Train Trip – Part 1 Getting the few negatives out first

I’ve traveled several times on Amtrak, but on the first leg of the West Coast system, from Vancouver, BC to Seattle.  That was on the Cascades train.  I was always very pleased with the total experience with only the schedule being an issue.  The train leaves Seattle and heads North then returns which means you leave Vancouver in mid afternoon and get into Seattle early evening.  Not a big thing for me.  But the crew were great and so the amenities.

So I expect much the same from the Coast Starlight from Seattle south.  Different train, same system.  The Seattle station personnel were efficient and pleasant.  The station itself is in desperate need of restoration, but signs indicated that was going to happen sometime. Once you leave the ticket area you go out to the train and are assigned a seat trackside by one of the attendants.  I accepted my seat assignment, stowed a bag on the very handy baggage area onboard, ascended the stairs to the top sided and found my seat.  In the aisle, next to a very, very large man.  Now, I get it that America is getting bigger.  But, on a train that had maybe 20% seats sold, I was perplexed.  So I went back down to the tracks and asked the attendant for another seat.  With all the attitude that I thought only a airline flight attendant could muster, he, with great anger showing, scratched off the first seat number and scrawled another on the ticket and made sure that I understood that what a huge favor he was doing me to give me another seat as they had large parties coming in.

So, up I went to the new seat, stowed my backpack , took out camera, paper and pen and sat down.  A few minutes later the attendant came up to check seats and a group of 30 year old girls who were seated behind me then asked him if they could move back to the back of the car.  Practically tripping over himself, the attendant helped them to their new seats.  And the big parties failed to materialize.

During the course of the 7 hour trip I engaged with him again, the dining car manager, the snack car manager and a woman who I’m sure was the conductor, and without exception they were best described as “surly.”  Not quite rude, but had it down to the very edge of rudeness.

Now, with the new emphasis on restoring train travel in America and bring high speed public networks back, I’ve got to say that a good place to start restoring desire to travel on Amtrak has got to be a wholesale investment in training and staffing these networks with enthusiastic ambassadors for train travel.  It’s a great way to go.  The whole thing, even with current schedules and rolling stock, is just a fantastic way to travel.  With railroad jobs being a much sought after career with good pay, excellent benefits, there is absolutely no excuse for hiring rudeness.

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