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Celebrating National Train Day in Grand Style

by Chris Guenzler

Tom Anderson asked me if I wanted to join him on the Relaunching of the Coast Starlight on May 10th, 2008 taking the train to Portland, Oregon. I suggested a roundtrip on the Cascade Talgo Portland to Tacoma and return on that Monday after we arrived Sunday before we would fly home that evening. It was then announced that National Train Day would be that May 10th that we would be departing LAUPT on. Nature then got involved when a massive mud slide at Fields in the Cascades shot down that route for more than three months. The Union Pacific finally got the tracks back in service in mid April with freight trains only during a non work window at the slide location. First Amtrak bussed between Klamath Falls and Eugene for over a week before just suspending service all together. Many rail groups were not happy about this so after a few weeks a Los Angeles to Sacramento stub train was run. That was followed by an overnight bus between Sacramento and Portland. Finally on April 19th, Amtrak returned running to Klamath Falls with a full service train, bus to Eugene and stub train to Seattle. Amtrak sent the Parlour Cars back to Beech Grove to be upgraded during this period. The Union Pacific QPWRV-02 was the first freight through the Frazier Slide Zone on April 5th. Then on April 24 another slide which turned out to be a minor mud slide took place shutting down the railroad for only eight hours. On May 6th the first full service Coast Starlight ran through from Loa Angeles to Seattle. Amtrak then announced that the relauching of the Coast Starlight would be on June 10th, 2008. With airline tickets to get home, Tom and I decided to take this trip anyway which could be a very interesting Amtrak adventure.

5/10/2008 I was up early and after doing my usual Saturday morning chores, I packed for this trip. I drove down to the Santa Ana train station and parked my GEO Metro for a two night stay. I took care of a ticketing issue, stopped by the National Train Day Display before crossing the bridge to Track 1 to wait for Surfliner 763 to arrive into Santa Ana.

Surfliner 763 5/10/2008

The train pulled into Santa Ana and I boarded a very busy Pacific Business Class car for Los Angeles. I took an aisle seat as the train made its way to Anaheim and then Fullerton. There Tom Anderson boarded and took an aisle seat behind me. The train made good time to Los Angeles where we detrained. My first chore was to get a luggage cart so we could have freedom to move around.

National Train Day in Los Angeles: A Brief Look 5/10/2008

The first thing we saw was the display train sitting on Track 9.

Amtrak 458 in its National Train Day paint scheme.

Still lettered for the Coachella Express.

Get You Choo Choo on National Train Day May 10th.

Rear view of this unique engine.

Two views of the Pacific Parlour Car Willamette Valley 39975.

Another view of the 458.

The nose of the 458.

The display train consisting of the 458, Pacific Business Class 6802 Echo Park, Willamette Valley 39975, Sleeper 33032 and Coach 3415. I called Brian Hart of Amtrak who told us to meet him at the Information Booth at the front of the station. Tom and I made our way there and were greeted with bags of National Train Day stuff. He then gave us a tour of the area to be used for the National Train Day Celebration.

The old ticket window area of Los Angeles Union Station has been turned into a stage for the Drake Bell.

The sound board area for the show.

A view up onto the stage.

Tom and Brian Hart of Amtrak.

Amtrak Table.

Los Angeles Sparks Table.

The LA Metro Table.

Fillmore & Western Table.

RailPac table shared by Southern California Transit Advocates and High Speed Rail.

Amtrak California Table.

Two views of the model railroad setup.

Albuquerque Table.

San Diego Table.

The Woo Woo Woo Picture Station. We thanked Brian for his time before we headed back to Track 9.

We passed through the South Garden on the way to the tunnel.

My luggage cart had a will of its own.

In the Tunnel a National Train Day Poster. We made of way to a bench on Track 9 to wait for the Coast Starlight to back into LAUPT.

Coast Starlight 14 5/10/2008

The train backed into LAUPT at 9:48 AM with Engines 115 and 67, Baggage 1707, Transition 39007, Sleepers 32110 Tennessee and 32090 Michigan, Diner 38060, Lounge 33049 and Coaches 34062, 34508 and 34093. Notice no Pacific Parlour Car or substitution. Gabriel was our Sleeping Car Attendant for this trip with us in Room 5 in the Tennessee.

Tom, Andy and Tony who came to see us off.

Andy, Tom and myself.

The Coast Starlight prepared to leave LAUPT on its trek to Seattle. We left LAUPT two minutes late and headed to our first stop at Van Nuys which had its own little National Train Day Event. I called Lets Talk Trains, the Internet Radio Show and told them what we were doing on National Train Day 2008. At Chatsworth we took the siding to let Surfliner 774 pass by before the train headed through the Chatsworth Tunnels to our next stop at Simi Valley which we arrived early into. While there a pipe in the Lounge Car burst causing a temporary closing of the lower level. Before Oxnard they called us for lunch in the Diner with me have the Chef's Marketplace Special of Sliced Turkey over a Roll and Chocolate Ice Cream. That meal took us almost to Carpinteria. At Santa Barbara we took a fresh air break.

Ryan Stern, a new NARP Director before we left Santa Barbara on time as we listened to the Partridge Family "Greatest Hit". The train stopped at Goleta for a mechanic to look at that pipe in the lower level of the Lounge Car. We listened to about a third of Styx "Styxworld Live 2001" before we headed back to the Lounge Car.

The train crossed Jalama Creek before entering Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Our train was crossing the base.

The train ran by Point Arguello.

Our train went by the Launch Pads.

The surf at Surf.

The train crossed Santa Ynez River.

The train has left the base and the Pacific Ocean for its trek to the Santa Maria Valley. Tom got to enjoy two wines as they did a modified Wine Tasting in our room for him. The train later passed through Grover Beach before making its way into San Luis Obispo, our next fresh air stop.

The Coast Starlight at rest at San Luis Obispo. I then decided to go into the station to see if San Luis Obispo was doing anything for National Train Day 2008. I learned that David Weisman, San Luis Obispo Station Host had put together the whole event here.

A photography exhibition by a local railroad photographer.

A model railroad display.

Free snacks were also handed out as well as Amtrak Engineer Hats. I returned to the platform.

David Weisman and me. They blew the whistle and returned to the train learning that we had been upgraded by the train crew to Deluxe Room B. We moved our stuff out of Room 5 into Room B and settled in for more of this trip.

The Chorro Horseshoe Curve.

View looking east after we passed through Tunnel 10. We stopped after letting a UP freight to exit the Serrano siding.

Tom reflected in the mirror of our Deluxe Room B.

Me watching the UP freight roll by.

Another picture of myself while we waited to let the southbound Coast Starlight pass us on the siding. The train headed to Paso Robles after we stopped briefly for another UP freight train. At 5:30 PM we got called into Dinner and tonight I had Pork Tenderloin and Chocolate Ice Cream while Tom had the Flat Iron Steak and Raspberry Cheesecake. We returned to the room and I put on my Frank Zappa DVD "We Don't Mess Around". At Salinas we took a fresh air break before the Coast Starlight headed through Castorville to Moss Landing. Our train was now passing through Moss Landing.

I put on my Rush "R-30" DVD which we both enjoyed. A fresh air stop at San Jose followed by a trip up the Mulford Line into Oakland tonight. We took some more fresh air at Oakland Jack London Station. Ryan and I walked back to the coaches then found Jarrod with his parents in the lounge car. Jarrod has a web site that promotes the Coast Starlight. I rode and talked with then until almost Emeryville. There I enjoyed more of the night air as Gabriel made up Room B that I was in as the Coast Starlight left Emeryville and headed out into the night as I officially ended National Train Day 2008.

Click here for the rest of the trip to Portland through the Frazier Slide Zone