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July 09, 2007

There's Something About A RetroLuxe Train That's Magic: Amtrak To Offer High-Class Train Service Evoking The Golden Days of Rail

Or really Hollywood's romantic depiction of those days.

Alas, this is a fun idea that I think will fail. I'm a real sucker for kinda-kitschy theme stuff that evokes the past. This whole idea appeals to me... in theory.


Transportation is, after all, just transportation. If you have a week off, you don't want to spend four days of it on a train -- even if that trip is pretty nice. And even if the train's private suites allow you to join "The Yard High Club" a couple of times.

Think Cary Grant, meeting a coy Eva Marie Saint in an elegant dining car aboard a train in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest."

That style is what Amtrak hopes to recreate through a test-run venture with private rail company GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, which operates long-distance, scenic trips in cars that recall the golden era of train travel.
Amtrak's GrandLuxe Limited service will launch in Washington Nov. 6 with service from Union Station to Miami on the Silver Meteor line, starting at $789 each way. Similar service will be offered on routes between cities including Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.


The new rail service will feature five-course dinners, overnight suites, butler service and a full-car lounge, among other amenities. All of the cars are either refurbished models from the 1940s and 1950s or built to evoke that era.

I see growth opportunities here for longtime AoS sponsors, the "murder consultants" at Killing Time. GrandLuxe was formerly "American Orient Express," after all. Why not add a little murder-mystery to the ride? Let's face it, staring out at hundreds of miles of Iowa loses its charm after, well, the first five or ten miles.

Partnering With Air-Carriers: What could almost make this work is a partnership with several airlines, so that someone could get round-trip discounts for taking the train for one leg and a flight for the way back.

I figure one would want to spend the journey to the destination on the train -- "it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive," as I read in a James Bond book -- and by the time the vacation is over, one usually just wants to get back home as soon as possible.

So, yeah, for me: I'd do a 20 hour train ride down to, say, Miami, just for the experience of it.

But twice in one week, there and back? No. Nostalgia and kitsch have their limits.

Unless these guys will be offering me Solitaire from Live and Let Die to bang constantly along the way, I don't know if I can take 40 hours on a train in one week.

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posted by Ace at 04:43 PM

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