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November 20, 2003 02:33 AM

Broken: Amtrak's Acela restroom locks

 Kris Arnold writes:

Taking a trip on Amtrak's Acela service (which, as a whole, was very nice), I saw several incidents where passengers opened unlocked restroom doors on other passengers who were using the facilities.

The lock/unlock sign in the restroom seems to indicate that moving the vertical handle to the left will lock the door. But pulling the lever to the left latches the door shut. It doesn't lock the door, which still can be opened from the outside.

The actual locking mechanism is the small, recessed switch below the handle. It shows a bit of red when in the locked position, green when unlocked. Unfortunately, given the position of the sign and the small size of the mechanism, it's easy to overlook it and think the door is locked when it actually is not.

Here are two photos taken from inside the restroom: the first photo taken from a standing position trying to approximate what a passenger would see; the second taken straight on. Both are a bit blurry since they were taken on a moving train.


At 6'4" I often have similar issues. Once I got on a plane and couldn't see any seat numbers anywhere at all. It was mystifying me how anyone else was finding their seats. After asking, I found they were printed up and behind the latches for the overhead bins. Real easy to see if you are about 4 foot high, but if any taller you were screwed.

Posted by: Some Tall Dude at November 21, 2003 02:42 AM

I recall a more dangerous problem recently on some new carriages in the UK (South Central Trains, I think). The toilet flush button is behind the seat cover if the cover is in a raised position. In a prominent position on the wall near the toilet is the Emergency Stop button.

Some passengers have therefore been pressing the Emergency Stop when they intended to flush the toilet.

The Emergency Stop is clearly marked, but that doesn't stop the problem happening. I guess no-one reads these messages!

Posted by: Mike Dimmick at November 28, 2003 02:26 PM

Good one, Mike - can you get a picture of that Emergency Stop button?

Posted by: Mark Hurst at December 2, 2003 02:45 PM

Dear receiver,

Hi, I am an ambitious student of India doing my final year Bachelor’s in Architecture. I am planning and preparing hard to get selected in “industrial design course” in some of the leading universities of India as my field of specialization or post-graduation. For the interviews to follow on in a month or two, I am trying hard to show my caliber in product design to impress the coordinator’s of the interview. For that, I have picket up an issue in Indian trains {railways}. I would like to introduce the problem to you. Design of bathroom latches has not been critically looked at by designers and manufacturers. For instance, when leaving the toilet after use, you have to open the latch with your hands, which you have just cleaned. This is more annoying when using public toilets like in trains. So the idea is to develop a latch / lock for the train that can be opened from inside the bath-room without using the hands and / or other body parts that we will prefer not to use from the viewpoint of personal hygiene. To enter you must use the same latch / lock from the outside, but can use hands if necessary. Please note that considering the available maintenance facilities in railways, sophisticated electronic / electrical latches are ruled out.

Essential criteria of design of the latch or lock:

1. Innovative solutions.

2. Ease of use, hygiene.

3. Choice of working principle [mechanisms, linkages best suited.]

4. Ease of maintenance.

5. Aesthetics.

For your kind information, I am working on the principles which I will mail further to you for comments. So, please respond in return to me. Actually I require information on latest technologies available in the market or developed by your company which can guide me well in carrying out my design further and be successful in developing the product completely.

Thanking you, I am waiting for your reply soon. Contact me on the e-mail address – [karthik_raghothaman]

MY PHONE – 011-23340044

[My fax – 011 - 26235901 ]

My postal address – KARTHIK



Posted by: KARTHIK at March 5, 2004 11:29 AM

Wow. Some people just don't get it, do they?

Posted by: Brian at March 17, 2005 02:32 PM

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