962

GG-1 4878
SRY Bagg 531
PRR P-85 “Altoona” LW Coach 4111
P-70 Coach 4280
Altoona Kitchen Dorm 4595
Diner 4594
10-5 Cascade Meadow
3BR DR Lng Colonial Flags
ACF 10-6 Ohio Rapids Indpls-NY
PSCM James O’Hara (x Sherman Rapids)

PRR #55 Pennsylvania Limited Sep 3, 1962

GG-1 4898
NH Bagg Exp 3504
PRR Bagg 6925
P-70 Coach 4279
Altoona P-85 LW 4110
ACF 4080
HWT Diner 4489
6BR Lng Henry Phipps (x Linden Falls)
10-5 Cascade Ledge
10-6 Swatara Rapids

TheP-85 Altoona lightweight coaches were indeed attractive and offered pitch only from 44 seats. Such light density seating was simply not part of other Eastern roads‘ rosters. These cars were built ‘after The War“ in company shops, but because of design flaws, and likely a “haste makes waste“ building program, they were all retired by 1965, with some of their seating used to modernize heavyweight P-70‘s. More info on these cars is at a PRR Historical Society page..

  by Gilbert B Norman
Here is a “healthy” Xmas Season Golden State; Rock Island #3 Dec 26, 1963 (rode Chi-El Paso; en route to the Rose Bowl - yes, Illinois did have championship teams, uh, “once upon a time”):

RI E-7 6000
Bagg SP 6760 Chi-LA
RI Bagg 721
Dorm 822
Coach SP 2364
RI 340
Fiesta Grill 412
Coach 343
349 Mpls-LA
SP 2235
SP 2236
GN Sleeper Logan Pass
RI Diner 425 Chi-LA
Lng 482 (ex NYC 20th Century Lake Shore)
10-6 SP 9023 (my car)
4-4-2 SP 9116
12BR SP 9402 Chi-Phx
4-4-2 SP 9101

Despite its “extra fare” (AFAIC for “extra what”) the Golden State was simply not the City or Super. Their business was mainly to cities such as Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso. Note the two Bedroom cars to Phoenix which tells one the clientele were wealthy and elderly (I’d dare say many did not leave their room “for the duration’). On that note, with the route’s maximum altitude of 5951 ft near Vaughn NM, the Golden State had a draw from passengers who for health reasons could not handle the 8000 ft altitudes found on both the ATSF and UP. It was probably only this market segment who considered the train for Chi-LA trips.

  by Gilbert B Norman
NYC #26 New England States/Pacemaker April 14, 1962 (observed @ La Salle St; awaiting boarding of The Century)

NYC E-8 4051
Bagg 7807
REX 6277
NYC Dorm 8980
Combine (LW) 256
Coach 2927
24-8 Sleepercoach 10819
10-6 10192 Ausable River
Lounge 44
Diner 448
10-610155 Des Moines River
10-610236 Rondout River
Coach 2656 (to #2 @ Buffalo)
6 BR-Lng 10629 Mountain Stream
10-6 10203 Chicago River

Even by the early 60’s, the combining of trains had set in. The Pacemaker, in its later years after being an all-Coach train on a schedule “echoing” that of The Century, became the “backup train” lest there be a Western connection that was going to misconnect with The Century. When that was the case, cars, including until 1958, LA-NY lines interchanged with “City” and “Super”, would be removed from the Century’s consist and added to The Pacemaker’s..

The PRR’s counterpart for Pacemaker was #50 The Admiral

  by David Benton
What was a 24-8 sleeper coach , Mr Norman ?

  by Gilbert B Norman
A Budd 24 Single 8 Dbl Slumbercoach. Sleepercoach was Central's trade name while they operated such cars.

During 1956, Budd build eighteen such cars "on spec". They soon found buyers for six such with four being sold to CB&Q and two to B&O. That left Budd with twelve "on the shelf".

During 1958, they found 'homes' for the twelve with four year leases. Four went to the NYC (including the one noted in the consist report above), four to the Northern Pacific, three more to the B&O and one to the Missouri Pacific.

At the end of the lease, NP not only acquired the four cars they had leased, but the other twelve from B&O, NYC, and MP. Thus, on A-Day Eve, BN (as successor to CB&Q and NP) owned fourteen and a rail equipment dealer, having acquired the original B&O cars, two.

When Amtrak went shopping during 1972, they acquired the fourteen from BN (Amtrak had to pay "market price' but had "right of first refusal" on any car owned by a member road). However, since the B&O had sold their two cars, Amtrak had to acquire those from the dealer, but eventually all of these cars saw revenue service on Amtrak.

However, during the later 70's, when Amtrak decided to upgrade their "Heritage" cars to Head End Power and retention "potties', the intricacies of the plumbing in thirty two rooms plus having to maintain an inventory of parts solely for these cars (especially in Amtrak's "one size fits all' mentality with regard to mechanical matters), they were deemed "expendable' and they were withdrawn by 1982 when the last Amtrak "steam' train ran.

  by Scoring Guy
Reference Mr. Norman's sleeping car capacity calculations of the VIA Canadian.
The on board services crew occupies the equivalent of the 1 to 3 sleeping cars, depending upon the size of the consist, and THEY don't sleep in the sections.
My VIA Canadian trip three weeks ago had 3 (Manor) sleepers plus the (rooms in the) Park car and had 11 crew members.
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