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Starlighting to Safeco Field

by Chris Guenzler

Without a major trip this summer and not wanting to be restless around home, I cashed in more of my Alaska Airline Miles for a round trip to Seattle in a sleeping car. There was a rumor floating around that Amtrak was going to remove the Parlour Cars as a way to save money. Do not they realize that people take the Coast Starlight just because of the uniqueness of the Parlor Cars. Ray from Trainweb called Amtrak and was told that Amtrak had no plans to remove the Parlour Cars at present. For me, I would miss these cars immensely if they would be taken away. The other reason why I wanted to go to Seattle was to finally see a baseball game in Safeco Field. I purchased a single ticket for the game of the Red Sox vs the Mariners. The Best Western at Pioneer Square was sold out so I called the old dependable Kings Inn, receiving their Amtrak rate for my two night stay.

Surfliner 765 8/13/2002

My mother drove me down to the Santa Ana train station and I used a Guest Rewards Coupon to upgrade to Pacific Business Class. I had to pay the additional one way fare since it could not be used with a AAA Fare so the computer would take it. The computer I later noticed removed my Guest Rewards Number off of the ticket so I will have to make a phone call to them at a later date. The Surfliner arrived on time and I enjoyed a cup of tea as I listened to Styx Live 2001, which bought back the memories of just seeing them at the Orange County Fair last month. The trip took no time and soon we were crossing over the Flyover above the Alameda Freight Corridor with the Santa Fe 3751 patiently waiting on the garden tracks at Redondo Jct until next Monday when it will pull its own train to the NRHS {National Railway Historical Society} Convention at Williams, AZ. As we pulled by the Amtrak coach yards, I saw my Starlight for the first time and yes it does have a Pacific Parlour car in its consist. This set of equipment I saw last week on a trip up to Goleta had a Superliner II Lounge Car in the Parlour Car's place.

Coast Starlight 14 8/13/2002

The Coast Starlight backed into Union Station and shortly I boarded the Iowa, the same sleeper I had on my last southbound Starlight trip. I had Room 12 downstairs on the Pacific Ocean side. I visited the Parlour Car for some cinnamon rolls and a cup of tea meeting the ever wonderful Tony, the Parlour Car attendant. My sleeping car attendant was Hayward and an old dear friend, Steve was the lounge car attendant. We left Los Angeles on time with three Horizon Fleet coaches tucked in behind the power. The major changes from my last trip was that the Pasadena Gold line is closer to completion and their shop area along the west bank of the LA River is being built. I rode a plush comfy chair in the Parlor Car to Van Nuys before returning to my room for a musical interlude while the Starlight passed through the Santa Susana Tunnels. The train went into the siding at Hassan for Surfliner 776 before it arrived at Simi Valley. From Oxnard to Carpentaria, I enjoyed a Steak Burger before I returned to the room to relax until Santa Barbara where I detrained for some fresh air. Our trip north along the Pacific Ocean was under a blanket of thick dark clouds with the sun making a brief appearance only once. As the train turned away from the coast, blue skies became the rule of the day. They made the crew change at San Luis Obispo before the Coast Starlight climbed the fabled Cuesta Grade. As we headed north down the Salinas Valley after Paso Robles, I enjoyed a steak for dinner. The only negative thing about the meal was they no longer have Caramel Turtle Ice Cream Cake for dessert. My waiter asked me the difference between VIA and Amtrak with me having to look no further than this car's spotted windows. I then told him of the cleaning the Canadian gets as it crosses Canada. My evening was the early movie of Spiderman which took the train to the darkness of the Pajora Gap before I returned to my room for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I called it a night after a fresh air stop at San Jose where we left one hour late on account of slow orders in the Salinas Valley. We passed a late running southbound Train 11 at Newark and I wondered where I would be waking up in the morning.

8/14/2002 I awoke on the Coast Starlight as it was traveling along the north flank of Mt Shasta. The sky had a reddish hue to it from all of the wildfires in Oregon. I had a pancake breakfast with a single lone view of Mt Shasta through the blanket of smoke. We were running forty minutes late and still had the three Horizon coaches with us behind our engines. They must be dead heading to Seattle for use on the Seattle Seahawk football specials from Portland. We made our servicing stop at Klamath Falls and later I did not know if it was because of all of the smoke in the air but I had never seen this many birds on Upper Klamath Lake. We lost the smoke near Chemult and had perfectly clear skies for our crossing of Cascade Summit. While the outside views were so peaceful, the PA blaring of no smoking in the coaches and "You must be under twelve to use the Kiddie Car!" My book for this trip was the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux.

It seemed funny to me when the PA blasted again after I had been bused K-Falls to Portland for the Milwaukee Road 261 and Union Pacific 3985 trips back in June when they bought up that subject. "The plan is to take all of you Train 28 passengers to Portland but be aware if we lose thirty more minutes busing from Eugene could become a possibility so you might want to have lunch before Eugene!" Like I said on that last trip, I will always give myself an extra day so I will never have to go through with that again. As the Coast Starlight approached Eugene, the PA came alive once more. "For Train 28 passengers, no busing today!" What a lucky group of passengers they were on this trip!

I stepped off in Eugene into a furnace as most of Oregon was in their last day of triple digit temperatures. Seattle was supposed to be in the nineties today but back in its normal range of temperatures tomorrow. Today, thank God for the air conditioning on the Starlight. We headed north to Albany where a large tour group detrained. I rode the Parlour Car until the wine tasting started preferring the music choices in my room as well as the book I was reading. Portland Union Station was a really busy place. The Empire Building was waiting on our connecting passengers to leave, Cascade Talgo 754 waiting for the 6:15 PM departure for Seattle, and a BNSF Shipper Special headed to Sacramento on a round trip down the Inside Gateway. I had a great steak dinner and ice cream sundae with AJ having been my waiter for every meal aboard the Coast Starlight on this trip. The only negative thing that happened was when I was going to sit down for dinner, the steward told me I could not sit there and now being off balance the train of course rocked and my back went out. I enjoyed my music while I tried to stretch out my back. I rested the rest of the way to Seattle with a most beautiful trip along the Puget Sound into Tacoma. We made our way to Seattle in the last twilight of the day. We passed Safeco Field where I would be seeing their game tomorrow night and the new Seattle Seahawk Football Stadium. It amazes me that it is finished after seeing it being built back in March. We arrived in Seattle a mere 25 minutes late.

Seattle 8/14/2002

I taxied to the King's Inn, called home to check in with my mother before I called Heidi in Grants Pass. She lived through those record high temperatures and all of the smoke from the wildfires. It is always good to talk with Heidi and to get caught up on things before I called it a night.

Seattle 8/15/2002

My back was not any better when I got out of bed. I was determined that it might slow me down but was not going to stop me from doing what I came to Seattle to do. Walking first to McDonald for breakfast followed by Ralphs some supplies.

Next it was a three block walk to the south end of the Seattle Monorail which I took to the Space Needle. It was a quick 90 second ride of a mile but was smooth and relaxing. I toured the Experience Music Project. The "Artist Journey" this time was being "Funked" and included a moveable ride. In the Special Exhibit Gallery was "Clothing" including Slash's of Gun and Roses Top Hat, Kiss' Gene Simmons Dragon Boots and a Devo Hat just to name a few. Steven Tyler's Scarf on his mike stand I had seen live twice. While this is an American Music Museum there is a gap because of no Beetles, Rolling Stones or Who as well as no Progressive Rock and no Chicago to be found in the building. Still, it was a worthwhile place to visit. I walked down the hill for a shorter than normal Waterfront Trolley which ended in Pioneer Square due to construction near where it normally terminates. I retraced my path back to the hotel for an afternoon of resting my back.

Later in the late afternoon, I walked down Bell Street and headed down to the Waterfront Trolley. The first trolley came going north so I hopped it since it became the next trolley south and I could get a good seat in case there was a lot of baseball fans boarding at Broad Street. I detrained at the end of the line at Pioneer Square along with a whole trolley of baseball fans split evenly for both the Mariners and the Red Sox. Walking to Safeco meant I had to walk past the new Seahawk Stadium. Once inside Safeco Field, I found my way to my seat on the top deck on the first base side. I bought two hot dogs and a 7 UP before enjoying the view of Safeco Field with Seahawk Stadium being left field and the downtown Seattle skyline behind it. With the BNSF mainline right behind Safeco Field, they played an Operation Lifesaver video. Safeco is a really outstanding ball park and I enjoyed my stay. Boston's Cliff Floyd hit a solo home run to start the scoring in the second inning. Seattle then got four unearned runs before the Red Sox came back with two runs but that was all. The Red Sox lost to the Mariners 4-3. A quick walk ahead of the crowd to the Waterfront Trolley which I took back to Bell where I walked a different way back to the hotel. I showered and called it a night.

8/16/2002 Up early and still in pain, I taxied back down to Union Station before walking along the 4th Ave Viaduct to the east of King Street Station. I went to the point even with the north end of the Seahawk Stadium where I took pictures of both of the Sounder Commuter Trains as well as both of the Cascade Talgo sets leaving for Portland and Vancouver, BC. I went across the street for a really good cinnamon roll and a cup of tea prior to returning to King Street Station for a USA Today and to wait for boarding of my southbound Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 11 8/16/2002

There were no conductors on duty to take tickets inside the station and no train at departure time. When it backed in a few minutes later, I noticed that there was no Pacific Parlour Car. It did have a Superliner II Sightseer Lounge Car taking the place of the missing Parlour Car. At Least I had a Parlour Car going north. They let us sleeping car passengers walk to our cars with mine being the Wisconsin. Elizabeth Kosoki was my car attendant who took my ticket before I found Room 11 on the lower level of the 1130 car. We were told that northbound 14 did not arrive until 1:00 AM this morning. This is the same set of equipment that we passed at Newark running so late southbound so it will be interesting to see how late we become in our journey. At 10:14 A.M., the Coast Starlight headed south starting out a mere twenty nine minutes late. I went to the Parlour Car? meeting Jose the car attendant for a cup of tea.

The Coast Starlight poked its way to Black River and we came to a stop at a lovely bend in the river. Here it was announced that the Union Pacific was having a problem with the crossing of the BNSF. Funny, it that the UP can even delay this train when this train is not on their tracks. A northbound empty trash train finally crossed heading to Seattle. We made our way to Tacoma with me enjoying a steak burger with the usual ice cream for dessert as the train ran along the Tacoma Narrows. Returning to my room, I started listening to the new Yes In the Word {a five CD set} which I would enjoy until I heard all of it all the way through. The Starlight made its way down to Vancouver and entered Oregon with the crossing of the Columbia River. At Portland I detrained for some more post cards for the classroom wall and a Coca Cola. We left Portland one hour seven minutes late. South of Oregon Falls there was "A truck hung up on the grade crossing. The owner was in the process of unloading the contents to see if that would help. Time of the delay is unknown!" This took place at Coalco with the delay long enough for me to walk to the rear of the train and back. Dinner was a repeat of all the others on this trip. I was finished long before Eugene where I took a walk in the slightly cooler temperature. Later, we went into the siding at Hampton along Lookout Point Reservoir for a westbound UP freight. I finished the Great Railway Bazaar as we left the siding and finished the Yes music marathon at Pryor siding. The adventure continued when we came to our second malfunctioning track side defect detector and under the rules of operation the train had to be stopped and inspected. I did not watch Spiderman again but watched the second feature of "Showtime" starring Eddie Murphy and Robert Deniro. One advantage of using the lounge car as a Parlour Car is that more passengers can watch the movie because of the four televisions in the car. After the movie was over, I turned in for the night.

8/17/2002 As I slept the Starlight lost more time with slow orders and bad freight train meets. I had my entire French Toast breakfast while the train sat in Sacramento. We left Sacramento two hours and twenty minutes late. I visited with our train chief and had a discussion which led to car coloring in Amfleet and Superliners. We stopped briefly for a Capitol train at the east end of the Yolo Bypass before speeding onto Davis. I showered, washed my hair and shaved as my room was made up. We crept to Martinez as there were other trains ahead in the station and I noticed a large dinosaur next to a Pepsi plant on the west side of the tracks. We then had to wait for the California Zephyr to depart before we did a double stop due to the length of our train. Just west of Martinez we were further delayed by another UP freight ahead of us. The Carquinez Straits where absolutely beautiful with white caps being kicked up by the strong winds. Following our trip along San Pablo Bay we arrived in Emeryville at 11:20 AM, three hours and ten minutes late. We ran straight to Oakland Jack London Square station where the private car Pine Tree State was added to the rear and two more engines to our point bringing the total to five. We departed Oakland after our extended stay at 12:40 PM, three hours and fifty five minutes late.

Just north of the Player Network Coliseum part of the Red Train of the Ringling Brothers and Barnaby Bailey Circus train was parked and a few miles south the passenger section of that train was parked as well. At their Santa Clara training camp, the San Francisco 49'ers were out practicing. Once we left San Jose, I napped until Salinas where we left a mother who was smoking on the ground with her children aboard. She had to taxi to Paso Robles. I started the next book, Parallel Lines by Ridley Pearson. The first six chapters took me a far as MP 179 where I decided to go to the Parlor Car to wait for dinner. Tonight I had the Seared Pork Chops which was excellent. We went into the hole at Camp Robert for the northbound Starlight which had a Dining Car for a Parlour Car. Boy, I was not to have the Sightseer Lounge Car for my trip. The trip down Cuesta had many deer out on the hillsides. We arrived at San Luis Obispo and I called home leaving a possible ETA to Los Angeles. The Pismo Beach Sand Dunes looked beautiful in the last low light of the day. At Callendar, we went into the siding for both the UP 4708 West and Surfliner 775. While all this was taking place, the sun went down not allowing a daylight viewing of the ran along the Pacific Ocean so I turned in for the rest of the trip. We got stabbed one more time at Goleta as Surfliner 783 was getting into its layover track. I got up and called home at Ventura before returning to my resting.

8/18/2002 When all was said and done, we arrived in Los Angeles at 12:15 AM, four hours and five minutes late. I led the way for the Surfliner buses and gave the driver the direction as far as Santa Ana to the stations and told him how to get to Irvine easily. No taxis were on hand, so I walked down the tracks to home entering the house at 2:15 AM ending another interesting Amtrak adventure.