ABC News: “Rolling Into the Past in Old-Time Dining Cars”

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I have been fond of ABC’s World News Tonight for a long, long time, and I usually watch it pretty religiously (courtesy of TiVo, of course). Having said that, I consider them to be about as bad as the rest of the media in their coverage of some basic public policy issues in the country. They did surprise me last night with a story about the demise of traditional food service aboard long-distance Amtrak trains.

The story, “Rolling Into the Past in Old-Time Dining Cars” did frustrate me in the sense it was more of a feature piece, complete with snippets from North by Northwest and Silver Streak, but nonetheless I was glad to see them show Amtrak’s Marc Magliari and Brian Rosenwald, along with several passengers, discussing the issues around on board food service. The ABC crew rode the California Zephyr and the Empire Builder, to contrast the the first-class silver, linen, and service on the Builder with the pre-packaged, heat’n’serve food found throughout the rest of Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

Ultimately, this debate boils down to what sort of experience do people seek aboard these trains, what sort of experience Amtrak is prepared to provide, and the political will to match those two. I fear the support isn’t there, but like so many things – once these trains are wrecked, there’s no going back, so I hope that the people applying such pressure to bring these service reductions about know the true cost of what they are doing.

In the meantime, as we inhabit the middle ground between these service levels, we wind up with situations characterized by this:

Chef Steve Randles says he misses the old days.

“Yeah, a lot. You see, we’re professionally trained chefs, not warmer-uppers.”

P.S. I was amused to see that I couldn’t find the story on the ABC site for a time because they’d spelled Amtrak as Amtrack. Perhaps they need another copy editor on staff there, or an intern who can spell check?

P.P.S. After years of shunning its passenger railroad heritage (a rant I promse not to pursue here), I am pleased to see Amtrak posters like the ones I used here. Given the traditions and strong appeal the rails have in America, it makes all the sense in the world to build on that foundation. These posters are even available for sale here.

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