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Amtrak Coast Starlight to Chemult -Apr. 2006

Amtrak

Coast Starlight #14/11

April 2006

Los Angeles, CA to Chemult, OR

Superliner Roomette R8 (N), R6 (S)

It's hard to believe this is my 3rd overnight trip on the Coast Starlight. The first time I stepped in a Sleeping Car feels like yesterday. For the last 3 years I have been traveling on the Coast Stalright to Chemult once a year in April. This year was not an exception. I especially wanted to take this trip because it would be the last time I would ever eat a steak on the Coast Starlight, since on May 3rd the simplified dining would begin. Enough with this, enjoy...

One other thing...I was hoping to have my GPS working for this trip on my PDA, but unfortunately the GPS CF receiver I ordered from the internet was not operational and therefore could not be used. This was a big disappointment since live GPS tracking would have been really neat to have while onboard. In the future, I also hope to have Verizon EvDo (Broadband Wirless Internet from Verizon Wireless), This would enable me to update my website, etc. while onboard the train!

 

Sunday Morning, April 2, 2006

We arrived early at Los Angeles Union Station the morning of yet another big trip. Boarding began as usual at the long haul train boarding gate. Typically, the conductors would give passengers a boarding pass for there attendant to collect upon boarding. This was the first time ever this did not happen. Instead, it was simply said of the PA that the train was now boarding on track 10 as usual.

Long Haul Trains Boarding Sign

Left: Los Angeles Union Station, Right: Long Haul Sleeping Car Boarding

Upon arriving at track 10, I immediately saw the silver superliners of the Coast Starlight had already parked along the platform. This was also a first as usually I had the opportunity to film the train as it arrived. However this just might have been a good thing due to photography rules being so strict now. As I walked along the platform I immediately noticed the lounge car, dining car, and to my shock, no Pacific Parlour Car. At first I thought I must have missed it, but I soon realized we would be traveling without a Pacific Parlour Car for the first time.

Shortly after I found car 1431 where Sleeping Car Attendant Cruz Madrid greeted us. He was also our attendant 2 years ago, and I cannot speak highly enough of him. He recognized us and knew that we were able to find our room on our own. We went upstairs and situated ourselves in Roomette #8. When boarding finished, Cruz stopped by to say hello. My mother asked him about the Parlour Car and he said he believed they were being repaired at Beech Grove, but even he did not know exactly what was going on with the shortage of Parlour Cars. He also informed us that the continental breakfast would be set up in each Sleeping Car. Later I did notice a box of Ednas Muffins near the coffee maker. I helped myself and went back to our room.

10:15AM -Scheduled Departure

At around 10:15AM a female conductor paged "Jose" on the PA alerting him that the train was about to leave. In due time, I later learned Jose was actually this trains Pacific Parlour Car attendant, if only we had one!

It was not until 10:29 that Jose was finally located and I heard the "Highball" on my scanner for the train to depart Los Angeles Union Station.

Van Nuys - 10:51AM (10:42) -9mins

Van Nuys came fast, the Van Nuys station was not one of my favorites due to it replacing Glendale. Glendale was a very historic rail depot, but since it is un-staffed, it was replaced in 2005 by Van Nuys for Coast Starlight passengers. The Pacific Surfliner still services both Van Nuys and Glendale.

Simi Valley - 11:19AM (11:23) +4mins

Oxnard - 11:51AM (11:55) +4mins

Before we arrived in Santa Barbara, the LSA in the dining car made her first announcement for lunch. We immediately went to the 1430 Sleeping Car and soon the LSA began sitting us. Our dining companions were Roger and his wife which I don't recall her name. Roger was a chef and lived in Tacoma, WA. We mainly talked about passenger rail, and he told us a story of when he was bussed on the Empire Builder and the bus driver fell asleep inbound and a passenger had to wake him up. They also shared the disappointment of not having a Parlour car. Roger remembered in the 90's that this train even had magicians and other entertainers on a regular basis.

For lunch I had the Angus Beef Burger as usual. The burger was excellent, as usual.

As I finished my cheeseburger, we arrived into Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara - 12:40AM (12:48) +8mins

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite Amtrak stations. I have been here many times before and have always liked the general layout of the station. Around the station are some other landmarks such as "Open Air Bicycles" and State Street Unfortunately I left my camera in the dining car where I would soon be ordering dessert, but I did bring my PDA with me to get the consist. Here it is!

Amtrak Coast Starlight #14 - April 2, 2006

Note: Linked pictures are to 3rd party websites I am not associated with. For more Superliner information visit the Amtrak Superliner Roster

When I finished copying down the consist numbers, I went back to the dining car and ordered dessert. I decided to have the chocolate bundt cake with strawberry topping. The chocolate bundt is always excellent, and this was no exception. Recently, I learned how I could order these online, Check it out!

When I finished my dessert, we had departed Santa Barbara and we went back to our Roomette. Usually we would go to the Parlour car, but unfortunately that was not going to be possible this trip. So instead I decided to see what kind of lounge they were using today, Typically the only time I would ever enter the lounge on The Coast Starlight was if some kind of narration was going on by the National Park Service. Upon entering the lounge, I immediately realized that this lounge was one of the renovated ones that are being used on the Empire Builder. These are very easily noticed because of the table seating, and blue cloth seats instead of brown/gray leather as in typical Superliner lounges.

Left: The Lounge, Right: Table Seating

 

1:15PM - First stop for UP train

It is inevitable for a Coast Starlight to stop sooner or later for a Union Pacific freight train. Our first stop was surprisingly not until 1:15 as usually there would be several before.

1:36PM - Another Stop

We stopped again just a short while later.

During the stop, I went downstairs to the lounge car to check on souvenirs. Over the years I have been collecting many, many Amtrak souvenirs. They use to sell merchandise with the Coast Stalright logo on it in the Parlour car, on my last trip they were not and I could only buy some of the "Amtrak" stuff in the lounge. Doing in the snack bar were Daniel and Heather. For some reason crew #4 had two LSA's. After requesting to see the souvenirs they displayed a box with a hat, post cards, pins, playing cards, batteries, and advil. The only thing I did not have was that particular hat, and a few of the post card packages. I purchased a pin so I could have two, and a few packs of post cards. I also asked them if they had recently seen any other souvenirs, Heather said that they were rather rare and were not being sold as frequently.

Some of my Coast Starlight stuff from other years

 

The train pulled into San Luis Obispo just before 3:43PM, and we departed on time to my amazement.

San Luis Obispo - Smoking Stop Pictures...As you can see most of the cars in this consist were in Phase IVB.

 

Shortly after our on-time departure from San Luis Obispo, Jose (the attendant for the invisible Parlour Car) made an announcement for first class passengers to come to the dining car for the afternoon wine tasting. Since I am on ly 15, I obviously did not go but as I walked through I did notice they were not using real wine glasses. Instead, they were simply using the plastic wine glasses that are usually for pouring juice into in the Sleeping Cars. Also, my mom pointed out they did not give passengers who purchased bottles of wine a bag to go along with it as seen in my photo above. Although, they did have a fresh assortment of cheese and crackers available to all Sleeping Car passengers throughout the day.

The Wine "Glasses"

After the wine tasting the LSA (whose name I cannot recall) came around to gather dinner reservations. By time she got to 1431 the earliest reservation available was 6:45PM. We accepted it, and relaxed until our seating.

Before then, we arrived into Paso Robles at 5:08PM. Unfortunately, we were now running 23 minutes behind schedule. But I can't complain, since the prior year we were over 3 hours late at this point.

5:35PM - Shortly after, we met the Southbound Coast Starlight Train #11.

At 7:05PM the LSA finally called us to dinner. The Dining Car was relatively crowded so we weren't seated until about 7:05PM. Our dining companions were 2 graduate students at Cal Berkeley who were engaged to be married. They were coming back from a few days in Southern California. We discussed a variety of topics including the possibilities of a high speed corridor between Los Angeles and the Bay Area which seems to always be a lingering topic here in California. For Dinner, ordered the Delmonico Steak Medium Rare. Along with a side salad with Italian dressing, and a baked potato. The steak was cooked to perfection. For dessert, I had the chocolate bundt with strawberry sauce, also excellent.

While we were dining, we arrived in Salinas, CA slightly behind schedule.

After dinner, we arrived in San Jose. I was attempting to get a Wifi signal but all the signals I received were locked except for "Opti-Fi" which is the Wifi serfice onboard the Capitol Corridor (Northern California Corridor Train). But since we were only in San Jose for about 10 minutes, I could not sign up for the service so I was not able to gain any internet access for the short stop. At this point, we were running about 1 hour behind schedule.

While walking on the platform, A man approached me and asked if I was "CoastStarlight99"...I replied yes to learn he was a member of TrainOrders.com.We only spoke for a moment about the use of a P32 in the consist.. I never got his handle, but hopefully you will be able to read my trip report!

Before I retired for the evening, we arrived into Oakland at 10:30PM, and Emeryville at about 11:00PM. We were running about 1 hour late which did not bother me at all. I went to bed for the evening and set my alarm for 6:00AM to get an early start the following morning.

6:00AM - South of Dunsmuir, CA

As I woke, I went downstairs to take a shower, Cruz was downstairs and informed me they accidentally turned off the water at one of the service stops the previous evening. He said I can go to the 32 car. The shower was locked in 32, so the attendant was nice enough to invite me to use the shower in the Transition Sleeper. I had never been past car 32 due to the signs that read "Crew Only" so this was a first. It was very interesting to see a car with entirely Roomettes. Since Sleeping Cars are a mix of Roomettes, and Bedrooms on the upper level, this looked relatively strange to me. I am also interested to see what the special Sleeping Cars on the Auto Train look like since I understand they have all-bedroom cars. On the lower level was a small crew "lounge" where 2 conductors were relaxing, radios on table. The shower was vacant.

After my shower, I went to the Lounge to see 2 or 3 people sleeping on the floor of in sleeping bags. I have read about this a few times and apparently it is more comfortable then a coach seat. I was surprised the OBS was actually allowing it, but I suppose as long as it does not disrupt other passengers it causes no harm to anyone.

7:40AM - Dunsmuir, CA

Of the stations between Los Angeles and Chemult, Dunsmuir is definitely one of my favorites. Dunsmuir is a rustic town located near the California-Oregon border. It is a stop scheduled at 5:04AM, but I have always made this stop due to the Starlight's lateness. Dunsmuir is a 10 minute station stop and is also a smoking stop. I got out and took several pictures on the platform.

The entrance into the station, and the enclosed waiting area.

The renovated lounge.

8:01AM - First Announcement by the Conductor.

The conductor who runs OAK-KFS made his first announcement at 8:01AM informing passengers of our ETA into Klamath Falls, as well as letting us know that breakfast was not being served in the Dining Car. I recall usually the conductors make the morning announcement a bit earlier.

My favorite scenery on this route is between Dunsmuir and Klamath Falls. This features a forest-like terrain, a river, cabins, etc.

Unfortunately I did not get any good still images, only a few videos.

For Breakfast I had the continental with oatmeal, fruit, and a croissant. Our dining companions was a young woman and her son traveling in Coach to Seattle from somewhere in Southern California. She spoke of how she usually takes Greyhound, but because of the cost of gasoline Amtrak is offering lower rates.

11:00AM - Stop for UP Work Crew

At 11:00AM we stopped for a Union Pacific work crew on the tracks. We were informed we were about 15 minutes from Klamath Falls, and would be on our way shortly.

11:20AM - Klamath Falls, OR

At Klamath Falls, the Coast Starlight gets newspapers, ice, etc. Cruz gave us a copy of The Oregonian. It is nice to read different newspapers as you travel to different destinations. I find Amtrak typically hands out either the USA Today or a local papers such as the Arizona Sun as when I traveled on the Southwest Chief. While in Klamath Falls, I also had an oppurtuntiy to speak with Chef Jones who was also the chef on my last trip. He spoke about how he did not know what to expect when Dinner Lite began on the Coast Starlight. He also said that even at this date (in April) they were already using fewer national menus on long distance routes. Near the platform I also say Amtrak Thruway bus 3014 going to Pasco, WA to connect Northbound Coast Starlight passengers to the Empire Builder. This Amtrak service is chartered through Northstar.

The train in Klamath Falls, and Cruz getting the morning papers.

Lunch - 12:10PM

For lunch I had the Angus Beef Burger. We were seated with 2 men who were not related. One was from Seattle, and coming back from Northern California, he was seated in Coach. The other was a middle aged man who said he had been riding trains in the U.S. for years, and loved it. He was however very disappointed about the coming of Simplified Dining. He ordered the Hebrew National hot dog off the kids menu. All of our food came on paper plates because apparently the dishwasher was not working properly. My lunch.

My lunch.

Arrival in Chemult - 12:50PM <VIDEO-TRAIN LEAVING>

We arrived into Chemult a bit over 3 hours behind schedule. Chemult sat just as it had in the prior years. Unfortunately there was no new enclosed waiting area as I had heard rumors of during my last visit. The Chemult Chemult station is a small Amshack that sits in dirt below the small cement platform. All trains in Chemult do a double stop for sleeping cars and coaches because of the short platform.

The Dawson House Lodge is a 12 room rustic inn that sits on Highway 97 in Chemult. For about $90 a night you can get a 4 bed room with a full kitchen. The entire town of Chemult features 4 restaurants, 4 hotels, over 5 gas/auto shops, and a library. It is certainly no times square, but a very relaxing way to spend a few days. As you can see in the picture below, Chemult had been hit with heavy snowfall, and large piles of snow were everyhwere making it a bit more difficult to get around Depot St.

After arriving at the Dawson House Lodge, we checked in with a younger woman who watched over the inn when the owner is our doing errands in Bend. She gave us our key, and we were in Chemult!

After settling in, I went out the the platform to do some Railfanning. The tracks Amtrak uses in Chemult get heavy UP freight traffic throughout the entire day. a hundred or so feet from the UP tracks are the BNSF tracks. These also get relatively heavy traffic, although Amtrak does not use these. After being at the station for only a few moments, I saw a UP train come by.

<VIDEO-UP Train>


After an hour so so, I went back to the lodge. Here are some pictures from the Veranda.

It was now late afternoon, and I wanted to do something I have never done in Chemult before. That would be visiting the Ranger station. The station was located about 1/4 mile outside of town and was easily walking distance from side of Highway 97. After a quick stop at the Mountain Market I got a few snacks and directions. A bit later I arrived at the ranger station, which was to my suprsied extremely nice! The building had been recently renovated and had all kinds of information for hunters, fishers, snowmobilers, etc.

It was now evening, and I decided to relax until we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in town, Loree's Chalet. This place has been open since the 1950's and has great food. Locals, Motorists, and truckers all use the Chalet nightly. For dinner I ordered a New York Steak. Unfortunately they did not have the prime rib available since it was Sunday instead of Saturday as in previous years.

I retired early that evening to wake up early the following morning for an exciting day of train spotting, and also to be well rested in case the southbound train was extremely late.

Monday

I woke up early in the morning and after my shower I was pleased to find a fresh breakfast waiting for us downstairs. Blueberry scones, fruit, tea, and orange juice. The scones were incredible. I had 2 for breakfast and the fruit for some reason tasted much more fresh then the over-ripened berries in Southern California.

After breakfast I did some more exploring at the depot. This was the first time in Chemult I had ever witnessed such large amounts of snow. The previous year the Northwest had not gotten much snow in the winter because we were getting so much in California instead.

Inside of the Amshack shelter was just one man. He greeted me, and I asked him if he was waiting for the Northbound #14 (9:40AM). He replied that he was actually waiting for the Southbound and had walked to Chemult during the night from his old home in Bend. His name was Bill, and he had booked a one way Coach ticket from Chemult to Redding, CA to start a new life in California. Bill was a Vietnam veteran, who has lived in Oregon his entire life. Bill eagerly told me about his war stories, travel to 50 states, his radio knowledge, and a variety of other subjects. We talked until around lunch time when I went back to our hotel.

My mother and I went to Lorees Chalet around 1pm for lunch. I had a cheeseburger with french fries. The burger was excellent as usual.

On the way back from lunch, I saw the newest building in Chemult: Firehouse Pizza. The first time I was in Chemult this restaurant was open, the 2nd it had been burned down somehow, and now it was reopen.

2005 and Present.

Back at the lodge, I called "Julie" to find that the train would be arriving around 3pm. At 3, I went down to the station. Bill was not yet there, but many passengers traveling on the northbound train were eagerly waiting for there train to arrive.

Cars at the station, and some passengers on the platform.

A moment later, a Northstar bus arrived. I was very suprised to see this because ever since Greyhound terminated services in Chemult, the only transportation is train 14, 11, and the two daily thruway buses. The driver of the bus got out a moment later, and it turned out the bus that goes from Klamath Falls to Pasco, WA to connect Starlight Passengers to the Empire Builder stops at Chemult as a "break" stop, as well as to pick up any passengers going on the Empire Builder. Nobody got on the bus, but the driver talked to the Redmond Airport Shuttle driver for about 5 minutes until he proceeded to the Texaco station to provide the passengers with snacks, beverages, pay telephones, and restrooms.

The bus at the station, and the bus at Texaco.

Before the train finally arrived, two UP freight trains went by. When the Starlight finally came, I was disappointed to see that this train DID have a Pacific Parlour Car. About 7 passengers detrained while a good 10 boarded in both Sleeping Cars and Coaches. I got several videos, Enjoy!

UP Videos

Amtrak 14 Video

Later that evening at dinner we went to Loree's again. The Redmond Shuttle drivers usually stop at the restaurant before going to the station for several hours in order to give passengers a chance to have dinner since the southbound train is always relatively late. I anticipated seeing the bus before dinner was over. For dinner, I had a New York Steak with French Fries. The steak was excellent, and service was good as well. Towards the end of dinner the bus arrived. Last year, I knew of two drivers named John and Kirk. Now, John has retired and there is a Kirk, as well as 3 other drivers. This driver was a nice woman who said the train was suppose to arrive around 11pm (about 3 hours late).

After dinner we retired to the lodge. I passed the time watching TV, and calling Julie since I did not have internet access at the lodge.

At about 10pm we went over to the station, the shuttle driver, Bill, and a few people waiting for detraining passengers were the only ones there. During our wait a light snow also began which was very tame and enjoyable for someone from Southern California. After lots of talking among passengers about a variety of Amtrak related topics the train finally showed up past 11:30PM.

The conductor and Cruz were in 1131 to do a double stop for up since we were the only people boarding for a Sleeping Car. We quickly boarded as the train proceeded 4 or so cars to board Bill, the only other passenger boarding in Chemult. The conductor collected our tickets and Cruz greeted us again. We were pretty tired so we went to bed.

Tuesday - Onboard

I woke up the next morning at 7:30AM refreshed and ready for breakfast. After showering in care 1131, we arrived into Redding (2:21AM). We were now running about 6 hours late. Redding was a smoking stop so I said good luck to BIll before he walked off into town. Redding was a 7 or 8 minute stop and soon we were on our way to Chico.

Breakfast

We had a late breakfast around 8:30AM. I had the Continental as I usually do. Soon, we were stopped in Chico. This was a 1 minute stop and only for Coaches.

At 10:35AM the crew made an announcement that they had died on hours and a new crew would board the train soon. The new crew got to the train relatively soon and notified us over the PA that out ETA into Sacaramento was 12:10PM. He also mentioned that San Joaquins passengers must transfer to go to Bakersfield.

THEN, the most suprising news of the trip came. The conductor said that everyone on the train would be detraining in Santa Barbara and would have to take a bus to Los Angeles. We were also given the option to take the San Joaquin to Bakersfield, then a bus to Los Angeles. We chose to stay onboard the Coast Starlight.

Sacramento - 12:40PM

We were stopped in Sacramento until about 1:00PM. From the delay, I was able to get a few pictures.

After Sacramento we went to the dining car for lunch. I had the Angus Beef Burger, for dessert I had the chocolate cake and strawberry suace. My mom had the cheesecake.

We arrived into Davis during lunch, I got the picture from the Dining Car.

 

After lunch we stopped a few minutes in Martinez, but not enough to get off.

After that, we pulled into Emeryville for about 8 minutes. An announcement was made for passengers connecting to San Francisco.

15 minutes later we arrived into Jack London Square (Oakland). This unfortunetly was an extremely long stop. After about 25 minutes I reliazed that this stop was extra long because Amtrak had decided to further delay our train by adding a few Horizon coaches, as well as a baggage car to dead head to Los Angeles for use on the 798/799 LAX-SLO run. This was a delay we did not need. We were in Oakland for about 1 hour...This is an example of a delay that is Amtrak's fault regardless of freight operations.

The baggage car connected to the 1114 Coach car:

San Jose - 5:35PM (9:55AM)

7 Hours, 45 Minutes Behind Schedule.

We stopped in San Hose for about 10-15 minutes.

After we departed San Jose, we went to the Dining Car for our Dinner Reservation. I ordered the Rib Eye Steak. This would be my last steak on Amtrak. It was excellent, and I cannot say how much I hope Amtrak brings back the freshly prepared food, including steak, real dishes, etc.

Salinas came soon after Dinner:

The crew died in Soledad, California and we were stopped for about an hour before the crew from SLO arrived to take us to Los Angeles. I passed the time on my cell phone, and relaxing in the room, knowing we would be detraining in Santa Barbara in the middle of the night, and be getting into Los Angeles in the very early hours of the morning.

Note: After Soledad I stopped taking notes, so the rest of the report is a bit of a blur...I went to sleep around 9:00PM that evening.

I woke up about 20 minutes outside of Santa Barbara. I believe it was around 3 in the morning. Cruz was awake and notified us we would be arriving into Santa Barbara soon. He also said told us where the buses would be waiting in Santa Barbara. He said he would be on the alst bus because he had to finish up on the train before he could detrain. We tipped him, and said goodbye hoping to see him on a future trip. He is an excellent attendant, and always proves to be of the highest standards.

Shortly after in Santa Barbara, we caight the first chartered bus (these were not "Amtrak California" marked buses). This bus was going to Simi Valley and Los Angeles only, the other bus was going to other intermediate points as well.

At about 5:00AM we arrived into Los Angeles. This was the fastest trip from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles I had ever taken since the traffic on the 101 was so light since it was the middle of the night.

The journey was now over. Los Angeles Union Station was relatively empty, some early morning commuters, as well as delivery people for Union Bagel as well as the newspaper store were preparing for the morning business. An annoucement also came from the Amtrak Information Booth with information for passengers going South of Los Angeles. Instead of a bus, they would be put on a Pacific Surfliner leaving in about an hour. The plus side for them is they will be on an Amtrak train instead of bus, but they will be waiting even longer.

We were picked up about 15 minutes after getting in the station area, and we back home soon enough, I went to bed since I was obviously relatively tired.

FINAL THOUGHT:

I am now 15 years old and have been a Railroad enthusiast for about 5 years now. Although it is sometimes hard to keep riding Amtrak through its struggles, I still do, and know I will be riding again soon. I have not rode an Amtrak train sicne this trip, but do plan on taking a trip very soon. I am very much looking forward to, yet scared to try the new Simplified Dining. I have heard good and bad things about it, but am hoping for the best.

Thank you very much for reading my trip report, I plan on regularly updating my website with more pictures, reports, etc. when they are available.

If you enjoyed my report, it would be very much appreciated if you signed My Guestbook

See ya on the rails!

-Anton

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