Facebook Page
The Coast Starlight, Mother's Day weekend 2005 -- Page 2

Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

The Coast Starlight

Mother's Day Weekend 2005

Page 2

Night and Morning

Somewhere in Northern California

I awoke briefly at various points, Martinez (at 12:23am), Sacramento, and Redding. I caught the first glimmers of light along the upper Sacramento River Gorge, then went back to sleep.

I awoke for real a little before 8:00am. We were stopped on a siding, on a foggy curve, against a steep rocky hillside. The lava flow geology indicated that we were somewhere not too far north of Mt. Shasta. Ahead I could see two red signals, and soon a freight train rumbled towards us. Just then I noticed a squirrel on a rock on the far side of the other track. The poor fellow had a panic attack when the freight train came by. He ran in three or four different directions before deciding to take cover in the rocks uphill.

At 8:30am it was announced that we were passing Grass Lake, the highest point on our journey, at 5,063 feet. This put us about halfway between Mt. Shasta and Klamath Falls.

Soon it was time for breakfast. The last call came at 9:00am and we went to the diner, again getting Irma's smile and a table to ourselves. The family with the birthday boy sat across the aisle. The father mentioned that the family bedroom was pretty small “once you got luggage crammed in there.” I suggested they might want to move some of it into the luggage rack in the hallway, and he replied “That's a good idea. Next time we plan a train trip, I'm talking to you FIRST.”

Meanwhile, Irma served our French toast. It appears Amtrak is using a new recipe, now called “Railroad French Toast” and it is a major improvement. It was perfect, thick and fluffy. Among the best I've ever had. I was wondering if it was based on the famous recipe I've heard about from the days of the Santa Fe Super Chief.

Table with a view

From our table, to our left, we observed all sorts of waterfowl as we crossed the Klamath Basin wetlands. There were ducks, herons, egrets, geese, and most interesting of all, pelicans! They were much more colorful than the coastal variety, having bright yellow bills, white feathers with black wingtips. Dining experiences such as this are one of many reasons why train travel is such a valuable part of our lives.

At Klamath Falls we got out and stretched our legs. With Choice's consent I walked to the front of the train for a few photos. I like this station because the platform is on a curve, providing a nice view of the entire train. I only wish the platform itself was a little more attractive.

AMTK #120 was our lead locomotive, followed by #119, here seen at Klamath Falls.

Crews change at Klamath Falls. Here is our new engineer.

The baggage has been loaded.

The Klamath Falls (KFS) station seen from our door. The tall man in the hood is Choice, our car attendant.

Heidi catches up on her reading this morning.

There were two technical glitches of note at this time. The entire day our scanner was getting very poor reception, probably from some source of interference nearby so we didn't listen to it much. Then the toilets quit flushing for about three hours causing some concern for a time.

Otherwise our ascent into the Cascades was uneventful. We were in our room, stuffed with French toast and not entirely alert. To pass the time I made a phone call to a former co-worker who recently moved away. I thought it would be fun for her to get a friendly call from a train, but in my mid morning mental haze I didn't think of much to say. I found a newspaper in the hallway and read it, only half paying attention. I pretty much remained in this semi-vegetative state until we reached the Cascades summit, when Heidi and I went to the Parlour Car and put in our names for lunch.

Lunchtime and into the afternoon

Tom perked us up, thankfully. The Willamette Pass was fogged in, preventing us from seeing the whole spectacular valley, but the scene was pretty dramatic anyway. We pass along the edge of some steep cliffs, and it always amazes me how close we get to the edge. It has intrigued me ever since I first made this trip in 1974. Tom directed our attention to the uphill side so we could see a waterfall that came close enough to almost touch. Throughout our time here he played music from Victory at Sea which provided the perfect dramatic soundtrack for this segment of our journey.

We snap a silly self-portrait while waiting for lunch.

Then lunch. I don't remember what Heidi had, but I had quiche. It tasted very good, but the texture was a little mushy. For dessert we split a key lime pie, and oooh it was yummy.

But I can't say much for our lunch companions. They were an older couple, and as gloomy as could be. The first thing the lady said when we sat down was “I'll never ride a train again.” When I asked why she said sharply “Too cramped. Everything's small. I like to fly.” And that was all we got out of her the entire meal. Her husband was more agreeable, but quiet. He did on occasion express some curiosity about the sights we were passing, such as the covered bridge at Oakridge, and Lookout Point reservoir. So at least we had some periodic conversation going.

My lunch

The western side of the Cascades seen from our lunch table, not far from Oakridge.

As we approached Eugene, I walked to the rear of the train for a look out the back, snap a few photos, and shoot a little low-res digital video as we crossed over rivers and under freeways.

Approaching Eugene between freight trains

Then we pass under Interstate 5

video Video Clip
Approaching Eugene
(Watch for the river crossing!)

WMV format
60 seconds

As I walked back through the three coaches, I observed they had three generations of upholstery. 1411 had brand new blue, identical to what we had in our sleeping car. 1412 had the original 1979 Superliner I orange and blue stuff, while 1413 had the more recent pink and grey. It reminded me of the early days of Amtrak when they were using cars inherited from many different railroads, each with different color schemes.

We were in Eugene around 3:00pm. Like Klamath Falls it is a smoking stop or as some prefer to call it, a “fresh air” stop, so there was time again to go to the front of the train for a few camera shots. Then I saw Choice and another attendant talking by our door, and got a nice sequence of shots.

In Eugene

Two sleeping car attendants enjoy a lively conversation.

Once we were rolling again, I called my mother to tell her we were about 90 minutes away. Half way to Albany, we stopped briefly, and Heidi pointed out farmland that has been owned by some of her cousins going back several generations. Since the train wasn't moving, I took advantage of my camera's panorama mode to shoot three adjacent frames to stitch into a wide angle view. The train started moving just as I snapped the far right frame.

Willamette Valley farmland

As we approached Salem, we stopped near the airport, as we often do, to meet train #11 on its journey south. I waited in the hallway for a picture, but I snapped the shutter just a little too late to get the nose of the locomotive. Oh well, better luck next time.

Thinking quickly, I also grabbed a short video.
video Video Clip
#11 Passes

WMV format
6 seconds

We stopped in Salem at 4:50pm, about two and three quarters of an hour late, thanks to the Union Pacific. We've had better timekeeping, we've had worse. Thanks to Amtrak, it was an enjoyable way to be late. As some rail travelers like to say, we got almost three hours FREE!

I greeted my mother, then ran to the north end of the parking lot for a few final photos as our train pulled away from our sight for the last time.

Wave bye bye....

Turn to page 3
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Return to
Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

See also the

The Del Monte Club Car

And be sure to visit the
Toy Box home
Monterey Peninsula Toy Box