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September 24, 2019

Amtrak discontinuing traditional dining cars in eastern U.S.

Overnight travelers will get a more "modern" dining experience, officials say

Transportation Amtrak
Amtrak Acela cafe Source/Amtrak

On the new Acela Express trains that travel on the Northeast Corridor, an updated Café Car will offer customers convenient access for grab-and-go and a greater selection. Amtrak is also changing its traditional dining services on short-distance routes that travel up and down the East Coast.

In what will be the end of an era for the nostalgics of America, Amtrak announced it's phasing out its traditional white linen dining cars to opt for something a bit more modern.

Instead of full-service kitchens, tablecloths, and steaks, travelers on short-distance trains will now have prepackaged meals or buffet-style breakfasts if they're sleeping car customers traveling overnight on trains that travel up and down the East Coast.

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The change will definitely be saving the company money — according to the Washington Post, about $2 million per year — but it will also cater to the more flexible ways overnight passengers want to dine and travel without needing to make reservations in a dining car, the company said. 

The change will start impacting one-night routes east of the Mississippi River this fall. The Cardinal (which operates between New York and Chicago), City of New Orleans (from Chicago to New Orleans), Crescent (New York to New Orleans), and Silver Meteor (New York to Miami) routes will begin this new service on Oct. 1 and the Silver Star (New York to Miami) will begin in 2020, according to a news release.

Meal service will still be included in the sleeping car accommodation charges.

In August 2019 we previewed Amtrak's new Acela Express trains that will service the Northeast Corridor starting sometime in 2021, which feature a cafe-style dining area with a grab-and-go counter and more food selections.

“It is part of an evolution,” Peter Wilander, Amtrak’s vice president of product development and customer experience, told the Post. “The concept is to provide service the way our customers want rather than have everybody conform to one service delivery. Some people really like [the dining car] and view it as sort of a nostalgic train experience. ... Some people, especially our new millennial customers, don’t like it so much. They want more privacy, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable sitting next to people they don’t know.”

Long-distance trains that travel west will continue using traditional dining service.

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