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"Buffet Lounges"
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Royal_Palm
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Posts: 112
"Buffet Lounges"
 
« on: Dec 15th, 2005, 5:59pm »
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I have seen many train descriptions where one sleeper included a "buffet lounge". What were they like? Was the food really served buffet style? Was the area limited to Pullman passengers? Was the food included in the first-class fare?
 
Pardon my ignorance folks....


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silver_champion
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #1 on: Dec 15th, 2005, 6:37pm »
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Most Buffet Lounges that I know, are cars with a lounge area mainly use for reading and lounging. No big meals are served. The ones that I know of are for pullman passengers

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silver_champion
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
  10-2.jpg - 77685 Bytes
« Reply #2 on: Dec 15th, 2005, 6:41pm »
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Here is a picture of a buffet lounge. The car also has 6 Db. bedrooms. This car was use on SAL's Silver Meoter

http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/PassengerTrains/10-2.jpg
Click Image to Resize

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ClydeDET
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #3 on: Dec 15th, 2005, 7:00pm »
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Some trains had buffet-lounges (or just lounges) reserved fro 1st class passengers, others had them for coach passengers as well. Generally, the only cars both coach and 1st class (Pullman) passengers shared were the diners - and not always even those (Santa Fe had separate diners for the coach and Pullman passengers after they combined El Capitan and Super Chief, i believe. At elast for a while).
 
Most buffet-lounges served primarily snacks and drinks rather than what I suspect you are thinking of as "buffet meals".  And the price of what you got there was NOT included in ther price of your ticket. Indeed, for most trains for most of the history of private passenger railroading, meals were not included in the price of 1st class service, though it sometimes was (I have a 1970 C&O/B&O timetable that indicates meals are included in the price of the First Class ticket, for example).


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Norm_Anderson
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #4 on: Dec 16th, 2005, 10:41am »
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That's very true on all counts, Clyde.  The 1960s saw the development of several "innovative" (for their time) approaches to pricing, to try to lure passengers back to the trains, but for most practical purposes, here's how it usually worked:
 
1.  The traveler paid a basic Rail Fare to go from Point A to Point B.  Discounts were sometimes offered for round-trip purchases, and many railroads after WWII offered "Family Plans" (typically, the "head-of-household" paid Full Fare, the spouse and children aged 12-21 paid half-fare (or, in some cases, rode round-trip for the one-way fare), children aged 5-11 rode for one-quarter fare (or half the one-way fare), and children under 5 rode free.  There were two levels of Basic Rail Fare: the First-Class Fare (for travel in Sleepers or Parlor Cars) and the Coach Fare, for travel in Chair Cars.
 
2.  If you went by Pullman, you paid a separate charge for the Pullman Accommodations.  (The First Class Rail Fare only entitled you to board the Sleepers; you still had to purchase the Room or Section).  In the heyday of Sleeping Car travel, most Sleepers were  owned, maintained, and staffed by The Pullman Company-- indeed, an "All-Pullman" train meant exactly that: the railroad's locomotives hauled a string of Pullman Company Sleepers (the railroads also supplied Diners and Lounges).  The railroads collected the Rail Fare, and The Pullman Company, using their own Conductors, collected the Accommodation Charges.  The first-class traveler carried two tickets-- one for the Rail Fare, and another for the Accommodations.  The fee for space was a Flat Fee; the price was the same whether the room was occupied by one, or two, or in some cases three people.
 
3.  Premier trains also collected an Extra Fare.  This was strictly a surcharge, for the privilege of riding that particular train.  "Snob Appeal" was considered a legitimate selling point, and some railroads deliberately set their Extra Fares so high that blue-collar types would be deterred from those trains.  (One of the most famous examples was Santa Fe's de Luxe of 1911-1917, whose $25 Extra Fare was probably a week's wages to "ordinary folk").  The Extra Fare was a per-person charge, and I've never heard of a discount on the Extra Fare.
 
4.  Food and beverage service was almost never included.  Some railroads offered "bargain meals" aboard secondary trains and, beginning in the 1950s, "Meal Coupon Books" could be purchased in advance at a savings in price, but these appear to be the exception rather that the rule.  Santa Fe's Fred Harvey Dining Service was actually a partnership between the Santa Fe Railway and The Fred Harvey Company.  Santa Fe built and maintained the Diners, and Fred Harvey staffed and operated them as mobile restaurants.  Fred Harvey did all the food purchasing, stocking, and hiring of stewards, cooks, and waiters, and kept the profits from the Dining Car Service.  Santa Fe benefitted from Fred Harvey's reputation for superb food and service.  It was a true symbiotic relationship that benefitted both.
 
 
All of the above was a bit more complex than Amtrak's system, but I kinda miss it just the same.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


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Pennsy
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #5 on: Dec 16th, 2005, 10:55am »
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Hi All,
 
Buffet lounges are an easy way to solve a meal problem, en route. Depending on the timing and the RR the food can be quite good, with some selections available.  
 
Probably the best buffet lounge I ever used was on an Airline, UA, believe it or not. Great sunday morning food fare. Really enjoyed it, and being a buffet, you could return to the line as often as you liked.  
 
Probably the biggest turn off was the Automat style vending machines on some RR's. A really bad turn off. Even the Automat in NY city had a hot line buffet that was superior to many local restaurants. Almost never used the vending machines there.


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Dyed in the wool PRR fan.
ClydeDET
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #6 on: Dec 16th, 2005, 11:56am »
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Only Automat-style meal service i encountered on trains was on the Pennsy, in 1966. Between Harrisburg and Baltimore on the Washington section of the General. Awful. Just terrible. Words are inadequate. C-ration ham and lima beans (prohibitted for issue to POWs as being violative of Geneva Convention provisions mandating humane treatment) were better...

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ForestRump
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #7 on: Dec 16th, 2005, 7:12pm »
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Silver_champion:
 
The car you showed was one of the 5 double bedroom Sun Lounge cars built for the Silver Meteor in 1955.  The oversized windows with the extra windows curving into the ceiling and the cheesy "Florida" decor (photomurals, seashell carpet, lamps with driftwood bases) are giveaways.  They never provided any meal service other than bags of peanuts.
 
The SAL's 6 double bedroom lounge cars were originally built for the Silver Comet and planned for New York to Birmingham operation.  By the time the cars had been delivered, SAL had decided to assign them to the Meteor. They were reassigned to the Silver Star after the Sun Lounges arrived.  Their decor was fairly bland.
 
It's my understanding that a real buffet lounge had the bar and a small kitchen set up in a separate room where the attendant could prepare some light fare for passengers who did not wish to patronize the dining car or perhaps who wanted something after the dining car had closed.  The PRR diagrams I've seen for what were called buffet lounges all have the separate bar room, rather than the bar open to the lounge area.


« Last Edit: Dec 16th, 2005, 7:17pm by ForestRump » Logged
Royal_Palm
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #8 on: Dec 17th, 2005, 8:04pm »
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Thanks for all the responses. Now I will throw a curve: I have seen pullmans noted as, say, "8 section, broiler buffet". These must have served hot food.
 
I have also seen trains that had a buffet-lounge or some equivalent and no diner. I wonder if coach passengers could eat in those areas?


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ClydeDET
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #9 on: Dec 18th, 2005, 6:53pm »
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Depended - some yes, some no.  Example - neither the  Sunbeam/Hustler nor the Sam Houston Zephyr had stright diners (also, as day trains, no sleepers -  first class accomodation was parlor cars) as best I can recall. Had diner/lounge/obseravtions, and coach passengers were allowed to walk through the parlors to the tail car and there buy and eat meals. Since the schedules were around 4 hours (Sunbeam four hours, 25 minutes, Hustler a little longer), with departures around 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM  (two trains each day, each way) and arrival 1:00-1:30 or 9:00-9:30 PM, depending on whetehr you were riding the morning or evening train, I don't think the didner's did a lot of business between Dallas and Houston.  Level of demand, I think, suggested by the fact that the trains didn't carry full diners.  
 
Twin Star Rocket did have a full didner, but because of the hours of operation I don't think it usually did a real heavy business - still, I recall a few meals on it and I guess the didner was half or more full - though those are memories from a long time ago (can't be any more recent than 1959, since our last Dallas-Houston trips would have been no later than the spring of that year).


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silver_champion
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #10 on: Dec 19th, 2005, 9:36am »
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Here is a picture of Seaboard's buffet lounge as it looks today.

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silver_champion
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
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« Reply #11 on: Dec 19th, 2005, 9:38am »
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Here is a picture of the Seaboard's buffet lounge as it looks today.

http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/PassengerTrains/396.jpg
Click Image to Resize

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ClydeDET
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #12 on: Dec 19th, 2005, 6:56pm »
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Where is these days?

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Passenger_Extra
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #13 on: Dec 24th, 2005, 1:51am »
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Norm mentioned Santa Fe.  At one time they had a series of heavyweight Observation/dining lounge cars with buffets.   They were assigned to short haul overnight accommodation runs like the Apache, Kansas City Chief and others.  They may have been strictly for Pullman passengers, I dont know the details, but I have ridden in one, the 1509.  Built in 1927, it has a fair sized lounge with an observation deck, wet bar, 6 tables and a galley.  Nice peice of equipment and must have been quite luxurious in its day.
 
PX


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Not good on trains 1, 2, 5, 6, 25 & 26 west of Washington D.C. and trains 27 & 28.
Mark_Foster
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #14 on: Dec 27th, 2005, 5:23pm »
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The Seaboard car shown in prior posts is not a buffet lounge car because it did not offer food service, only drinks. It is a sleeper lounge car. Many railroads as well as the Pullman Company operated buffet lounge cars. Those of the Pullman Co. were exclusively for the use of sleeping car passengers while those operated by the railroad were available to coach as well as first class travelers. Buffet lounge cars were often found in trains which did not offer full dining car service. On other trains they supplemented the diner and offered sandwiches, burgers and short orders at times when the diner was not serving; e.g. mid-afternoon and late night. To qualify as a buffet lounge the car had to offer both food and drink service. Buffet lounges should not be confused with snack or grill cars which did not offer a full range of libations.
 
Mark
 


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Pennsy
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #15 on: Dec 28th, 2005, 2:13pm »
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Hi All,
 
The Buffet Lounges were, more or less, like the neighborhood Bar and Grill. No serious food, but heavy on the booze. Great place for a pickup, and so many a Romance started in such a car. Remember, for the length of the trip, you were a captive audience. Your fellow travelers quickly were no longer strangers. That was particularly true for those of the opposite sex.  
 
Most of the time you would nurse a mixed drink, chat with someone that interested you, and the rest was left up to nature. This was expected of unattached travellers, but was not limited to such people. The sandwiches, snacks, etc. were not bad, and helped to pass the time. Correct me if I am wrong, but I never saw such sandwiches or snacks actually prepared on the train. They probably were put on board before the train left. They had means to heat up the snacks, or add ice to whatever.


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Dyed in the wool PRR fan.
ClydeDET
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Re: "Buffet Lounges"
 
« Reply #16 on: Dec 28th, 2005, 5:14pm »
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Really depends on the railroad and the time frame. And the train, for that matter.
 
Properly speaking, as Mark noted, a "Buffet Lounge" would have had both beverage and food service. Food might be prepared in advance and held for distribution (NOT in the form of a buffet line where you make a selection and return) when ordered off the menu.  That would have been commoner in the later days. Earlier times and (especially on the "name" trains - the presige runs) a buffet-lounge was more likely to have a small kitchen (grill if you will) and a limited menu - but foods prepared to order and often cooked, though things like  club sandwiches would have usually been part of the offerings. Often operated by Pullman, but sometimes by the railroad as part of the dining car department.
 
HArd to be dogmatic - so many variables...


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