Train #14, the Coast Starlight pulled into Santa Barbara and had to perform a "double-spot" due to platform construction. The first spot was for baggage and Sleeping Car passengers. The second was for Coach passengers. I said goodbye to my mother and stepfather who drove me to the station. There is only one Coach car that opens up in Redding, which is the first Coach behind the Sightseer/Lounge. This car is the busiest in regards to the volume of foot traffic through it because passengers from the Coach cars behind us are constantly going to and from the Lounge and Dining Car. There were lots of kids on this train as well and no disciplining parents were to be found. I was on vacation and nothing would spoil it for me. The weather was slightly overcast, quite warm with high humidity which made it feel even hotter. That wouldn't matter for very long once I boarded the air conditioned train
12:40 PM Dp. Santa Barbara; 37 minutes late
12:47 PM Goleta
Underway at last! I was put in seat #19 which was on the mountain side of the train. The woman in seat #18 next to me was a very experienced rail traveler so we got along just fine. She was traveling home to San Jose. I didn't get her name but she will be working at Railfair '99 in Sacramento aboard one of the trains! As soon as the conductor collected my ticket, I headed for the dining car for lunch and a panoramic view of the California Coastline. Upon reaching the dining car, there was a waiting list because the dining car was filled to capacity. That was fine with me for I sat in the Sightseer/Lounge to view the spectacular views west of Santa Barbara. There were lots of dolphins swimming real close to shore which was nice to see. One person pointed out a whale, but it turned out to be a bed of kelp. My name was finally called at 1:30 and I enjoyed a delicious chicken pot pie for lunch. For desert I had my favorite, apple pie (tart in this case) a la mode.
I sat across from a young couple on their way to San Francisco and they were traveling in a sleeper. I have seen a lot of people travel in sleeping accommodations for relatively short distances and wondered why. They don't intend to use the room to sleep in, but just for the privacy and use of the Pacific Parlour Car that is available only on the Coast Starlight and for first class passengers. Unfortunately, an extra dining car was pinch hitting one of the Pacific Parlour Cars which was being refurbished. The man sitting beside me didn't offer any conversation whatsoever. Later on I found out he hardly spoke any English! He was from Germany. The dining car crew seemed very familiar to me and I think they were on the Sunset Limited from my trip to New York City. One of the waitresses asked me if I was "still on vacation!" I wish! During lunch, we went through a very long slow order in the Conception block that lasted for about half an hour, delaying us further.
What a small world it is! The engineer from Santa Barbara to Oakland is Phil Gosney! I have been on three of his trains now. The last one was the California Zephyr from Sacramento to Sparks. Incredible.
A designated smoke stop allowed me plenty of time to get off and photograph the train and the brand new pedestrian foot bridge. I didn't have time to ascend the bridge but I got many photographs of it and our train in the background. The weather was very mild in San Luis Obispo. I expected it to be very hot but it was quite pleasant.
The Cuesta Grade north of San Luis Obispo is the only stretch of the Coast Line between Moorpark and Salinas that is CTC (Centralized Traffic Control). Thanks to a malfunctioning switch at the west end of the Chorro Siding, we were delayed more than 25 minutes while the engineer got permission from the dispatcher to put the switch into manual operation and proceed past the red signal. The dining car chief came through the train and the only seating they have left is 8pm! That was fine with me because I was still full from the delicious lunch.
Dinner tonight was excellent! The dining car was behind schedule by about fifteen minutes for most of the dinner crowd so I didn't get seated until after 8:15pm. I had the chicken breast which had a delicious sauce, mixed vegetables and a baked potato which was very well done to the point of being rubbery. Desert consisted of apple pie a la mode again. So much for my improved eating habits these past few months, but I am on vacation so the diet is nullified for the time being! I sat with a couple on their way to Seattle. They were riding in Coach until Sacramento in which they would switch to a sleeper the rest of the way. That's a good way to do it as it cuts costs drastically. A college-aged man sat next to me and he was on his way to Tacoma. During the year he attends UC Berkley.
I'm surprised to find on this train that there are route guides in every Coach car! Unfortunately there are no Coast Starlight timetables! Go figure. Usually it's the opposite. We sat in the Oakland Coach Yard for quite awhile thanks to freight congestion ahead. It would have been a longer delay but a freight engineer told us that he would "hold back" from entering the main line from the yard for us! He contacted the yard master and they approved our departure ahead of the freight train. Since we were already an hour late, our train was no longer a priority and the delays would mount from now on. "A late train only gets later." In the Oakland Coach Yard, I spotted Pepsi Can (DASH 8-32BWH) locomotive #512! The B32 series Amtrak locomotives look like Pepsi Cans due to their paint scheme. Click here to view a photo of this locomotive type.
It was nice having two seats to myself for a little while but that ended in Emeryville when a man that reeked of alcohol-wearing cologne to mask the booze that wasn't working too well-was placed next to me. He didn't say a word to me, just moaned quietly to himself and appeared to becoming ill as time passed. I didn't sleep because I had to keep one eye on him in case he decided to throw up in my direction. My right foot was firmly planted on the floor so I could leap over him if he did get that sick! I hate riding in Coach! They should have never allowed him to board the train in his condition. Fortunately he was getting off in Chico so I would be able to get some shut-eye then before getting off in Redding-I sure hope they would wake me up so I wouldn't oversleep my stop! It nearly happened twice.
I was so fatigued that I slept through Sacramento almost entirely and remember opening my eyes up to see the bright Sacramento platform lighting. I must have been too tired to note the station times there. "Booze-hound" was passed out by then and now snoring so I felt better about him not getting sick ON me.
At every stop, no matter how short the stay, a couple got off the train to have a smoke! At Chico we were only in the station for 30 seconds and both of them managed to go through-well, inhale-- their cigarettes in about three puffs! Incredible. With "Boozer" dude gone, I could let my guard down and snooze a bit...only to get nervous again about sleeping through my stop.
We were put in the siding in Anderson to meet a late #11, further delaying us into Redding.
There were 15 people from my car getting off at Redding so it was quite a stampede down the stairs with a lot of groggy, grumpy people (due to the hour). At first I didn't see my grandmother anywhere but then spotted her walking down the platform from her car. YAWN! I wish I bought a sleeper!
The detector at milepost 264.1 just went off so I knew that Amtrak #11 was within 10 minutes of arriving into Redding. Normally one cannot hear the detector with a handheld scanner, but the work train locomotives sitting on the siding at the depot had a radio turned on! That was nice, for railroad radios have superior reception range due to perfectly tuned antennas and receivers. A scanner is "broad band" and is not perfectly tuned for a specific frequency. This causes reduced reception but usually is "good enough" for most people. Still it would be nice to get a railroad-specific antenna, which is manufactured and can be bought at Radio Shack I believe. I had a relaxing visit with my grandmother and am looking forward to returning home to Santa Barbara. This visit was different, for my grandmother just got Internet access. She had never used a computer before so she was having to learn on two fronts-learning the computer and the Internet! She seemed a bit overwhelmed but I was able to boost her confidence a bit. Also it was nice to keep in touch with my friends from up there, but I had to Telnet into my local ISP to retrieve my email. I was especially happy to return home for I missed my girlfriend terribly!
A signal/switch snafu at Roseville yard delayed us 10 minutes switching from the Valley to the Cal-P line
As the sun came up, I was already awake and sitting in the sightseer/lounge enjoying the view. I love the mornings on the train and seeing nature waking up as we roll through a once-tranquil area. I'm sure that our arrival awoke everything within 20 feet of the train anyway! Sometimes I could see small animals running away from the train as they had probably been sleeping near the tracks and now were making a hasty retreat into the surrounding scrub. At 6:30 I went into the dining car for breakfast in which I had the steak and eggs breakfast with hash browns, orange juice, biscuit and…..4 cups of coffee! I never drink that much coffee with breakfast but a low breakfast attendance allowed me to sit at my table for an extended time. My server kept pouring the coffee and said "as long is it doesn't fill up in here, you're welcome to drink coffee all morning." I'm sure he was joking, but was he? I was completing my last cup of coffee when the dining car became full in what seemed like a couple of minutes. Even a waiting list was underway, so I paid for breakfast and left a $1 tip. My table companion was a fellow traveling from Eugene, OR to Oakland to see a Janet Jackson concert! It's been years since I've attended a rock concert.
Here is where my neighbor since getting on at Redding was supposed to disembark. At least that is what her "hat check" ticket above her seat said. After we stopped at the Martinez station, I went back to my seat so I could claim the window seat after she vacated it. When I returned to my seat from the lounge car, she was sound asleep! When I sat down next to her, she woke up and asked me what time it was and where we were. I told her: "8:25 and YOUR stop so you might want to get down to the lower level to detrain." She said thank you and turned her head as if to go to sleep again. Oh well I thought. Then she asked me again if this was Martinez! I told her "Yes, are you getting off here?" Her reply: "I don't know, I think so." I told her that her ticket above her seat (which was no longer there because the conductor collects the "hat check" tickets just before arriving at the destination station in which they are marked. I told her again that her ticket said Martinez and she had better make her way to the lower level NOW! Listening to my scanner at the same time indicated that we were about to pull out! "Clear on the bags….clear on the sleepers" I heard a station attendant and car attendant announce over the air. A handicapped elderly woman getting off in the car behind us was holding the train up and this girl…well about college age I guess gathered up her belongings very slowly and drug herself downstairs to detrain. She made it…barely! Ether she was strung out on something or just very absent-minded not to be paying attention like that. At this time I move my "hat check" ticket to reflect my new seat by the window. The car attendant came through making a new "seating chart" and asked me if I wanted the widow the rest of my trip. Of course I did! In past trips when traveling alone in Coach, I've been forced to move to allow couples to sit together. Traveling alone isn't pleasant sometimes and you aren't treated as well overall. Fortunately I got to keep my window seat the entire trip.
After departing Emeryville, we passed train #6, the Eastbound California Zephyr bound for Chicago. That was a long train! It had P42 #44 and #64 leading. On the end of the passenger cars, there was one MHC and FIVE Amtrak boxcars! All were platinum mist except one green in the middle of them. I guess the Amtrak freight business is taking off. I'm glad for that as it provides additional revenue for Amtrak and less government subsidizing. While in the Oakland Coach yard, I spotted Amtrak #393, CTDX #2002 and CTDX #2051 pulling a San Joaquin train out of Jack London Square.
The engineer for the Oakland to Santa Barbara run was Vern Ward. I had met him over breakfast in the dining car last December on a trip down from Redding.
Lunch was excellent as always. I had the "14/11 Burger" with potato chips and a diet soda. For desert I had a piece of chocolate cake. Yum! Although I would have had time for dinner before arriving into Santa Barbara, I was not sure as this point whether to skip it or not. I had eaten so much food on this trip (on the train and at grandma's) that I just needed to stop eating. BUT how often do I get to eat in the dining car while watching the beautiful California Coast gliding by? I had to think about that. My table companions over lunch are ones that I'd like to forget! It was a family of three in which the parents had a daughter of about 18 months old. She was very cute but she kept picking up a knife on the table and would wave it around, bang it on the table and even threw it a few times! Would somebody PLEASE DISARM THIS CHILD!!! The parents took the knife away from her but she started fussing and crying. The parents were, let's say, "simple minded" and didn't appear to know what was going on . God help that child. They looked like a couple of the Beverly Hillbillies. They were nearly done with their food when I got mine, so I was able to eat alone for most of my lunch.
Though it's been mentioned in many rail travelogues, I would like to touch upon "train" and "non-train" people. There was a 16 year old girl sitting across and one row ahead of me that is commenting and complaining about everything! Taking the train isn't the most efficient mode of transportation. If you want speed, take a plane or drive yourself. The train is a place to relax and enjoy the romance of rail travel if going long distances. This girl was complaining of how slow the train was going and the fact that the Chief of Onboard Services was narrating about the scenery we were passing. Though I have traveled this route nearly a dozen times in the past four years, I didn't need to hear the narration,. For first-time travelers on this train, I think it's a very nice way to learn about the areas we were passing through. There were Coast Starlight Route Guides on board so one could have simply read one of those. There's something about sitting back, relaxing and looking AT the scenery as it's being narrated about. I hesitate to read route guides during the day for I don't want to miss any scenery because my nose is stuck in a route guide! Getting back to original topic, this girl was complaining about the narration and saying: "Who cares what this place is or it's importance…" She kept asking when we were getting to San Luis Obispo, her destination. No matter what the car attendant said, it was not soon enough for her. A "train person" is someone like me who actually appreciates delays along the way! You get more train ride for the dollar! This girl wanted speed in reaching her destination and was restless most of the time. She definitely was a "non-train" person and should have just flown in the first place.
We encountered further delays through the Salinas Valley due to "Level 2 heat restrictions." The temperature in Paso Robles was 116 degrees! When the temperature reaches, I believe, 100, a heat restriction goes into effect in which all trains must reduce speed to 50mph. Since most of this territory is 70mph rated, we lost quite a bit of time (restriction was from Soledad to Santa Margarita).
As we were pulling into San Luis Obispo, we passed Train #14 departing with 4 locomotives! It had #114, 115, 118 and CTDX #2003. The temperature was around 82 degrees and very humid! While in the depot, I took a few photos of the train and noted the forest green boxcar number. The final boarding call was made in Oakland as I was getting the train consist and I didn't have time to get the boxcar number there. I did NOT want a train car door SLAMMED in my face! After departing San Luis Obispo, I returned to my seat to find a rather gruff-looking man sitting in the aisle seat that had obviously boarded at San Luis Obispo. He had a shaved head with a baseball cap on backwards and numerous tattoos on his neck which indicates (according to a police officer friend of mine) that he is an ex-con fron a state prison. I elected to sit in the sightseer/lounge to Santa Barbara after that! I was tired and just didn't feel like dealing with this guy. The dining car steward had come through the train earlier with dinner reservations and I declined. After all dinner reservations had been called at 6pm, then a "last call" was made for non-reservation holders. By this time, we had gone through Vandenberg and were in the Gaviota block and I thought I wouldh't have had time to eat before arriving in Santa Barbara. Then we were told to take the siding at Capitan so Train #779 to San Luis Obispo could pass us. We were delayed 20 minutes for that meet so I would have had time for dinner! I was a little mad at myself but then thought about the $15 and the extra pounds on my waist I saved!
Train #11 pulled into Santa Barbara but Coach passengers were not allowed off the train because we had to "multi-spot" the train due to the shortened platform which is under construction. It took a long time to unload the baggage and sleeping car passengers too. Nearly 20 minutes passed before Coach passengers were allowed to disembark. I didn't step off the train until 7:50 PM! After taking some twilight photos of my train, I took a taxi home.