Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Sign of the Economic Times?

As of one week ago, the company operating the GrandLuxe Express has shut down. Their web site is still up, but according to owner Tom Rader, the company is “financially unable to continue operations.”

In addition to offering excursions among several of the national parks in the west, the company also ran rail trips to the old South and through Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Their equipment once belonged to the American Orient Express and is classic in design ... really quite beautiful.

The full-on excursions offered by GrandLuxe were pricey, but very nicely handled and, I've been told, well worth the money. GrandLuxe had recently partnered with Amtrak to periodically hook two or three of their special cars onto the rear of regularly-scheduled Amtrak trains. It seemed like a good idea: giving people a taste of the Golden Age of Train Travel, but without the hefty price tag attached to their excursion trips. For whatever reason, however, it apparently did not catch on.

I haven’t seen any further comments from the company, but it would certainly seem that this unhappy situation could be another sign that even some of the folks who could afford these luxury rail excusrions are hunkering down.

Damn! That train was on my must-do list.


Mike said...

We'd considered taking one of their trips for our 35th anniversary this fall, but figured the extra $$$ could be better spent on a longer vacation, etc. Simple economics of choosing how to allocate resources.

Still, it was kinda nice to know such a thing existed in this country!

Don't know how many cars Grand Luxe has or had, but I wonder how tough it would be to convert them to operational Amtrak business or coach cars, given the condition of Amtrak's rolling stock and demonstrated need for more capacity.

JIM LOOMIS said...

Interesting thought. I believe (but am not certain) that all their cars are sleepers, plus a diner and lounge car. Anyway, I'd guess that there would be too few cars to have much impact for Amtrak and the conversion cost would be prohibitive. That money would be better spent to make minor repairs and complete maintenance on 100+ cars Amtrak now has in storeage ... where they languish for lack of funds. Also Amtrak couldn't use the GrandLuxe cars on western trains because it wouldn't be possible to move from the converted cars into the Superliners, which are bi-level. Frustrating, eh?