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Railing to Sea-Tac

by Chris Guenzler

With a Veteran's Day Holiday being celebrated on Tuesday and not Monday by the Santa Ana Unified School District I decided to use two of my yearly earned vacation days for a train trip to get away. Tacoma {Tac} had just opened their Light Rail System and I wanted to ride it. If I left on Friday, I could arrive in Seattle{Sea} on Saturday then Sunday take a Cascade Talgo Train to Tacoma to ride this new service. I could leave Seattle on Monday heading for Martinez where on Tuesday would head down the valley and get home by dinner time if all went on schedule. I had Karen book me into a sleeper for the Coast Starlight segments then I had Marty get me the Sea-Tac round trip. I called the Sixth Avenue Inn for two nights and then checked the Tacoma Light Rail Schedule on the Internet. With everything ticketed and set, I just had to enjoy life until the day of departure.

Surfliner 763 11/07/2003

I was up early and off to the Instant Teller as well as the Post Office to pay a few bills then after breakfast I packed before my mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Amtrak station. I enjoyed two Metrolink trains before 763 came in eight minutes late and I boarded the Cafe Car for the trip to Los Angeles. At Fullerton, I put on Chicago 13's "Run Away" which was perfect for the mood I was in. We encountered the first of the many yellow signals at La Mirada until we reached Los Nietos where we got a yellow over green to cross over at DT Junction. 763 received no further delays and we arrived at Los Angeles Union Station only 8 minutes late.

Coast Starlight 14 11/07/2003

The Sunset Limited passengers were bused to Santa Barbara from Palm Springs and after we had arrived the Southwest Chief pulled in from Chicago an hour late. Train 768 came in from Goleta before the Starlight backed into Track 9 with a pair of UP Business Cars on the rear.

Our consist for this trip was P-42DC's 118 and 115, Baggage 1235, Transition Sleeper 39021, Sleepers 32076 Delaware, 32083 Iowa and 32081 Illinois, Parlour Car 39973, Diner 38059, Lounge 33027, Coaches 34114, 34512 Kiddie Car, 34103 and 34049 along with UPP 140 Stanford and UPP 150 Sunset. Both cars were removed at Oakland. I was greeted by the most excellent sleeping car attendant Darren Gonsalvo who I enjoyed on other trips. The ever smiling Bobbie Lee was our conductor from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. We departed Los Angeles Union Station right on time with me in Room 5 of the Iowa. I was in relax mode as we headed across the San Fernando Valley and made our way to the Santa Susana Tunnel.

I ventured to the Parlour Car and saw the destruction of the Simi Valley fires from last week. Our firefighters did such an excellent job containing the fires. I saw where last Sunday the fire had jumped the tracks which caused both the Starlight and Surfliners not to run last Sunday. I enjoyed the Angus Beef Burger and Chocolate Cake for dessert prior to our running along the Pacific Ocean. I started to listen to Rush's "Rush in Rio". At Santa Barbara I took a fresh air break before we left on time and headed west into a wall of clouds which holds the storm that will hit Orange County over the weekend if the forecast is right. It was a beautiful trip along the coast.

The clouds and shadows added to the character of the trip. After Point Conception we stayed in the direct rays of the sun the rest of the way to San Luis Obispo for another fresh air break. Southbound Coast Starlight 11 was in the station when we arrived and we had to wait for 11 to leave before we could do our station work. We departed San Luis Obispo on time right at 3:43 PM.

The Starlight climbed Cuesta Grade and our train looked really good on the Horseshoe Curve. I watched a bit of "Charlie's Angels II". Is there a plot to this movie? I had a 12 ounce T-Bone Steak and Ice Cream for dessert. While eating we went into the siding at Bradley taking a twenty minutes hit for a UP bare table train. By that point, the night fully took hold. On the way back to my room, I explained the clickity clack the train makes to a couple in the Parlour Car. After finishing Rush, I listened to Honeymoon Suite. We arrived at Salinas for a fresh air break and departed there over an hour late. I was very tired, so I turned in at Moss Landing as the Coast Starlight passed through the evening's fog.

11/08/2003 Waking up to a rainy world outside is always a highlight of rail travels as it is all viewed from the warmth of the train. I went to the dining car for French Toast as the train passed through Castle Crag and I was taking a shower during our Dunsmuir stop. I rode the Parlour Car as we left the Sacramento River Canyon as we passed through the forests in late Fall Colors under very cloudy skies. I seriously doubted that Mt Shasta would be making an appearance on this northbound trip. I returned to my room after we met a freight at Andesite for the remainder of the trip to Klamath Falls. The reason for our tardiness since Redding and Dunsmuir this morning was freight train interference and signal failure. The passengers for the Empire Builder would be bused from Klamath Falls to their train. Since I had to be bused once myself in my Summer of Steam Part 1, I always recommend if taking the Empire Builder out of Portland that you plan a layover in Portland so you make your trip all by rail. We went into the siding at Mt Hebron for the UP 9435 taking another fifteen minute hit. With no other delays we finally reached Klamath Falls and a fresh air break.

Following being out in the cool air on at this point dry morning, we departed Klamath Falls at 10:19 AM {8:25 AM}, just under two hours late and it was nap time until just before Chemult. I arose refreshed and ready for our ride over Cascade Summit {Pegra Pass}. From Chemult to Cascade Summit it was a pre winter wonderland with me enjoying the climb on this roller coasting grade to the Cascade Summit Tunnel.

After we passed through the Summit Tunnel, we started our descent as we rolled through Abernathy.

The train rolled through Abernathy.

Next the Coast Starlight came out of a tunnel and onto a bridge across Noisy Creek.

We made the trip down to the bridge over the Salt Creek and the highway which I rode the bus on to Portland one time. I sat in the Parlour Car waiting to be called for lunch off the waiting list. Sometimes my photography comes before eating. After they lost my meal ticket, I received a hot off the grill Angus Beef Burger followed by Chocolate Cake that lasted along Lookout Reservoir. We paused at Springfield in the siding to let another UP southbound freight to pass. Then another fresh air stop at Eugene which I used for a few pictures.

The train left Eugene still two hours down. We ran to Alford where we held the mainline for yet another southbound UP freight. North to the next siding where we again held the main with the UP 4756 clearing late into the siding at Shedd. Continuing north to Hallawell where we once again held the main while a freight cleared the Albany Depot. We left Albany at 3:40 PM {1:30 PM} we met the on time southbound Coast Starlight 11 which was waiting for us in the siding at Marion as we sped to Salem leaving there at 4:07 PM {2:23 PM}. We arrived into Portland Union Station at 5:12 PM just before Cascade Service Talgo 507 arrived from Seattle. After our station work was done, we departed Portland for Seattle at 5:27 PM {4:05 PM}.

Since there was a lunar eclipse taking place tonight, I was on moon watch. Unfortunately, the clouds filled the sky so I hoped for clearing skies as we went north. Our engineer Doug really had our train moving as we stopped only briefly at Vancouver and Kelso-Longview which we departed at 6:22 PM {5:09 PM}. I went to the dining car with a 6:30 Dinner Reservation for a repeat of last night's T-Bone dinner and near the end of the meal we departed Centralia at 7:27 PM {6:17 PM}. Before we got to Olympia-Lacy I saw the end of the eclipse prior to departing that station after the double spot at 7:27 PM{6:17 PM}. I enjoyed my waterside run along the Puget Sound from my darkened room. We arrived at Tacoma and departed at 8:14 PM {7:05 PM} to start our final sprint to Seattle, the Emerald City which we arrived at 9:05 PM {8:30 PM} ending a very restful trip to Seattle on Amtrak. First off the train through King Street Station to a waiting taxi that quickly got me to the Sixth Avenue Inn for a restful night.

Amtrak Cascade 503 11/09/2003

Following a restful night, I taxied back to King Street Station for my Talgo Train ride to Tacoma {Tac}. The restoration of the King Street Station has started and from what they have already uncovered it will be one truly beautiful building when it gets done. Harry Patterson who is an excellent station announcer over the years here is having to yell his train announcements this morning as only one PA mike is working in the station. The PA line above the bathroom was severed by the construction party taking place here early in the week. At 7:30 AM I received my car assignment in Car 3 Seat 15 with us boarding once the Mt Baker International departed for Vancouver, BC.

Following a picture of the Talgo and once on board I visited the Bistro Car for a large Chocolate Chip Cookie. The Talgo 503 left Seattle right on time for Portland. Once the Talgo got up to speed I remembered just how much I enjoyed riding the Talgo. Our Talgo zipped by Boeing Field, went through Black River before arriving at a new station stop for me at Tukwilla. The Talgo sped south through the Sounder Commuter train stop of Kent, which has the old Northern Pacific Station still standing. The Cascade Mountains came into view briefly on this mostly cloudy day. We reached Auburn with its Sounder stop before the line over Stampede Pass took off and we went by the old site of the former Northern Pacific Roundhouse. We made our broad turn to the west passing through the Sounder stops of Summer and Puyallup where the Talgo slowed to 40 MPH before it returned to track speed. The Talgo tilted its way through the last few curves that led us to Tacoma where I detrained right on time.

Tacoma Light Rail Tacoma Link 11/09/2003

Walking a block to the south, I found the car barn of this new service. I walked up the hill along the location of the former Milwaukee Road freight house now the Freight House Shopping District called the Freight House Square. All the shops were closed as it was still early Sunday morning. I found the Light Rail Stop then went behind the Freight House and found the new Sounder Station with a train ready for the Monday morning commuter rush. Inside the west end of the Freight House was a restaurant with Milwaukee Road pictures from over the years. I returned to Tacoma Dome Station to wait for the first 10 AM Streetcar on the schedule. While I was waiting, I enjoyed the passing of the BNSF and UP freights at the base of the hill two blocks away. The Streetcar came up the hill with a Transit vehicle and Tacoma Police car running behind it testing the line for the days operations. The operator announced he would be back in twenty minutes to pick up me and a beautiful women who was waiting to ride.

The Tacoma Light Rail was opened on August 22nd, 2003 and runs 7 days a week. It operates 14 hours Monday through Saturday and 10 hours on Sundays. There are five stations on the 1.8 mile line at the Tacoma Dome Station, South 25th, Union Station/South 19th, Convention Center/ South 19th and the Theater District. The cars were built by the Skoda Dopravani Technica based in the Czech Republic. This company also built the cars used on the Portland Streetcar. The cars are quiet and fuel efficient with low-floor boarding. A bridge plate will slide out to help passengers with wheelchairs or strollers during boarding. The cars have space for bicycles. The cars feature cloth seats and are air conditioned. Each car can hold 56 passengers {30 seated and 26 standing}. All train operates as a single car and the operator changes ends at the end of the line. These light rail cars are 66 feet long and have a width of 8.1 feet. Each car's weight is 61,729 pounds and uses a power source of 750 volts D.C. The system has three cars at a total cost of 9 million including spare parts, taxes and shipping.

The car returned twenty minutes later at 10:06 AM and I was off for my first ride on the Tacoma Link. We headed west down 25th Street from the Tacoma Dome Station to the 25th Street Station. We made a right turn onto Pacific Avenue. A brief view of the BNSF Yard is available down the side streets of 23rd and 22nd Avenues. The line becomes double track as it heads to the next stop at Union Station with the United States Court House in that building. To the east of Union Station is the Washington State History Museum and across the street to the west of Union Station is the University of Washington Tacoma. We turned off Pacific Avenue to the northwest climbing a short hill to reach the Convention Center Stop on Commerce Street.

We then continued north down Commerce Street six blocks past the Convention Center and the line returned to single to a stub end track station at the Theater District.

This ends our northward trip.

The operator switched ends and we returned to the Tacoma Dome Station where I had started my journey.

It was a great way to enjoy my first on the ground visit to Tacoma. I returned to the Amtrak Station via the Car Barn where the second streetcar to be used was waiting to start the day in service.

Back at Amtrak, I watched the southbound Coast Starlight arrive and talked with Darren who was my excellent Sleeping Car Attendant on my trip north. After the Starlight headed south, I called Steve of Trainweb who was in Klamath Falls waiting for this same Starlight to arrive there tonight as I would be riding home on the train he came up on tomorrow. We swapped information about our train sets and crews so each of us would know what to expect for their trip home.

Cascade Service Talgo 500 11/09/2003

I was inside the station when the Talgo pulled into Tacoma from Eugene. I just sat back and relaxed all the way to Seattle. The train arrived back into King Street Station a few minutes early.

Seattle 11/09/2003

I took the Waterfront Streetcar from 5th Ave/Jackson Street to the Bell Harbor stop. I climbed the hill to the hotel and just relaxed the rest of the afternoon watching the New York Jets beat the Oakland Raiders 27-24 in overtime. After the game, I went to the Pacific Center to the AMC Theaters on the fifth floor and saw the excellent movie, "Beyond Borders". I went to the hotel's Six Avenue Bar and Grill on the second floor for dinner before relaxing for the rest of the evening.

11/10/2003 I was up early to McDonald's for Hot Cakes and Sausage then two blocks to Ralphs for batteries and Coca-Cola. I taxied to Pier 70 before boarding the Waterfront Streetcar back to the International District. On the way back to Amtrak, I stopped off and got to go inside Union Station into the Grand Hall where all of those Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road passengers would wait to board their trains. I returned to the rather dismal King Street Station which may one day be returned to the station's former glory. I can not wait to see it in the future.

Coast Starlight 11 11/10/2003

They checked the sleeping car passengers in at the check in stand starting at 9:25 AM. At 9:35 AM, we the sleeping car passengers were allowed to board. My new attendant Roger Keilbach welcomed me to room 5 in the Texas Sleeping Car. After I stored my bags I grabbed a quick picture of the Coast Starlight before getting the train's consist which was P-42DC 117 and 113, Baggage 1164, Dorm Sleeper 39018, Sleepers 32091 Minnesota, 32098 New Jersey and 32111 Texas, Parlour Car 39972, Diner 38056, Lounge 33041, Coaches 34093, 34504 Kiddie Car, 34116 and 34113. We departed Seattle right on time.

A few slow orders for track gangs delayed us slightly to Tacoma before we ran along a rough Puget Sound accented with white caps. I napped to beyond Kelso then enjoyed us passing many freight trains headed in the same direction as us and along with a few more slow orders before we reached Vancouver. We left Vancouver on a yellow signal and headed out across the Columbia River into Oregon on this mostly cloudy day. Despite all of the delays this morning we still arrived into Portland Union Station three minutes early which was plenty of time for a fresh air break. During the layover, I met fellow Amtrak train rider Howard Dean who had room 11 in the Texas headed for Los Angeles.

The train left Portland on time and met the UP 5779 at Clackamus with a CP Rail in the consist. We met the northbound Coast Starlight running three hours late at that point at Millersburg just outside of Albany. I had a Five PM Dinner Reservation and ate a T-Bone that was left over from the northbound trip stock. It was an excellent meal and the ice cream was the perfect dessert. I enjoyed the views from my darkened room until they announced the movie in the Parlour Car Theater which was the very enjoyable "Bruce Almighty". Following a series of nice conversations in the Parlour Car we arrived at Klamath Falls for a fresh air break before we left K-Falls twenty five minutes late and I called it a night.

11/11/2003 I was up for the day about ten miles outside Sacramento on the old Western Pacific. We pulled into Sacramento which we pulled into seven minutes before departure time of 6:37 AM. The P-42DC's were refueled and I was in the dining car waiting for my French Toast Breakfast. I was back in my room before we reached Davis at 7:13 AM {6:50 AM}. I relaxed the rest of the way to Martinez on a beautiful clear morning with a nearly full moon in the Western sky. We arrived at Martinez at 7:52 AM, a mere 18 minutes late but with plenty of time to make my connection at 8:23 AM for Bakersfield. This ended a very relaxful and rested trip on the Coast Starlight.

San Joaquin 712 11/11/2003

A westbound UP freight passed through Martinez just before my southbound San Joaquin arrived at Martinez bound for Bakersfield did. I boarded California Car 8022, the Pitt River and took a left hand seat on the shady side of the train for my trip down the valley. We departed Martinez for my morning trip across the California Delta County to Stockton. I went to the cafe car for a large chocolate chip cookie which I washed down with some Coca-Cola I still had from Seattle. We met the on time westbound San Joaquin at Trull in the middle of the California Delta Country. The former Amtrak stop at the Santa Fe Depot in Riverbank is gone as it burned down a few months ago. Further after passing several BNSF freights in sidings, we met Amtrak 701 bound for Sacramento at Atwater as we passed the Castle Air Museum. I had an early lunch of Spicy Chicken Wings before we arrived at Fresno for another fresh air break before 712 left on time. Just south of Thrope BNSF is adding miles of second mainline to improve operations on this busy section of their railroad. We met sister northbound San Joaquin 713 at Shirley just north of Hanford where I took my last fresh air break of this trip. Further after we left Corcoran on time, at Sandrini we met BNSF 5397 West as we held the main. We had pulled up to the rear of BNSF 504 East who then ran ahead of us to Elmo getting into Elmo siding behind the BNSF 4957 East. We ran by both trains at track speed. As we neared Wasco we ran into more freight train interference. We departed Wasco at 1:29 PM {12:55 PM} so we lost over thirty minutes since Corcoran. We met Amtrak San Joaquin 715 at Shafter on the fly and with no further delays we arrived at Bakersfield at 2:00 PM {1:46 PM} and I was off to the Amtrak Surfliner Connection Bus at Spot 1.

Thruway Bus Route 5812

We departed Bakersfield at 2:23 PM as the last bus to leave Bakersfield after the driver gave a very lengthy speech about bus safety and the coach's features. We reached Tejon Summit at 3:07 PM and Castaic at 3:30 PM. Just as it looked that we would make 582 at 4:10 at Union Station as we were on Interstate 5 just south of the 134 Freeway someone on the bus rang the emergency bell. The driver then pulled to the side of the freeway before he had to ask every passenger if they were ok since no one would admit ranging the bell. We arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at 4:12 PM. After I retrieved my bag from under the bus, I called home to get picked up at 6:00 PM at Santa Ana before I went up to Track 12 to wait for Surfliner 784. As I waited, the Roadrailers of US Mail for the Southwest Chief were delivered to Track 11 with none other than the ever smiling Lawrence Dixon guiding them to a proper spot. We exchanged greetings before he had to return to the yard.

Surfliner 784 11/11/2003

Surfliner 784 pulled in with the F-59PH 451, Business 6805, Cafe 6352, Coaches 6403 and 6411 and Cab Car 6953 at 4:52 PM with Marty Draper as inbound Conductor and Hutch as the AC. I talked briefly with Marty before she had to leave and we departed on time at 5:10 PM. Shorty there after Conductor Woody Lambrith took my ticket like he always does and we headed out of Los Angeles. Downtown Los Angeles was all lit up beautifully as we passed the idled subway yard with all the cars sitting outside due to the continuing MTA Strike with no end in sight. We had a red signal at Commerce as we waited for 581 to clear out of our way before we raced to Fullerton. We departed both Fullerton and Anaheim on time before we had a yellow signal of CP Maple in Orange then a red at CP La Veta before Surfliner 785 zipped by heading to Goleta. We arrived at Santa Ana on time ending a very relaxing round trip to both Seattle and Tacoma aboard Amtrak.