Amtrak Great Dome Schedule Sightings Status

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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:04 pm

Would it though?

As much as I'm a fan of the idea and would love it, I think Amtrak really needs to focus on revenue cars. If they're going to add another car to the Crescent (or other trains) it really needs to be making money.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby west point » Mon Nov 02, 2015 1:22 pm

By no means do I advocate lounges over more revenue cars. Note that my post specifically mentions filling out the present trains first. Amtrak needs a surge fleet very bad.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Woody » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:34 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:... a case of "if you've seen one pine tree, you've seen 'em all".

In another time, long long ago, when there was massive unemployment, Congress appropriated funds to "make work". The leading economist of the period advocated hiring people to bury money in abandoned coal mines and another crew to dig it up -- because any more employment would stimulate the depressed economy. Of course, we don't have massive unemployment now (except for Depression-levels among inner city blacks, and who cares ...).

During the Great Depression we actually hired guys to build parks, plant windbreaks, etc. I don't know what a Civilian Conservation Corps would cost these days. Nothing if you put a value on lower crime and experience in the world of work? In New York, keeping someone locked up costs taxpayers about $40,000 a year.

But I do have one project for the C.C.C. in mind. Even pine forests have at least one creek or river with a bridge about every 10 or 20 miles. But these usually flash past before we can turn to look out the window. Make work by getting C.C.C. teams to chop trees and clear land at each crossing. That way, about a quarter of a mile before the train crossed the water, the forest would gradually pull back like curtains parting. The passengers would be alerted that something worth looking at was coming up. After all, almost every waterway is scenic, and they often attract wading birds and other wildlife.

Speaking of, wildlife doesn't thrive in mono-cultures. Forests of "all pines and nothing but the pines" shade out the variety of plants that feed an equal variety of birds, butterflies, other creatures, and wildflowers. Forests need to have interspersed meadows, like the ones nature used to provide when fires burned forests from time to time. The richest ecosystems border forests and waterways and open space. Now the creatures and wildflowers could use our help.

btw South of Petersburg the Great Dismal Swamp is wetland forest. Cypress, tupelo, maples, pines, and water-loving shrubs thrive there. Today 175 sq. miles are preserved. But it goes unnoticed or unmentioned on trains passing thru. Coming back from Rocky Mount I looked out to see the swamp and was blown away. But I just found it, no one told me to watch for it.

Hmmmn. Maples. Another work crew from the C.C.C. could clear a patch of pines and plant maples for fall foliage. For diversity, plant dogwoods? Other blooming native trees and shrubs? Magnolias? Would azaleas go natural? It would still be forests for hundreds of miles, but at least not all pines.

This scheme wouldn't be worth Amtrak's scarce funds. But putting people to work and helping wildlife could be enuff to get a few millions in more normal times.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:59 pm

I like most of that, but I think the problem with clearing the trees is a big chance at a bad increase in erosion. That said. I just last weekend hiked a trail along the top of Sandia Mountain to a CCC built hut. There is something to be said for "nice things" in this world.

But we can't even fund necessary infrastructure, let alone things like this. Which is a shame in my mind.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Woody » Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:08 pm

Greg Moore wrote:
Woody wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:... a case of "if you've seen one pine tree, you've seen 'em all".
...
... one project for the C.C.C. ... Make work by ... chopping trees and clearing land at each [river] crossing.

... plant maples for fall foliage ... dogwoods? Other blooming native trees and shrubs?

I like most of that, but the problem with clearing the trees is a big chance at a bad increase in erosion. ...
Thanks.

Yeah, things could go badly. Of course, not mandatory to give every crossing the treatment. But add terracing and contour plowing to the make-overs. Spread native grass and wildflower seeds. Don't transplant invasive species, we've got enuff kudzu and Johnson grass. LOL. We'd want each step cleared by Parks & Wildlife, Soil & Water Conservation, and maybe half a dozen other agencies. So there'd be bureaucratic overhead costs here, like everywhere.

+++++

And towns.

Railroad right of way is often unlovely, but a few places are landscaped. Hondo, TX, This Is God's Country, Please Don't Drive Through It Like Hell,
can be proud of the park-like expanse, featuring lots of cactus and yucca, where the Sunset Limited passes thru town.

If we took a serious look, how many track-side views could be sweetened by plantings? Plant pines even, but mixed with flowering and fall foliage trees. Dogwoods are beautiful, but only bloom for a couple of weeks. Flowering fruit trees are nice. And rhododendrons thrive in the North. The Crescent and the Silvers pass thru the heart of crepe myrtle country, where those beauties bloom for months.

While we wait for the C.C.C., how about sending workers from the county jail to clean up beside the tracks. (After solving the freights' liability concerns.)
As I recall it, the ROW along the NEC could use quite a lot of trash picking and grooming.

These efforts need not take a big bite out of any budget. If the City provides the crews to plant them, just $1,000 a year can get a nice grove started. Crepe myrtles, magnolias, maples, and evergreens then will obscure much ugliness. Automobile scrap yards, piles of unwanted old rubber tires, and
the like can be hidden from view.

Amtrak is broke, and all the money goes to highway beautification, nothing for train routes. Local people don't ever think of beautifying the tracks thru town, because they aren't looking out the train windows. But if somehow somebody made an issue of it, the idea could catch on nationwide.

Maybe off topic, but point is that we citizens could help improve the views from Dome Cars, Observation cars, and all cars on every Amtrak route.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 03, 2015 3:28 pm

Woody wrote:Maybe off topic, but point is that we citizens could help improve the views from Dome Cars, Observation cars, and all cars on every Amtrak route.

I love this thought. The major railroads already clear their ROW to a significant distance, so it makes some sense for communities and public agencies to improve the views (and create something more appropriate than a monoculture btw.)
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby west point » Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:31 pm

No trees especially pines. Pine trees grow toward and lean to sunlight so overhang the tracks. Come a storm you get the idea.
Low height growth vegetation that does not creep onto ballast.
More important no vegetation should ever get close to signal pole lines or CAT supply.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby JimBoylan » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:07 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:There have been reports that a Sightseer Lounge remains in the Auto Train pool even after one Lounge was removed from the consist (smart move, I'd dare say) during March '14 and replaced with a Coach. If such be the case, why that Sightseer has not been reassigned escapes me.
When I rode North on the Auto Train Nov. 14-5, 2014, the Sightseer Lounge between the coaches and the Diner was used as the All Classes Lounge, while the one next to the Coach Diner was used as a Table Car for overflow from the Coach Diner. One galley was also serving those additional tables. Amtrak doesn't have any Superliner Table Cars, and this avoided the use of a 3rd Dining Car in the train.
In Mr. Norman's memory, were 3 Lounge Cars used in each Auto Train?
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:36 pm

I can never recall more than two Lounges during the Amtrak era - and I have ridden the private, Amtrak single level with cafeteria service, MILW Super Dome Diner, split consist, i.e. Superliner and single level, and present consist. All that remains is the post-amenity downgrade, and since I have not been on any Amtrak train since my "Voyage 22" during Feb '14. "I'm ready".

But it is interesting to learn there are still more than one Lounge in consist even if only one is staffed. I thought they converted all lighting to LED and that allowed them to run seventeen cars.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Tadman » Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:21 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Woody wrote:Maybe off topic, but point is that we citizens could help improve the views from Dome Cars, Observation cars, and all cars on every Amtrak route.

I love this thought. The major railroads already clear their ROW to a significant distance, so it makes some sense for communities and public agencies to improve the views (and create something more appropriate than a monoculture btw.)


An interesting concept and reminds me of an idea I had a few years back - Amtrak should somehow tap federal parks funding for their routes as "seeing America" is not limited to Yellowstone or Yosemite and in fact many national parklands are not Yosemite-quality. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is sandwiched between coal power plants and steel mills for example. I know it's a wild idea that would never get any buy-in...
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby jhdeasy » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:33 pm

Gilbert B Norman wrote:I have held in the past around here that any road serving the Florida travel market that had spent a dime for sightseeing equipment owed an explanation to their shareholders for throwing their $$$$ away (in the case of Amtrak, that means UENI).

While an argument could be made that there is some scenery along the R,F&P (WAS-RVR), it otherwise is a case of "if you've seen one pine tree, you've seen 'em all".


Fortunately, Eugene Garfield did not have a similar opinion, Mr. Norman. His Auto-Train Corporation bought at least 42 dome cars; much of the UP dome coach/diner/lounge fleet, all but one of the ATSF big domes, and a couple of WP California Zephyr domes. His gain was Amtrak's loss. A great way to enjoy traveling through the pine trees and kudzu to/from the citrus groves of Florida.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Ken W2KB » Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:57 pm

jhdeasy wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:I have held in the past around here that any road serving the Florida travel market that had spent a dime for sightseeing equipment owed an explanation to their shareholders for throwing their $$$$ away (in the case of Amtrak, that means UENI).

While an argument could be made that there is some scenery along the R,F&P (WAS-RVR), it otherwise is a case of "if you've seen one pine tree, you've seen 'em all".


Fortunately, Eugene Garfield did not have a similar opinion, Mr. Norman. His Auto-Train Corporation bought at least 42 dome cars; much of the UP dome coach/diner/lounge fleet, all but one of the ATSF big domes, and a couple of WP California Zephyr domes. His gain was Amtrak's loss. A great way to enjoy traveling through the pine trees and kudzu to/from the citrus groves of Florida.


Has there been a shift in interests since the era of observation cars? On my round trip this past August from NJ to Spokane on the Capitol Limited and Empire Builder, it was my observation in the obs car that at least a simple majority of the occupants of the obs car were diligently observing the virtual scenery on their handheld electronic devices. Indeed, the obs car seemed less occupied than in my journeys of past years, perhaps because many of the coach passengers stayed in their seats to utilize said devices. Marketing specifically for scenery might attract patrons, and hence increase value of the cars, I suppose.
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Re: Dome and Observation Cars - Discussion

Postby Woody » Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:41 pm

west point wrote:No trees especially pines. Pine trees grow toward and lean to sunlight so overhang the tracks. Come a storm you get the idea.
Low height growth vegetation that does not creep onto ballast.
More important no vegetation should ever get close to signal pole lines or CAT supply.
It's all good. I wasn't saying to plant anything on the right of way itself. Could passengers even see any flowers blooming too close to the tracks?

Gradually widen, w-i-d-e-n, and w - i - d - e - n the tree-free zone nearing the bridges, almost triangular like the bell of a trumpet. That way riders could see rivers and creeks coming up, not after they flash past.

So take down pines! We've got more than enuff.

In some clearings spread wildflower seeds. In other places not near a stream, remove pines outside the right of way and insert dogwoods and other flowering trees, or maples and other fall foliage trees. They could be 100 feet away from the tracks and look good.

Any such plan should be approved by CSX, NS, and Smokey the Bear, among others, before hauling out the chain saws.
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Re: Amtrak Great Dome Schedule Sightings Status

Postby Jeff Smith » Sat Jul 16, 2016 12:59 pm

Going to be on the Hiawatha: Kenosha News

Any train enthusiasts out there have a chance to ride in a historic 1950s train car this Saturday.

The dome car, which features a seating section surrounded by 360 degrees of glass dome on the top of the car, will run Amtrak’s 86 mile Hiawatha service line between Chicago and Milwaukee.

The car will be attached to the back of an Amtrak train and will make three round trips on the line.

Passengers can have meals in the car and the non-profit Rail Rangers will provide narration for the event.

“We’ll tell stories about basically what folks are seeing outside their window,” said Robert Tabern, executive director of the rangers organization.
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Re: Amtrak Great Dome Schedule Sightings Status

Postby Dick H » Sat Jul 16, 2016 4:38 pm

From the photo and story, the car in question is not the Amtrak dome, but a
private car owned by a Chicago company, Paxrail.
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