8.6.19

NOW THEY'VE DONE IT.

It's more convenient for Amtrak and the Boston and Albany, er, CSX, to channel their inner Penn Central and run a bus service in substitution for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

Sometimes, the trip goes on, as the O Scale convention is going to take place, whether the train goes to Worcester or not.  On a more recent trip, I scheduled a research trip to Boston for days when I knew the train would be running, and that time, at least, it did.

It's summer, and somehow, Penn Central or whoever it is still has to do enough work on the Worcester and Western that the passenger trains can't go through.  That's more than enough for Passenger Rail advocate Jim Loomis.
On my way home from London in July, I’m flying into Boston and had planned to take Amtrak all the way back to the West Coast from there. Specifically, I had booked the Lake Shore Limited from Boston to Chicago, connecting there with the California Zephyr to Emeryville.

Alas, it was not to be. The Boston-to-Albany section of the Lake Shore has been cancelled because of extensive track work and instead of a lovely relaxing train ride through the Berkshires  to Albany, I was suddenly facing five-plus hours in a bus.

The same thing happened to me two years ago, but this time there’s no dining car on the train. And so I went on line, cancelled the Lake Shore Limited, and booked a mid-day flight from Boston to Chicago.

And it was only after the transaction was completed that I realized the significance of what had just happened: a passionate advocate for train travel had cancelled an overnight train ride and booked a three-hour flight instead. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

But through their relentless cost-cutting, Amtrak’s management has chipped away at the many pleasures, large and small, of overnight train travel. And now what is for me the most enjoyable experience of them all is no longer being offered by this train. Instead of having dinner with three fellow passengers, I was reduced to what Amtrak calls “contemporary dining”, a meal prepared at some off-site location, put aboard the train in Albany, and delivered to my roomette in a cardboard box.

I don’t know if the vice-president-in-charge-of-nickels-and-dimes thought we wouldn’t care, but for me that’s what made the difference.

And I’m flying to Chicago.
That superintendentlet in charge of nickels and dimes would probably spin the situation as "be grateful your arch deluxe boxed lunch is delivered to your roomette, sparing you the walk through all the coaches back to the sleeper originating at Boston."  I believe, though, that Mr Loomis had previously booked business class Boston to Rensselaer and a sleeper in the New York section onward to Chicago, avoiding that hike.

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