Re-creating the Golden Age of Rail Travel

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by Newscience, Dec 29, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Re-creating the Golden Age of Rail Travel
    By TANYA MOHN

    Pullman Rail Journeys, a Chicago-based independent operator of first-class passenger service on Amtrak and private trains and charters, plans to introduce overnight train service between Chicago and New York in mid-2014.

    The new route, scheduled to operate on Amtrak, is part of a larger mission to bring back the golden age of train travel with artfully restored vintage cars and attention to detail, Angela Arias, vice president of marketing for Premier Rail Collection, which owns Pullman Rail Journeys and six other passenger railroads, said in a telephone interview.

    The idea is to replicate what travelers would have experienced on sleeping cars built and operated by the Pullman Palace Car Company from the mid-1800s until the 1950s, Ms. Arias added. “Perfect service, exemplary food and authentic rail cars” will be the hallmarks, she said.

    Read the entire travel blog article at:

    http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/re-creating-the-golden-age-of-rail-travel/?_r=0
     
  2. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Thanks for sharing this.
    I don't feel it will last long and the article is short of details. But I think it does get to a couple of points. A better experience and rolling stock and the time to do it will matter to less people. This is true of all train service. People will and do ride better equipment.

    Says it will be operated by Amtrak, which of course is a requirement as that is the only operator the freight railroads are required by law to allow.

    And lastly, I really don't like them using the Pullman name especially when they're in no way connected to the original PPCC.
     
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  3. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    The same company operating under a different name attempted this venture in 2011-2012 operating Chicago to New Orleans. They never really got off the ground and a failure to detect cracked axles derailed on the rear end of Amtrak's City of New Orleans November of 2012. The FRA pulled their certificate until additional inspections could be performed. After all this time they are apparently going to make a second bid to do this on a different route.

    This service has always been available one way or the other... private cars based all over the USA can be chartered and taken pretty much anywhere you want to go. It has *NEVER* been cheap. Amtrak alone charges $2.10 per car mile (1.60 for each additional car) to private cars in addition to switching, parking, and other fees that are associated with the movement of private cars.

    I know some of the issues they had in the past probably stemmed from an inability to get regular staff because of the erratic operation. The service really can't be done properly unless the staff is well trained and without the promise of full-time work I believe they had trouble getting anyone other than retirees or people who wanted to do it in addition to their regular jobs for fun. A friend worked there at the time and said although it was fun it wasn't steady and they didn't pay very well. He now works full-time at another railroad.

    I've worked for private car operators in my off time since 2010 and have gone to some really fabulous places that I never would have with Amtrak. For only a fraction of cost more than what "Pullman" is charging, you and a group of friends can charter a train car or two and have that train take you ANYWHERE you want... not just Chicago or New York, and specify what food is served and if you want to make stops along the way. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but what do I know? ;-)
     
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  4. MSPeconomist
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    Mid-1800s to 1950s? Does that mean no AC? No WiFI? Etc.
     
  5. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    There is a link to the company's site explaining all of that in the first paragraph of the NYT article.
     
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  6. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    I assume that you are familiar with the Mega Do's? Would it be financially viable to do an event like that via a train or does someone already do such a thing?

    (I'm a public transportation lover, but have only taken Amtrak from WAS - NYC and Alexandria to Lynchburg VA and Raleigh NC - so I have no idea how many cars someone would need to charter to give a better class experience to say 40 people.)
     
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  7. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    I actually think that is a brilliant idea. It depends on exactly what you want. Please keep in mind I am about to speak from the perspective of an employee of a private railcar operator, not as an Amtrak employee... and I can't necessarily say what is true for them is true for other railcar operators.

    This is the company I do occasional contract work for: http://www.calzephyrrailcar.com

    For a single-day event for 36-48 people you can get away with one car... it is the coach/diner/dome Silver Lariat with 64 seats (60 at tables). Although 60 people FIT it isn't necessarily comfortable. A typical single-day excursion is Los Angeles to Oakland. It's some of the best scenery in the country with more than 100 of those 438 miles within a stone's throw of the Pacific Ocean. The car is connected to the back of the Coast Starlight, which currently leaves at 10:10am and arrives in Oakland at 9:15pm. You'd be served a light breakfast, snacks in the afternoon, and a multi-course dinner prepared on-board by a professional chef. All the meals are served on pressed linen tablecloths and real china. Unless the person chartering the car specifies otherwise, a very complete open bar is also offered. With the positioning move (the car is based in Oakland, so it has to deadhead from OKJ->LAX) this would probably run in the $4500-6000 range for the day. With 36 people that's about $170 each at the higher of those estimates. Don't quote me on that... I'm taking an educated guess based on what I know this cost in 2008. Add a second car (the bullet-ended observation lounge sleeper Silver Solarium) would slightly less than double the cost but add an additional 24 seats and a lot more space for people to move around and socialize. Let's just say with two cars if it cost $15000 for the charter, and you invited a very comfortable number of people at 48... that's $312.50 each for an unforgettable experience. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

    I gave a West Coast example with certain facts that I know to be correct. These cars can go almost anywhere in the country but long deadheads run up mileage charges just the same as when there are guests aboard. You may get a better rate for booking on a day where the car would be deadheading to another trip, but there are other cars based in other places. Speaking from my experience in observation, I haven't seen other cars where the service comes very close to that offered by CZRC. I've even seen chartered cars serve food straight out of the deli section at Costco. There's nothing really wrong with that in a way but if you're trying to recreate the "golden age" of rail travel... that ain't it.

    If you're really interested in setting something like this up, don't hesitate to contact me... I'd be happy to assist in coordinating and be a sounding board for what will work and what won't. The owners are a couple of rail buffs and would probably love the concept of a MegaDO on their cars.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  8. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    Thanks for the details; I don't think I'm the person to move to set something like this up, but it’s VERY good information for the community to be aware of. Thanks

    (I PM'd @Tommy77 to bring this up on his radar in case he would be interested.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  9. Bill Hunt

    Bill Hunt Silver Member

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    This sounds good, so long as they can make it happen. We are booking the Simplon-Venice Orient Express (London w/ Pullman, to Calais and then OE stock), just for the experience on the restored rolling stock - plus a few days in Venice, before flying back to US.

    We will gladly travel on interesting trains, rather than impersonal airlines, if the service does not make it too difficult. Years ago, we tried to take Amtrak from Denver to Chicago for a meeting, then a train to Indianapolis and back, connecting in Chicago back to Denver. We spent about 4 weeks trying to make that happen. Amtrak, back then, made it totally impossible, and when we finally had some prices, we could fly UA FC to ORD, rent a car for the meeting, then fly ORD to IND, back, and then back to DEN. That is what we did, and saved about US $600, plus had more flexibility. While we would have loved to do the train, it was just too much of a hassle, and even more expensive (sleeper cars, etc.), than flying FC. No way to "run a railroad."

    Will follow along, to see what happens. We will choose a neat train, over an airline, so long as we are treated like guests, and not abused in the process.
     
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  10. MSPeconomist
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    Once upon a time, TWA offered some FF awards that included the Orient Express. I still regret not doing this as I never found the right opportunity to fit it into my schedule.
     

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