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Train Travel Meetup Group Oakland Circle Trip 11/7/2015

by Chris Guenzler

I had an idea for a Train Travel Meetup Group train trip. We all could try Business Class on the Coast Starlight then ride the low-level San Joaquin with the former New Jersey Transit comet cars rebuilt by Beech Grove for the State of California on the return trip the next morning. In addition, everyone would be able to see the new First Class Lounge in Los Angeles while we waited to board the Coast Starlight. I posted the announcement on the Meetup Page, started my third year at Heninger Elementary School working with 4th through 6th grade students, then waited for the day of the trip to arrive.

Pacific Surfliner 763 11/7/2015

I was up early and waited for Robin to pick me up before we drove to the Santa Ana station and parked in the parking structure. Robin had picked me up some hot cakes and sausage before he arrived so we had breakfast on the bench on the Track 1 platform. A few minutes later we heard a horn and waited for the train to arrive. Pacific Surfliner 763 arrived and we took seats in Car 3 in the four seat section on a very crowded train this morning. We picked up more passengers in Anaheim and Fullerton before we ran the final miles into LAUPT and detrained there. On the platform we climbed into a Red Cap's cart and then Jenell, one of our group, took the front seat and soon were taken to the First Class Lounge. There we found a table and Brian joined us, so now had a group of four going to Oakland. I had a glass of orange juice and Robin then ran to Subway to get a sandwich for his lunch later. Soon we were told to line up to be taken out to the train, boarded the same Red Cap's cart and soon he dropped us off at the Business Class door for the Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 14 Business Class 11/7/2015

On the Coast Starlight, you will get two bottles of water and a $6.00 food and beverage coupon you can use to enjoy a meal or snack in the Diner, Lounge or Parlour Car. You'll have access to the Parlour Car to enjoy the popular wine tastings, for a small fee. When it's time to get back to business, stay connected with free Wi-Fi access. The overhead luggage racks were taken out above the seats to give the seating area more of an open feel to it. The seating area is twelve leather seats with ample leg room is on the lower level of one of the coaches and power outlets along the wall. A pillow is given to each passenger and you are all set for the trip to your destination.

Robin and I took the last two seats on the right side of the car. Jenell was across from us, with Brian having the window seat ahead of her. The Internet worked extremely well so I posted a post on just before we left. The train departed Los Angeles on time and we were off on my second long-distance train ride since coming back from the NRHS Convention trip in July. It felt really good to be back on the train. We passed the Metrolink facility before heading out into the San Fernando Valley, stopping at Burbank Airport. Now a tour of the Business Class section of the Coast Starlight.

The seating area.

The information sheet on the Business Class wall.

The wireless control that allows for excellent Internet.

Another view of the Business Class car. We stopped at Van Nuys, went through the Chatsworth Tunnel and went into the siding, passing Santa Susana station to wait for the late-running Pacific Surfliner 774. We also stopped at Simi Valley before we making our way to Oxnard, where we stepped off for a few minutes. The train ran onto Ventura and just past there, we reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean, which were beautiful with the Channel Islands standing out on this totally clear early November day.

The train took us onto our next station of Santa Barbara which was also a fresh air stop. On the way to San Luis Obispo, after I acquired a 6:00 PM dinner reservation for our group, I enjoyed the coast then put on my "Saga Live" DVD and watched it for a while. The three other members went to the Pacific Parlour Car for the wine tasting. I walked down to the front of the train and met our conductors on this leg of the trip, after which we arrived at San Luis Obispo and I detrained for some pictures. Unfortunately I deleted the pictures from the computer before they were saved. Well, it was not my day! The train climbed the grade up and through the mountains and into the upper reaches of the Salinas Valley.

Brian returned from wine tasting. We stopped at Paso Robles then headed to Salinas under the cover of night.

Jenell then returned from the wine tasting as we made our way down the Salinas Valley. At 6:00 PM we all went to the dining car where I had the Amtrak Signature Steak which was excellent. After dinner I took some fresh air at Salinas then listened to the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Calgary Flames in which my Penguins lost 5-2.

Robin relaxing in Coast Starlight Business Class after dinner.

Caltrain 918 waits in San Jose for its next trip. I stepped off in San Jose for some more fresh air before the train headed to Oakland and wondered how much longer the Raiders would be in Oakland. I turned the hockey game off with the score being 4-2 as the train was nearing Oakland, where we arrived at 9:43 PM, 19 minutes late, ending phase on of this trip.

Oakland 11/7/2015

Once everyone had detrained, our group walked the six blocks to the Inn at Jack London Square.

On the way there the low-level San Joaquin train headed for the yard. We reached the Inn and checked in for the night.

11/8/2015 We were up at 5:45 AM and after I checked out, we went to the Buttercup Grill where I had French Toast and sausage.

The Western Pacific Oakland station built in 1910. After Brian and I headed back toward the station, we set up for pictures.

The early morning view of the Jack London area of Oakland.

An Alameda County Transit bus with Go Warriors.

Brian and I were rewarded with a Union Pacific freight train coming down the street running in Oakland.

Our group in Oakland.

Our low-level train that I would finally have the opportunity to ride came down the street.

San Joaquin 712 11/8/2015

We boarded car 5008 "Redwood" for the trip to Bakersfield this morning. Now let us look around this former New Jersey Comet Car that had been rebuilt for service in California by the Beech Grove Shops.

Brian enjoying himself.

Jenell's first trip aboard this unique equipment.

Robin had brought his laptop and the GPS device so he could track the train's route.

There is a large wheelchair area at one end of the car.

Another feature of this car is the large bathroom.

View of the coach section.

Large trash containers.

The luggage racks.

Another view of this unique coach. The train left Oakland on time with stops in Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond then later Martinez, where we met the southbound Coast Starlight.

Views between Richmond and Antioch.

Antioch, California. Next stop, Stockton.

Views between Antioch and Stockton as we crossed the California Delta region of the state. The train stopped in Stockton, Modesto, Turlock-Denair then Merced. I bought a hot dog, French Fries and a chocolate chip cookie for an early but satisfying lunch. The train went on to Madera, Fresno, Hanford, Corcoran, Wasco then on into Bakersfield where we split the group, with Brian on the Glendale bus and the rest of us on the Amtrak train connection bus.

Thruway Bus 5812 11/8/2015

We boarded the bus and after a safety speech by the driver, we left Bakersfield on CA 99 to Interstate 5, to Interstate 210 to CA 2 which made us arrive at LAUPT at 4:02 PM. We walked off the bus, down through the tunnel and up to a waiting train.

Pacific Surfliner 582 11/8/2015

Robin and I took seats in the Superliner coach and I had the computer on just before the train departed to make the usual stops of Fullerton and Anaheim before we reached Santa Ana, where we detrained. Robin drove me home and that ended the Train Travel Meetup Group Oakland Circle Trip.