TrainWeb Visitor Travelogue
My wife and I had a wonderful time on our most recent train trip from
Seattle to Chicago to Houston (Longview). We booked this trip through
Amtrak Vacations (Houston to Vancouver, B.C. and return).
We have several comments and suggestions.
First, on our May, 1998 trip (Houston to Milwaukee to Flagstaff to
Houston), we noticed that there was only 2 people assigned to the
diner car on all 3 trains we traveled on. The Chief of Onboard
Services spent most of their time in the Diner, helping out, instead
of doing their job. They were worked to exhaustion on these trains.
Our most recent trip had 3 waiters and the steward in both diner cars
(Seattle to Chicago and Chicago to Longview). This was a vast
improvement in the service and hospitality in the diners and the Chief
of Onboard Services could do their job. I realize Amtrak is trying to
be self-sufficient and cut costs, but this is not the area to do it.
Meals are such a wonderful part of our train experience, I believe it
should be staffed properly.
Continue fighting for capital improvements from Congress. All of the
Superliner I equipment should be replaced or refurbished. We were in a
Superliner II sleeper from Chicago to Flagstaff. It's a much nicer
car. Let's be honest; the rust and avocado green color scheme is
DATED!!! I will continue to write my Senator (Kay Bailey Hutchison)
requesting that Amtrak get at least a penny of that 4.3 cent a gallon
gas tax (that Clinton slapped on us in 1993) for capital improvements.
We taxpayers subsidize all forms of transportation. Amtrak is a
pleasant form of that transportation. Being self-sufficient is do-able
if capital improvements are off-budget and subsidized by the taxpayers
for a defined period of time (10 to 12 years is my guess). I don't
think the current Congress would fund capital improvements forever, so
get whatever you can.
I want a Texas Zephyr from Houston to Dallas to Denver, connecting
with the Texas Eagle in Dallas and the California Zephyr in Denver.
Houston has a lot of traffic to Colorado in the winter (skiing). This
could be a lucrative route if properly marketed. I find it ludicrous
that the 4th largest city in this nation is only serviced by the
Sunset Limited. There has been talk for decades about a high-speed
express train between Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The
Texas Zephyr could be the first part of this. It would be a nice
alternative to air travel.
Some of the best parts of our July 28, 1998 train trip were the
excellent service, outstanding scenery, great food, and over-all
relaxing nature of train travel. Some of the down sides were the
smoking accommodations, old (but very clean) equipment, no pretzels at
the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge, and the track through Arkansas and
Texas (heat related problems).
The smoking accommodations could be corrected with a refurbished
smoking car. The ventilation needs to be stronger and vented to the
outside. I could always smell the smoke in the coach car that had the
smoking section. I smoke cigarettes and my wife smokes pipe cigars
(Black and Milds). She was not happy that she wasn't allowed to smoke
on the trains.
The service on the Empire Builder was better that the service on the
Texas Eagle. The Empire Builder staff seemed genuinely happy to be
doing their jobs and seemed to be having a good time while they were
working. The Texas Eagle staff seemed to be remembering that their
train was almost canceled. The service was good, but not as good as
the Empire Builder.
I tried to purchase an Empire Builder coffee mug onboard, but they
didn't have any. Where can I get one? I also want a California Zephyr
and a Coast Starlight coffee mug to compliment my Texas Eagle, Sunset
Limited, and Southwest Chief mugs. These are the 6 trains the wife and
I have traveled on. We did not receive Empire Builder wine glasses.
Has this been discontinued recently? I've read almost everything
trainweb.com has written about Amtrak, and the wine glasses were
mentioned in several of the travelogues at trainweb. I am cc'ing Steve
at trainweb with this letter.
We are currntly planning our May, 1999 trip from Houston to
Washington, DC, to Milwaukee to Houston. I've heard great things about
the new Viewliner sleepers and will try one out from New Orleans to
Thanks for reading this.
Mike and Tzena Smith
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