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Southern wanted out too; it just was sneakier about it. Before Amtrak, box meals were often offered after dining cars were removed from Southern trains. This was a good news/bad news situation - the good news was that the box meals were way cheaper than dining car prices (but without the ambience) and the food was usually good ole Southern cooking. The bad news was that the locations where box meals were available were not always convenient and the food was usually good ole Southern cooking.
In 1974, Southern operated eight regularly scheduled passenger trains: 1/2 Southern Crescent; 3/4 Asheville Special; 5/6 Piedmont and 7/8 unnamed remnant of the Birmingham Special between Washington-Lynchburg - the single FP7 and heavyweight coach were sandwiched between heavy-duty road power and a lot of freight cars at Alexandria.
Food service on these trains: we have discussed 1/2; I don’t know how Southern got away with no food service on 3/4, but apparently they did. 5/6 had a coach-lounge that served light meals and beverages Washington-Atlanta. 7/8’s coach was equipped with a vending machine. “Chips ’n’ Snacks” only; for moisture, there was a water fountain.
Going from memory here, the ICC got fed up with complaints about the quality of railroad service somewhere around 1969 or so. The target was the Southern Pacific, which had been overzealous in discouraging passengers, especially on the LA-New Orleans Sunset, which at the time ran daily but featured only coaches and an automat car. To get the ICC off its back, the SP agreed to restore dining car and sleeping car service to the Sunset if the ICC would let them reduce frequency to tri-weekly. The ICC agreed. Southern and SP started operating a through New York-Los Angeles sleeper via New Orleans - the November 20, 1970 timetable was the first to advertise it - which continued for a few years into the Amtrak era.
The ICC food service dictum was codified and applied to all U.S. railroads, and I think these “creature comfort” regs carried over into the Amtrak era. For trains that didn’t run overnight, I think there was a requirement for food service if the train exceeded a certain distance in its route. Atlanta-Birmingham = 166 miles; Asheville-Salisbury = 141 miles; Washington-Lynchburg = 173 miles. Something tells me that if the train’s journey exceeded 150 miles, food service was required. That would explain 3/4 without food. Can anyone verify this?
Whatever they did, it would be a lot better than the food service on the Southern Pacific toward the end of its passenger train service. I heard that they just provided vending machines on the café car, and half of the time they didn’t work. Unlike the Southern, Southern Pacific supposedly really wanted to get out of passenger service starting about the late 1960s.
I thought that I saw an advertisement somewhere for the Southern when they talked about bringing in a box to lunch for everyone of fried chicken. I forget which stop it was.
Did I imagine it, or was it some possibly some other railroad?
On Mar 16, 2021, at 4:50 PM, Robert W. Grabarek, Jr. <grabarek@...> wrote:
Yes, I think you are right about Southern's being forced to provide food service. My recollection is that the Interstate Commerce Commission decided to enforce its rule requiring food service on passenger trains and that this was the Southern's response. This must have been a targeted enforcement, or perhaps the rule applied to trains traveling more than a certain distance since 3, 4,7 and 8 offered no food service. 950-series cars were used to provide food service on 5 and 6.
I don't know how many coach-lounges were in service in 1974, but is seems there weren't quite enough to cover all Atlanta-Birmingham trips on 1 and 2. Another car was required for the fourth round trip. I did some checking ahead of time to be sure I could ride a "Crescent" car.
From: Bill Schafer
Sent: Mar 16, 2021 4:00 PM
Subject: Re: [SouthernRailway] Dining Car Crew Cycles
Good recall, Bob. My date was based on the timetable date. Sounds like Southern added food service before May 1974, but maybe not much before - I have a feeling they tried to get by with no food service for a while and someone called them on it. In fact, I’d like to know why the Crescent-series car was used at all. Seems to me that one of the 950-series cars would have been more appropriate.
On Mar 16, 2021, at 15:45, Robert W. Grabarek, Jr. <grabarek@...
The starting date of the operation of what Southern termed a "Bar Food Car" between Atlanta and Birmingham on the four days per week that trains 1 and 2 terminated and originated in Birmingham deserves a little research. I rode train 1 from Atlanta to Birmingham on March 23, 1974, and the food car was the "Crescent Harbor." (By virtue of my employee pass, I occupied the master room.) I returned to Atlanta on the same day, and the bar food car was coach-lounge 950. This car was detached at Atlanta. My recollection is that a "Crescent" series car was used for one round trip per week on the Birmingham days while a 950-series coach lounge was used for three.
From: Bill Schafer
Sent: Mar 16, 2021 10:46 AM
Subject: [SouthernRailway] Dining Car Crew Cycles
This is in reply to Steve Ellis's follow-up question about dining car crew bases other than Atlanta. I'm starting a new thread.
The November 20, 1970 timetable is the first that shows the Southern Crescent cut back to tri-weekly between Birmingham and New Orleans, so your trip on a daily Southern Crescent to New Orleans would have been one of the last (as opposed to a tri-weekly Southern Crescent). The daily service Atlanta-Bham continued into the Amtrak era, when it went to tri-weekly effective with the June 1, 1975 timetable. In the post-Amtrak period, the dining car didn’t operate beyond Atlanta; in fact, there was no food service Atlanta-Bham until May 1974, when SOU started offering food/beverage service in a “bar food car”, which photographic evidence suggests was one of the Crescent series sleeper-tavern-lounges.