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'Training' Wheels

Coast Starlight round trip Fullerton, CA, to Seattle, WA,

with photos of the Parlour Car, Bedrooms, Diner, Tulip Festival, Boeing Museum,
Seattle, Mt. Vernon, La Conner, Anacortes, Port Townsend, Bremerton, and the Washington Ferry System.

March 31 - April 9, 2011

By Carl Morrison,

Getting There - Amtrak's Coast Starlight LA to Seattle

Daffodil and Tulip Season was the reason we decided to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight to Seattle in April.  The entire month of April, in Tulip Country north of Seattle, is called Tulip Festival.  Daffodils bloom first in this chilly, wet country, so if you are too early in April for the tulips, you will surely see daffodils.

Amtrak Guest Rewards were used to pay for the Bedroom for two of us on this one-zone trip from Fullerton, CA, to Seattle, WA, round trip.    A Bedroom on an Amtrak Train round trip for one zone costs 40,000 points for two people.  On this trip, you get a room with couch (that makes in to a bed), a fold down bunk bed, a permanent chair, and a storable table between the two, a toilet/shower/sink unit, small closet, small shelf, and large picture window.  You can store suitcases on the lower level of your car, or have them checked from your departure station to your destination station.  You also have access to the Parlour Car on the whole trip where you can take 3 meals a day or alternate your meals between the Parlour Car and Diner.

 All your meals are included in the cost of the accommodations in an Amtrak Sleeping Car, except alcoholic beverages, which you can purchase or bring and enjoy in your room if you like.

If you wish to leave from points south of the station of origination, Los Angeles, to Seattle on the Coast Starlight, included in your ticket package will be Business Class tickets on the Pacific Surfliner from your home station to Los Angeles.  Therefore, we left from the smaller, more convenient, Fullerton, CA, station.  This station has free parking for Amtrak Passengers.  However, we had a friend drop us at the station.  We walked a few steps into the station, checked our large bags, carried our overnight bag, with computer and camera, to the platform and awaited the connecting Surfliner.

(Double-Click any photo below for a double-sized copy; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Travelmate, John, takes movies of the arriving Surfliner that will take us to Los Angeles and the Coast Starlight.

Surfliners between San Diego and Los Angeles run in push mode northbound and pull mode southbound, so our train arrived in push mode with the engineer in the front/cab car.

No. 201 lead us to Seattle from LA

Training Wheels.

The Platform at LAUS is a good place to watch Metro Rail units, if you have a ticket (above).

New Metrolink logo on new cars, older car on left.

New Metrolink Cab Car (above & below)

We expected, when we were picked up at the Surfliner in the Red Cap Cart, to be taken into the TRAXX Lounge to await boarding time on the Coast Starlight.  However, the cart took us to adjacent Track 10, and we immediately boarded our sleeping car 1431.  I was pleased to see Cruz as our car attendant.  We went immediately to the Parlour Car and I took John through some of the other cars before the passengers began boarding from the station.

Amtrak banner in the San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station

Couch seating in the Parlour Car

Half of the Parlour car is used for meals, or you can take meals in the Diner.

Sightseer/Lounge car for Coach and Sleeper Car Passengers.

My salmon salad lunch.

"View from a Superliner - Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo"

San Antonio Winery, Los Angeles.

Crowne Plaza Hotel, on the beach in Ventura, CA

Ventura River emptying into the Pacific.

Parlour Car table fresh flowers and Ventura Coast.

Wi-Fi?  Why, Yes.  Not really!  I've been on three trips on the Coast Starlight since they've started to advertise this in all Coast Starlight stations, and have never found it working yet.  At one time on this trip, there were 22 people in the Parlour Car with 18 electronic devices all capable of going on the Internet, and none could get on line.  Each person with an Internet-capable device had to discover on their own that there was no such thing as Internet in the Parlour Car.  On the return trip, Parlour Car Attendant, William, heard me mentioning that the Internet had not worked the whole trip, so he went downstairs and "hit the button," which worked fine for about 40 minutes.  After it quit working, I didn't have the heart to ask him to hit the button again.

Between Ventura and Santa Barbara

Oil platforms in Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands beyond.

Lots of people on the beach, perhaps Spring Break for some.

Lagoon east of Santa Barbara

Largest Banyon Tree in California at the Santa Barbara Station.

Parlour Car on our Coast Starlight in Santa Barbara.

Campground west of Santa Barbara.

Same campground as our train rounded the bay.

Tough to walk on this beach with the vertical strata.

An earlier Parlour Car Attendant said this pier marks the beginning of Vandenburg Air Base.

Another interesting beach surface.

On an earlier trip I remember seeing one beached sailboat, but now there are two.

This deep valley, with the ocean to the left, is the end of the Longest Ocean View Train Ride in the US, as we turn inland to San Luis Obispo.

You get just a peak at the sand dunes south of Morro Bay, beyond the water as we approach SLO.

Pacific Parlour Car at San Luis Obispo

Time to step off for a stretch in SLO.

Official Amtrak California Bench!

For stations with this type of sign, I like to take a photo of it, just to remember 'the good old days.'

Questa Grade, north of SLO, has a sharp, asending curve where you can see both the front (left) and back (right) of the train.

California Men's Colony and two deer at sunset.

Trestle Bridge north of San Luis Obispo

A small vineyard and nice home above SLO.

Old telegraph lines in the evening sun
lead to the back half of our Coast Starlight.

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We were fortunate to have Carmella as our Parlour Car Attendant.  I had traveled on the Coast Starlight  before when she was the Parlour Car attendant, and found her very pleasant, and efficient in her many duties.  She said that there was now a new Menu, above, of meals in the Parlour Car and they had new wines.  A friend, who often travels on the Coast Starlight that was on the southbound trip, said it was about time to change the wines.

You have a choice, when you have a sleeping car accommodation, to take your meals either in the Parlour Car or the Diner, so it is good to be able to see the menu before hand to help you make your choice.

The dining car staff, on this March 31/April 1 Northbound Coast Starlight were pleasant as well, even though the LSA did tend to turn late diners back, saying the Diner was closed, without a Final Call to prospective diners.  And, as usual, the dinner hours on the last evening in both directions were too early with their using the excuse that they anticipated an "early arrival" at Seattle and Los Angeles on our return.  Why are dinner house set for the crew rather than for the paying customers?  We got to Seattle about 10:45 pm and Los Angeles about 9:40.  Is this an 'early arrival' and reason to make the last dinner reservation at 6:30 pm?

At least, the car attendants both ways did not move us to 'strip the beds' before the destination which has happend to me on the Southwest Chief.

Car Attendants both ways were excellent, Cruz northbound and Zachery southbound.

Another observation:  Why are the new new name tags just first initial and last name?  Doesn't that make it harder for the guest to remember a name for either a compliment or complaint to Customer Service?

Second Day

Snow-capped montains
near Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Klamath Falls Station

The only luggage cart I've seen with a snow plow (right).  Perhaps an omen of things to come.

UP car in Klamath Falls yard.

201 lead us to Seattle.

Our Coast Starlight in Klamath Falls.

UP mixed freight in Flamath Falls.

Inside the Klamath Falls Amtrak Station.

Arcade Car

This young man, with his iPod Touch, showed me the name of the Internet Router in the Parlour Car, but admitted that it did not provide Internet connectivity.  When in doubt about technology, ask a kid!

If this is not Coffee Creek, it should be.  Look at the color of the water at the falls.

We began to see snow north of Klamath Falls, OR.

Quite a bit of snow had been plowed to the side of the tracks.  At one point, on our return, we saw a 12-foot snow depth marker and the snow was at 6 feet.

Pecan Tart Amtrak dessert with ice cream in the Parlour Car.

Covered bridge as we descended from the summit north of Klamath Falls, OR.

One of many red barns in Oregon.

Nice home north of the tracks at Eugene, OR.

Eugene provides a public area for graffitti.  I wonder if it eliminates graffitti on town buildings and walls.

Cruz, our 1431 car attendant.

Quiet lake reflecting in Oregon.

More red barns.

A new red barn!

Wild mustard.

Salem, Oregon, was blossoming.

Beautifully restored Wollen Mill.

Entering Portland, we waited a few minutes for the lift bridge to be lowered.

Once underway across the bridge, I soon realized how many modes of traffic use this historic bridge.

Approaching Downtown Portland.

Portland's Light Rail, built by Siemans Company near Sacramento, CA.

Familiar signage on the Portland Station.

The Columbia River as we crossed into Washington state.

Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel.

Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel.

We arrived about 11 p.m. in Seattle Station.  I had made reservations at the Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel, (BEST WESTERN PLUS Pioneer Square Hotel, 77 Yesler Way, Seattle, WA, (206) 340-1234), where we had stayed several times before.  Again, we enjoyed the staff, our room, and the included breakfast.  We did not arrive until about 11 pm, but the room was held for us.

Enterprise Rental is a good place to rent a car in downtown Seattle (Enterprise DOWNTOWN SEATTLE, 2116 WESTLAKE AVENUE, SEATTLE, WA 98121-2717, (206) 382-1051).  They picked me up at the hotel, took me to the rental office a couple of miles north, and we picked up our car for 6 days of travel around Seattle.  To return the car, I first took our luggage to the King St. Station, drove the car back to Enterprise's office, and they took me back to the Station..

Next:  Seattle Area Attractions

Tulip Festival in Skagit County, Mt. Vernon, La Conner, Anacortes, Port Towsend, WA, Boeing Museum of Flight, and The Washington State Ferry System.

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