Lake and the Williamson River from my breakfast table
best part of waking up
After awhile a young lady named Shawn
(phonetically, if not in actual spelling) came in from coach and sat
down with me. After she ordered we started talking. This was the return
leg of her first train trip, and she was so pleased she said she was
going to ride a lot more of them.
But she began her story by saying "I was the
victim of a train robbery."
Apparently, when she was traveling to LA, someone
broke into the baggage car and started tossing luggage off the train,
which was then picked up by an accomplice following in a pickup. I
later learned that this did indeed happen, but I have not been able to
nail down the particulars. It wasn't clear whether the robbers were
caught or not, but they matched the description of some people she saw
hanging around the Santa Barbara station. Some of the bags were
recovered by a following Amtrak Surfliner, but Shawn lost hers. She
didn't seem to mind too much. She said it gave her a good story to tell
people. Like me.
The power went out for a while, and we stopped
briefly as the crew announced they were repairing it. It delayed
breakfast service until 9:30. It was worth the wait. Unlike last
night's dinner, the French toast was quite good. Not quite as good as
the very best Amtrak has ever served, but darn close, and much better
Even better was the company.
Like me Shawn had an interest in photography, and when we were stopped
we both tried to get a shot of some squirrels on a nearby post. I'm
sure her's came out better since she had an SLR and I just had a point
and shoot. She told stories about her work as a contractor doing home
improvement type work. She was currently on disability due to a recent
At one point I noticed a large oval ring on her
finger with an abstract eagle design, its talons grabbing the horizon.
My memory is probably going to mangle the story a bit, but as I
understood it, the ring came to her from a friend shortly after her
Grandmother passed away a decade ago. At that time, she learned that
her family had Hopi blood, and that their family symbol was an eagle.
Her friend, completely unaware of this, happened to come across this
Hopi eagle ring and gave it to her as a gift a few days later. Not long
after, Shawn was on a moonlit beach with some friends. There was a halo
around the moon and she saw the clouds part in such a way as to form an
image very similar to the one on her ring, with the eagle's talons
grabbing the ring around the moon.
This was one interesting gal, and a mere
recitation of our conversation doesn't tell the whole story. Shawn was
one of those people who just lets their inner light shine, a la Matthew
5:14-16. One just can't help but feel uplifted in the presence of such
a one. Any sour mood I had upon entering the diner was gone for good.
We said our goodbyes, openly acknowledging that
we greatly enjoyed each others company. I then retreated to my room for
some quiet reading and relaxation. Work had been very busy leading up
to this trip and I had been looking forward to some private chill-out
time for several days. Thus I spent much of my spare time in my
roomette rather than taking advantage of the public parlour car.
Walking back from the diner to my room
through the Pacific Parlour Car.
mb - 45 sec.
At this point it seems appropriate to introduce
my traveling companion. He was allowed to come along because teddy
bears ride free when accompanied by a human. Shakesbear is one of the
smallest members of the Toy family, but he is well traveled because he
fits well in a carry-on bag. This was his second train trip. His first
took him to Denver, though he was quite upset that he rode eastbound in
the baggage car. On the return leg of the California Zephyr
he got to be in the room with us as intended, and even made friends
with the dining car server. This time, however, he spent the entire
trip in the room.
We reached Chemult at 10:37, 53 minutes late.
From there we began our ascent into the Cascades. About an hour later
Karol came around to take lunch reservations. This was a new practice,
for in the past lunch had been, like breakfast, first come first
served. I booked mine for 12:45.
At about that time needed to stretch my legs, so
I decided it was time to “walk the train” from one
end to the other, both to get a little exercise and to see that rebuilt
sleeper occupying the 1432 position in the consist.
WOW! When I first
stepped into “the 32 car” I was struck by how
bright, cheery and elegant it looked compared to most Superliners. The
walls had woodgrain paneling on the lower half and clean white on the
upper half. The hallway lighting was dramatically improved. The dull
amber room numbers and spot lights were replaced with soft white light
fixtures. Downstairs, even the vestibule had paneling instead of the
traditional stainless steel. Bathroom doors were now a nice shade of
blue. It was all quite elegant.
But most impressive were the rest rooms. I have
always despised the cramped design of Superliner rest rooms. They were
designed in the late 1970s when the cultural emphasis was on economy to
the exclusion of all else. Many products of the day were of poor
quality and design. This was the era of the polyester leisure suit,
Chevy Vega, and inferior generic grocery products sold in plain white
packages. Superliner rest rooms are among the last surviving artifacts
of that era and they epitomize the philosophy of the day. Everything
about them is wrong, wrong, wrong! With only an 18 inch square of floor
space they make it difficult to maneuver to do one's business. Worse,
the toilet paper is kept in a cubby hole behind your hip. The sinks
have tiny faucets that you can't get your hands under, and the water is
under too much pressure, causing them to splatter everywhere. Finally,
they put the towel dispenser directly above the tissue dispenser so
that wet hands drip right onto dry tissues.
Although the new design fits in the same space,
they have almost three times as much floor space, allowing one to have
room to turn around and pull up your pants without hitting your elbows
on something. The faucet has a nicely curved spout with plenty of room
to get under it. An aerator smooths the flow and nothing splatters. TP
is on the wall in front of you where it belongs. I hope whoever
designed this was handsomely rewarded.
I don't want to clutter this page with too many
photos, so I have made a page of comparison photos,
showing the rebuilt Superliner I features next to images of an ordinary
Superliner II sleeper.
OK from the frontmost 1432 car, I walked all the
way to the rear of the last coach. Well, almost. There were four
coaches, but the last one was unoccupied and locked. Rats. I was hoping
to get some shots out the rear, but not today.
Video Walk Thru
Three sleeping cars, starting with car 1432, the rebuilt Superliner I,
followed by the 1431 and 1430 cars, both Superliner IIs.
2 mb - 1 min. 15 sec.
Beginning in the diner we pass through the Sightseer Lounge and half of
one coach. Watch for the tunnel!
mb - 52 sec.
But I did get a good look at the refurbished
Sightseer lounge. I like the idea of having a mix of tables and viewing
chairs to enable patrons to enjoy a wider range of activities.
|Top left: New tables at one end of
the Sightseer 4Lounge.
Viewing chairs refurbished with cloth upholstery and head rests.
"cafe" on the lower level of the Sightseer Lounge.
The round trip from one end to the other and back
again took me on a journey of 1,530 feet, more than a quarter of a
mile! And since we were on a grade, half of that walk was uphill.
At noon, shortly after I returned to my room we
stopped to allow the crew to inspect something on the train before
heading down the mountains. No problems were found. At 12:08 a detector
at milepost 557.3 reported a speed of 32 mph and an outdoor temperature
of 43 degrees.
We were now passing some of the most spectacular
areas of the mountains, but my room was on the opposite side of the
train from the view. I could have gone to the parlour car, but I was
still in the mood for a retreat, so I spent most of the next hour in my
seat quietly reading with Shakesbear, taking a few moments at one point
to visit the hallway for a photo out the opposite side and a few
“no-no” shots out the vestibule window when nobody
The camera, not
my head, went briefly out the window.
Soon the train came to its first horseshoe curve,
which reverses our direction for five miles, and before long the view
was on my side of the train. No need to go anywhere for photos now.
And a river
framed by fall color
At 12:36 came another detector report at milepost
571.9. I lost the speed in a tunnel but the temperature was 45. A few
minutes later came the call for my lunch.
will it be any good?
I was seated with an older gentleman who had
spent some time at the Monterey area's Fort Ord during his military
service, so we had some common territorial interests. During our meal
we passed by Oakridge at 12:57, then for many miles the Lookout Point
reservoir was our table's vista.
On the menu I debated whether I should get
quiche or a burger. I asked the server, Michael, which was better and
he discreetly replied “I always have the
hamburger.” I took that as a sign that the quiche wasn't all
that great. The burger was indeed quite tasty and filing. I didn't
think I was all that hungry, but I ate it all and had room for some
pretty good chocolate cake, too.
OK, I thought, aside from last night's horrific
salmon, there might still be hope for Amtrak's simplified dining
scene somewhere south of Eugene.
After lunch I felt I was ready to stay in public
for awhile, so I found a newspaper in the parlour car and got caught up
on the world of politics as we approached the fringes of Eugene. An
older couple was seated a couple of chairs down. The woman asked her
husband “Where are we?” They began a debate as to
whether we were in Washington or still in Oregon. A passing employee
told them we were almost to Eugene. As soon as she left the debate
resumed. “Where are we? Are we in Washington?”
“No, I think this is still Oregon.” A man across
the aisle from me told them again that we were near Eugene.
Fruitlessly, as it turned out, for the next thing we heard was
“Where are we?” He and I looked at each other,
rolled our eyes and resumed our reading.
Willamette River at Eugene
at Eugene across the tracks from the station.
I got out at Eugene for a little fresh air, and
we were rolling again st 2:10, one hour twenty six minutes late. I've
seen worse. A lot worse.
The whole darn
train in Eugene!
At 2:30 my sister Liz called. She said according
to the Amtrak Website our train had arrived Salem already. Nope. I told
her I'd call after we left Albany, which happened at 3:05. I glanced
across the halI and noted that the couple there never seemed to leave
their room. Hmmmm.
the Willamette Valley - Eugene to Albany
lead to a railroad bridge across the Willamette River. Then we find a
pumpkin patch, a colorful windbreak, grazing llamas and a red dump
truck. These are just a few of the many interesting glimpses into
Willamette Valley life that can be had from the train.
At right, a
nicely refurbished depot in Albany:
3:15 we passed the detector at milepost 697.8
traveling at 67 mph. 20.4 miles to go!
From my window between Albany and Salem
Hear the detector report at milepost 697.8!
kb - 22 sec.
Not far from
Train 11 and Train 14 often meet somewhere near
Salem. There have been many times where one couldn't be sure which
would get to the station first. Today was one of those. As my sister
related, an announcement was made at the station that both trains were
ten minutes away and they weren't sure which would win. As has happened
to me many times before, the meet occurred at a siding called Renard,
south of town near the Salem airport. We stopped to let #11 pass, and I
got a shot of it in the hallway. Tom, the 1431 attendant said I should
go downstairs and stick my head out the window for a really good shot.
I told him I knew better than that. I think he knew I knew better than
Train 11 passes,
and now we can proceed to the depot.
I was happy to see it had a parlour car.
George came by my room to help me get ready to
detrain. I gave him my standard "note of appreciation," then we shared
a few laughs in the vestibule. He admired my hat, then remarked that he
never looked good in hats. I let him try mine on, and he went to look
in a mirror. I said he looked good. "No," he said, "it makes me look
too German." (He was Argentinian.)
The Salem station
At 3:51pm I was on solid ground where I would
stay for the next 72 hours. I was able to introduce George to my family
before he closed up the doors and moved on.