In a stunning blow to operators and fans of historic locomotives and passenger equipment nationwide, Amtrak issued a memo to employees on March 28 stating its intent to immediately stop hosting charter excursions, private cars and special trains.
Multiple sources have verified the authenticity of the memo, which begins with a paragraph which speaks of the need to run trains safely, efficiently and on-time, while minimizing the need for subsidies, then states two policy changes “consistent with these two principles.”
“Generally, Amtrak will no longer operate charter services or special trains. These operations caused significant operational distraction, failed to capture fully allocated profitable margins and sometimes delayed our paying customers on our scheduled trains. There may be a few narrow exceptions to this policy in order to support specific strategic initiatives, for example trial service in support of growing new scheduled service. Otherwise, one-time trips and charters are immediately discontinued.”
The other change announced in the memo is the termination of agreements with other companies which allow them to provide discounts on Amtrak tickets.
If allowed to stand, the new policy could mean an end to Amtrak excursions pulled by mainline steam, Bennett Levin’s Pennsylvania Railroad E8s or other historic locomotives, as well as special trains comprised of privately-owned cars. Still unclear is the question of whether Amtrak will still allow private cars to be attached to regularly scheduled Amtrak trains in terminal-to-terminal moves.
The memo was signed by new Amtrak President Richard Anderson, a former Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines executive who took over the nation’s intercity rail passenger service last July. He has no prior railroad experience. Earlier this year Anderson incurred the ire of West Coast fans and patrons of the Coast Starlight with the retirement of its former Santa Fe “Pacific Parlor” cars, among the most beloved cars in the Amtrak fleet.
—Eric Berger, Passenger Train Journal