Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Silver Meteor’

Amtrak Daily Service Will Also Bring Some Service Enhancements

March 13, 2021

The restoration of daily operation to most of Amtrak’s long-distance trains starting in late May will also coincide with a spiffing up of some amenities aboard those trains.

Some long-distance trains are expected to see the return of traditional dining car service.

The intercity passenger carrier said new Viewliner II sleeping cars will be assigned to the Silver Meteor and Silver Star between New York and Miami.

The Auto Train sleeping cars will receive new and what Amtrak described as upgraded bedding, towels and linens. These will be provided to other long distance trains with sleeping car service during the summer.

Eastern trains assigned Amfleet II coaches will get new seating cushions, carpets, curtains and LED reading lights.

Amtrak said cars that went through a multi-year interior renovation program for Superliner and Viewliner I equipment, which includes new seating cushions, carpets and curtains, will enter revenue service this summer.

Although no date was given, new ALC-32 Siemens Charger locomotives will begin pulling long-distance trains this year.

They will replace the ubiquitous P42DC units that have been maintays since the middle 1990s.

The Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station in New York will get a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car passengers.

Unspecified enhancements will be made to the Auto Train.

It also remains to be seen how Amtrak will handle the restoration of traditional dining car meals.

Roger Harris, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer, said the carrier needs to work through the health implications of dining car operation.

“Communal dining is probably a non-starter for now, and you can work backward through food preparation and delivery,” he said.

Harris did not say which trains would receive traditional dining service. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began Amtrak had ended full-service dining car service on all eastern long-distance trains except the Auto Train.

Traditional dining aboard the western long distance trains ended early in the pandemic in favor of serving prepackaged meals.

“It’s important to figure this out because it involves the recall of employees for the daily service this summer, so it’s a rather intertwined process,” Harris said. “There will be some food service decisions in the coming months but there will be further developments in the next year, as we get our new team really focused on this.”

Some Amtrak Service Cuts Take Effect in July

June 23, 2020

Amtrak’s plans to reduce the frequency of operation of its New York-Miami trains will mean there will be no connections to and from Florida on some days in Washington  and New York.

The passenger carrier plans on July 6 to begin operating the Silver Meteor four times a week and the Silver Star three times a week.

It is the first step of a larger plan to reduce operations of all long-distance trains except the Auto Train to less than daily service on Oct. 1.

The Silver Meteor will depart New York Monday through Thursday, and Miami Sunday through Wednesday.

The Silver Star will operate Friday through Sunday southbound and Thursday through Saturday northbound.

The New York-Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto will for now continue to operate daily.

The July schedule changes will preclude connections on some days to Florida from the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, and Cardinal.

Cross-Florida travel and service to South Carolina’s state capital, Columbia, will only be possible on different days around weekends.

A Trains magazine analysis noted that during May the combined ridership of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor was 7.2 million passenger miles generating $1.4 million of revenue.

That compares to 5.2 million passenger miles and $2.4 million in revenue for all Northeast Corridor trains between Boston and Washington.

Amtrak has said it it reducing the frequency of operation of its long distance trains due to steep ridership declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The carrier also projects that ridership during federal fiscal year 2021 will be half of what it normally would be.

Checking Out Amtrak’s Florida Trains

May 14, 2020

Last weekend I spent time in Folkston, Georgia, where I was able to witness Amtrak’s Florida trains up close.

Due to CSX track work in North Carolina, the Silver Star is now operating Thursday through Sunday and the Silver Meteor runs Sunday through Thursday.

The idea is just one train operates each day although there is some overlap on some days.

For instance the Star runs northbound on Thursday but not southbound while the Meteor runs in both directions. This schedule is temporary and will last through June 2.

Train consists are smaller with the Star running with typically five cars although I did see a four-car train. The Meteor is typically six to seven cars.

The Auto Train still runs daily but with a much shorter consist. I didn’t get many pictures of the Silver Star because it comes through at night northbound or early in the morning southbound.

The photograph above shows the northbound Silver Meteor at Folkston.

The top photograph below shows the southbound Meteor at Folkston while the photo below that shows the northbound Meteor at Hardeeville, South Carolina, running with three P42DC locomotives and six cars.

Interestingly, all Amtrak trains that I saw had at least two engines even the four-car train.

In the next two images, the northbound Auto Train is at Folkston while the last image shows the southbound Silver Star at Folkston.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Amtrak Eastern Long-Distance Trains to Get ‘Contemporary Dining’ Service Effective Oct. 1

August 12, 2019

An internal Amtrak memo that was posted on Train Orders.com had confirmed that all eastern long-distance trains except the Silver Star will adopt the “contemporary dining” model effective Oct. 1.

Full-service dining will be removed from the New York-New Orleans Crescent and New York-Miami Silver Meteor.

The Silver Star is an exception because it does not provide meal service to sleeping car passengers as part of their fare.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will gain a Viewliner dining car that will serve as a sleeper class lounge car in the same manner as is done on the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

Although the Cardinal has not had meals prepared on board for several years, it did have a more expansive menu than the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited had after both switched to the contemporary dining model last year.

The net effect of the changes is to standardize food and beverage service on eastern long distance trains while reducing the number of on-board employees assigned to the Crescent and Silver Meteor.

The Cardinal and the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans will not have a net loss of on-board jobs, but two of the positions will be reclassified as lead service attendants.

The Crescent will see a reduction of 16 positions while the Silver Meteor will lose 14 positions.

The Amtrak memo said onboard meal preparation will be replaced by a small variety of ready to serve meals that will be included in the sleeper class fare and delivered to the train just prior to origination.

All eastern long-distance trains will have two food service cars, one of which is reserved for the exclusive use of sleeper class passengers. The other is a café car open to all passengers.

Sleeping car attendants will, upon request, continue to deliver meals to passengers in their rooms.

Amtrak also plans to continue the practice of the sleeping car attendant asking passengers shortly after boarding their preferred dining times and giving reservations in 15-minute increments.

The lunch and dinner offerings on all trains will include Asian noodle bowl, red wine braised beef, chicken fettuccini with broccoli, and Creole shrimp and andouille. Dessert is available upon request.

Breakfast is described as a deluxe continental breakfast that includes muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal and breakfast sandwich.

Sleeper class passengers and business class passengers will each receive one complimentary alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft drinks.

Business class, which is available only on the Cardinal, does not include meals.

The consist of the Cardinal will be one Viewliner baggage car, three Amfleet II coaches, one Viewliner sleeper , one Viewliner sleeper-lounge,  and an Amfleet I café-lounge with 18 business class seats, Amfleet café module and 24 booth seats.

The A end of the café car pointed toward the coaches to reduce foot traffic through the business class section.

The Cardinal onboard crew will continue to be based in New York.

The City of New Orleans will have consist of Superliner equipment, including  two coaches, a baggage-coach, a Cross Country Café that will serve as the sleeper class lounge, a Sightseer lounge that will serve as the café car for the entire train and a transition sleeper.

The Crescent and Silver Meteor will have similar consists of three Amfleet II coaches, one Amfleet diner lite car that will serve as the café car, a Viewliner dining car that will serve as the sleeper class lounge and a Viewliner baggage car. The Crescent will have two sleeping cars while the Silver Meteor will have three.

The assignments mean that Amtrak will have in revenue service at any given time 13 Viewliner dining cars of the 25 that is owns.

The memo also detailed the plans for changes in Auto Train food and beverage service in January 2020.

Complimentary breakfast and dinner for coach passengers will be eliminated in favor of an expanded café car menu sold through a Cross Country Café.

The Amtrak memo said the café car will provide “a festive environment during the trip,” although it is not clear what this is supposed to mean.

Food trucks will be selling meals at the stations in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

Effective Oct. 1, one coach will be replaced by a sleeping car with additional sleeping cars being assigned during peak travel periods.

Food service for sleeper class will be provided by seasonal menus with variety of entrée selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There will be a selection of cocktails, beer and wine to go with coffee and soft drinks. Amtrak said that a wine service is also being introduced for sleeper class passengers aboard the Auto Train.

The changes in onboard service aboard the Auto Train will result in 25 onboard service positions being eliminated.

More Amtrak Full Service Dining Expected to End

July 17, 2019

Amtrak is expected to end full-service dining on all eastern long-distance trains the Rail Passengers Association reported last week.

That means sleeping car passengers traveling on the New York-Miami Silver Meteor and New York-New Orleans Crescent will be served the same fare that sleeping car passengers receive on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

In early 2020, Amtrak will also end the practice of providing complimentary dinners to coach passengers aboard the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida.

Instead, coach passengers will be given the option of buying café car fare onboard or purchasing meals from food trucks at terminals in Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida.

An Amtrak news release said all Auto Train passengers will receive a continental breakfast before their arrival.

Sleeping car passengers will continue to be served in their own dining car with “a new menu and the addition of complementary wine to the dinner service,” the news release said.

A spokesperson told Trains magazine that menus for Auto Train sleeping car passengers are still being worked out.

The Amtrak news release said other enhancements will be made to the Auto Train’s sleeping cars including “upgraded towels and bed linens and other pleasantries in each room.”

Amtrak also said it will expand sleeping-car accommodation availability to meet demand.

It is not clear how the food service changes will affect sleeping car passengers on the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

That train has not had meals prepared on board for several years, but offers a much more expansive menu for sleeping car passengers than is available on the Lake Shore Limited or Capitol Limited.

Those meals are prepared off the train and heated onboard.

Since June 2018 sleeping car passengers aboard the Lake Shore and Capitol have received box meals with just one selection being served hot.

One complimentary alcoholic beverage is also provided per passenger per meal.

The meals are served in dedicated cars open only to sleeping car passengers. Passengers also have the option of having the meal delivered to their room.

The range of food items available, though, is limited.

RPA said the changes to food service on eastern trains other than the Auto Train will become effective on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2020 federal budget year. The Auto Train changes take effect on Jan. 15.

Food service provided on western long-distance trains will not be affected by the changes.

The New York-Miami Silver Star has not provided meals to sleeping car passengers since July 1, 2015.

Auto Train coach passengers would no longer have separate dining and lounge/cafe cars and given that Amtrak prohibits passengers from consuming in dining and café cars any food brought board the train that means anything purchased from a food truck will need to be consumed at the passenger’s coach seat.

In its news release, Amtrak said Auto Train coach passengers would be able to buy food and beverages from a cross country café car.

The coming changes drew criticism from RPA President Jim Mathews.

“The problem isn’t the food itself, it’s the way the whole experience is handled,” he said on RPA’s website. “We understand the need to make lighter fare available to match the tastes of many modern travelers. But as it’s currently executed on the Capitol and the Lake Shore, too often food items run short, there aren’t enough hot options, and the presentation is perfunctory and off-putting.”

RPA said that the food service changes are part of a strategy to “improve the financials on these routes.”

Nabbing Amtrak’s Silver Service Trains

April 24, 2018

Day 5 of my Florida trip took me to the city of Lakeland, Florida. This is the Junction of the CSX A line and S line.

We set up at the abandoned former Atlantic Coast Line station. First we got Amtrak train 91, the Silver Star, going to Tampa. About an hour and a half later it returned on its way to Miami.

A pair of CSX freights went through, one north, one south, but that was the extent of activity in Lakeland.

On our way east we pulled up to a crossing only to watch the northbound Amtrak No. 92 fly by with no time for photos. Our next stop was Davenport where we just caught the southbound Silver Meteor, this time getting photos.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Sampling the Railroad Action of Central Florida

May 30, 2016

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Amtrak’s Silver Star crossing the St Johns River at Sanford, Florida.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

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Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon was in Florida this past weekend and sends along these images from the Sunshine State. He caught some Florida East Coast, Amtrak and Sun Rail commuter trains.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Tampa Northern Tower Then and Now

March 11, 2014

A crew member of Amtrak No. 88, the St. Petersburg section of the New York-bound Silver Meteor, is ready to grab orders at TN Tower on a hot day on June 12, 1981.

A crew member of Amtrak No. 88, the St. Petersburg section of the New York-bound Silver Meteor, is ready to grab orders at TN Tower on a hot day on June 12, 1981.

While out doing some photography in the Tampa, Fla., a few weeks ago I decided to check out a spot I had visited years ago.

TN tower where the former Atlantic Coal Line’s Lakeland Subdivision crossed the former Seaboard Air Line’s Clearwater Subdivision at grade.

All three views are looking west at trains just minutes out of Tampa Union Station on the former ACL.

In the two older photos the trains are northbound (compass east) while the modern photo also shows the train going north at this location, but it is actually the southbound for Miami.

I love the details in the first photo with the engineer grabbing orders, the operator silhouetted in the window, the old poling pocket on the boxcar and the train order blades on the S (Seaboard) side.

Between 1981 and 2014 much has changed. The most glaring example is the new expressway above the tower and all but one track removed.

Also shown in this series is the station at Lakeland, Fla., in a then and now series.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Amtrak No. 896, The Silver Palm, is minutes away from ending its journey to Tampa from Miami on Jan. 3, 1984. This short-lived cross state service was underwritten by funding from the Florida Department of Transportation. The Silver Palm name was later applied to a New York-Florida train that no longer operates.

Amtrak No. 896, The Silver Palm, is minutes away from ending its journey to Tampa from Miami on Jan. 3, 1984. This short-lived cross state service was underwritten by funding from the Florida Department of Transportation. The Silver Palm name was later applied to a New York-Florida train that no longer operates.

 

Amtrak No. 91, the Miami-bound Silver Star, is shown on Feb. 11, 2014, at the remains of TN Tower. I'm amazed that the old tower survived the expressway construction.

Amtrak No. 91, the Miami-bound Silver Star, is shown on Feb. 11, 2014, at the remains of TN Tower. I’m amazed that the old tower survived the expressway construction.

The Silver Star is the last Amtrak service left to/from Tampa. At Lakeland it makes a run into Tampa, turns, does a station stop at TUS, then departs back north through Lakeland to Auburndale where it then heads south for Miami. That's a far cry from the service Tampa use to have. When I first started going down there in 1976 the Champion, the Floridian, and sections of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor all called on Tampa.

The Silver Star is the last Amtrak service left to/from Tampa. At Lakeland it makes a run into Tampa, turns, does a station stop at TUS, then departs back north through Lakeland to Auburndale where it then heads south for Miami. That’s a far cry from the service Tampa use to have. When I first started going down there in 1976 the Champion, the Floridian, and sections of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor all called on Tampa.

A CSX Clearwater bound local on the former SAL as it crosses the former ACL past an abandoned TN tower.

A CSX Clearwater bound local on the former SAL as it crosses the former ACL past an abandoned TN tower.

The Miami-bound Silver Star calls at Lakeland. The city is now served by a new multi-modal station.

The Miami-bound Silver Star calls at Lakeland. The city is now served by a new multi-modal station.

The next three images show the former ACL station in Lakeland. This photo shows one of the distinctive ex-ACL cantilever signals is next to it.

The next three images show the former ACL station in Lakeland. This photo shows one of the distinctive ex-ACL cantilever signals is next to it.

The weed-covered platform at the ex-ACL station in Lakeland. Thousands of pairs of feet boarded trains here over the years.

The weed-covered platform at the ex-ACL station in Lakeland. Thousands of pairs of feet boarded trains here over the years.

A fading number "3" where the third car was to be spotted, something that's not likely to happen again.

A fading number “3” where the third car was to be spotted, something that’s not likely to happen again.

 

Amtrak Reinstates Capitol Limited Connection

June 14, 2013

Want to travel by rail to Florida from Northeast Ohio? Amtrak has made that a little easier by reinstating a same-day connection at Washington, D.C., from the eastbound Capitol Limited to the southbound Silver Star, which operates between New York and Miami via Tampa.

No. 30 is scheduled to arrive in Washington at 12:40 p.m., where No. 91 is scheduled to depart at 3 p.m. Previously, passengers from the Capitol Limited bound for Florida points had to wait in Washington for the 7:30 p.m. departure of the Silver Meteor.

Amtrak, however, still will not ticket passengers for same-day connections from the northbound Silver Star to the Capitol Limited.

No. 92 is scheduled to arrive in Washington at 3:14 p.m. with No. 29 departing at 4:05 p.m. Instead, passengers must take the northbound Silver Meteor, which is scheduled to arrive in Washington at 7:21 a.m.

The Silver Star and Silver Meteor take different routes through the Carolinas. The Silver Star takes the CSX “S” route (former Seaboard Air Line) via Raleigh, N.C., and Columbia, S.C. The Silver Meteor takes the CSX “A” route (former Atlantic Coast Line) via Fayetteville, N.C., and Florence, S.C. The “A” route is also taken by Amtrak’s Palmetto and Auto Train.