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Viewliner II sleeping cars headed to Lake Shore Limited’s New York section

By Bob Johnston | August 27, 2021

Delivery of final two sleepers completes 130-car order announced in 2010

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Room in Amtrak sleeping car
Room in Amtrak sleeping car
A Viewliner II roomette, as seen in the Cardinal’s baggage-dorm car on Jan. 22, 2021. The last two full sleeping cars left the CAF plant this week. (Bob Johnston)

WASHINGTON — As the last two of 25 Viewliner II sleeping cars departed carbuilder CAF USA’s Elmira Heights, N.Y., factory this week, an Amtrak official has confirmed that some of the new cars will replace original Viewliners on the New York section of the Lake Shore Limited after Labor Day.

“I’m happy to share that Viewliner II deliveries made earlier this year allowed us to adopt a new route and bring this new car to our Chicago hub,” says Larry Chestler, Amtrak’s vice president of the long-distance service line.

The new sleepers, No. 62523, Wabash River, and No. 62524, Westfield River, arrived at the company’s Hialeah maintenance facility Thursday on the rear of the Silver Meteor. Chestler tells Trains News Wire, “This concludes the delivery of the sleeper set as well as the broader CAF order for new long-distance fleet. As the next step in the process, our maintenance team in Miami will spend time readying the V-II’s for revenue service — just as we have for the previous 23 cars.”

He adds, “Since their debut last year, the Viewliner II sleeping cars have been exclusively part of our Silver Service consists — with at least one car on each Silver Meteor and Silver Star departure. In the case of the Meteor, there are currently two Viewliner IIs (out of three total) as part of the consist.” The Silver Star is normally assigned two sleeping cars.

People in hard hats entering stainless steel passenger car
Amtrak and CAF officials tour a baggage-dormitory car with the media at the CAF USA plant on Oct. 24, 2013. Production problems delayed completion of the 130-car order until this week. (Bob Johnston)

Amtrak placed the 130-car order for Viewliner II baggage cars, baggage-dorms, diners and sleeping cars in 2010. In 2013, the passenger railroad said it expected the full order to be completed by 2015, but because of CAF production issues, the first dining car wasn’t delivered until late 2016 [see “First Viewliner II diner on the move,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 23, 2016], and the first sleeper arrived in February 2019.

“Overall,” Chestler says, “we are excited that the new additions to our fleet are nearly complete. And while constraints on our equipment remain due to strategic decisions” —  to reduce equipment and personnel costs — “made during the pandemic, we feel very confident that this milestone, along with the upcoming refresh of both Superliner and Viewliner I cars, will allow us to provide a much more modern experience to our long-distance customers in the coming years.”

Differences between types

Shower on pasenger car with pink walls and smoked-glass door
The Viewliner II shower, as seen in a baggage-dorm, is more spacious than that of its Viewliner I predecessor. (Bob Johnston)

The original Viewliners were built by Morrison Knudsen and successor Amerail at the same Hornell, N.Y., shop — a former Erie Railroad locomotive shop —  locomotive shop where Alstom is now assembling the Acela II trainsets. They and the Viewliner IIs both have two bedrooms and one accessible bedroom. Standard bedrooms have a separate annex for the toilet and a private shower. Each version also has a shower at the end of the car for roomette passengers’ use, although the Viewliner II shower room is more spacious.

But there are 12 Viewliner I roomettes, and all have toilets in the room on a seat under a folding wash basin, while the Viewliner IIs have 11 revenue roomettes and two washrooms for community use replacing a roomette. This means that when a Viewliner II is assigned, available inventory is slightly reduced.

The Lake Shore Limited carries three sleeping cars: two on the New York section and one on the Boston section, which combine at Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y. The Boston section will continue to be assigned Viewliner I equipment. These cars also operate on the overnight Boston-New York sleeping car service introduced earlier this year.

Trains News Wire has asked whether completion of the Viewliner II order means additional car lines will add capacity to existing trains, but any plans to do so have not been revealed.

The Chicago-Washington-New York Cardinal continues to operate with one Viewliner I sleeper that is sold out on most trips, even though a second car was added regularly prior to 2019 during the spring, summer, and fall. The New Orleans-New York Crescent also has been cut back to one sleeping car; both trains do have a baggage-dormitory car for onboard service.

13 thoughts on “Viewliner II sleeping cars headed to Lake Shore Limited’s New York section

  1. Exciting. Trying currently to set up excuses for riding Boston-Washington on a Viewliner I sleeper. Haven’t ridden in one in 23 years! When last rode Boston-Washington in 2000 was in the ultra-delux master roomette with shower THAT I NEEDED TO USE! Going to DC for nephew’s big wedding. (Very angry when they took sleeper off in 2001-2.) Idiotic attempt to market the line Boston-Richmond-Newport News killed it; Southerners were booking from Newport and Richmond to New York City (why?) and killed sleeper travel for anyone north of there. When I did Boston-DC in 2000 annoying that the power was killed in the car at 6am arrival in Washington–and I had to vacate. Fortunately AMTK lounge was open. People in Richmond or Newport News could have had one of their slaves drive the car up and pick them up in DC for service south of DC. BTW I understand the Boston-Washington sleepers are being VERY WELL patronized even at premium prices!

  2. Mr. Engel, if memory serves, David Gunn was Amtrak’s President&CEO when the sleeper was taken off the overnight BOS-WAS trains. It was his decision based on the realization that the precious few Viewliner sleepers were better deployed elsewhere. The NEC with its multiple frequencies and relatively short distances many passengers rode did not need the luxury of sleeping car service. I thought that was the correct decision. Admittedly, my “ox wasn’t being gored”. But my wife and I were fairly frequent riders CHI-PIT and Mr. Gunn at some point made the decision to discontinue through car operation CHI-BOS and make it a two-seat ride to/from Massachusetts points. So yeah an inconvenience at some level but it worked out fine. I still think, admittedly with no proof, that the NEC-centric Steven Gardner decided to bring back the BOS-WAS sleeper because that’s what he does-lavish his pet, the NEC, with as many perks as he can regardless of how appropriate or if it robs the other services. But if, as you say, the new sleeper offering is “being VERY WELL patronized”, that’s great. Meanwhile he’s shorting some of the LDs of coaches and in some cases sleepers from their pre-COVID levels, the Crescent has lost its diner, the Capitol and the Texas Eagle have lost their Sightseer Lounges. And the beat goes on. And #449-26 departed BOS some 2 hours late due to as yet unexplained issues with the lead locomotive (a third was added as the new leader) and by the time it got to PIT, 150 miles into its trip, it was 3 hours late. But the NEC has its sleeper back.

  3. I hope Trains Magazine will follow-up with a short story on how to tell the difference between the two types of sleepers, when making a reservation– if possible. Some people will prefer to have the toilet in the room while others will not.

  4. I wonder when, if ever, Amtrak plans to overhaul the Viewliner I sleepers. Will they do the job at Beech Grove or will CAF do it at their plant. Mr. Engel: your remark as to one of their slaves driving up to DC to pick up the passenger is, with all due respect, is in rather poor taste, especially in this day and age.

  5. How do you know the Boston to Washington sleepers are well patronized?

    Why has the Sightseer Lounge been pulled from the Texas Eagle? Ditto the transition sleeper?

  6. Please correct an error:

    Boston – Washington or Boston – New York – Wshington

    Not Boston – New York

  7. With the elimination of the toilet I was hoping that the area next to the seat would have been opened up maybe with the use of fold down steps. One of the problems we have experienced with the roomettes is the lack of standing room when occupied by two people. It would be more comfortable if there was more open floor area.

  8. Amtrak trains almost always have no more than three sleeping cars. Before Amtrak, many passenger trains in Canada and the United States had high sleeping car ratios. Canadian National’s ‘Super Continental’ and Southern Railway’s original streamlined ‘Crescent’ carried upwards of nine Pullman sleepers. Missouri Pacific’s Houston/San Antonio section of the original ‘Texas Eagle’ carried at least seven Pullman sleepers before splitting at Palestine, Texas for San Antonio and Houston – Galveston. (The Houston/San Antonio section of ‘The Texas Eagle’ was later combined with the Dallas/Fort Worth section between St Louis and Longview, Texas in the 1960s).

  9. I’m wondering how the fact that there is the potential of 22 passengers (11 roomettes with two passengers each) and only two restrooms is working. I imagine there is quite the line in the morning. And the resulting heavy use leaves them filthy. And, what happens when one of them goes out of service? I guess it will be a trip back to the coaches. I understand the maintenance headaches of a toilet in every room but that was one of the few advantages of taking the train overnight. My wife says no way if she has to go without a toilet. I may have to mortgage the house or sell the kids to pay for a bedroom.

    1. As much as I love to travel by train, I gave up on Amtrak’s overnight trains because of the toilet situation.

      Being a senior citizen, I have to get up once or twice a night to use the facility. Looking for an open toilet in at 3 am is not my idea of fun.

      And like you, I am not going to spring for a bedroom.

      1. Having one’s own toilet in the roomette is nice if you’re traveling solo, but not so hot if traveling with the Mrs. or anyone else, since odds are that one of you will need to vacate for the other to use the facility, and in the Viewliner I, there’s no alternative for doing said business! For that reason, I rather prefer going down the hall or downstairs, a la Superliner–and yes, I can count on at least one trip per night. I pack flip-flops and a pair of shorts just for that purpose. Also, I just rode one of the new sleepers on the Silver Meteor July 23, and found it very warm and inviting inside, a step up from the ambiance in the adjacent Viewliner I.

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