Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dumb on Domes

Dome cars are a North American phenomenon that had their heyday during the 1950s and continuing into the early-to-middle Amtrak era. None have been built recently, although many have been reconditioned. VIA recognized the attraction of the dome car when they re-outfitted the Canadian.

We find it laughable when Amtrak attempts to tout the beautiful views through the glass of the Superliner lounges. We don't think we would get much valid argument that the 360 degree panoramic views from a dome or superdome blow the views from a Superliner lounge right off the track. From a dome, you can watch where a train is going, where it has been, and the spectacle of the hardware working to get the train over the road. And there was something about being closer to the glass that also made the experience more spectacular.

Amtrak made a big mistake with the Superliner concept. It was the most current trend in passenger equipment at the beginning of Amtrak, but there are better ideas that came before. And some that have come after.

When the next round of passenger car construction comes around, we would like to see the dome revisited. Not a revamp, but the same concept (same views and spectacle) in a new setting with new equipment and perhaps some innovations we haven't thought about as yet.

Unfortunately, with Amtrak being the political animal that it is, we are more likely to see high-capacity seating, the reduction of amenities, and the institution of higher fares for less than spectacular accomodations. By then, Congress will be looking for a way to take some pressure off the highways and the airways, and high-capacity, rather than high-comfort and enjoyable transportation - even for long-distance routes - may be in our future.

We hope not.

© 2007 - C. A. Turek -

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