Hopefully, others who 'were there' can share experiences of the labryinth of ticketing procedures that were hardly consistent station to station and even roa to road.Funny how I have a way of reliving historical memories (hope this appropriate here).
Last evening, my NRHS Chapter, North Western Illinois (spelt like the railroad; not the university), held its monthly meeting at the former 'Q' station in Oregon, IL. While, I had not been near the structure since my A-Day Eve 'farewell' trip on MILW 103, City, to Savanna and returning on BN 8, Zephyr, it is now owned by the city, fairly well maintained - even air conditioned, and is available for groups such as ours.
During the BYO (and BYOB; Rule G waived) cookout Dinner hour, I was sitting inside and staring at the Ticket Cage. All I could think of was 'I'd like a Roomette on the Empire Builder to Seattle for today; and a return in a week'. 'Well Sir, he's left Chicago and uh, let's see, they release their space if any, to St Paul'. 'OK, let me phone Chicago and see if they released any'. 'Well, they did; now I'll phone St Paul and get you one.' 'OK Sir, I have you Roomette 7, Car 3105 for this afternoon's Builder leaving here at 402P today. Now let's see, for your return, I'll have to wire Seattle and you can pick it up when you get there.' 'But I'd like to pay for it all now'. 'Well, I'll sell you an Open Pullman for a Roomette if you wish'. 'OK, may I write you a check for this?'. 'Of course, it will be, uh let me check my addition once more (mechanical adding machine clanks away), $177.38, and make your check to the CB&Q'. 'Thank you'. Here you go Sir, he's on time, so just have a seat, and have a great trip'.
Youngsters, that's how it was pre-Arrow (or whatever Amtrak Res and Ticketing system is known as); I've 'been there done that'.
Likely, the most positive improvement Amtrak has made to rail travel is their reservations and ticketing systems.