Pacific Parlor Car
Only On The Amtrak Coast Starlight!
Note: This page describes the way the Pacific Parlour Car was before it was remodeled. A description and photographs of the newly remodeled Pacific Parlor Car can be found at: http://trainweb.com/accommod/parlour.html.
The Pacific Parlor Car was added to the Coast Starlight temporarily as an experiment to see what effect it might have on ridership. I think that it was only supposed to be on the Coast Starlight until September of 1995, but through popularity has remained part of the train and is still a part of the configuration as of this writing in January of 1997.
The only train that I have ever been in that has had a Parlor Car was the Coast Starlight. My understanding is that Amtrak plans to include Parlor Cars on all new trains as they are built.
The Parlor Car is only for use by passengers that have accomodations in the Sleeping Cars. It serves as a view lounge for the passengers in the sleeper. The windows are very large and curve up to the ceiling. There are tables all the way down both sides of the car with most having seating for 4 people. A few are configured for just 2 or 3 people. As in the diner, the tables are usually set up with white linen table cloths. Also, as with the diner, you will usually find a small vase on each table with fresh cut flowers! Remember, this is not the dining car but is just a place to go to relax any time of the day.
No meals are served in the Parlor Car, but you will usually find fresh pastries and muffins set out in the morning. Coffee is pretty much available most of the day and is often served to your table by the Attendant in the Parlor Car. A "Happy Hour" is usually held in the afternoon sometime between 3pm and 5pm. Complimentary Champagne or wine from local vineyards is served along with fresh fruit, crackers, and other items.
Keep in mind that all the above is served without additional charge to all Sleeping Car passengers ... and this is all in addition to the 3 meals per day that are also served to you in the Diner without additional charge! These factors are definitely something to consider when you think about upgrading to a Sleeping Car. A lot more than just the price of your private room is included in that upgrade. When you consider what you would pay for 3 meals per day during your trip plus extra snacks and drinks that you might purchase during the trip, it can make the upgrade cost to a Sleeping Car seem a lot less expensive!
In addition to all that is complimentary to Sleeping Car passengers in the Parlor Car, you can also purchase soda, wine, beer and other cocktails right in the Parlor Car without making the additional trek to the Lounge Car that is open to all class passengers.
The Parlor Car, just like the Lounge Car, features games that can be checked out from the Car Attendant. There is also a library with daily newspapers, magazines, and information about Amtrak and the Coast Starlight route.
In the Lounge Car, there are only a few tables where you can play games which are all located downstairs. Those are also the tables used by people who have purchased food at the snack bar and are looking for a place to sit and eat. You won't find any such problems in the Parlor Car! There are plenty of tables and they are all located on the upper view level of the car! Food is not sold in the Parlor Car, so you won't be competing with anyone looking for a place to sit and eat. Actually, the Parlor Car is usually fairly empty except during the "Happy Hour". With free champagne and wine being served, the Parlor Car often gets filled to capacity for that hour or so. But for the rest of the day, you will usually find more than half the car empty.
At night, the lights in the Parlor Car are dimmed. I can't remember if there is actual candlelight at each table or if it just looked that way because of the dim indirect lighting. All I can remember is that you couldn't ask for a romantic setting on the train than the Parlor Car after dusk!
Another reason why you might find the Parlor Car a benefit is the view. If you are in an Economy or Deluxe Bedroom, you only have a view out one side of the train. If you would like to see the view on the other side or of both sides at once, you can do that from the Parlor Car. This is a place that you can just sit and relax for hours during your trip, sipping coffee of wine, and enjoy the view that surrounds you from spacious windows on both sides for the full length of the entire Parlor Car!
If you really enjoy the experience of the Parlor Car, be sure to fill out the Guest Comment Card that you will find at your seat. Even take a moment to write your comments direct to Amtrak. From what I have heard, they are going to try and expand this feature to all long haul lines if it proves popular and if funding is available. As mentioned before, it is my understanding that Cars similar to the parlor car are going to be included with all new trains during the building of new equipment.