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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » SAV-WAS-CHI on the Meteor / Cardinal

   
Author Topic: SAV-WAS-CHI on the Meteor / Cardinal
Steve O.
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I just got back last night from a guest rewards trip: SAV-WAS-CHI on #98 and #51. Here are a few tidbits from what I experienced:

* Both trips were nearly on time (the Silver Meteor was only about :30 down into WAS, as was the Cardinal into CHI)
* Both trains were completely sold out for most of the run (As I was in coach, I had someone sitting next to me on both trips)
* The lack of decent lounge space was very apparent on the Cardinal, which uses an Amfleet Diner/Lounge. Since the train was sold out, it was impossible to find a seat in the lounge section of the car. The lady serving the meals in the diner really worked her butt off...just a one person show to serve and prep the meals and to take orders. She did an excellent job.
* Only encountered one rude employee this go around: the coach attendant on the Meteor. Everyone else, especially the crew on the Cardinal, was top notch.
* Scenery on the Meteor was great north of Richmond (managed to spot the Auto Train terminal), and on the Cardinal, it was fantastic leaving Charlottesville. We were one hour down all the way until IND so it turned dark before we reached Charleston, WV; however, the views that I did see in daylight hours were quite impressive. Too bad the train is not Superliner equipped anymore because the route is perfect for a Sightseer Lounge.

Overall, it was a fairly relaxing, scenic, uneventful trip.

Of course I ended the trip in style by making the obligatory walk to Girodano's for some high quality pizza before taking a blue line train to O'Hare.

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

Posts: 135 | From: Atlanta, GA / New Orleans, LA | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MontanaJim
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Thanks for the report. Just like I say "if only this train had a sightseer lounge".
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notelvis
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I wish that Amtrak would make the effort to improve and promote the Cardinal. They have a marketable product with that train and they choose to ignore it.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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palmland
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I agree with David that the Cardinal could certainly be improved. How about this idea for those of us who would like to see Chicago to Florida service (which we won't see via the Atlanta options):

Run the Cardinal daily with Superliner equipment. At Charlottesville use the Crescent/Piedmont route to Greensboro and Raleigh. At Raleigh the Cardinal would replace the Silver Star to Florida.

Miles eliminated (NYP-Charlottesville and NYP to Raleigh) would go a long way to offsetting the cost of daily operation and additional miles Charlottesville-Raleigh.

The Star's viewliner equipment could be combined with Meteor and make this a much better train with separate coach and sleeper dining and lounge service.

Advantages - A new market for Amtrak including much better options for the southeast to midwest passeners. An upgraded train would help attract additional riders.

Disadvantages - Passengers from WV would lose direct rail service to the northeast - which would not be lost on Senator Staggers. While Virginia is talking about an additional train Lynchburg to Washington, I don't believe its schedule would connect to the Cardinal in Charlottesville.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:
Disadvantages - Passengers from WV would lose direct rail service to the northeast - which would not be lost on Senator Byrd.

Mr. Palmland, what also would not be lost @ 60 Mass is that ridership has reportedly improved since The Cardinal started operating as a direct train through Wash.
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train lady
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The Cardinal has changed a number of times over the years. It has been a superliner and then a viewliner. It went all the way to NYC and then for a time only as far as D C and then back to NYC.It seems like they can't make up their minds what to do/. Also I think there was a time when it ran every day.
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palmland
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GBN - so true. But I guess the question is, would the revenue lost to DC by more than that gained by opening up the southeast to direct Chicago service?

Obviously I would have a vested interest in this service! I guess the closest the Carolinas came to this was on SRR's very scenic Carolina Special.

Train lady- you are right that Amtrak does not seem to know what to do with the Cardinal. Let us hope Senator Staggers passes Senator Thurmond for longevity in the Senate.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Rep. Harley Staggers (D-WV)deceased during 1991:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEED71338F932A1575BC0A967958260

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
jp1822
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With just three Amfleet II coaches, an Amfleet diner-lite Amfleet car and a lone Viewliner, some reports are indicating that the "direct connection to NYP" for the Cardinal didn't necessarily yield a ridership gain.

My perspective is that if ridership really was "gained" with this direct connection to/from NYC on the NEC, we'd be seeing more coaches at least in the Cardinal's consist.

Moreover, current Amtrak management went so far to say this past winter they believed the Cardinal's "ridership gain" may have been overstated when compared to when the Cardinal terminated in Washington DC with a Superliner consist. Someone @60 Mass happened to focus in on the Cardinal to try and increase its current patronage as they were concerned about its patraonge.

Then mixed with this "ridership gain" was the loss of the Three Rivers, which attracted some patrons to use the Cardinal after the Three Rivers was lost, as the Three Rivers and Cardinal shared similiar stations and trackage on the NEC route (Philadelpia and Newark I am sure help to fill the consist of the Cardinal).

As posted above there was some indication that the Cardinal was going to return to a Superliner train set for the 2008 summer season, highlighting the Superliner Sightseer Lounge to attract more of a "tourist crowd," using this car and the Cardinal's scenery. But I always said - I'll see it to believe it, and this change of course never came to be.

I am convinced the NYC direct connection works and is the best for most single level long distance trains - rather than a potential "cros the platform change at DC." But for some reason I am just not convinced when it comes to the Cardinal. The Cardinal did gain ridership when NARP pressured Amtrak to extend the single level consist to NYC - when in fact it turned to a single level consist. For a brief period after the Cardinal gave up its Superliner cars and was assigned a single level consist, it sill terminated in Washington DC. It took a couple schedule changes to finally get it extended to NYC.

The proof would be - does anyone have ridership numbers when the Cardinal operated at its peak with Superliner equipment and currently with single level equipment with it direct connection to NYC. Supposedly this is what Amtrak dug up to come to its conclusion that the Cardinal's ridership gain may have been overstated for when it turned from a Superliner consist terminating in Washington DC to a single level consist again terminating in NYC.

And compared to the present consist, the Cardinal had more revenue capacity with a Superliner consist - including more of a full train service - than what I pathetically observed at Trenton last week when the Cardinal pulled in.

Thanks for sharing in your trip report. I wonder if Amtrak actually lost revenue in its Amfleet diner-lite car because it was "too crowded." Some passengers may have just gotten something quick to eat at the cafe counter, rather than sitting down for a full dinner, breakfast or lunch. I mention this, because this is what I noticed on the Lake Shore Limited when I took just a short trip from Buffalo, NY to NYC. Course I booked a sleeper to get some extra privacy and work done. All I got in terms of a meal was lunch - served from 12:00 to 4:30 p.m. We arrived early into Alany so I went inside the station to pickup dinner, as dinner is not offered on the Lake Shore Limited even though it doesn't pull into NYC until 7:30 p.m. if not later!

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notelvis
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I don't have definitive numbers but I find it virtually impossible to believe that the Cardinal is carrying more passengers in 3 amcoaches, an amcafe, and a viewliner sleeper than it was when the consist was 2 superliner sleepers, a superliner diner, a sightseer lounge, and 3 superliner coaches.

I last rode the Cardinal in July 2002 and it was a nice 7 car Superliner train that was easily three quarters full for much of my trip from Indianapolis to Charlottesville.

I would be in favor of returning to the Superliner consist even if it meant 'just' a sightseer lounge serving tray meals for sleeper passengers on the lower level. Say maybe two sleepers, three coaches, and the sightseer lounge between them. Such would be a huge improvement over the current train. Better equipment for the length of the route and the scenery along the way would increase ridership I am sure.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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palmland
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GBN - Thanks for the correction - meant Senator Byrd not Staggers. Somehow a senior moment seems appropriate.
Posts: 2394 | From: Camden, SC | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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