With a new work schedule, which included Saturdays off, I had the opportunity to attend my first meeting of the San Diegan Club in Fullerton, CA. Since I have traveled this route so many times, this travelogue will be extremely brief with some noteworthy events that took place on the train.
Clear skies prevailed the entire day and it was a tad on the warm side. That was fine with me after this El Nino winter. I was riding in the new "Pacific Class" service, formerly known as Custom Class. The improvements made from Custom Class were exclusive "at seat" service and riding in refurbished Amfleet Coach cars. I must say I was not disappointed in the least! Train #774 backed into the Santa Barbara depot at 7:05 AM to about two dozen passengers waiting to board.
What a beautiful interior this newly-refurbished Amfleet car had! The color scheme was blue and gray like the new Superliner II cars. There was an AC outlet at EACH seat for computer laptops. If Superliners provided outlets at each seat, I would consider riding Coach more often. The seats looked very familiar and they even had thigh and foot rests. Later on at the meeting, I was informed that these ARE Superliner seats! They are higher off the ground and you have a better view out the NEW windows. These were the cleanest I've seen in a long time in an Amfleet car. After the conductor collected my ticket, I went to fill up my large Coast Starlight coffee cup that I had brought along. WHAT! Coffee still percolating? Not good at all! The coffee should be finished brewing by the time the first passengers board the train. The coffee was done about 10 minutes after leaving Santa Barbara and that's when our car attendant served coffee and a Danish to everyone. I heard the attendant casually tell a passenger that the coffee had just finished brewing and I was right there in no time to fill my cup. The car attendant was impressed that I had brought my own cup-a Coast Starlight cup. I brought it because it is much larger than the plastic cups provided.
I overheard two ladies complaining about the very rough ride between Santa Barbara and Ventura. There is a 30mph "slow order" that covers nearly the entire distance between Santa Barbara and Ventura. El Nino really did a job on this portion of the Union Pacific Coast Line and these are just temporary repairs still in place. Work crews had to patch the line together as quickly as possible just to open the line safely. As a result, it took 56 minutes to get to Ventura!
I made my way across the pedestrian footbridge on over to the TrainWeb office where Steve Grande and Ray Burns were waiting. There was another man who was on the same train as I and he was wearing a hat with flashing grade crossing lights! I've seen those hats before at rail museums and at Chicago Union Station. Steve showed me around the TrainWeb office including the Fullerton Webcam. Including myself, there were a total of nine who attended the meeting which was a great turn-out. The meeting was spent discussing the San Diegan services. After all, it was a San Diegan Club meeting! It was nice to be among railfans alike. When a train approached the depot, we would all walk over to the windows and stand at attention while it passed. Steve also had another camera that records onto a VHS tape all day.
Around 1 PM, we all went over to the Spaghetti Factory next door for lunch and to continue the meeting. The food was delicious but the service terribly slow, since some of us had trains to catch to our respective destinations! For lunch I had the Baked lasagna. I had my train tickets and other gear locked in the TrainWeb office which made it a very close call to meet my train. We all said goodbye and went our separate ways. I don't know if I'll be going to the next meeting yet as my plans change frequently.
Just before arriving in Oxnard, we were served Champagne or a Chardonnay! I limited myself to only one glass of Champagne because I had to drive home from the Santa Barbara depot.
I listened to rail traffic the entire trip and there was a freight train right on our heels since the Ventura siding, plus the Coast Starlight (train #11) was due to arrive just minutes after we arrived in Santa Barbara. Also, train #786 with California Car equipment was still sitting in the spur track east of the depot waiting for #11 to clear so it could back into the station to pick up passengers for a 6:29 PM departure. Wow, what a great opportunity to railfan for awhile! Here are the consists of all the trains I saw. I forgot to mention this before, but parking at the Santa Barbara depot has really become a major hassle lately. The parking lot is adequate enough to handle passengers, but I believe that more than two-thirds of the cars parked there are not Amtrak passengers or railfans. There is no guard to enforce the parking, nor are there any signs that say "Amtrak passenger Parking Only" etc. As a result, it's a free-for-all for any tourists to park there and take off on foot to nearby restaurants or shopping.
After my train departed for San Luis Obispo, the freight train roared through with a Union Pacific locomotive on the point followed by a Norfolk Southern locomotive, probably leased. A minute later, train #11 arrived with the following consist:
Wow, 5 sleeping cars on this train (4 revenue, 1 for crew)!
I wonder what happened to all the Amtrak California F59PHI locomotives? I haven't seen one through here in a couple of weeks.
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(51K) Two F40PH locomotives side-by-side at Los Angeles Union Station on return trip.
(62K) Antrak #231 with Operation Lifesaver.
(39K) I was pleasantly surprised to see the Silver Lariat on a southbound San Diegan consist. The Silver Lariat was discussed briefly at the meeting. It was ironic to see it after the fact!