Very interesting picture, Mark,
It raises a number of questions with those Amtrak cars on the rear. Thank goodness you recorded the exact day you took the photo - it might help with some speculative answers.
* April 1, 1978 was a Saturday. The trains 1 and 2 that operated to/from Atlanta on Saturdays terminated/originated there. Neither train went to/from New Orleans, so the ultimate destination of the equipment in your photo was Pegram Shop and North Avenue Coach Yard.
* April was the off season, so a train originating/terminating Atlanta in those days would be small - 7 or 8 cars. There appear to be deadheading cars in the consist of the train you photographed (or a special party).
* If I had to guess I’d say the first 7 or 8 cars were in revenue service, and everything behind them was either deadheading or a special party.
* I don’t recall Amtrak cars in 1-2’s consist on days the train originated/terminated Atlanta. Normally, if you saw an Amtrak car in the consist, the train was going to/coming from New Orleans, IIRC.
* In your picture, the cars are, in order: baggage-dorm, two coaches, sleeper-tavern car ( Crescent-series), dining car, three sleepers. One of those sleepers was an extra - not unusual if a bunch of deadheading employees were on the train. Behind the third sleeper appears to be another Crescent-series tavern car, then the Amtrak cars. It could be deadheading back to North Avenue from Hayne Shop, but I would think it would be on the rear if that was the case.
* I can’t see enough of the first Amtrak car to tell what kind of car it is - looks like a coach, but can’t be sure. Wonder what the car behind it looked like.
* We may never know why the second Crescent-series car was in the consist or what those Amtrak cars were doing on the rear, but it’s fun to speculate. Thanks for the photo.
PS: Attached is another consist from 1976. It shows the consist of 2nd no. 1 from Greensboro to Atlanta. When the train was split (i.e., ran in two sections), it was a New Orleans day. The first section would handle the thru cars - New York/Washington-New Orleans and would nominally only carry passengers getting on north of Washington or getting off south of Atlanta. The second section would carry local passengers (i.e., those getting on and getting off between Washington-Atlanta). It was always desirable to ride the second section if possible - it was less crowded and carried the tavern car. The first section could be a zoo. The dining car would be slammed and if there was a lounge car, it would likely be a coach lounge.