Saturday, April 18, 2009

Progress Report - From Chicago

So far, so good. I'm in Chicago between trains, comfortably settled in Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge. I arrived a bit ago on the Texas Eagle and will soon be off again aboard the Capitol Limited, headed for Washington.

I was delayed leaving Maui by two hours because the incoming flight had been plowing through some pretty stiff headwinds en route from Dallas. There was a plus to that, however, because that meant tailwinds on the eastbound flight back to DFW. And, sure enough, the normal flight time is eight hours and we made it in six hours and 45 minutes.

The ride on the Texas Eagle was fine. Left Forth Worth on time and arrive here just 30 minutes late, most of that delay occurring just a half hour out of Chicago waiting for a couple of freights. After sitting up all night on the plane on Thursday, I slept like a baby last night.

The Eagle consist included one of the re-designed Superliner dining cars -- cleverly called a Cross Country Cafe -- and it is NOT an improvement. For one thing, it seats fewer people, which means even longer on-duty hours for the serving crew. For another, the seating configuration -- which no doubt pleased the designer -- is awkward for some of the passengers. Hard to explain without photos, which I will post at a later date, but it's just not as comfortable as the tables-for-four standard.

One strange incident: No one ever took my ticket. An hour or two after boarding, I offered it to the car attendant, but he declined, saying someone else would be by to collect it ... meaning the conductor, I 'm sure. Nope ... never did and I still have it in my bag. Seems strange and I do wonder if that will eventually cause some kind of error report to pop up in Amtrak's system.

By and large, however, Amtrak has the system down pretty well. When I checked into the lounge here, the gal noted my departure on the Capitol Limited (scheduled for 7:00 p.m.) and asked me what time I would like to have dinner. The first option was 6:30, a full half hour before departure. Sorry ... no can do. Dining car meals just have to be consumed after you're under way.

More to come.

By the way, it doesn't seem possible, but I just realized that this is my 400th post. Whew!

2 comments:

Mike said...

Jim, glad the flights and scheduling all worked well for you.

Re the new style dining cars, we had lunch with a British travel agent who was escorting a group on the California Zephyr last fall. She mentioned - in strong language for a Brit - her dismay at the new design dining cars.

Makes ya wonder who came up with the idea, what it was supposed to achieve, and who it was that approved the design and spending money to create these things.

JIM LOOMIS said...

Same diner on the Capitol Limited. I suppose one reason is that fewer crew members are required: One chef and two servers. Still ... a bad call.