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Coast Starlight Northbound

Amtrak Coast Starlight

Richard Talmy, Parlour Car Attendant

"The Most Unforgettable Character"

By:  Carl Morrison,


Train 11, Coast Starlight, Seattle to Los Angeles.

(Double-click any photo to see a double-sized copy, click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

After our Ambus ride from Seattle to Portland, we checked into the Metropolitan Lounge, which is reserved for ticketed sleeping car passengers boarding at Portland.  Usually there are only a few people here, but since all those who were to board in Seattle arrived by bus, it filled up the lounge to overflowing until the train was ready for boarding.  Juice and coffee were available and supplemented the lunch we were given on the bus.

Larry took tickets and issued boarding passes.


Coach passengers sat in the general seating area and awaited their boarding call.

With time before our departure, I strolled around the beautiful Portland Station and enjoyed the gardens.
I used the pedestrian bridge to take shots of trackside.


Soon we were on our way and made it to Sacramento, but 3 hours late at that point .

Sleeping car passengers Ms. Reiner and Mr. Drummer enjoy the Parlour Car.

The Coast Starlight arriving at Sacramento Station.
A California Amtrak trainset awaits passengers in Sacramento Station.


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This innocent notice was in our room on northbound Train 14, but was left  in a stack, too high to be noticed, in southbound Train 11.*

Davis, CA, Station (above), sports an old Southern Pacific sign (below) showing old route names and distances to San Francisco and Ogden.

At lunch, I met Lionel Johnson.  Lionel is an Operations Manager for Amtrak and was on the Coast Starlight to observe and adjust the  Simplified Dining Menu since it was a new service being implemented across the Amtrak System.  This dining system shoud save Amtrak $10 million dollars.  Lionel mentioned that they already had added back to the menu oatmeal, hash browns, and chef-made Southwest omelets.  Knowing this, I had the Southwestern Omelet each morning and it was very good. 


I did notice the absence of ice cream and apple pie on the menu, but the toppings of strawberry, whipped cream, or chocolate sauce are still available if you'd like one or more of them on your Mississippi Mud Cake, New York Style Cheesecake, or Fruit!  Since I chose fruit as my dessert each meal, I didn't feel any topping was needed.  The fruit is not fresh, but rather 'fresh-cut.'  It comes in large glass jars and is a refreshing end for any meal.


Alexander Jagiello, Operations Supervisor, was on the southbound Coast Starlight on May 11 and 12.  We talked about the Coast Starlight and he mentioned that Richard Talmy is, "One of the best,"  when I asked him for a comment.  Alex is originally from Poland and I enjoyed his expertise about trains.  I'm sure he had trouble understanding my Midwest accent!  He even asked me if I'd ever seen the kitchen, on the lower level of the Diner, and I took the opportunity to photograph it for you (with Alex's permission) after the end of service at 10 pm:


Washing area
Cooking area, convection ovens, grille, etc.
Dumb waiters for sending prepared plates up to the dining room.

I bought a train trip, but got a bus ride.

*As we had known from our northbound Coast Starlight trip, if the southbound Train 11 was late at Santa Barbara ( after 10 pm)  all passengers would detrain and board busses.  Of course, this was not announced to passengers early enough to make it clear for those traveling beyond Santa Barbara, exactly what they were to do to get to their destination, some continuing on to San Diego.  We had gone to Fullerton many times so we knew that it would also be too late to take 596 from the normal end of the Coast Starlight in L.A. to it's stop Fullerton.   On various earlier trips, we had either gotten to L.A. on time and waited over an hour for Surfliner 596, or gotten to L.A. after the last Surfliner 596 had left and were bussed to Fullerton, but never had the train been terminated in Santa Barbara.  Because we were veteran travelers on the Coast Starlight we knew how we'd get to our final destination.  Think about the first-time travelers on the Coast Starlight who were headed for destinations as far south as San Diego! 

The Coast Starlight staff might argue that they made sufficient announcements by putting Amtrak personnel on the southbound Coast Starlight, but their announcements did not match what the bus drivers had been told once we detrained.  The announcements on the train were made in such a haulting way, we wondered if the public address system was working properly.  We got to Fullerton safely, but it was the first stop past L.A., hopefully the others got to their destination with their carry-on and checked luggage.

640/DSC01862.jpgThe diagram of the sleeper car rooms, left, is on the wall of the Coast Starlight sleepers, but not where it needs to be, on the Amtrak website, so people can choose an upper or lower level room. 

A few notes about rooms:    Notice that rooms 1 through 10 on the upper level and 11 through 13 on the lower level are less than half the width of the train.  These are roomettes or economy rooms, without a bathroom, and are the most complained about rooms on the train because they are so small.  During the day you have two wide seats, facing each other, with a fold out table between and a nice window on one side and a sliding glass door with curtains on the hall side.   At night, the car attendant makes up the room by making the two seats into a lower bunk and then lowers the upper bunk.  This configeration leaves bunk beds along the outside wall of the room, parallel to the tracks and leaves about 10 inches between the edge of the upper bunk and the sliding door to get up and into the top bunk.  Most people don't realize the 'roomettes' are this small.  There is one bathroom on the upper level, by the stairs in the middle of the car. 

Notice that the upper level Deluxe rooms (with bathrooms) are labeled A through E, and they are 3/4 the width of the train car.  These rooms have a benchseat perpendicular to the window which makes into a lower bunk.  An upper bunk drops down.  The most important thing is that there is a bathroom/shower and sink in the room.  Notice that you lose a bit of room in "A" for the passageway to make the turn to the exit door of the car.  All through-train traffic uses the upper level, so there is a good chance there will be other sleeping car passengers passing your room to get to the Parlour Car and Diner.

Downstairs, the level all passengers enter the car, in addition to the four roomettes, there are two room, F and H, that are the full width of the car.  F stands for Family and H for Handicapped.  The Family Room is a stretch because there are still the two single bunk beds as in the Deluxe room, but additional small beds fold down along the side of the room for small children (no bathroom).  In the Handicapped room there is the upper and lower berth again, a wheelchair lockdown, and a bathroom stool with a curtain you can pull around it instead of solid walls, making more maneuverability for a wheelchair. 

The car attendant will bring meals to the occupants of this Handicapped room since it would be impossible for the occupants to get up the narrow staircase and through the train on the upper level to the diner.  This also means a wheelchair-bound passenger cannot go to the Parlour Car, Observation Car, nor the diner.  However, unlike in the old days, they can travel by train and move to the lower level of the Observation Car, to the snack bar, at a stop with a platform, stay there for some time, then return to their car and room at another stop with a platform.  Or, detrain at a crew-change platform for a few minutes.  Definitely contact the conductor before making such exterior car-to-car movements. 

Also on the lower level are three toilets and one shower with changing room.   Since there really is not any room for luggage in your room, luggage should be left at the bottom of the stairs in the two-level luggage area, or checked at the station.  Be sure, if you check luggage, that the station of origin has facilities to take your luggage and the destination station has facilities for taking your luggage off.  The schedule will show you this information.

Click BACK in your browser to return to this page after visiting the following sites:

Amtrak website Roomette pictures:  Click Here

Amtrak website Bedroom pictures:  Click Here

Amtrak website Family Bedroom pictures:  Click Here

Amtrak website Accessibility "H" room pictures:  Click Here

To finish this travelogue, click "Links to help you plan" below:

[ Santa Barbara Coastal Commentary ] [ Wine Tasting ] [ Comments by Passengers ] [ Northwest Commentary ]

[A Day in Seattle]  [ Coast Starlight to Los Angeles ] [ Links to help you plan ]

[ ] [ Other Stories by Carl Morrison ]