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A Trip to ride the Upgraded Coast Starlight

by Chris Guenzler

I woke up this morning with a head cold and was not feeling all too great. Still no word on my job but I do have bumping rights and will use them if necessary. They are having more meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week so by next week I might know something. Anyway I finished packing and went to Stater Brothers for some trip supplies before driving down to the Santa Ana train station where I turned in my parking permit for more than 72 hours. I walked over to Track 1 and waited for the first train of the trip.

Surfliner 763 7/29/2008

I boarded the lower level of the cab car for my trip to Los Angeles Union Station on a very overcast morning. The trip was painless and soon the train arrived into LAUPT on Track 7. I walked down into the station.

Waiting to board in the Coast Starlight Traxx Club

As you exit the tunnel into the main station you see this sign that directs Coast Starlight Sleeping Car Passengers to the right spot.

There you are greeted by a friendly Amtrak Manager, Service Quality Product Management, Martin Soholt for the Coast Starlight.

He welcomes each passenger to the Coast Starlight Traxx Club.

You have tables and chairs plus booths to sit at while waiting for the conductor.

The place is empty now but every seat soon will be taken.

At the bar, juice is available and later checked baggage service was also available. At 9:35 AM the conductor collected my ticket and gave me a boarding pass. Ten minutes later, we were led out to the Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 14 7/29/2008

This Coast Starlight had a consist of Engines 122 and 60, Baggage 1714, Sleepers 32086 Louisiana, 32054, 32109 South Dakota, 32068, Parlour Car 39970 Columbia Valley, Diner 38044, Lounge 33026, Coaches 34065, 34512 {Video Games}, 34079 and 34052 with 800344 Rail Ventures Yerba Buena.

The Yerba Buena with its passengers will be on the rear of the Coast Starlight on this trip to Oakland. I decided to stop and take a look at the onboard video games in Car 34512.

Cruisin USA.

Virtua Striker 2.

Merit System.

Soul Caliber 3.

Passengers use a Token Machine.

Two views of the Video Game lower level of Car 34512. From there on to the Pacific Parlour Car.

Pacific Parlour Car 39970 Columbia Valley with Jose as our Parlour Car Attendant.

Back in my room a classic touch, Coast Starlight head rest in my Room 9 in the Louisiana. We waited for the late running Southwest Chief and its connecting passengers to leave Los Angeles at 10:32 AM {10:15 AM}. Once on the move, my Sleeping Car Attendant offered me champagne and oranges which of course I did not need. I did receive a 11:30 AM Lunch Reservation before we paused for a Metrolink Train and then headed to Van Nuys. I rode the Parlour Car as it went through the Chatsworth Tunnels and they called us into lunch using Chimes over the PA System. I was seated with a couple from Fallbrook and another gentleman. I had the "Build your own Burger". West of Moorpark, the train came to a halt after being stopped by the dispatcher after a major earthquake had occurred. A few phone calls and I learned that it was a 5.8 {later dropped to 5.4} earthquake in the Chino Hills near Carbon Canyon. Once on the move again we ran at restricted speed for a few miles before we highballed it for Oxnard. I took a nap until we neared Rufugio State Beach. I put on my DVD of Blue Oyster Cult "A Long Day's Night". Being on the inland side of the train can be a drag at times. I put it on pause as we neared Surf and ventured to the Parlour Car to show you a few scenes of the Wine Tasting. But before that happened, a few views of the coast near Surf.

My favorite point along the route to Seattle.

Two pictures off the bluff looking down at the surf.

The train crossed the Santa Ynez River. The crew was now ready to start today's Wine Tasting. For five dollars Sleeping Car Passengers can participate and Coach Passengers can pay ten dollars if there is room. This introduces the Pacific Parlour Car to them.

The staff makes sure everything is ready.

Most everyone is ready and it will soon begin.

Crackers were passed out to everyone who had brought a Wine Tasting Ticket.

Next cheese was passed out to all of them.

The passengers were now ready for the wines.

Now the wines were poured. Today they enjoyed the Taz Pinot Gris 2006 Santa Barbara County, Estancia Point Noir 2006 Pinnacles Ranch Monterey County, Greg Norman Petite Sirah 2005 Paso Robles and Jekel Riesling 2006 Monterey County. As you may have noted all the wines used today are from the Central Coast Region of California. I returned to my room and enjoyed the "Cult" as the train made its way to San Luis Obispo, my first fresh air stop of this trip.

The train came into San Luis Obispo.

The Coast Starlight at San Luis Obispo. We left SLO at 4:10 PM {3:43 PM} and headed for Cuesta Grade.

The Yerba Buena brings up the markers as the train took the Horseshoe Curve. The train crested the summit through the tunnel and we started down the Salinas Valley with me having a 5 PM Dinner Reservation for tonight. I had a Flat Iron Steak and Chocolate Ice Cream for dessert. After dinner I put on my DVD of Frank Zappa "The Dub Room Special" and paused it for a fresh air stop at Salinas. After that the train crossed The Elkhorn Slough and after the Zappa was done I put on a DVD of the Rolling Stones.

The Elkhorn Slough was beautiful with its birds. The Stones took me to a fresh air stop in San Jose where Henry Bender of the Central Coast Chapter of the NRHS was on the platform during an extended stay. It is always good to see Henry. The train left San Jose at 8:54 PM {8:39 PM} and we were off to Oakland and I was off to bed. I made up my room and called it a night.

7/30/2008 I awoke with us on the north side of Mt Shasta just after sunrise.

A picture of the north side of Mt Shasta. I went to the Dining Car for French Toast and Sausage Patties. I returned to the Parlour Car to a big comfortable chair and talked trains all the way to Klamath Falls.

Scene at Klamath Falls which we departed at 8:41 AM {8:25 AM}.

Our train was nearing Upper Klamath Lake.

The train came to the south end of Upper Klamath Lake.

The train ran along Upper Klamath Lake. I put on my DVD of Peter Cetera "Live in Salt Lake City" for this morning's ride north.

The train ran along the lakeshore towards Modoc Point. The train ran on to Chemult where it did a double stop for passengers. From here the train climbs the grade to Cascade Summit.

Peter Cetera on my computer screen.

There was a Southern Pacific caboose at Crescent Lake.

The train went along Odell Lake before the train went through the Cascade Summit Tunnel and started down the steeper side of the grade.

Views looking from high up the mountain. More scenes on our descent.

After these views we approached the Frazier Slide Zone.

The train went through the Frazier Slide Zone. At 11:45 AM I went to the Dining Car for lunch. There I sat with a couple from Torrance who both work in education. I enjoyed the Chef's Marketplace Special, "Turkey over rolls", as the train dropped the grade to Oakridge. Jethro Tull's DVD "Live in Montreux 2003" was my next musical choice of the early afternoon.

A nearly full Lookout Point Reservoir. Later the train arrived into Eugene, our next fresh air stop, and we left there at 1:43 PM and headed north. On the way to Portland they did the Wine Tasting using different wines from Washington. The wines the passengers tasted were the Hogue Cellars Chardonnay 2006 Columbia Valley, WA., Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red 2006 Columbia Valley, WA., Columbia Crest Shiraz Grand Estates Columbia Valley, WA. and the Columbia Winery Riesling 2006 Yakima Valley, WA. Today I did not attend as I took pictures of it yesterday and I am relaxing this trip. The train stopped at Albany and later Salem as I switched to a CD of Meatloaf "Bat Out Of Hell". That was followed by Paul Stanley of Kiss fame "Live to Win" that would take me to near Portland.

The Willamette Valley north of Salem.

Southern Pacific Steam Engine 1785 is on display at Woodburn, Oregon. At Hito the southbound Coast Starlight was in the siding there for us as we sped north. The train arrived in Portland Union Station at 4:40 PM and departed there at 4:53 PM {4:20 PM} and we followed the Portland Section of the Empire Builder out of town.

You could see Mt Hood as we crossed the Columbia River into the state of Washington and our first stop at Vancouver. I went back to the Parlour Car and visited with other passengers before they called me in for dinner. I had the Flat Iron Steak as the train stopped in Kelso-Longview. After dinner I went on Mount St. Helens watch. With no good pictures opportunities along our route, the train made its way to Centralia.

Just before Olympia-Lacey, Mount Rainer. We stopped there then made our way towards Tacoma along the Puget Sound.

The Olympia Mountains across the Puget Sound.

The Puget Sound as we roll towards Tacoma our next station stop.

Mount Rainer from Tacoma.

BNSF power in Tacoma just before we made our station stop there.

Mount Rainer on the way to Seattle. The train arrived in the Emerald City of Seattle at 9:14 PM {8:45 PM}.

Seattle 7/30/2008

I taxied to the King's Inn and that cost two dollars more due to a fuel charge. Once in my room the wireless went in and out so in the future I would not stay here. I took a nice hot shower and called it a night after watching the Weather Channel for a few minutes.

7/31/2008 I got up tried the wireless again with no luck before I went to McDonald's for Hot Cakes and Sausage. I then taxied back to King Street Station to wait to board my train towards home.

Boarding is done the same way as always in Seattle, line up, let the Conductor take your ticket and then wait by the right door to be let out to the train. I like the Los Angeles new Traxx thing a lot better. At 9:20 AM they let the Sleeping Car Passengers head to the train.

Coast Starlight 11 7/31/2008

This Coast Starlight had a consist of Engines 122, 60 and Cascade F59PHI 567, Baggage 1714, Sleepers 32086 Louisiana, 32054, 32109 South Dakota, 32068, Parlour Car 39970 Columbia Valley, Diner 38044, Lounge 33026, Coaches 34065, 34512 {Video Games}, 34079 and 34052. Same train other than the Cascade engine. I am in Room 11 of the 32054 with Jesus as my Sleeping Car Attendant.

This room has a new set of electronics that I have never seen in a room before. The train left Seattle right on time and headed towards Tacoma.

The new mainlines in Seattle take you to the east of the Amtrak and Sounder maintenance yards before we got stopped at a red signal by a freight train. A few minutes later we moved but stopped again and it was announced that one of our engines was having mechanical issues. I put on Joe Harper's excellent DVD of "Steam Highlights of 2007" to kill the delay. After about fifteen minutes we were back on the move again. I am relaxing on the trip home so I think a nap is in order. I napped to near Centralia and down south below Kelso-Longview we went stop and go due to track work and a train in front of us. When that first DVD was done, I put on Joe's "Santa Fe 3751 - Steam Special plus the Milwaukee Road 261 - Steam Charter". Our train then made its way to Vancouver.

Our train is ready to leave Vancouver and cross the Columbia River into Portland, Oregon our next stop. The train arrived into Portland Union Station at 2:35 PM {1:50 PM} for our servicing stop.

After I got some snacks at the station and checked the Internet, the train departed Portland at 3:00 PM {2:25 PM} and crossed the Steel Bridge to leave the Rose City. This room has no way to turn off the train announcements. I would normally set the control to Channel 4 and that stops the announcements from coming into the room. This car's room has no controls to do that. So I had to listen to all the wine tastings announcements that became very upsetting for me to listen to since we all know I am an alcoholic. I went to the conductors to try to fix this problem but it did not work. Time for some headphones and some loud rock n' roll. I choose the Ramones "Loco Live". The train stopped at Salem and between there and Albany, the northbound Coast Starlight was tucked away in a siding out of our way. Next musical choice was Frank Zappa "Apostrophe" that would take me to Eugene. We left Eugene at 5:52 PM {5:10 PM} and headed into the Cascades. I went to the Parlour Car to wait for my 6 PM Dinner Reservation. I went into the Dining Car and was seated with a couple from Concord and a lady from Lodi. I had a Flat Iron Steak and Chocolate Ice Cream. After dinner back in my room it was time for my CD of Nirvana "Nevermind" as we climbed the steepest part of the Cascade Grade. I played Solitaire on my lap top as I listened to my tunes. Rush "Snakes and Arrows" was my next CD choice for this evening. I next tried playing Penguins and reached the sixth level before I decided to give it up. The UP had signal problems causing us problems delaying us even further as we tried to reach Chemult our next station stop. With that I decided it was enough for one day and I called it a night wondering where I might wake up on August 1st.

8/1/2008 I woke up south of Marysville and went to the Parlour Car to wait for 6:30 AM and the Dining Car to open. I ordered French Toast and sausage patties as the train neared Sacramento. There I jumped off to visit with my brother Bruce, the Amtrak agent there, before I returned the Dining Car to finish my meal. The Coast starlight left Sacramento at 7:15 AM {6:35 AM} and headed across the Yolo Bypass to Davis. At 6:15 AM I had pushed the call button to have the room made up. Upon leaving Sacramento I told the conductor who made a PA Announcement "Car 1132 Room 11 needs to be made up". At Davis I heard the Conductor on the platform tell him the same thing. We stopped later in Martinez but had to do a double stop because the train overshot the platform and the baggage cart could not get to the train so we made a short back up move. At Emeryville we had to wait for passengers to walk down the length of the train to board. At Oakland I told the service Manager about it and am still waiting. What if I was a senior age passenger who had a health problem and used that button to call assistant? Three and a half hours and still waiting as we left Oakland at 9:44 AM {8:50 AM} and headed to San Jose. The Duran Duran CD "Greatest" kept me company on the way to San Jose. I was interrupted at 9:53 AM when Jesus finally did my room. I had a brief meeting with Jack Rich, Director, Product Management, Los Angeles and Martin Sholt Amtrak Manager, Service Quality Product Management, about my concerns. The train went via Niles on the way to San Jose which we left at 11:06 AM {10:07 AM}. In the Pajora Gap I put on Keith Schmidt's DVD of Part 1 of the "Grand Excursion 2004".

Later the train ran along the Elkhorn Slough.

The Harbor Seals were sunning themselves as we made our way to Salinas, a fresh air stop.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1237. The train left Salinas at 12:50 PM {11:48 AM}. I put on the Million Mile DVD final rough cuts to enjoy this afternoon as we climb the Salinas Valley. Later at San Ardo we had to stop to line switches before we ran onto Paso Robles leaving there at 3:01 PM {1:38 PM}. With the Wine Tasting going on over the PA again, I put on my CD of Yes "Magnification" as we dropped down the Cuesta Grade.

The train rounded the famous Goldtree Horseshoe Curve before we arrived into San Luis Obispo. We departed SLO at 4:20 PM {3:20 PM} and we headed towards Santa Barbara. I put on the Rolling Stones DVD and relaxed until Dinner Time. My Dining time today lasted from before Surf to Gavoita along the beautiful California coastal shoreline with me having a Flat Iron Steak. Surfliner 775 was in the siding there as I returned to the Stones until Santa Barbara, the last fresh air break of this trip. The train left Santa Barbara at 6:54 PM {6:17 PM} and headed to Oxnard with Surfliner 796 my ride home behind us. I put on DVD of Queen "Live at Wembley Stadium" for the trip towards Los Angeles. The train left the beautiful Pacific Ocean behind at Ventura and ran on into Oxnard, leaving there 7:34 PM {7:06 PM} and we ran to Camarillo where at the east end we slowed while Metrolink 117 came into the siding there. Surfliner 785 went by us at Stratheren before we pulled into Simi Valley where Bob Riskie was waiting to see me. We departed Simi Valley at 8:22 PM {7:38 PM} and headed through the Chatsworth Tunnel and on into the San Fernando Valley to Van Nuys which we departed at 8:47 PM {8:06 PM}. The Coast Starlight then made its final sprint to Los Angeles Union Passenger Station arriving there at 9:15 PM {9:00 PM} ending an excellent trip with only a few glitches aboard Amtrak's Coast Starlight. I now wait for Surfliner 796 to arrive into LAUPT.

Surfliner 796 8/1/2008

The Surfliner pulled into LAUPT at 9:41 PM for the 10:10 PM on time departure. The train made its way south stopping at Fullerton, Anaheim and then Santa Ana where I detrained. I drove home ending yet another Amtrak adventure on the Coast Starlight.