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Getting to California Rail 2020 Conference, November 4, 2006.

Train Riders' Association of California (TRAC)

(and publishers of California Rail News)

California Rail 2020 Conference, November 4, 2006 

Getting to the Conference by Rail from Fullerton (Orange County), California (Surfliner and Coast Starlight)

Traveling on the Coast Starlight, with a roomette, is an excellent way to accomplish a day's work.  In my "Traveling Office" (room 2 on the Coast Starlight) I was able to completely redesign my photographic webpage: on the way north from Orange County to Oakland, California for the Conference.  Conversely, on the way home, southbound, I was able to download photos and write the web script to complete this report. 

My 'Coast Starlight Office' provided a desk, comfortable work chair with footstool and a large picture window at my elbow through which I could look down on the Pacific Ocean coastline!  I had a restroom across the hall (even a shower downstairs if I desired).  I had ample plugs (because I always take a power bar) to power one computer for music, and one computer for photo editing and report writing.  My cell phone, also fully charged through the in-room outlet, was within reach.  My railroad scanner sat nearby allowing me to follow our progress by hearing transmissions from the conductor, engineer, dispatcher, and automated rail detectors.  In the next car (The Pacific Parlour Car) was complimentary coffee, juice, and pastries in the morning, softdrinks during the day, and wine tasting with cheese and crackers about 3 p.m.  Now, that's an office suite that's hard to beat even at home, especially the wine tasting poured by an attendant!  Oh, the next car was the diner where I went at my agreed-upon time to have both lunch and dinner!  Needless to say, I was able to accomplish several days work compared to working at home in my office there.  In fact, I was able to work 12 hours with few breaks since my refreshments and meals were prepared by someone else.  Heck, I even was able to doze off for a power nap!

It's not every day you want to take pictures of your 'office' or out the window of your 'office' but the following are a few pictures from my computer desk at 'work.'

As always, click any photo for a double-sized version, click BACK in your browser to return to this page.

I was VERY pleased when I saw the Coast Starlight consist from my Surfliner commute to LAUS, and I realized that the Pacific Parlour car would be on this Coast Starlight!
Since the Parlour car is about 50 years old, even it's refurbishment is beginning to 'wear a little thin' in places and it is hard to find a sign that completely spells:  P-A-C-I-F-I-C  P-A-R-L-O-U-R   C-A-R


The interior is not nearly as worn and weathered as the outside, and remains an excellent and appreciated addition to the Coast Starlight for sleeper car passengers.  The Parlour Car Attendant, Kirk, mentioned that there are still 3 Parlour Cars in service on the 5 Coast Starlight trainsets.
Car 1430 Attendant, Hakto Hong (left), a 19 1/2 year veteran of the Amtrak Wars, was an able attendant my car.  As he explained the features of my roomette, he had a sign with his first name on it making a visual learner like me able to learn his name on the first try.

Car attendant Hakto proudly told me, "This is the car the new President (of Amtrak) rode."  Then he pointed to the cardboard wastebasket atop which an styrofoam ice chest usually sits and said, "He did not like the ice chest there, so it is now in room 9.  I put a vase of flowers where the ice chest used to be."  I appreciated Hakto's still positive attitude and willingness to work with the staff cuts and other changes on Amtrak.

Since my roomette was on the 'ocean side' I could not resist the temptation to take some coastal photos as we approached (above), then passed Point Conception (below).  This is a scene only viewed by Coast Starlight Passengers since Hwy. 101 cuts inland before reaching the point.
Etched glass booth dividers, with original Coast Starlight Logo, in the Parlour Car.

San Luis Obispo is a crew-change and step-off-the-train stop.
Our lead locomotive, 117, in San Luis Obispo (SLO)
Mother Nature's way of keeping people from straying too far from the train at these stops.

Step-Off (Smoke-if-you-like) Stops like SLO allow rail travelogue writers time to write down the consist:  Engines 117, 116, and 88; Baggage 1163; Sleepers 39007, 32090, 32082, 32055; Parlour Car 39972; Diner 38058; Sightseeing/Lounge 33018; Coaches 34056, 34093, and 34088.

'SLO' checked bags come out of the baggage car, and northbound bags are loaded in one operation.
Northbound Coast Starlight awaits the "All Aboard" then we move up the Cuesta Grade in late afternoon.
Since I was at the end of the train after copying down the consist, I stepped back on in a coach car so I could walk through the Sightseeing/Lounge Car (above).  The horizontal light was streaming in making a nice photo op.
Going forward from the Sightseeing/Lounge car is the Diner.  Gus' crew had prepared the Diner for dinner.  The middle menu advertised wine and drinks.  The blue menus were of the often 'cussed and discussed' Diner Lite.

It was at the SLO stop that I saw Kirk, the Parlour Car Attendant, watching a Coach door.  Then, at dinner, he was a waiter!  Later it was mentioned by Elizabeth Petersen, an Amtrak Manager onboard, that there was only one Coach Car Attendant for all 3 coaches!  Do the Math!  The Amtrak crews have been cut by about 50% yet ridership is up and the same number of cars remain on the Coast Starlight!

After the San Luis Obispo stop, we progressed up the Cuesta Grade climbing 1,000 feet in 11 miles!  This slows the train for the sharp curves and tunnels, allowing ample time to shoot pictures of the hills with cattle, California Oaks, and farm roads as we ascend:


I arrived in Oakland only 34 minutes late, grabbed a cab to the Marriott at 1001 Broadway and checked into my 19th floor room about 10 p.m.

The view, northwest, was great from my 19th floor room.

[ Getting ThereThe Conference and Niles Excursion | Getting Home ]

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