If you haven’t traveled by train in a while, Amtrak is summoning you to a new level of comfort on the rails.Reclining-seat leg-rest coaches were regular on Western long distance trains long before Amtrak; the Amfleet II cars still cram more seats with less legroom between them than those cars offered, and the the seat pitches on the Horizon cars are still tight by railroad standards. In addition, those cars are generally set up with half the seats facing in each direction, so as to conserve on the work required to turn them at the end of the line.
For coach trips on Midwestern routes, Amtrak is introducing refurbished Horizon cars that make some riders mistakenly think they’re in business class. From the carpets on up to leatherette seats that promise more lumbar support, it’s an overhaul of cars that have been around since the 1980s. “These cars are workhorses. You’ll find them all over the Midwest,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
On overnight runs to the East Coast, Amtrak is now using remodeled coach cars, also dating from the 1980s, with plusher reclining seats, suitable for sleeping on the cheap. Called Amfleet II, they still have legroom that puts airlines to shame. “This is like first class but it’s coach,” said Roger Harris, executive vice president at Amtrak.
For those who book the sleepers, the railroad is getting a new fleet with more room for luggage, softer linens, a sturdier pullout table and more power outlets.
The smallest accommodation, the roomette, no longer has a toilet in the compartment in the new Viewliner II railcars. Amtrak executives said passengers never liked the in-room toilet anyway because it took up precious space and your traveling companion had to scram if you wanted privacy.
The roomettes might be reconfigured (and there's a lot less plumbing to freeze up this way) but who is going to want to pay the extra fare when there's no food service on offer?
Without additional frequencies and more 110 mph running, what value will the upgraded coaches add on the regional routes?