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A Rail Sale Trip to the Emerald City Seattle

by Chris Guenzler

One evening in January I was on the Internet just searching around and ended up on the Amtrak web site on the Rail Sale page. There I found the Coast Starlight listed at a fare of $31.60. With a four-day President Weekend in February I first checked the date of my return and found 8 seats for sale. Next I checked the going and found 8 seats again. I booked the return trip first followed quickly with the going portion and was successful on both attempts. Next I went to the Best Western web site and reserved a room in Seattle at the Pioneer Square Hotel and I was all set. A visit to the Santa Ana Amtrak station and I had tickets in my hand. I worked most of our school's track season before the day of the trip finally arrived.

Surfliner 763 2/13/2004

I awoke to a beautiful Friday the 13th morning taking care of my usual domestic chores. I drove to the Santa Ana Amtrak station then waited seated on the platform, in the warming sunshine for Surfliner 763. The train arrived five minutes late and I boarded the cab car. Conductor Jeff McConnell lifted my ticket before I sat back and relaxed on my way to Los Angeles. We came to a stop at Fullerton Jct and waited for a BNSF eastbound intermodal train. We slowly made our way to Los Angeles Union Station arriving there twenty four minutes late.

Coast Starlight 2/13/2004

The train backed in at 9:30 AM and my coach was the 34103 or the 1414 car on this northbound trip. Our train's consists was P42DC's 113 and 112, Baggage 1235, Transition Sleeper 39018, Sleepers 32084 Kansas and 32117 Wisconsin, Lounge 33048 as the Parlour Car, Diner 38060. Lounge 33031 and Coaches 34114, 34515 Kiddie Car, 34085 and 34103. Bob Riskie stopped by for a visit during a break in his rules class before I departed town. Right on time at 10:15 AM the Coast Starlight started rolling for Seattle. We met Surfliner 774 at Chatsworth and a Metrolink at Hassan right before Simi Valley. I was enjoying this as I listened to Prince and took pictures of the Chatsworth Tunnels.

Our car's PA was not working so it would be a very quiet trip. We made our way to a chilly Santa Barbara after great views of the offshore Santa Barbara Islands.

Just before West Santa Barbara, I switched the music to Yes Key of Ascension before the Coast Starlight came to a stop for 41 minutes waiting for Union Pacific 5725 South. The delay not only affected the Coast Starlight but also Surfliner 784 which was trapped in the siding at Gaviota until we finally passed. The reason for this delay was because a westbound was in the siding at Ellwood.

I stood at the rear door taking pictures the whole way to Conception where I took a break for a few minutes as we went into the siding there for Union Pacific 5089 South. At the west of the siding our assistant conductor Todd threw the switch so we could continue on our way.

I continued my picture taking until we passed Surf where I returned to my seat for a rest before taking a few more pictures. I relaxed the rest of the way to San Luis Obispo. Once we reached Guadalupe, it became Blue Oyster Cult music time. We passed the tank train at Callendar and later we pulled into San Luis Obispo at 4:14 PM. After a fresh air break and photo of our train I reboarded but had to wait for the late southbound Coast Starlight which was over an hour and a half late. We departed San Luis Obispo at 4:40 PM {3:43 PM}.

The Coast Starlight ascended the Cuesta Grade and in less than 20 minutes we exited the summit tunnel. I rode in the lounge car until 5:40 PM when I entered the dining car for a T-Bone steak and ice cream with chocolate sauce as day turned into night. We stopped at Paso Robles while I was dining. Back at my seat, I listened to music for the rest of the evening. I was tired and called it a night near Gilroy. We left Friday the 13th at Martinez at 12:00 AM, one hour four minutes late. I hoped everyone had a great Friday the 13th.

I woke up on Valentine's Day 2004 in the Sacramento River Canyon below Conant and walked to the lounge car for Orange Juice and a Good Cookie, a rather large chocolate chip cookie. The snowy Castle Crags were beautiful in the predawn light but their summits were covered in clouds. We made our stop at Dunsmuir and left at 7:11 AM {5:04 AM} and the Coast Starlight climbed the Cantara Loop to Mt Shasta. Once around the corner from Black Butte, the clouds were left behind. At Andesite I took this picture of Mt Shasta from the back door.

The train crossed over Grass Lake Summit and made our way to Klamath Falls. This morning the Union Pacific had all the freights in the siding out of our way. We arrived at K-Falls at 10:02 AM where the connecting passengers for the Empire Builder would be bussed to their train. We left town at 10:12 AM {8:25 AM}.

The Coast Starlight ran along Upper Klamath Lake and the BNSF Swift Road Railer train at Modoc Point as I enjoyed the view from the rear door.

I was drinking a Mug Root Beer as the Starlight passed a partially frozen Root Beer Falls. Jim Doty stopped by for a visit discussing his employment with both the Milwaukee Road and Rock Island. He saw the UP 3985 Challenger steam train go through Albert Lea, Minnesota when I was riding it down the ex Rock Island Spine Line. We reached Chemult and departed there at 11:31 AM {9:40 AM} and passed a northbound freight on our way out of town.

The landscape from K-Falls has been snow covered as the Coast Starlight made the assault on Cascade Summit. We stopped at Cascade Summit along Odell Lake for Union Pacific 5739 and a 41 minute delay.

I rode the rear door taking pictures all the way to Fields. As I did this I listened to Sweet, you know that Bar Room Blitz band, all the way to Oakridge.

We passed through Oakridge at 2:15 PM and finally took a picture of the covered bridge west of the tunnel outside of town.

We met another UP freight at Springfield delaying us further while the passengers in my car were really enjoying each other's company. We arrived at Eugene at 3:10 PM and departed there at 3:20 PM {12:40 PM} in a light rain and headed up the Willamette Valley in heavier showers to Albany 4:15 PM {1:30 PM}. The train went into the siding at Millersburg for the southbound Coast Starlight before we backed out of the siding to continued north. The rain had stopped with a beautiful rainbow as the train proceeded to Salem arriving 5:02 PM {2:03 PM}. The Coast Starlight was stopped again this time by a Union Pacific southbound bare table train at Canby. At Clackamas we met Cascade Service Talgo 507 running on time to Eugene and then the Union Pacific hotshot flew by as we sat waiting. We proceeded to Portland Union Station arriving there at 6:30 PM {3:40 PM}.

For our final leg of our journey we would now be dropping off passengers as Cascade Service Talgo 508 took all our newcomers at 6:15 PM. We left Portland at 6:42 PM {4:05 PM} and crossed the Columbia River into the state of Washington stopping at Vancouver 7:01 PM {4:28 PM}. After a few minutes of listening to music, I watched the movie "Radio" that took me to Olympia-Lacy. We made our way to Tacoma leaving there at 9:42 PM {7:05 PM} before we made our final sprint to the Emerald City of Seattle. We arrived there at 10:33 PM {8:30 PM} two hours and three minutes late.

Seattle 2/14/2004

I walked over to the Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel and checked in for the night. I checked my e mail in their business center before calling it a night after a much needed shower. I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day 2004!

Seattle 2/15/04

Waking up refreshed and ready to roll once more, I checked the Weather Channel to learn about the morning's wet conditions. I enjoyed a continental breakfast then checked and answered all my new e mail. In a light February rain, I walked back to King Street Station to wait for my train back to Los Angeles to arrive and my next Amtrak adventure to begin. I enjoyed the heavy BNSF freight action passing outside of the station.

Coast Starlight 11 2/15/2004

The same exact Coast Starlight I rode up backed by the station, pulled forward before backing into the station for boarding at 9:23 AM. Tickets had been taken and I was in the front of the line at Door 1. They boarded us at 9:40 AM and we left Seattle right on time with me at the back door taking a picture.

Amtrak's Seattle maintenance department fixed our PA in car 34103 so it would not be a quiet trip like on the trip north. We left Tacoma late due to heavy boardings and did our shoreline running along the Puget Sound under mostly cloudy but trying to clear skies.

My late morning music selection was from that fine Canadian band, "Honeymoon Suite". The cast of characters were as interesting as on the way up. I have a family of three with dad sitting next to me going to Paso Robles and a father taking his son and cousin to Martinez. Much later we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon and arrived at Portland Union Station on time where I detrained for some snacks.

We left Portland on time and proceeded down the Willamette Valley to Marion where we pulled into the siding behind the Union Pacific 5760 to wait for the late running northbound Coast Starlight.

The train backed north out of the siding and headed south to Salem. The Dining Car Steward reached our car last so we received 8:30 PM dinner reservations. We continued on to Albany then to Swain for the wait for Union Pacific 6010 North costing us thirty five more minutes. We arrived at Eugene just as the sun was setting and after a fresh air break we started to pull out but came to a quick stop. A passenger in the 1112 car had what appeared to be a major epileptic seizure. I was amazed how quickly the Eugene Fire Department and Paramedic units responded. We finally left Eugene at 6:06 PM {5:10 PM} and headed east into the night for Cascade Summit. I watched the beginning of "Radio" that I missed last night before returning to my seat for Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull solo work "Rupi's Dance". I had dinner at 8:30 PM with the wonderful family going to Paso Robles. I enjoyed the Delmonico Steak and the usual ice cream dessert. We had a good time at dinner with Mary, a sleeping car attendant joining us in our laughter while we ate. I detrained at Klamath Falls for some fresh air on a cold and rainy night. The Coast Starlight departed K-Falls at 10:09 PM {10:00 PM} and headed out into the night to that Golden State called California.

4/16/2004 While I was sleeping or twisting and turning if you prefer we stayed an hour late through Dunsmuir and Redding before we sat for three train meets including the northbound Coast Starlight with Richard of Lets Talk Trains onboard. I was in the lounge car at Red Bluff at 5:30 AM as we continued to Chico departing there at 6:29 AM {3:50 AM}. It was a dark rainy morning with the nimbostratus clouds obscuring my view of the Sutter Buttes. At Binney Jct, we turned south down the old Western Pacific on our trek to Sacramento with the UP having two trains in the sidings out of our way. We arrived at Sacramento with me running into the station for a USA Today and to say hello to my brother Bruce, the Amtrak agent there. We left Sacramento at 8:30 AM {6:30 AM} and crossed the single track of the almost complete Yolo Causeway double tracking project now scheduled for a March 1st completion date. We ran southwest crossing the Carquinez Straits on a very wet morning.

We pulled into Martinez and had a cloudy trek along the Carquinez Straits and San Pablo Bay. South of Richmond the clouds lifted with the Golden Gate and the skyline of San Francisco standing out on a beautiful morning. We tried to make a brief stop at Emeryville but people got on our train thinking it was a San Joaquin train. Once they got off, we ran to Oakland Jack London Square where we stopped briefly and then departed at 10:40 AM {8:50}.

We headed to San Jose on the Capitol Route due to freight trains on the Mulford Line. The Coast Starlight ran through Fremont before coming to a stop at the junction of the Mulford Line for yet another freight. We left San Jose at 12:05 PM {10:07 AM}, passed through Gilroy at 12:40 PM before coming to a stop at Corporal at a red signal to receive track warrants. We went through miles of tie replacements as we passed through the Pajora Gap. With the train's slow progress I finally got a picture of one of the Granite Rock Company engines.

At Aromas we passed a complete tie replacement gang and returned to track speed before Watsonville until we crept by the nature reserve at low tide at Moss Landing. We stopped at Castroville for more block authority prior to running to Salinas, a fresh air stop, which we departed at 2:12 PM {11:48 AM}. Further down the Salinas Valley as we came into San Ardo someone asked me what town it was. I saw a sign that said Hell because a tree was blocking the "S" in Shell sign. It was Shell not Hell. That started the jokes about this town as Hell with half acre over there, the handbag there, the fire there and the trees over there. We laughed all the way to Paso Robles where my family got off and we departed at 4:26 PM {1:33 PM}. The Coast Starlights met at the east end of Santa Margarita before the train went into the siding at Chorro. I had a 5:30 PM dinner reservation so I ate the whole meal while I was sitting there. I had a T Bone steak and the usual ice cream dessert. Finally Union Pacific 4966 North rounded the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve before passing us on the mainline on our right. Once it passed, we proceeded to San Luis Obispo after dark.

We departed SLO at 6:25 PM {3:20 PM} and I moved to a seat in the rear of the car. A family with four boys, the youngest three did nothing but cause trouble to their parents all afternoon. While I found it comical in the daylight I was not going to put up with their antics after dark now that all my new friends have departed. I napped to Santa Barbara where I stepped off for some fresh air. Here I learned that the delay in SLO was caused by an aluminium leak which left only a single track through town open which that freight train was on. We left Santa Barbara at 8:57 PM {6:17 PM} and ran with no more delays to Strathearn where we went into the siding and waited for a late Metrolink 119 which had been delayed by a freight-auto accident earlier in the evening before we reached Simi Valley. From there it was on to Glendale with no further delays. I want to thank Larry Craig who had been my excellent car attendant of the last four days. We arrived Los Angeles Union Station at 11:08 PM {9:00 PM}, two hours and eight minutes late ending another excellent Amtrak adventure.

The Bus Ride Home 2/16/2004

The bus departed with 25 passengers aboard at 11:39 PM. At Fullerton we were greeted by connecting passengers off the extremely late running Southwest Chief that had just arrived at Fullerton at 11:45 PM {6:44AM}. The passengers told me that two of the engines had died outside Chicago. Two freight units were added to the point but were restricted to 79 MPH instead of the Amtrak units ATS equipped units that can do 90 MPH. The later died on the law at Ibis, CA only adding more to their tardiness. We left Fullerton at 12:17 AM, Anaheim at 12:35 AM and I debussed at 12:43 AM only to find Surfliner 595 sitting dead in Santa Ana with engine failure. I drove home ending yet another Amtrak adventure.

For more pictures of this trip.