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Taking the Coast Starlight to the California Railroad Musuem

21st Annual Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Presented by the California State Railroad Museum and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Friday, May 15, 2009

Report and Photos by Carl Morrison,

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Taking the Coast Starlight to the California Railroad Museum


We arrived at the Los Angeles Union Station, above, from Fullerton.

Since we had our ticket, room assignment:  Rm. 2/1430, we walked to the north half of the platform near the "Sleeping Car - 1430" sign where there are blue benches.  We made sure to store our luggage at the end of the benches to allow the carts of the workers, baggage, and red caps to pass on either side of our bench.
To make things interesting, the Sunset Limited #1 soon pulled in.
Metrolinks come and go very often in the morning hours, and this one had a Utah car in the consist.

Many Metro Rail trains come and go at LAUS as well, this is a newer model.
The Coast Starlight #14 backing in from the 8th St. Yard after overnight work by the Ready Crew.  When it is departure time, it just pulls out head first and heads north.  There is an expensive proposal to make this a run-through station.
The Willamette Valley Parlour Car was on our train.
The Parlour Car logo.

I walked to the front of the Coast Starlight to get a photo of the lead locomotive.
No. 99 looked good on the lead with a new paint job.
Since it was a day trip, we had a Roomette to work in.  In sleeping car accommodations, you will now find a sparkling cider, a champagne, and a faux-suede bag with Gilchrist & Soames toiletries.   I like to combine the champagne with orange juice and ice (available in the center of the sleeping cars) and enjoy a Mimosa.
Notice that the size of a roomette is about the size of two facing living room chairs.  The only other room when the 2 beds are made up, is the size of the 2 small bottles (left photo).  These accommodations are fine for 2 people for day travel, especially when you have the Parlour Car for sightseeing and alternative meals.

The small table (folded up above) opens between passengers and there is an electrical outlet for computer use.  Since I bring more electrical objects than one, I also bring a power strip for the other things.
With any sleeping accommodations, you have access to the Parlour Car (above).  At one end are 8 comfortable, swivel chairs with a railing under the window.
At the other end are 6 booths for meals.  Seating is not community style as in the Diner, but just your party.  In our case the two of us.
Glass divider in the Parlour Car with the original Coast Starlight logo.

In the center of the car is a steam table on one side, used by the attendant to service dinner entrees. 

On the opposite side is a stairway to the lower level theater where 2 movies are shown a day, one at 3:30 and one at 8:30 pm.

In your room, you will find a list of the activities in the Coast Starlight's Parlour Car:

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Your car attendant will help you board, and tell you how to reach your room.  Look for the car number (above), or the attendant will bell you.  Car 30 is usually next to the Parlour Car, then Car 31 and then 32.  The Diner is through the Parlour Car, and Sightseer Lounge, with cafe downstairs, is through the diner and accessible by all riders.  The Parlour Car is only for sleeping car passengers.


The "Amtrash" on the platform outside the Parlour Car gave an indication of what would be served in the Parlour Car during wine tasting.  I wish they would serve "Loco Vino - The Railroad Winery" wines, since the labels on 2 of their wines are from my photos.
We said good-bye to the LA Station, and the Metrolink trains there, and headed north.
I like the rocks and tunnels north of town, where they filmed a lot of cowboy movies years ago.

The LSA soon arrived asking what time we'd like to have lunch and whether we wanted to dine in the Parlour Car or the Diner.  We decided to take lunch in the Parlour Car.  Sue had the tropical chicken salad, but José said they were out of the cobb salad, but he would get us anything we wanted from the diner menu.  I selected an Angus Burger.  We had met David Zygmont of Chicago in the Parlour Car and he joined us for lunch. 

Before lunch, I overheard a gentleman saying that he and his wife were on their first train trip for their 25th anniversary.  He said that they were told in February that their roomette would be on the ocean side of the train.  Since it was not, he wondered how much it would cost to upgrade to a bedroom.  He asked this of an attendant, and about Santa Barbara the Conductor came by to answer his question.  The Conductor told him that the reservation clerk should not have promised an ocean-side room since the car might get turned and she had no way of knowing which rooms were ocean side.  He continued with the upgrade price, telling the gentleman that since were were now nearing San Luis Obispo, there would be only 1.5 hrs. of ocean view all the way to Seattle anyway, and he had been watching the ocean in the Parlour Car.  He continued with the cost of upgrading from a roomette to a bedroom from LA to Seattle as $250, but since we would soon be in SLO, the cost would be $210.  The gentleman asked, "$210 more than I've paid?" and the Conductor concurred.  The gentleman did not upgrade and mentioned that this would be his last train trip.  Hmmm.

I had heard that if you upgrade on the train, you get the best price, and this seems to be the case.  I recently talked with a rail specialist travel agent, Carole Walker, (714) 952-2719  or (562) 594-6771.  She has access to the 5 different 'buckets' or room prices on any Amtrak trip.  For the best deal, call Carole.  To see a sample Amtrak room pricing chart  click here.

Pacific Parlour Car:  Just like relaxing at home, except the scenery keeps changing and someone else does the cooking.
David Zygmont, Chicago, who will soon be posting some rail travelogues to TrainWeb
Santa Barbara Station, first 'fresh air' stop.

San Luis Obispo, right, crew change and another 'fresh air' stop.

José, Parlour Car Attendant
David enjoying the California fresh air at SLO, and music, below.

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It's a dogs life in SLO.

Like my new Coast Starlight hat?

Scenery north of San Luis Obispo, over the Cuesta Grade.
Heading around the horseshoe curve.

Wine tasting in the Parlour Car takes place after leaving San Luis Obispo, but I did not participate this day.  Instead, I stayed in our room and photographed the beautiful countryside above San Luis Obispo.

What a place for a Men's Colony.

We like the natural patterns in the new mown hay.
I like the trestle we had just come over, and Avacado trees beyond.
Maybe this shot without the water tank and with more roads showing is better.  Some day I'd like to get a shot with the Coast Starlight on the trestle.

I'll ride trains 'til the cows come home.


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Your next Black Angus Dinner?
Red roofed barn
A very old semi-truck tank trailer used for hauling water.
This reminds me of the Plein Air painters.

Plein air, a French word, literally translates as 'open air', and is defined as painting or drawing done outside, in the open air. The equivalent term in Italian would be alfresco. These works were taken directly from nature, and infused with a feeling of the open air. A relatively recent practice, painting outdoors became an important dimension of the landscape work of the Impressionists and painters of the Barbizon school.

Looking  back due west, we could see the marine layer blanketing Morro Bay, beyond one of the ancient volcano cones.
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Soon we were into the tunnels.

For our return trip to Southern California, The Coast Starlight, with a 10 hr. delay getting to Sacramento, gave us the time to visit the California State Railroad Museum on Sunday.  As you will see from the next pages, it was time well spent.  I, therefore, took only a few photos before it got dark on our way home Sunday, since we left SAC at 5 pm and had dinner at 6:15.  I'll just enter them here.

Where do you see these Southern Pacific Lines wood carvings in the Sacramento Depot?
(On the end of each bench in the Lobby.)

Large mural on the wall above the Lobby.
Leaving SAC, between the end of the platform roof and the I-Street  bridge, I grabbed this photo of the former SP Shops, possibly a future Museum display area.

Sacramento River, right, as we cross the I-Street Bridge.

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