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My Return to a Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight

by Chris Guenzler

My next trip would be the start of working on finishing my one million miles. It would be to Portland, Oregon on the Coast Starlight, a night at the Mark Spencer Hotel, a trip on the Talgo to Olympia-Lacey, then the Coast Starlight home. That was my plan, but now let us look at how reality would change my plans and make for a unique trip over a long weekend.

Surfliner 763 2/16/2007

My mother drove me to the Santa Ana train station where Metrolink 682 was arriving.

I walked over to the east platform to wait for Surfliner 763 just before Metrolink 607 arrived.

Then Surfliner 763 pulled in with Surfliner Cab Car 6906, Coaches 6452 and 6403, Coach/Cafe 6304, Pacific Business Class 6807 and Engine 456 pushing. Jonathan and Harry Ortiz boarded the train in Anaheim, en route to Sacramento. We paused at Fullerton before we made the final sprint into Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, arriving there a few minutes late. I detrained and led Jonathan and Harry over to Santa Fe 4-8-4 3751 which was on display.

The steam engine had been on display all week as part of the San Bernardino Railway Historical Society Educational Outreach Program for school children.

What a beautiful machine she is! I walked back over to Track 10 to wait for the Coast Starlight to arrive.

Coast Starlight 14 2/16/2907

The Coast Starlight backed in with Engines 121 and 118, Baggage 1709, Transition 39005, Sleepers 32079 "Georgia" and 32071 "Arizona", Pacific Parlour Car 39972, Diner 38005, Lounge 33004, and Coaches 34072, 34101 and 34045. I boarded the Georgia and had Room 7 with the wonderful Ron Harris as my sleeping car attendant. After storing my luggage in the room, I walked over to Track 11 to get pictures of our train.

Back on board, I got some Danish from the Pacific Parlour Car before I went back outside to visit with Conductor Bob Riskie.

Views inside the Pacific Parlour Car. At this point in time, attendants had not been assigned to the Pacific Parlour Car. I put on the new CD by the Young Dubliners "With All Due Respect" prior to our on-time departure and enjoyed some music. Later, I went to the Parlour Car to meet some of my fellow passengers.

From Pasadena, there was Jay and Robbin Nordsten, along with Ralph and Ridge Nordsten. Ridge had celebrated her 87th birthday on Valentine's Day.

here was also first-time train rider Spencer with his parents Jody and Emily. We met Surfliner 774 and a Metrolink train while we waited at Chatsworth due to a computer failure on engine 121. As a result, head end power was sporadic. At 11:36 AM, we were called into the dining car for lunch and I was seated with Jerry and Eva going to Salinas, and Jan going to Seattle. I had the beef Angus burger and chocolate bundt cake. It was then announced that we would be waiting for a replacement engine that should arrive at 1:15 PM. A westbound Union Pacific freight passed us our train.

Jonathan visited me in the Parlour Car.

Me enjoying one of those big comfortable chairs in the Parlour Car that I like so much. Next train by the UP Leesdale local. At 1:18 PM, another westbound UP freight passed by.

Also in the Parlour Car was Milt Bevins from San Dimas, making his first long-distance train ride to San Francisco. Next, a Metrolink train bound for Moorpark went by. Finally at 2:08 PM, Surfliner 769 pulled along side our train with replacement engine 457 on the point. Surfliner engine 457 was then added to the point of the Coast Starlight. That Metrolink train from Moorpark then passed by on its return to Los Angeles. At 3:21, our train pulled down to the west signal at Chatsworth and waited for UP 4273 East to go by. As we started rolling, the wine tasting began in the Parlour Car. When we reached Simi Valley, the smokers were given a much-needed smoke break. We left Simi Valley at 3:42 PM {11:23 AM} and passed Surfliner 784 at Moorpark. Traveling at track speed through Somis, near Sand Canyon Road, I felt us hit something. The train went into an emergency stop and a large cloud of dust formed as a semi-truck's cab spun off into the trees. I grabbed my camera and quickly walked through the train, with Jonathan and the rest of the passengers following me, to the rear door for a picture.

The red cab of the truck could be seen in the trees and its trailer rolled and flipped over. The driver was uninjured and we were released to continue at 4:35 PM. Remember that "Every trip is an adventure!"

The strawberry fields west of Camarillo looked really good in the late afternoon light. We departed Oxnard at 5:01 PM {11:55 AM}.

The train finally reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean after Ventura at 5:15 PM. We arrived at Santa Barbara, on the siding, passing Surfliner 792 at the east end of town. We left Santa Barbara at 5:50 PM {12:48 PM}. I dined with Jonathan and Harry and I had the Seared Salmon and a Chocolate Bundt Cake.

After dinner I returned to one of those big comfortable chairs in the Pacific Parlour Car. We paused for 17 minutes at Gaviota for Surfliner 798 and Jonathan and I talked all the way north to San Luis Obispo. We kept in contact with Chris Parker, my train-riding friend, keeping him up-to-date on what had become a very unusual trip so far. We passed the southbound Coast Starlight just before we arrived into San Luis Obispo.

I took pictures of the damaged pilot of engine 457.

Station scenes at San Luis Obispo. The Coast Starlight left here at 8:41 PM {3:43 PM} and climbed up and over Cuesta Grade. I called it a night as we pulled into Santa Margarita to wait for 58 minutes for UP 3253 East. While I slept, we were delayed 19 minutes at King City and struck debris on the track twice for another 6 minute delay. At Oakland, the cow catcher had to be removed from the 461 in order to clear the rail. This took 23 minutes and then we had to wait another 51 minutes for a new crew.

2/17/2007 I awoke at Jack London Station which we departed at 5:40 AM {9:47 PM}. Next we stopped at Emeryville, leaving there at 5:59 AM {10:12 PM}.

I took pre-sunrise pictures along the Carquinez Strait. I helped an elderly couple to the dining car for breakfast where Julio, an excellent waiter, served me every meal on the trip. I had French Toast and Sausage Patties and was seated with Betsy, along with Scott and Tracy, going to Portland. We stopped at Martinez before crossing the high bridge just north of there.

I photographed the sun rising over the US Navy Mothball fleet before crossing the Suisan Marsh.

The Suisan Marsh.

I saw the Davis Tower as we departed from Davis at 7:35 AM {11:33 PM}.

Our train crossed the waters of Yolo Bypass which allows the waters of the Sacramento River to be diverted to the California Delta.

Next we crossed the Sacramento River prior to our stop in California's capital city.

During our station stop in Sacramento, the Coast Starlight at rest at Sacramento.

I photographed the damage to our lead engine's cow catcher.

I noticed that the Sacramento Light Rail had finally reached the Amtrak station. We left Sacramento at 8:13 AM {11:59 PM} after three people detrained.

At Haggin, we turned off the Central Pacific line on to the former Western Pacific line which we would take to Binney Junction. At Del Paso, we met the southbound Coast Starlight which was running two hours late and then UP 5649, creating a 16 minute delay.

Along the way, I photographed a large marsh with birds as we headed toward Marysville.

I saw the locomotives of the Modoc Railroad Academy. We passed BNSF 4038 West at Moukes before we crossed the Yuba River into Marysville. We turned onto the former Southern Pacific Shasta Route at Binney Junction and crossed the Feather River. At Berg there was a UP freight in the siding there.

We passed the Sutter Buttes with the Coast Range to the west of the Sacramento Valley south of Chico.

Flooded rice fields as we closed in on Chico where we did a very quick stop.

One could see Mt. Lassen as we neared Red Bluff in the daylight.

The train stopped at Redding where we waited for 23 minutes while the Redding police removed two women and their luggage from the train, threatening to arrest them for fare evasion.

Picture of one of the ladies.

Their luggage that was put out onto the Redding Station Platform. We departed Redding at 2:25 PM {3:14 AM}.

The Coast Starlight crossed the curved bridge over the Sacramento River.

Later we crossed the last bridge over a branch of Lake Shasta.

We saw the Castle Crags before a well-deserved fresh air break at Dunsmuir.

The train at Dunsmuir.

I took a picture of my sleeping car crew. We departed at 2:25 PM {5:04 AM} and headed for the Cantara Loop in the afternoon shadows.

We passed below Mount Shasta and at Black Butte we waited 52 minutes for UP 5435 West as the wine tasting took place in the Pacific Parlour Car.

I photographed Mount Shasta from the northeast side. It is really a magnificent mountain. I took a brief nap and at Grass Lake we were delayed another 15 minutes by a rail grinder.

I returned to the Parlour Car for the ride to Klamath Falls, where I took a well-deserved fresh air break.

The front of our late train.

Down by the station early in the evening. We departed 6:25 PM {8:25 AM}.

I went to the dining car for the Seared Salmon which was very good. I returned to my room to listen to "Queen II" and read the paper. I thought that I should get some sleep so I got a blanket, put the bed down and slept the rest of the miles toward the greater Portland area. While I slept, we did not lose any more time until we reached the Willamette Valley. At Swain, we first waited for 23 minutes for Amtrak Cascades 509 and another 26 minutes for UP 1996 West.

2/18/2007 Ron awakened everyone twenty minutes from Portland. Passengers going further north would be bussed and the Coast Starlight would terminate in Portland. Someone then placed their car on the tracks at MP 769.78, ten minutes away from Portland Union Station. We sat for 52 minutes while the police and a tow truck were called to remove the vehicle. At 3:13 AM, the Coast Starlight started moving again for the last few miles into Portland Union Station, arriving at 3:28 AM {3:40 PM}.

Portland 2/18/2007

Once I detrained and walked through the station, I took a taxi to the Mark Spencer Hotel for the rest of this short night. I was in bed by 4:10 AM, but remained there until only 7:30 AM, before having a continental breakfast downstairs. I then decided to ride the Portland Streetcar, since it had been extended since my last visit to the City of Roses.

A block south of the hotel I waited for the Streetcar to pick me up a block south of the hotel. I rode it south, getting the new section from SW River Parkway to SW Moody & Gibbs where I took pictures.

The Portland Streetcar at the SW Moody & Gibbs Station.

Me and the Portland Streetcar. I returned north through downtown to the northwest end of the line then returned to the stop by the hotel.

One last picture of my Portland Streetcar. I returned to my room and tried to call several people, but only got their answering machines. I checked out and decided to walk back to Union Station.

On the way there, I took two more photographs of the Streetcar, one coming and one going.

A few blocks later, I reached the very beautiful Portland Union Station. After stopping at the station store, I checked my luggage into the Metropolitan Lounge to store it during my stay there. I then took MAX from Chinatown to Lloyd Center and visited Arby's for lunch. Having a roast beef sandwich there is always satisfying. I returned to Portland Union Station and the lounge. Since the Coast Starlight was originating here, I was able to watch the pre-departure preparations of my train. The 457 was cut off and set out on Depot Track 1. Next, the power was wyed putting the 118 on the point. I bought an Empire Builder T-shirt before I rented a Railway Media digEplayer 5500 for my trip home. At 2:16 PM, we left the lounge and walked out to the waiting train.

Coast Starlight 11 2/18/2007

I walked out to the Georgia, having Room 6 with Ron Harris as my sleeping car attendant again. The train had the same consist we had leaving Los Angeles on Friday.

I started watching "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest" and we departed Portland 7 minutes late because of the late boarding of passengers. We had a red signal at Labish, waiting for the Sakim switcher to clear. I made a 6:00 PM dinner reservation so I could enjoy the fresh air later at Eugene. At Hallawell, we met the northbound Coast Starlight running three hours late. After we backed out of the siding, we passed UP 5287 West which was in the siding ahead of us. We continued on to Eugene for the fresh air stop.

The train left Eugene departing at 5:46 PM {5:20 PM} and a few minutes later, they called the 6:00 PM dinner reservations to the dining car. I was seated with Claire going to Chico, and Chris going to Martinez. I decided on the Roast Chicken and Chocolate Bundt Cake. At Natron, we were stopped by UP 4948 for 5 minutes. Back in my room, my next movie was "Invincible", followed by "Superman Returns". At Dougren, we were stopped by UP 5275 and later at McCredie Springs. Add that to more slow orders and we arrived at Klamath Falls at 10:26 PM, thirty-six minutes late. The movie finished after we left here at 10:36 PM and remained 36 minutes late. I made up my room and called it a night. During the night, we had several major delays. At Worden, we waited 24 minutes for UP 4938, followed by 39 minutes of slow orders and later, we were delayed an additional twelve minutes at Grey Rocks for UP 5435. At Rawson, we had another 8 minute delay meeting the northbound Coast Starlight.

2/19/2007 I awoke in the predawn light of a clear Northern California morning, just north of Binney Junction. At 6:30 AM, I went into the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast and Sausage Patties, seated with Charlie, Tom and Carol, all going to Sacramento. We pulled into Sacramento after waiting for Capitol Train 529 at Haggin.

I took a fresh air break, before putting "The Illusionist" on my DigEplayer. We departed at 8:23 AM after our engines were refueled. During the movie, we stopped at Davis and Martinez. We were stopped by trackwork at Crockett and had to wait until the eastbound California Zephyr passed before we continue into Emeryville, while I watched "The Gridiron Gang". We continued south to Oakland Jack London Square before heading to San Jose via Niles. I detrained for some fresh air at San Jose and put on "Employee of the Month" before we departed at 12:08 PM {10:37 AM}.

Later at Moss Landing a view looking east out of my Room 6. We arrived in Salinas for the next fresh air break.

At Salinas the Southern Pacific steam locomotive on display.

The ticket counter inside the Salinas Station.

The Salinas stop was extended over 70 minutes while we waited for a UP track gang to clear the tracks ahead. I had put on "All the Kings Men" and we departed at 3:15 PM. No thanks to the Union Pacific Railroad, this one delay would be the one that forced me onto a bus south of Los Angeles. The usual slow orders and a stop to copy track warrants led us into Bradley siding, where we waited for the northbound Coast Starlight. That was after I had put on "Talladega Nights" as I traveled the rest of the way south through the Salinas Valley. After waiting 14 minutes and learning that Train 14 was running later than expected, we moved south to McKay and waited there 71 minutes for Train 14. I went to the dining car during the delay and was seated with Ralph, Audrey and Pat. I ordered a Country Fried Steak and Mississippi Mud Cake. Train 14 arrived after being delayed by a track gang and a medical emergency at 6:33 PM. The last movie that I watched on this trip was "The Devil Wears Prada". That movie finished right before we arrived at San Luis Obispo at 8:30 PM and a needed fresh air stop. I returned the Media Player to the lounge car and we left at 8:45 PM. Before we left town, we waited for UP 4836 West and Surfliner 775 to clear, adding 27 minutes worth of delays to this trip before we finally departed.

2/20/2007 I slept until just after Van Nuys and prepared for the bus ride home to Santa Ana. We made an emergency stop at CP Allen as part of a test for our train crew. We pulled into Los Angeles Union Station at 2:16 AM {9:00 PM}, ending a very interesting and unusual trip aboard the Coast Starlight. Having the Pacific Parlour Car and the Media Player really made it a totally relaxing trip. I made my way to the bus and waited for it to depart at 2:46 AM. We stopped at Fullerton at 3:24 AM, Anaheim at 3:42 AM and Santa Ana at 3:50 AM. There were no taxis anywhere, so I decided to just walk home, arriving at 4:10 AM, officially ending this unique train trip.