locked Re: Greensboro map was Re: [SouthernRailway] Dining Car Crews Sleeping on their Cars

Steve Ellis

Thank you again, Mr. Schafer. I have mentioned by trip on the Southern Railway in October 1970 a few times. I just wanted to add that it was very refreshing to meet a friendly crew when I got on the Southern.

That was actually a trip that began far to the north in a place called Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. That is where I lived until I graduated from high school and for a few months afterwards. I hated the winters up there, and I dreamed of going to Georgia throughout my high school career. I worked that summer and earned enough money for a train trip to Atlanta.

I went to Montreal on the CNR where I had to change trains. I belong to a Canadian train group as well, and I have asked them if they know any reason why people working on the Delaware and Hudson/Penn Central train from Montreal to New York City at that time were so ill tempered.

This was my first trip into the US, and I was full of anticipation and excitement about a place I had longed to go. At Windsor Station in Montreal, I went through the gate, and I saw the train. I asked the conductor there where the coach cars were, and he literally screamed back at me: “Where are you going?” I replied that I was going to Atlanta, and he screamed back at somebody else “New York.” 

I got on the train, and I found a café car and wanted to buy a cold drink. The attendant there screamed at me: “What do you want?“ I asked him if he had any Coke, and he screamed back: “No!” 

I was beginning to wonder if everything was going to be different south of the border because everybody seemed so disagreeable. I started walking back toward my seat, and I met the first friendly crewmember there was. He was a black man wearing a white cotton jacket, and he had apparently heard the exchange between the cafe  attendant and me. He kindly asked: “Did you get your soda?”  I said no that the man said he didn’t have any.

People on the Penn Central between New York City and Washington were reasonable if not overly friendly. People on the Southern Railroad were very nice, and I was feeling better all the time. I went to the dining car, and I was a little confused that I had to write my own order, but the crew was very cordial.

On the way back going north out of New York City, the train was a combined Montreal and Chicago train that split at Albany. Perhaps 45 minutes or an hour after we left Grand Central Terminal, the conductor came through the car with a male passenger following him. 

Just like the conductor I first met in Windsor Station in Montreal, this man was an older person, and he seemed to be in just as bad mood as the first one I met. 

He yelled out loudly enough so that everybody in the car could hear: “Is anybody else on this car going to Chicago? This car is going to Montreal.”   Nobody answered him and so he said, in a very impolite tone to the passenger with him: “Come on!”

I wonder if the reason those employees were so unhappy is because they knew Amtrak was coming in a few months, and they were afraid they were going to lose their job. On the other hand, I wonder if this was their normal demeanor. Maybe it was just because I was a skinny kid at the time, and they didn’t want to be bothered with me.

Certainly it was not true on the Southern. Their attitude was much more positive. I hope that this story was not too long or too boring for people in the group to read.

Steve Ellis

On Mar 16, 2021, at 10:17 AM, Steve Ellis via groups.io <meadowbrookdairy@...> wrote:

This is wonderful detail, Bill. When I rode the train in the fall of 1970, I know that was going to New Orleans on Saturdays. I believe it went all the way to New Orleans seven days a week, didn’t it?

Do you know if the crews were based in Atlanta in those days?

Steve Ellis

On Mar 16, 2021, at 9:59 AM, Bill Schafer <bill4501@...> wrote:

In the years of the post-Amtrak Southern Crescent, the dining and lounge car crews were based in Atlanta. The train ran overnight, every night Atlanta-Washington, and tri-weekly Atlanta-New Orleans. As far as the dining cars were concerned, there were five regular crews that ran on the following cycle (the “crew numbers" are not official; just as a reference):
Crew 1, Crew 2, Crew 3 - one long cycle per week, which consisted of going on duty in Atlanta with the fresh dining car, leaving on train 1 for New Orleans. The crew overnighted in New Orleans, worked through Atlanta on train 2 the next day, arriving Washington the next morning, and after an all-day layover, worked back overnight on train 1 to Atlanta. They were off for the rest of the week until their cycle began on the same day of the following week.
Crew 4, Crew 5 - two short cycles per week. These crews worked two Atlanta-Washington turn-around trips per week, leaving Atlanta on train 2, arriving Washington the next morning, working south from Washington on train 1 that evening, and arriving the next morning in Atlanta.
There was also a dining car extra board where people could fill in as needed for vacation or sick day relief, or be added when heavier passenger loadings were expected. 
Post-Amtrak, the tavern car only operated Atlanta-Washington, and I remember only two positions for that service, where the attendants made a turn-around trip every other day. There had to have been some provision for their relief somewhere along the line with an extra board attendant, but how it worked into the scheme escapes me at present. You could not put just anybody into that job - they had to have some experience keeping inventories and handling money, which was beyond the pay grade of a dining car waiter. IIRC, the position of the Southern Crescent’s lounge car attendant was a “waiter-in-charge”, which was the same position as the person in charge of a dinette-coach or a stripped down dining car with a two-man crew - a waiter-in-charge and a chef; no steward. 

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