News & Reviews News Wire Silver Meteor return, daily Crescent and City of New Orleans postponed again

Silver Meteor return, daily Crescent and City of New Orleans postponed again

By Bob Johnston | July 18, 2022

Resumption targeted for week of Sept. 11 pushed back to early October; City’s weekend “off” days continue

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Passneger train kicks up dust from fresh ballast
Passneger train kicks up dust from fresh ballast
The northbound Silver Meteor approaches DeLand, Fla., on Jan. 26, 2018. The Miami-New York Meteor now is not slated to return until Oct. 3. (Bob Johnston)

WASHINGTON — Passengers who booked reservations between Sept. 11 and Oct. 2, 2022, on the Silver Meteor, or on the two days a week when the Crescent and City of New Orleans had not been running, will have to change their travel plans.

Daily operation of those trains is now scheduled to commence in both directions beginning Monday, Oct. 3 for the New York-Miami Meteor; Tuesday, Oct. 4 for the New York-New Orleans Crescent, and Saturday, Oct. 8, for the Chicago-New Orleans City. Trains News Wire has confirmed Amtrak’s reservation system no longer shows previously listed service through Oct. 2. The Rail Passengers Association first reported the change in Friday’s weekly Hotline.

The Silver Meteor was suspended entirely in mid-January; at the same time, all other daily long-distance service except Auto Train, the Palmetto, and Silver Star was trimmed to five-day-a-week operation [see “Amtrak to decrease service on most routes …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 14, 2022]. The cutbacks were attributed “COVID-related absences” and a “skilled workforce shortage,” principally in mechanical department and onboard service ranks thinned by company-wide buyouts and furloughs in September 2020.

Northeast Corridor and some state-supported route frequency reductions also occurred at that time, with reservations for daily service still accepted for all spring and summer departures.

People exiting passenger car at station platform
Passengers leave northbound City of New Orleans sleeping cars at Homewood, Ill., on March 16, 2022. The train’s five-day-a-week schedule does not include Saturday or Sunday departures from Chicago or New Orleans, traditionally its busiest days. (Bob Johnston)

Amtrak announced in early March that only the Coast Starlight, Capitol Limited, and Texas Eagle would revert to daily operation on March 28 [see “Amtrak extends cuts to seven long-distance routes …,” News Wire, March 3, 2022]. A month later, the Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, and Empire Builder were added to the daily-service plan beginning the week of May 23, but the status of the two New Orleans trains and Meteor would remain unchanged until Sept. 11 [see “Amtrak to restore four long-distance trains …,” News Wire, April 19, 2022].

Additional Northeast Corridor service was added last week, including an overnight round trip between Virginia and Boston capable of providing important New England connections for the Silver Star. Many regional frequencies have returned, including the Niagara Falls-Toronto extension of the Maple Leaf on June 27 and a second St. Louis-Kansas City Missouri River Runner round trip beginning today However, one of two Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., round trips and the New York-Montreal Adirondack remain cancelled.

The continued reductions reflect Amtrak management’s assessment of what service can be reliably supported, given ongoing labor and equipment shortages. The original “days off” framework of five day-per week operation was designed to reduce and equalize the number of trains originating from Chicago each day, but terminal delays have continued there [see “Amtrak’s western long-haul routes experience disastrous start to July,” News Wire, July 12, 2022].

However, traditionally busy weekend days for the City of New Orleans were not reinstated after the other long-distance trains returned to daily operation in May. And although the Silver Star is operating with more coaches and sleeping cars, the lack of a north-south New York-Miami train providing connections to east-west service continues to limit the network’s revenue potential through the busy summer travel season.

15 thoughts on “Silver Meteor return, daily Crescent and City of New Orleans postponed again

  1. Charles, Amtrak sucks, granted. Better a train than no train. Amtrak needs an entire makeover. What do yuou think about incorporating the European model? When Gardner needs a shoeshine, he calls a RPA associate.

  2. I actually consider Chic Fil A and Panera to serve bland food. When I want a grilled cheese it needs to be pressed with buttered toast with cheese melting out the sides. And I would give anything to sit in a real pre-2003 Howard Johnson’s again. Up till that time the few remaining franchises still used the same food distributor in Massachusetts. All gone now. The clam strips were the best. All we have now is fusion street tacos etc. If Amtrak would move the Crescent back to daily, at its normal time leaving Atlanta Northbound at dinner time and serve the new Dining Menu used in the West there would be no problem. Why limit times and space. Let people take meals back to seat in coach. Or serve high quality convection oven meals. I have had great meals on planes cooked that way. Actually one of the best filets.

  3. Returning to the subject of this article and the news it brings, I’m not surprised by this again postponing daily service on those trains and restoration of the Silver Meteor. I predicted this months ago. I don’t believe Gardner&Co have the slightest appetite (no pun intended) to restore Nos. 97/98. They’ll keep postponing it until everyone forgets the train ever existed. Hell, the politicians at all levels representing the districts on the route haven’t raised a stink about the train being gone. Unless that happens nothin gonna change.

    1. ALL of Congress has been AWOL on the flying circus known as Amtrak. As you said before Mark, Coscia, Gardner and the rest of the fly boys know that no one will call them out on their continued downgrade of service.
      Oh by the way, When will the Southbound Saluki and Northbound Illini return?

  4. It’s a nice idea that Amtrak could outsource food service, but the reality is that current food service personnel are unionized, making it very difficult for Amtrak to try to eliminate union positions (remember Amtrak is a political animal) to go with outsourced food service.

    1. I don’t want to see Amtrak food service employees lose their jobs to workers of the firms cited. I have, admittedly, a vested interest in their railroad employment. They pay into RRRetirement and that’s where my pension comes from. So why couldn’t the food service itself be a product of whatever of those firms Amtrak chooses. Then the current employees, perhaps with short-term or continued guidance from reps of those firms, continue to do the front-line on board service? Then we have the best of both worlds.

  5. Put Amtrak food service out to bid. Let Waffle House create a food car in their image, or Panera, or whoever. If Chik-Fil-A can be built in an airport lobby, it should be able to fit in a food car. Let a known food operator lease the dining car for table service. Wolfgang Puck, Mortons’ Ruth Chris, something with experience in fine dining. The dining car should not be Fred Harvey’s.
    This isn’t a new concept. Cruise Ships are doing this now. Shaq’s Chicken, Guy Fieri’s Burgers, Emeril’s Seafood all available on Carnival now.

    Amtrak needs to get with it, they are being left behind.

    1. The problem with Fred Harvey is the same as “The Trouble With Harry”. The trouble with Harry was that he was deceased.

    2. Fred Harvey’s were cafeteria style eateries known for a generic set of entrees that had a largest amount of appeal. People don’t want that anymore, they want fast casual using fresher ingredients (Panera/Chipotle), easy to acquire food (Chik-Fil-A), or a choice to fine dine.

      No one wants “one size fits all” dining. Fred Harvey excelled at that in the train station days. It wasn’t bad food at its peak, but like Howard Johnson’s, they lost touch with the customers and disappeared.

    3. Amtrak tried contracting out food service on the Empire Service trains and the union rebelled and said, “no way”. that was the end of that.

  6. Yeah wait three days to take a train that will run many hours late and the food won’t be any good.

    1. Amtrak is only “marketing” to log distance travelers in desperate situations. Those with “no choice”, but Amtrak, have to take it (and wait), or leave it.

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