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Author Topic: Pacific Parlour Car Dining
yukon11
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I haven't taken the Coast Starlight in a number of years. I may include a Starlight trip in the summer of 2017.

I didn't realize the Pacific Parlour Car offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. I thought it only served dinner. Do you need to make reservations with the PPC attendant or can you do it via your sleeping car attendant? If they make reservations, are there specific dining times as per the regular dining car?

Here is the southbound menu:

https://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/264/527/Coast-Starlight-Pacific-Parlor-Dining-Car-Menu-Southbound-1115.pdf

I can't seem to find a menu for the northbound PPC? Can anyone direct me to that menu?

Richard

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TBlack
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Richard,
If your trip isn't until summer, 2017, I'm not sure I would spend too much time pondering the menu today. I took advantage of the PPC last fall and found it much more intimate than the dining car and lots of fun conversation.
Tom

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Gilbert B Norman
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It can only be described as "amazing" that the Parlour has survived this long. But lest we forget, the cars are 60 years old - and once the V-Chows are delivered (if they ever are considering the "success" of the Silver Star Dinerless experiment) and the oldest units in the roster.

Richard, your trip is not until '17 - I wouldn't place too many bets they'll even be there.

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yukon11
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Yes, I know that the Parlour Car may be on its last leg. If the Parlour Car is no more, chances are I won't be taking the Starlight on any future trips.

Richard

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HopefulRailUser
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Richard, you do make reservations to eat in the PPC, sometimes the attendant comes around, sometimes the diner person makes them and my husband often just goes into the PPC to meet the attendant and makes a reservation right there. We enjoy the private and somewhat lighter meals there. But of course the diner has its good points too.

As for the menus, they often serve different food than what is on the menu you receive at the time of your trip. Amtrak dining mysteries, as usual.

--------------------
Vicki in usually sunny Southern California

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Geoff Mayo
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Weren't the PPCs refurbished just recently? That would indicate a plan for another decade of service - but I accept this is Amtrak we're talking about!

I remember touring Beech Grove a couple of years ago and being told about and shown trucks from some very old cars undergoing fatigue crack checks and an entire rebuild from the frame upwards. I don't recall whether those were PPC or some private car being refurbbed under contract - not the sort of car that is usually in service across the network anyway.

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Geoff M.

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PullmanCo
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These cars are racking up ~248K miles per year. At 60 years old, what is OK this week can be a RIP track or shop visit issue next week.

As late as 1963, Budd was building new standard equipment, including coaches and RPOs, for the investor owned railroads. That meant their truck supplier had his tooling available to create new units and replacement parts. That's not true anymore.

If memory serves me correctly, there aren't 60 Budd built streamliner era pieces of equipment on the Amtrak roster anymore. The parts supply is vanishingly small. If a truck is bad-ordered in LA or Seattle (or worse than those, en route), it's an expensive operation to procure parts and execute the repair. It's not like dealing with a stock piece of Superliner gear.

PVs may get 10K miles per year. They are pampered equipment, by people who know they are money absorbers. Active equipment such as the PPCs are racking up 20 times as many miles.

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Geoff Mayo
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I was more referring to the fact that a fully checked and rebuilt truck should be good for a long time to come, no matter how old it is. However, point taken that even a simple wheel flat could render the car out of use owing to a lack of spare compatible trucks.

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Geoff M.

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George Harris
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Huh? "Simple wheel flat" Should result in a trip through the wheel lathe or at worst a replacement of the wheel-axle set.
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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
Huh? "Simple wheel flat" Should result in a trip through the wheel lathe or at worst a replacement of the wheel-axle set.

Last I heard Santa Barbara didn't have a "wheel lathe while you wait" service. No, the car has to be set out somewhere for maintenance. I'm led to believe the trucks are incompatible with Superliner stock hence the comment about unavailability of parts. I don't know about wheel/axle sets.

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Geoff M.

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smitty195
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Hi Geoff,

Yes, you are right about the wheel-axle sets on those awesome cars. They are unique, and neither the Pullman-built Superliner I nor Bombardier (I think??) Superliner II trucks will fit the PPCs. (I don't know why I am drawing an absolute complete blank on who built the SIIs. Bombardier is the only name that comes to mind but I think I'm wrong. I know that they were heavily involved in refurbishments many years ago and those Bombardier rebuild placards are still in place on the lower level of several cars. But did they originally manufacturer them? Someone please help me out here----I can't seem to remember!).

As far as the meals and such, as others have talked about, there is no way to know what your menu will be in the PPC. Every trip I have taken since they started the three meals a day thing has gone like this:

-Breakfast has fixed hours and they are in a card in your sleeping accommodation. I have never had anyone take reservations for breakfast.

-Lunch has fixed hours also, and I have had them take reservations probably half the time. From what I can tell, I think it depends on the mood-o-meter of the attendant. If you get someone good who knows the job, they'll do it right. If you get someone who works the extra board and is usually working the Coach cars on the Sunset Limited, then you will hear no announcements about anything and the attendant will have almost no idea what to do. That's always a lovely trip when that happens. "I just work here" gets old by the second day.

-Dinner has fixed hours, and it has ALWAYS been a reservation for every trip I've ever done, both pre and post the whole meal thing in there. What you could find on your trip (if it stays the same as it is now) is that you will have a slightly different menu than what is available in the Dining Car. That's good and bad, depending on how you look at it. If you really, really want something that is on the Diner menu, then you must eat in the Diner. You can not order from the Diner menu and then bring it back to the PPC. (I know----technically you can not, but like all things Amtrak is depends on many variables that are directly connected to who is working the train. The "rule" is to keep the two separate---period. However, on several occasions I have seen people give a generous tip to the PPC attendant and tell them that they don't want to eat in the Diner, but they also don't like anything on the PPC menu. Can they just order a meal "to go" and he can pick it up and walk it back one car to their table? I've seen both yes and no responses to that, so if you flipped a coin it would probably be more accurate than guessing. [Smile] )

The thing I like about eating in the PPC is that I am almost always a solo traveler, and the fun of sitting at a booth with three strangers wore off long ago. I used to enjoy it---but now I do not. I think something has changed, and my best guess is that people in general have become more angry, more upset, more easily offended, more "secluded" in their electronic device, etc, etc. I've been at tables where nobody says one single word! I've tried to say hi, I'm Andy from California and then see if anyone else will speak up, but lately it just seems like there is awkward silence after that. I've tried the opposite approach and have said nothing at all, waiting for someone to talk. So if I am on a train that does not have a PPC, that means I'll be stuck in the Diner for my meals. I always conveniently have my iPhone's ear buds in both ears so that I can pretend I don't hear a darn thing. However, if the conversation is good, I will suddenly regain my hearing and join the conversation.

Oh yes, I started to talk about the food choices---sorry about that! I guess I just wanted to make sure you knew that if you see something that you really would like to order, but it's on the "wrong" menu for where you would prefer to sit, you're pretty much out of luck (unless something happens like I mentioned earlier). Oh! One more thing, and I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this. Or maybe they have and I just haven't seen it since I've been gone for a while. But the booth tables in the PPC (which are the tables where you eat your meals from----at the end of the car where the bar is----not the end where the swivel seats are)----those booths have their seating MUCH closer to the table than they are in the Diner. If someone has a "gut" or something a bit more significant, you will not fit. I just had to blurt it out there to save some hassle and possible embarrassment. If you're not sure, make sure you do a trial run and try sitting at any of the tables before you decide on eating there. Lots of older folks (and younger folks too!) have sort of a "wide load", and sitting at those tables is simply not an option. I have no idea why Amtrak installed them so close to the table. Maybe to fit in as much as they could in that car? I don't know......but unfortunately, I have seen so many people come in for the first time and try to sit down, but I can't take my eyes away (I know that's bad!), and I just watch the show that I know is going to take place. First of all, they begin dragging the whole entire tablecloth, silverware, etc, with them as they try to "scootch" in. You can just see the whole thing moving towards the window as they try to get that gut to fit. But you can't put something where it just won't fit, and the result is the person backing out (I always play a backup beeper from a truck in my head as they do this maneuver) and all of that crap on the table comes with them again and starts falling on the floor. I'm laughing just writing this down!! Yes, I'm a people-watcher and I think it's some of the best entertainment in the world! (Airports are best though). And I fully admit to have extra pounds on and having a gut myself, so I can make fun of myself also----but I know not do drag the whole table setting with me because that is just incredibly funny to watch!

Anyway, I've blabbed on and on here and it's time for bed. Gotta get up in....5 hours. Ugh...just realized the time. 0500 gets here so fast! At least it's getting lighter much earlier now, so by 0615 we've got a nice amount of sun peaking through. Goodnight all.

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dpudave
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Smitty, Your description of those of us wearing a spare tire struggling to squeeze between table and seat is hilarious. I'm afraid I'll be likely to burst out laughing as I think about it all day long. People will think i've gone crazy.
My son and his lovely wife work in Pleasanton, truly a magnificent part of the country. I ride the Zephyr out to visit and it's now my favorite train, though I dearly miss the SWC. In December, I'll be riding the Builder to Portland and then I'll find out if I fit in the booth in your handsome PPC--assuming, of course, I get lucky and it's along for the ride.
Thanks for making my day. d

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Smith, I have to agree the "Hi, where are you from; where are you going?" drill "gets old", especially when the other side of the table really prefers to sit stone faced from you - or for that matter you to them.

It was a welcome relief I thought when on Auto Train last January, the Attendant offered to bring me Dinner in my room. This of course was prompted that by the time I got to Sanford, the 5PM Dinner seating was filled and only 9PM was open. Now he did not have too much of a hoof involved as I had Bedroom A in the "Palm--" Sleeper immediately behind the Diner, but of course when alighting at Lorton, it was factored into the paper handshake.

Now so far as "spare tires" here in my town, there are more people at 5AM at the gym or hot yogi studio doing Zumba Rumba or whatever they do, than in the sack (a 2 mile walk is enough for me to contain the bloat and minimize the spare tire). But we all know that so far as the FAA is concerned, airline passengers are heavier, and carry more junk with them. During the 50's "passengers weighed" and carried baggage totaling 200lb each. However, today I think that "ante" is now some 260lb. It is also my understanding that Mickey D and other "fast food" outlets have added to the "pitch" of their fixed seating booths, which is of course what most of them have.

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yukon11
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Smitty:

Thanks for the detailed information. I found it helpful and interesting. I'm always amazed (but, not really) how you can ask 4 Amtrak attendants the same question and get 4 different answers.

I have always dreaded the dining car for reasons mentioned above. Sitting across the table with strangers to whom you would never dine with under any normal circumstances is something I never look forward to. The far-away stares with no talking always gets me. Sometimes you luck out. A number of years ago, I sat across from a couple from Australia and we engaged in a cheerful and pleasant conversation. I asked them about Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter" (who is now deceased). They told me the Crocodile Hunter program was mainly for US and other audiences, and they never had the opportunity to watch the program.

I still would like to see meals served in your roomette or bedroom, for a small surcharge.

Richard

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Geoff Mayo
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Thanks for confirming that about the trucks, Smitty - and the very descriptive and humorous description of the slenderly-challenged.

Consistency is one thing that irks me on Amtrak. When you have two car attendants having a debate in full view of the passengers about whether the lounge car should be closed "for cleaning" over half an hour out from the destination, you know there is a problem.

My worst meal was on the Silver Meteor heading to New York. A surly waiter, poor quality food, and the lady seated opposite could not have looked further down her nose at me or anybody else. She barked orders rather than made polite requests of the waiter: "Get me water", "I need ice" kind of thing.

Then the opposite. On the Empire Builder heading north towards Milwaukee and points west, seated at a table with strangers: a mother, her teen daughter, and a much younger daughter were inviting me to stay at their house by the end of the meal.

Last year, again on the Builder but eastbound this time, I ended up eating with the same couple for three meals. Just coincidence each time, nice couple, but we kind of ran out of small talk by the 3rd meal! Wished each other well on parting though.

Amtrak is certainly an adventure into the unknown!

--------------------
Geoff M.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by yukon11:

I still would like to see meals served in your roomette or bedroom, for a small surcharge.

Richard

Richard, let us not give Amtrak ideas.

Somehow, I think most Sleeping Car Attendants can quickly "size up" whether or not a party is a "tipper'. Those that pass the screen get the service offered; others will get the "your Dinner seating is 9PM".

I'm sure 60 Mass would love to form a "task force" to evaluate whether "Room Service" should have a fixed service charge, but somehow I think most all around here know how, and have the resources, to tip.

Finally, on my trip to Atlanta last week, I got a rare travel gift. I was in the room, dressed and reading my Times, when the housekeeper came. The service had been fine during the three of the four night stay. I decided that I would give her $20 of the $25 tip I had allotted (what if on checkout day she was off?). "Here you go dear, do something nice for your kids". I was genuinely hugged along with a sincere "Gracias".

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yukon11
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I don't know, Mr. Norman, if it's considered taboo to discuss Amtrak costs on the Forum. If so, perhaps the moderator can delete this and the next three paragraphs.

I ran a comparison of the average sleeper costs for 4 Amtrak long distance trains, taking costs for the entire route. The prices were chosen for peak summer months. I averaged the cost of a roomette and bedroom and came up with the following figures:

SW Chief: $ 1280. Calif. Zephyr: $ 1090. Empire Builder: $ 1265. Coast Starlight: $ 885.

It seems, to me, that Amtrak could easily charge a very modest price for "room service" to your roomette or bedroom. Considering the entire sleeper cost, if would be negligible to the passenger. Or, no extra charge at all.

*********************************************

Another thought (I know this is repetitious), why couldn't Amtrak provide a "fast food" car, perhaps between the sleepers and the dining car (or between the coach cars and dining car), for food to order and take back to your room (or seat). Burger King, KFC, a salad bar restaurant, and Starbucks come to mind. The entire cost of the car could be funded by the food outlets.

Richard

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