Holland America's McKinley Explorer
Jack and Charlotte Shaw, rail managers of the McKinley
Explorer welcomed us aboard and we toured the cars and the excellent
facilities including the ADA compliant wheelchair lift (above),
ADA lavatory, dining, and 3 wheelchair seats.
Their Luxury Railcar Travel has been Redefined....
brochure advertises: More Glass per passenger
than any other dome railcar in Alaska. Widest dome passenger
seats. More interior space than any other dome railcar in Alaska.
Full 360 degree view. GPS-guided narration system, and six-channel
music n emergency system. 89 feet in length, 4 feet longer
than other passenger railcars. Open-air viewing .
Interior Design Elements:
Colors: Found in nature: green of Alaska
Jade, purple of native wild iris; 'honey' of fall tundra grasses.
Mirrored pilasters; upholstered cornice boards
and Roman window shades. Black and 'honey' plush velvet seat
backs with purple accents in elegant "tile" design; seat cushions
in classic black European leather.
Ceiling Light fixture.
Custom Ambient Lighting/Dining Room:
Inspired by image of ice caught in tree branches;
designed by Donna Barron; manufactured by Nemco Custom Lighting,
|Sculptures: One in each car. All
four are of whalebone by Alaska Artists, Ron Ekemo and Chupak; valued
These marvels of design travel in pairs of two,
so there's more to explore from domed upper level seating area,
dining car and outdoor platforms to the lower lounge and gift shop
in the companion car.
....the largest passenger railcars ever built...
Railcar Specifications (Per Car): Height: 18
feet, 1 inch - Length: 89 feet - Width: 10 feet -
Overall Square Footage: 1750 square feet (860 upstairs; 890
downstairs) Capacity: 88 passengers; 44 in the dining room
Cost: $3 million Seats: 21.5 inches per passenger
- Outdoor Platform: 9 feet x 10 feet - Step up to seat: 4
[Except for the seats behind the ADA elevator where
there is no step up].
--Holland America Luxury Railcar Travel has been
|Two Spiral Staircases per car
I, as well as any other travelers with knowledge of these
new cars, was most impressed with what I think is a unique feature
of these new cars, the Outdoor Platform, measuring 9 feet by 10
feet. The upper level domed seats extend over this outdoor platform.
Northbound Coast Starlight from Platform
After some time onboard, we all six walked
through the adjacent park on our way to lunch. In the park
was a Merry-Go-Round (some moving and some stationary fixtures).
Jack and Charlotte Shaw
We lunched at the Fish House, 101 E. Corbel
Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA, 805•966•2112.
After lunch at Fish House, we changed our return
tickets on the Coast Starlight to a day later and our hotel
in San Jose to a day later. We went to the Hot Spots Expresso
Bar and Information Center, 36 State Street, Santa Barbara, (805)
963-4233, and got rooms for the 4 of us at the Best Western Encina
Lodge and Suites, 2220 Bath Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, (800)
Pre-paid Internet Access didn't work as well
as old fashioned phone reservations.
Encina Lodge and Suites
We were picked up at the train station in a van
from the Lodge, taken to the Holland America cars to pick up our
luggage, and taken to the Lodge to check in. The Lodge was
beautifully appointed with an adjoining Victoria Restaurant with
We could hear the house finches, hundreds of them,
from our second floor balcony across the parking lot.
We dined with a view of the aviary, but we
didn't have 'Finch Under Glass.' The Victoria has a large selection
of dinners at $9.95. The Finch sights, sounds, (and smell)
reminded me of when our son had a finch couple which he named for
his grandparents, Fred and Margaret.
Steve received e-mail from Rail Move, Inc. learning
that our ride would leave Friday at 2 pm, and that it would
go up the coastal route. This was all good news. We
spent the evening working at our computers doing business-related
tasks while watching Fox News coverage of the war in Iraq and film
footage of toppled statues.
It had been quite a rail adventure for this novice
freelance reporter, but enjoyable all the way.
I am pleased to find such pleasant people in the rail
industry, Jack and Charlotte Shaw being prime examples. I'll
always remember them as my first exposure to rail industry personnel,
and my fond memories of them as we talked of photography, classic
cars, family, and the teaching vocation, at lunch at the Santa
Barbara Fish House.
Jack, Rail Manager, and Charlotte, in addition for the rail
arrangements to have these cars safely delivered to Seattle and eventual
barged to Alaska, have the job of providing donuts and coffee if
they have a morning open house at their stops, or hors d'oeuvre for
the afternoon or evening showings of the cars with wine and soft drinks.
They answer all questions about these Holland America cars,
tours with the McKinley Explorer as well as Holland America cruises.
In the past, they helped deliver 18 sixty foot coaches which
were so long they took up 9 parking spaces. They were articulated
with four front wheels that steered, and rear wheels that steered as
well. They were made by Provost. They were originally called the
"Alaska - Yukon Explorer." These coaches held 52 to 68 seats
and had a lounge in the back.
Jack related that he had started his railroad career with
the Lackawanna Railroad in New York City, then went to the Korean
War. After the war he worked as a Claim Agent for Northern Pacific
Railway and lived and worked in Fargo, ND. He stayed with Northern
Pacific through their merger as Burlington Northern in 1970 and retired
in 1986 as Director of Claims. After retirement, he worked in Risk
Management for Alaska Railroad.
The entire TrainWeb.com staff, who I was privileged
to accompany on this adventure, are a true team as I observed
when they worked out last minute rail and lodging details together.
They would each accomplish tasks in their area of expertise
as the other worked on another task. Cell phones were a buzz,
computers were going online, e-mail was being read from UP decision
makers and relayed over cell phone to Jack back in the cars. The
congeniality of Steve, Ray, and Shivam is remarkable...never a cross
word nor raised voice. Always business-like yet pleasant and jovial
when appropriate. They know how to conduct business and when to have fun.
I guess this is why TrainWeb.com has been such a success since its
origin in 1995.
Friday we lunched on Mesquite Broiled
Fish at the Enterprise Fish Company, 225 State Street, Santa Barbara,
805•962•3313 on some of their Lunch Combos for $6.95.