Amtrak Makes It Easy to Travel Lying Down

Here’s another Amtrak brochure–although in this case it is more of a card–with a lame slogan. The purpose was to announce “the arrival of the all electric sleeping cars operating on some of the long-distance routes served by Amfleet equipment.” Amfleet was incompatible with the cars Amtrak inherited from other railroads as the former used head-end power while the latter was heated by steam and relied on on-board generators for power. The brochure, which is dated 12-77, also advertises that “the Superliners are coming.”

Click image to download a 521-KB PDF of this brochure.

For overnight coach passengers, Amfleet was a mixed blessing. While it was more reliable than the inherited equipment (later known as the “heritage fleet”), the seats were far less comfortable as they were designed for short rides such as New York to Washington. So-called “long-distance” Amfleet had a little more leg room and leg rests, instead of just foot rests, but still was painful to try to sleep in compared with the Sleepy Hollow seats found in most pre-Amtrak coaches.

Eat When You’re Hungry

This brochure is full of lame and clumsy slogans: “Amtrak brings new meaning to the phrase, ‘eating on the run.'” Amtrak’s food service is “Why you should acquire a taste for trains, if you haven’t already.” “Amtrak’s literally a restaurant on wheels.” Some of these phrases might have been forgiven if Amtrak food actually lived up to them.

Click image to download a 2.5-MB PDF of this brochure.

In 1977, when this brochure was issued, the food on Amtrak’s long-distance trains was a cut above Denny’s. But the food on the day trains, which carried far more passengers, was approximately equal to what you could get in a 7-Eleven, and was certainly not equal to what you could get in a McDonalds or Wendys. Continue reading

Amtrak Tidewater

The Tidewater was a short-lived train that went from Newport News, Virginia to New York City only on Fridays and Sundays. Leaving Newport News at 4 pm, the train complemented the Colonial, which departed Newport News daily at 7 am. Left unexplained is how the cars that made up the Tidewater made it back to Newport News, but they probably were made a part of the southbound Colonial.

Click image to download a 0.9-MB PDF of this brochure.

I’m not certain, but I think the train was inaugurated in 1977 and only ran for a year or two. Someone who has collected all of Amtrak’s timetables could tell, but I only have a few.

Maybe Your Next Flight Should Be on a Train

Amtrak issued hundreds of brochures in its first decade, most of which focused on destinations such as Disneyland or national parks. But some simply exhorted people to take the train, usually with lame slogans such as “because getting there should be as much fun as being there” (a bureaucratic corruption of Cunard’s “Getting there is half the fun“). This particular brochure offers the equivocal thought that “maybe” you should take the train.

Click image to download a 1.1-MB PDF of this brochure.

The train in the picture–oriented to look like the nose of a jet airliner–is one of the Rohr Turboliners that first entered service in late 1976. They were distinguished from the earlier French Turboliners by having a pointed rather than rounded nose. This dates the brochure to be no earlier than 1976 but more likely 1977 since the Turboliners didn’t begin operating until late September, 1976.

The North Coast Hiawatha

The North Coast Limited wasn’t included in Amtrak’s original route plan, but thanks to some political arm twisting by Montana Senator Mike Mansfield, it was added to Amtrak’s system little more than a month after Amtrak began operating trains. Amtrak decided to call it the North Coast Hiawatha because it followed Milwaukee Road tracks between St. Paul and Chicago. But the Empire Builder also followed Milwaukee Road tracks on that segment, and it wasn’t called the Empire Builder Hiawatha. Moreover, the North Coast Hiawatha followed Great Northern’s tracks between Spokane and Seattle (while the Empire Builder used NP tracks), but it wasn’t called the North Coast Hiawatha Empire Builder.

Click image to download a 5.7-MB PDF of this brochure.

Several choices of photos for this brochure were even stranger than the train’s name. The front cover, as shown above, has a photo of Half Dome in Yosemite, which wasn’t quite visible from the North Coast Hiawatha being a mere 900 miles away. Inside, a photo used to illustrate the Rocky Mountains is of Glacier National Park, which is only slightly more realistic being well over 100 miles from the train’s route. Why not a photo of Rocky Mountain scenery visible from the train? Another photo is captioned, “Remember. . . a coach ticket entitles you to use the Dome Lounge.” But the photo shows ordinary coach seats; why not show the dome lounge itself, which was much more exciting?

Take a Train for the Fun of It

Despite the “Welcome Aboard” on the cover, this is not a traditional welcome-aboard brochure informing passengers of the amenities on the train they are riding. Instead, it is another advertisement for Amtrak trains, with four-color illustrations and floor plans of the interiors of typical Amtrak cars.

Click image to download an 8.5-MB PDF of this brochure.

The brochure notes that “traveling by train means comfort and mobility,” which is true. But, making a virtue out of one of the disadvantages of passenger trains, it adds that “the time you spend aboard a train . . . is a rare chance to be idle.” Not everyone likes being idle. Continue reading

Amtrak February 1976 Timetable

This is my favorite Amtrak timetable cover for paying homage to passenger train history. The tiny 1830 coach in the upper left is based on a replica in the B&O Railroad Museum. The M-10000 had been scrapped in 1942 and the Pullman car was also probably long gone. However, the Southern Pacific dome car and several of its sisters were still an active part of Amtrak’s fleet when this timetable was published.

Click image to download a 47.0-MB PDF of this 64-page timetable.

This timetable also pays homage to the semi-tradition of railroads that put the display cover on the back. The front cover has a system map showing what page to turn to for the schedules of each Amtrak route.

U.S.A. Rail Pass

Amtrak’s U.S.A. Rail Pass was supposed to provide a small discount to people who wanted to travel from, say, Los Angeles to New York and back. In 1976, when this brochure was issued, a 14-day pass was $165; 21 days was $220; and 30 days was $275. Anyone with a pass could go to any station and get a ticket on any train within that time period.

Click image to download a 6.3-MB PDF of this brochure.

A few people, such as yours truly, took advantage of the pass to ride trains almost continuously all over the country. On one memorable trip, I had a 30-day Amtrak pass and a 22-day VIA pass that slightly overlapped allowing me to ride almost every Amtrak and VIA route in 49 days. Amtrak rail passes today allow riders just 8 segments in 15 days, 12 segments in 30 days, or 18 segments in 45 days, thus spoiling my fun. Continue reading

Relief for Gas Pains

Some people, including at least one of Amtrak’s original board members, believed that Amtrak’s proper role was to phase out passenger trains. That goal was aborted when by the 1970s energy crises, thus giving Amtrak an apparent reason for existence: saving energy.

Click image to download a 607-KB PDF of this flyer.

This card encourages people to ride the train and thus save themselves the cost of gasoline. The card is undated, but based on the sample fares on the back I estimate it was issued in 1975. Most of these fares are slightly less than the fares shown in Amtrak’s 1976 timetable that I’ll post here in a couple of days.

Amtrak Ticket Envelope

Dated September, 1975, this ticket envelope looks like a passenger car with stainless steel ribbed siding. Though introduced in 1934, such ribs remained a modern design in the public mind four decades later.

Click image to download a 898-KB PDF of this postcard.

Inside is a list of 1-800 phone numbers that could be used to reach Amtrak in major cities. I count at least ten different 800 numbers, indicating that America’s telecommunications system was not yet sophisticated enough to have one national 800 number.