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Railsale to Seattle on the Coast Starlight - The latest Coast Starlight that I had ever ridden!

by Chris Guenzler

Following the Deming trip, I appeared on Lets Talk Trains again on 11/2 as well as taking Amtrak to the Rolling Stones concert which was excellent. As always I was thinking of future trips and coming back on the Surfliner from doing Lets Talk Trains I thought of a Railsale sale trip after Christmas. I came home and a day later booked a trip to Chicago and back for $58.60 each way then a round trip to Louisville for $65.70. With a winter trip now booked, it was time for the Fall trip to Seattle and I could not wait for my next adventure.

Surfliner 763 11/8/2002

Waking up to the first major rain storm of the year's storm season, I thought we were still in Fall but only God knows for sure. After packing, my mother drove me down to the Santa Ana station where I waited under the cover of the walkway. I got to watch Metrolink 607 come and go. The Surfliner arrived right on time and I took a seat on the upper level of the cafe car. As the train made the way to Los Angeles through the rain, it was refreshing to see all the normal dry waterways flowing with the much needed rainwater. Remember California has been in a drought the last three years. A construction project in Santa Fe Springs had blocked the flow of a culvert causing a slow order while a crew worked on repairing the problem. We arrived in Los Angeles just a few minutes late.

Coast Starlight 14 11/08/2002 Sets a new all time late record for me

The Starlight backed in about fifteen minutes later but while the other two coaches were being loaded, our car's connecting passengers waited for ten minutes until one of the other coach attendants opened the door as our car's attendant was late in arriving. The Starlight departed Union Station on time with 118 and 120 as the power of our train and headed out into the storm. We went by the Metrolink shops before we stopped to wait for a UP Swift train to pass by. We continued to CP Raymar to wait for the weekday meet with Metrolink 112. At Chatsworth we meet Surfliner 774. After the Starlight passed through the Santa Susana Tunnel, we paused at Hassan for a meet with Metrolink 114 before arriving at Simi Valley. We stopped again at Strathern to meet another Union Pacific freight. We arrived at Oxnard to a steady wind so I felt that our trip along the Pacific Ocean should be interesting. At Ventura the Tank Train was nicely tucked away in the siding. As we reached the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the ocean was very angry, rough with high waves, the wildest I had ever seen it.

As the storm continued, I enjoyed a Black Angus Steak Burger along with an ice cream sundae as the train rounded Point Conception into a world of low ground hugging clouds. At Guadalupe, the rain returned with force and when we came into San Luis Obispo, I took my fresh air break out into the rain to pick up another Amtrak national timetable. Halfway up Cuesta Grade, we were stopped by a red signal and had to get the UP dispatcher's permission to pass by. Further north at Templeton just south of Paso Robles we went into the siding to get around another UP eastbound freight. Dinner time rolled around and after sunset with no reservations and I enjoyed a Filet Mignon with Lauren, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student studying Agribusiness and a fabulous lady along with two interesting ladies who had been on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited. We met the southbound Coast Starlight at Camp Roberts {McKay} and slow orders added to our delays to Salinas. North of Watsonville at the end of double track, the Coast Starlight cooled its wheels waiting for the UP 9379 east. I finished reading "The Southern Pacific in Los Angeles 1873-1996" by Larry Mullaly and Bruce Petty. I went to sleep after Oakland wondering where I might wake up.

11/9/2002 I woke up at Lincoln on the East Valley Main meaning the train went via Roseville. 118-120 were operating normally until MP 110 on the Valley sub. 118 quit loading and then the 120 quit loading, after rebooting all computers several times, the power desk wanted us to open the battery switch on the 120, that resulted in the 120 shutting down and we were unable to restart it. Waited for assistance from a south bound freight who towed us north to Sunset Whitney where we waited on the 5750, a C44CCTE to pull our train coming from Roseville. Amtrak had trouble with the 118 several times in the last few months, per a Starlight conductor. Both units were "toasted" to use the term the conductor out of Dunsmuir later used to describe their condition. Of course, it could only go 70 mph so we would lose more time. I sat in the lounge car as the train made its way through Marysville and crossed the Feather River before enjoying a pancake and sausage breakfast. As I was eating we met the southbound Starlight at Fagan. We left Chico at 7:15 AM, {1:55 AM} five hours twenty minutes late as the adventure continued. Always remember, every trip is an adventure.

The northern Sacramento Valley was under clouds but dry until Red Bluff when the rains began again in force as we made our way to Redding. We left Redding at 8:52 AM {3:14 AM} and crossed the magnificent Redding Trestle. Minutes later we went through a pair of tunnels that took us to the lower level of the joint highway bridge over the Pitt River. Five more sidings led us to Obrien Siding with the trees in late Fall colors. We crossed over a dry arm of Lake Shasta before plunging into another pair of tunnels that took us to another dry arm of Lake Shasta. Remember that drought I had mentioned earlier. We passed through another tunnel before crossing a very low Lake Shasta and started our trek up the Sacramento River Canyon which is always a treat to see in daylight. We made our way up the soggy canyon with waterfalls galore yet beautiful with the late Fall colors in the trees. I enjoyed the Sacramento River Canyon to Dunsmuir where the smokers stood out in the pouring rain. We left Dunsmuir at 11:07 AM {5:04 AM} after we changed our crew since ours going to Klamath Falls was going to die on the 12 hours of service law. The Starlight climbed out of the Sacramento River Canyon after rounding the Cantara Loop. We passed through Mt Shasta City and Black Butte with no signs of either Mt Shasta or Black Butte. Right before the Hotlum Trestle, the crew pointed out Lake Shastina down in the valley. In all of my trips on this route, they were the first crew ever to point out that lake. As the Starlight reached Grass Lake Summit it started snowing with enough on the ground to make it white until we descended to a lower elevation. Our luck of passing trains on the main ran out at Penoyar where the dispatcher routed us through the siding to get by UP 5712 east. We made it to Kegg to have to wait for UP 5749 east. Further at Mount Hebron we ran around another UP freight. Our train crept through Dorris and the tunnels into Oregon on a ten mph slow order. We pulled into Klamath Falls where I got a newspaper, a Mug Root Beer and a 3 Musketeers.

We pulled out of K Fall 3:03 PM {8:25 AM} which is six hours thirty six minutes late. That makes my latest Starlight trip ever. Will it get later? What do you think? They took extra time in Klamath Falls trying to get the units going again. The term "toasted" was used again by our train crew. We ran fast along Upper Klamath Lake towards Chemult passing my favorite Root Beer Falls along the way. Guess it was Root Beer Float Falls with all the ground snow covered and the falls frozen. The Starlight departed Chemult at 4:24 PM {9:40 AM}. The Empire Builder passengers are being put up in Portland and are being reaccommodated on tomorrow's train. I listened to my 9/7 Lets Talk Trains show prior to our snowy crossing of Cascade Summit. I went to the dining car for a repeat of last night's dinner, a Filet along with an ice cream sundae for dessert. While I was eating, we were stopped by a red signal at Cascade Summit as a track gang was still finishing up further delaying us. I returned to my seat as it was pitch black out and put my headphones on to do some word fill ins. I watched Mr Deeds in the lounge car that took me to Eugene. We were held out of Eugene as a freight train was not clear of the depot for a few minutes. We left Eugene at 8:23 PM {12:44 PM} I took a nap until Portland but still managed to get the times. Albany 9:10 PM {1:30 PM}, and Salem 9:43 PM {2:03 PM}. We sat across the river for Portland first waiting for a freight to clear and after a thirty minutes wait and a crew change since our Dunsmuir conductor just died on the law of service hours. Our AC had to align two switches to allow our train to cross over and with that the Coast Starlight crossed the Steel Bridge and arrived at Portland Union Station at 11:25 PM.

11/10/2002 Midnight came and went, with Enoch playing his Technic keyboard downstairs in the Kiddie Room. Enoch is a most talented musician and his half hour of playing really cheered me up as good music always does. While all this was going on, in front of the UP 5740 they added 48 to the point of our train {running} and the 460 dead. Two live locos {48 and the UP 5740} and three dead ones {460, 118 and 120}. In one word, amazing! We departed Portland at 12:25 AM {4:05 PM}, a new Coast Starlight record. I slept most of the rest of the way to Seattle. We crossed the Columbia River and left Vancouver at 12:45 AM {4:05 PM}. Later at Tacoma, we departed at 2:18 AM {7:08 PM} and then followed a slow moving BNSF freight the rest of the way to Seattle. They woke me up as the train was passing Boeing Field. We passed both the Seattle Mariners and Seahawk ball parks before we pulled by the King Street Station into the tunnel before backing into the station. We arrived in Seattle at 4:50 AM {8:30 PM}, an all time late Coast Starlight trip into Seattle, eight hours, twenty minutes late.

Seattle 11/10/2002 The shortest stay ever

I walked to the Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel for what was left of the night. It took less than seven minutes for me to walk there and I was glad that it was not raining out which made the walk easy. I checked in with a wakeup call for eight AM before heading for a room on the fifth floor for a well deserved shower and short rest. I got two point eight hours more of sleep. The wakeup call came much too early and following checking out then a continental breakfast. I walked back to the King Street Station again with no rain to wait for my train back to California.

Coast Starlight 11 11/10/2002

As I waited, it was announced that Seattle's mechanical forces were still working on there "toasted" units and no word when the train would be released from the yard. "I will keep you informed!" said the stationmaster. Where had I heard that one before? While I was waiting patiently getting to know my new passengers besides the usual BNSF movements, the Empire Builder arrived thirty minutes early and then the American Orient Express arrived on our departure track. That later train had been in Portland when we were in Portland this morning. After numerous poor decisions and the AOE was taken apart then moved, the Coast Starlight went by the station into the tunnel before pulling into the station at 12:19 PM, at least not AM so I am already twelve hours ahead. After they loaded the sleeping car passengers, I led the coach passengers out to the train. I boarded the 1112 car, the same car that I had been riding in the last two days only one seat behind where I had been sitting northbound. We left Seattle at 12:41 PM {10:00 AM} with four engines, the 113, 48, 120 and 118. First two alive and the last two still "toasted". We did not get too far before the first delay as the BNSF 4670 passed by then our crew had to align a switch before we could make our escape from the Emerald City of Seattle.

My wonderful car attendants Graham and Erica of the last two days talked with our assistant conductor and got me a room from Portland for $175 to Los Angeles. I felt that after the trip up that I should treat myself to something special. I mean it is Day 2853 of my sobriety and had I not quit drinking I would not be taken this adventure with all of the experiences. Plus, a peaceful place to spend the rest of the trip would come in handy. The sky is mostly cloudy but dry as we made our way towards Tacoma where it would be raining when we would arrive. We ran along the Tacoma Narrows as the sky dried up before we waited for Cascade Train 506 to clear the station at Olympia before we could do our station work. After we left Centralia, our outstanding female AC took care of the financial arrangements for the Room 11 in the 1131 car. I was reading the "Blunder Book" for this southbound trip. The rain returned north of Kelso where no one boarded as the sun came out from one of these hit and miss showers. The Starlight stopped in Vancouver before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon and on into Portland where I detrained to move up to my sleeper.

I walked down the platform to the sleeping car New Jersey, met my wonderful sleeping car attendant Herminio, stored my stuff before I visited the station's store for some Coca Cola and post cards. I was in the Parlour Car having a Cranberry Black Cherry Soda served by the most knowledgeable Parlour Car attendant Richard. The Coast Starlight left Portland at 4:52 PM {2:25 PM} just as the last light of day was fading. At five, I went to the dining car for my now usual Filet and Sundae. I returned to my room to music along with the peace and quiet just watching our night time passage in the dark. After we left Eugene 7:30 PM {5:10 PM} and being extremely tired from the trip so far, I called it a night.

11/11/2002 I woke up briefly at Redding but got up for breakfast at Tehama and ate French Toast as the train stopped at Chico. Further at Binney Jct, we turned down the ex WP line to Sacramento where we rejoined the Cal P line to the Sacramento Amtrak Station. I detrained to get a USA Today and saw my brother Bruce doing a meet and assist. I read the USA Today from Sacramento 8:56 AM {6:35 AM} to Davis where I returned to my room to listen to some music and watch the world pass outside my window. We ran nonstop until the Carquinez Straits Lift Bridge which nailed us for two minutes. Remember that water traffic has the right a way over train traffic. We arrived at Martinez the same time as the California Zephyr and a few of our passengers had to walk through the CZ to reach our train. We left Martinez 10:24 AM {7:34 AM} for the beautiful trip along the Carquinez Straits. I sunned myself at Emeryville which we departed at 11:06 AM {8:20 AM}. At the east end of the coach yards we came to a stop along the UP 5749 east to wait for a late Capitol 528 to clear. We passed the private car SP 100 that was going to be added to our train at Oakland on the rear end. As usual the car should have already been at the station and ready to be cut in when we arrived. This operation of adding the car took five more minutes than we were scheduled for and we departed Oakland at 11:38 AM {8:50 AM}. I took a shower after we passed the home of the Oakland Raiders and when I returned to my room I found that we were on the route of the Capitol's via Niles. We went into the siding at Albrae to wait for Capitol Train 534 which was not even scheduled to leave San Jose for another 8 minutes when we came to a stop.

Talk about a major dispatcher error, a thirty minute hit. Every delay of this trip has been caused by human error. The choice in Seattle of leaving the AOE to take apart a dead train on the only live track the Coast Starlight could use is ridiculous. We can forgive Seattle mechanical due to the lateness of our train not giving them enough time to work on those two "toasted" engines. Putting the extra engines on our train was a great idea. Still though, human error added to all of this and I will be forced to take a bus to get home to Santa Ana. We departed San Jose at 1:33 PM {10:07 AM}.

The Starlight run through the Pajora Gap and by the Elkhorn Slough to our next stop at Salinas. During our stop it gave me a chance to look at the Southern Pacific 1237, an 0-6-0 which had been put on display here about a month ago. We departed Salinas at 3:03 PM {11:48 AM} and ran to MP 136 where we ran out of Direct Block Authority and had to wait for additional blocks from the Union Pacific Railroad. We continued up the Salinas Valley with numerous slow orders as the sun slowly set over the Santa Cruz Mountains. We stopped at McKay again for more block authority. A two minute delay means that the northbound Coast Starlight is running late. We left Paso Robles at 5:08 PM {1:38 PM} as I was sitting in the dining car waiting for my final Filet Mignon of the trip along with the final ice cream sundae who was served by the outstanding Maurice who served all my meals on this southbound trip in the exact same spot in the dining car for every meal. After dinner we meet the UP 5728 West before we descended Cuesta Grade and the Horseshoe Curve was even impressive in the dark prior to our arrival in San Luis Obispo. A call home with a message of where I am at and the time plus the fact that I would be bussed. After the northbound Coast Starlight left running three hours late, we left San Luis Obispo at 6:51 PM {3:20 PM}. The rest of the way to Glendale, I rested before we arrived there and left at 11:26 PM {8:23 PM}. The Coast Starlight ran the final miles into Los Angeles Union Station arriving at 11:38 PM {9:00 PM} or two hours thirty minutes late ending another interesting adventure on the Coast Starlight reading the Blunder Book on this trip was sure fitting.

The Bus 11/12/2002

Two buses with only one being used to make all stops the passengers were ticketed for. We left Los Angeles at 12:04 AM bypassing Fullerton and went straight to Anaheim. We left there at 12:43 AM for the quick run to Santa Ana arriving there at 12:53 AM. A quick walk to a taxi and I was home in my house by 1:00 AM ending this Railsale trip.