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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:15 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8953
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
It is true that if you are hoping to save a NYC, SR, Burlington, GN or SP diner to represent those lines, you have a serious uphill battle before you, and you'd better be ready to eventually rebuild an interior from scratch. At least two groups that I have been in touch with regarding the diners have said they will pass on them for exactly this reason.

On the other hand, this current arrangement would be perfect for a professionally-catered dinner train operation or other excursion on-board food service. I know that, as far back as the 1970s, mainline excursion operators desired, but could seldom access, food-service cars that went beyond box lunches or candy bars, but were still something non-pro "weekend warriors" could hope to operate. As much as I can see a group wanting to preserve the real old-time experience of train travel, no professional outfit in 2018 wants to deal with preparing food in a moving kitchen with pressed-sawdust logs for fuel or the like.

What we've yet to hear:
1) IS Amtrak retaining any Heritage Fleet themselves for car-count stock, rolling storage, or whatnot, or does this finally mark the absolute end of being able to ride/see pre-Amtrak equipment in service--maybe 25 years later than any of us would have expected?
2) are the latest lots all operable, or are a few of them wreck-damaged, missing trucks/windows, or whatnot?

Any Beech Grove spies lurking?


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 10:18 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 515
Location: B'more Maryland
Termite7 wrote:
I am going to agree with Topfuel...those diners are not recognizeable on the inside anymore. I was actually inside the kitchen of an Amtrak diner in operation and it was an eye-opener. Every surface was completely changed...there were few actual food prep areas...just a small flat-top...a bank of convection ovens and some warming tables...it was more like one would see in a modern school cafeteria. The food was (for the most part) pre-prepared in big disposable aluminum pans (like the fried chicken) or delivered frozen in giant plastic bags (like alfredo sauce). Only a few items were actually "cooked" on the cars...steaks and maybe eggs made to order? I doubt there is enough money in the world to justify "restoring" the interior of one of these cars...nothing resembled a Budd diner anywhere on the inside. Not the ceiling...not the walls...nothing. It was all covered in stainless panels. None of the post-was charm was left at all.

So...you could do "something" with one of these cars but you would need to take a serious look at an organization's food service and determine what kind of food you could prepare with this very modern and specalized kitchen. It would surely be easier then trying to rip everything out and starting over.

T7


I mean, would it be so bad for someone to preserve an Amtrak car as an actual Amtrak car??


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 1:53 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 217
A few things to remember... As far as the kitchens being modern, dinner trains have to prepare food according to modern day food inspectors / health permits. So a fully traditional kitchen is not possible.

I'm wondering what dining cars are currently in service that have somewhat magically retained all of there original interior? The ex-Southern "Travelers Fare" at TVRM looks great, but surely those aren't the original carpets, drapes, etc. Perhaps the lighting is original?


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 4:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8953
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
I mean, would it be so bad for someone to preserve an Amtrak car as an actual Amtrak car??


That subject/option has been raised with at least one project proposal I'm working with.

The problems with this option is that you're going to get far more support for preserving a car with positive memories--say, the car in which I treated myself to a New York Strip Steak dinner after managing to cop a pair of open vestibule doors climbing Fairfax Hill west out of Alexandria on the Crescent in March 1986,, southbound to spend a week with my girlfriend in South Carolina--than one serving what many would term "airline food" from the era these diners up for grabs represent. No one but the dogmatic history preservationist intentionally wants to save a Rock Island, New Haven or Penn Central commuter train of the 1960/1970s "complete with cracked windows, broken seats, half the lights out, and a breakdown every few minutes!", to quote a New Yorker cartoon of a salesman showing off an "authentic" toy train set of a NH train to a father and son.

But for, say, preserving a Pacific Parlour Lounge at the California State RR Museum, in a state where these cars ran for both Santa Fe and Amtrak's Coast Starlight as "Pacific Parlours"? Utterly a perfect option. And not out of the question either short term or long term. "You want it backdated to Santa Fe? Pony up the plans and money!"


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 6:23 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 353
Crescent-Zepher. The diner at TVRM is very much like the original configuration and it is inspected/approved by the health department. The WOW factor in the TVRM operation is that they use the parts of the diner as they were intended...clean linen in the linen locker, dirty linen in the dirty linen locker. Salads in the fruit cooler...beverages prepared in the pantry...food cooked on the stove. It has been painted a few times but please note...the car has been in continuous operation since it was built...passed into their hands from SR and the big wheels keep a rolling. When people eat in there they are just blown away because it is an experince like stepping back in time (the people make the difference).

If you have never been in food service industry (restaurant) you will not understand what a chore awaits anybody trying to set up a service in a modern Amtrak diner...there is just nothing to work with. I was trying to remember the dish-washing area...if I recall correctly Amtrak had moved towards mostly disposables at the end so...that is an area that the health department will look closely at. You have to sanitize your dishes...period. If you do not have the capacity to clean 40+ servings of dishes in a short period of time...you are doomed. It seems like Amtrak also made the kitchens much smaller then original...one man did "everything" back there and they added freezers for storage of that yummy Amtrak cuisine. More freezers then you will ever need. And power...I don't think Amtrak diners had generators and that is an issue that keeps even TVRM hopping. You HAVE to keep all of your food at temperature...if it either cools (or warms up) you have to throw it all away so imagine installing reliable generators as job one. Water...if you are washing dishes on the car you have to have a LOT of clean water on board. TVRMs diner has just enough...they top it off when they can. And some of that water has to be heated to specific temperature...so imagine commercial water heaters. That flat-top is limiting and pretty much in the way...likely you would need to heat pots, not fry steaks...so that flat-top may need to go.

Now mind you...you can use one of those cars for food service...but just beware that it would NOT likley be a plug and play proposition. It will just take a lot of work AND consultation with food service exprts on the front end. Also...inspect closely and make sure you understand what you are getting and what you are not getting.

Beyond that...if you want to present that bland, commercial, modern interior as a "vintage dining car experince" that's ok...but don't expect rave reviews. Those Amtrak booths are more like Steak N' Shake then the Crescent Ltd. Read the TripAdvisor reviews of TVRM dinner train. Passengers are gob-smacked when they come on board. It is a total immersion back into another era. They are paying for a special experience. (I hope that puts an underline under the word "special" so the reader understands the importance of the word).

T7


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2018 7:11 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 217
I've ridden in many amtrak diners and I've ridden on the Tvrm diner many times. If being served a meal you pre-ordered when you bought your tickets months ago while riding along at 10 mph along a downtown industrial track is more of the "real thing" than being served a freshly grilled steak and baked potato while traveling 65 mph on the NS main than im not sure we agree on a lot of things ;)

That's not a knock on TVRM or any other dinner trains. They create an enjoyable experience. But it's a very different experience than the real thing. But that's off topic.

Im sure a commercial dinner train operation could use the amtrak kitchen to prepare great food. The amtrak diners did not have thier kitchens made smaller as far as I know.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:15 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 217
So in further response to Termite's post above -

Nothing about Amtrak's Diners has been changed since they were using non-disposable plates. In fact one of the reasons they went to disposable plates was so they could eliminate the second food prep. employee who mostly... washed dishes! The trains that kept the second food prep employee kept the real plates and glassware until just a few years ago. That doesn't mean you can't wash dishes in the Amtrak Diners... you can.

Likewise... you say there is nothing to work with cooking wise. How was Amtrak grilling steaks to order? Making eggs to order etc.? And for that matter what Dinner train is even doing that much made to order food! Every dinner train I have been on serves food that is not cooked to order. I'm not saying Amtrak food is fine cuisine... but you seem to think it's all re-heated airline style food and while SOME of the food on Amtrak is, the full service diners still operate like a full restaurant kitchen.

And of course the Amtrak Diners don't have generators, they use HEP. Naturally any operation will need to rebuild the car for their needs. My point about TVRM's diner is I don't think there is that much original about the interior of the car. But it's still an original Southern Railway diner! Just like the one that Amtrak is selling is.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:34 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:29 pm
Posts: 353
I think adressed all of these issues, you are missing the point. But it matters not.

Sure they washed dishes in Amtrak diners...but not the volume and speed required in a dinner train setting. You ought to volunteer to help wash dishes sometime...LOL.

I am old enough to have eaten on real diners in regular service...and I can tell you it was not fancy food. It was very commercial. And more of it was pre-prepared then you realize. A lot of what they did was like a cafeteria.

And good point on the Ringling cars. I hear people tell me that they intend on restoring them "to their former glory"...but they seem to be completely unaware of what that would require. Same with those coaches that NS "fixed up" for the 21st century Steam program...those were auctioned off and are now being sold again.

T7


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:38 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 217
So a dinner train, serving one seating, needs dishes washed faster than an amtrak train that has 3 seatings per night? And I'm the one that's missing the point?

I've washed many many dishes on trains as a volunteer. More than I care to think about right now! Also helped set tables and help with food prep. But never, ever would I dare try to serve.. I'm not sure how they do it on a moving train. Would scare me like crazy to carry a tray of drinks or food.. I don't have that kind of balance.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8953
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Amtrak has issued a (rather confusing) update to its earlier offer, including the F40PH's and Pacific Parlour bilevels........

One group with which I am working had asked Amtrak "disposal" officials for an update to their donation request for a specific car from the first offer, and received the following as part of the reply:


Quote:
Thank you for your request for a donation however due to the significant dollar values offered for Locomotives and Cars Amtrak will not be donating any Rolling Stock from Phase II. Please feel free to submit another request for any of the Cars offered in Phase II.



We are presuming/assuming that they mistakenly meant "Phase 1" in the first sentence--the offer including the ex-Santa Fe Pacific Parlours, wrecks, and F40PH's, not this latest round of Phase II (baggage/diners/crew-dorms/etc.)still open for bids and discussed in THIS thread.

This means that they chose money over donation.

Left unstated, and in immediate need of follow-up by any would-be equipment preservationists, is whether the successful bidders were other preservationists offering cash, for-profit operators, speculators hoping to turn a profit, or scrappers.

This probably also means that no museum is going to get anything donated out of this Phase II offer, either.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:08 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 4:49 pm
Posts: 382
I was at Beech Grove yesterday. There was only me and 2 other guys looking at the cars. A small turnout for the first of 6 days available to see all these cars. It was around 30 degrees and sleeting off and on all morning, so not ideal conditions for car inspecting.

In talking with the guy there from Amtrak, it seems there may be a small chance that even though all cars sold on the recent offering, winning bidders may have not been notified yet. We'll see.

My overall impression on this first day is that there are so many cars that I bet maybe half will end up scrapped. There just aren't that many buyers out there. I mean, how many people need a baggage car or an odd-ball dorm car? In addition, scrappers bid much higher now than they used to 20 years ago, so getting a car for $1,500.00 like the old days probably isn't going to happen. The scrappers are now very stiff competition. Couple that to the cost for a COT&S in most cases and then the shipping cost makes buying a car even just for parts to be much less attractive than it used to be. Also, there are some cars on shop trucks or missing other important parts. Best not to bid sight-unseen.

I'll be back on Monday the 10th and also Friday the 14th to continue my inspections. 4 hours per day isn't much time to see 100 + cars. Anyone else from the RYPN Nation going to be there those days? Maybe we can all adjourn to the Workingman's Friend or the Mug N' Bun for lunch afterward.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:03 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 4:49 pm
Posts: 382
I meant to add to my post yesterday that for those wanting to preserve a diner from a particular RR, be aware that a few of these diners on the sale list were not built as diners. They were made from ex-CB&Q DZ and KCZ coaches that had been gutted and made into Auto Train buffet cars previously if I remember correctly. Beech Grove did an amazing job on these cars and at a glance one would never know they weren't built as diners since they are almost a perfect match to other Q diners, including the window pattern. Not sure the story on those but Amtrak must have needed additional diners at some point circa late 1980's/early 1990's, which would be very late for major conversions such as these.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:59 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1484
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
At least 1 of Amtrak's current Heritage Diners had been a PennCentral Parlor Club Car with galley, formerly a Pennsylvania RR Parlor Car.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:15 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8953
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Quote:
I meant to add to my post yesterday that for those wanting to preserve a diner from a particular RR, be aware that a few of these diners on the sale list were not built as diners.

Yet another reason a few otherwise-interested would-be preservationists did not submit requests for donation.


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 Post subject: Re: Amtrak Selling Off The Last(?) Heritage Fleet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 4:49 pm
Posts: 382
"At least 1 of Amtrak's current Heritage Diners had been a PennCentral Parlor Club Car with galley, formerly a Pennsylvania RR Parlor Car."

That car is the 8750, the ex-William Penn. A real odd design. Sold off some years ago. Not sure what Amtrak had in mind there. More than 48 table seats, but minimal kitchen/prep area. More like one of the cafeteria lounge cars really. You can't do much in the way of hot food prep in that car.


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