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Rails Back Home Coast Starlight to Fullerton

California Rail 2020

November 7 - 9, 2008

Conference Coverage by Carl Morrison,


Going Home is more than Half the Fun!

Rails Back Home

Coast Starlight Sacramento to Fullerton, California

--Parlour Car glass divider.

Following the TRAC 2008 Conference in Sacramento, I boarded the Monday morning Coast Starlight at Sacramento Station for a planned detour over the SP route and through the Tehachapi Route back to Los Angeles, then Surfliner on out to Fullerton.  The Coast Starlight is scheduled to depart SAC about 6:34 a.m. and an early check with Julie (1-800-USARAIL) indicated that the train, that originated in Seattle, would be on time.

We had stayed at the Vagabond Inn, about 2 blocks from the platform at the station, so we walked, pulling our luggage.  When we crossed the street in front of the south end of the station, we saw that the Coast Starlight had already arrived!  As it turned out, guests on the train said they had arrived about 5:30 or so.  Instead of walking through the station, we just passed the Starbucks and walked directly to the platform and to our nearby Sleeper #1130.  It was the same crew that we had come to Sacramento with, so we greeted Robin our car attendant and she said that many had detrained here in SAC, so would we mind taking room 9 instead of 3.  Of course we complied and began storing luggage and settling into our roomette. 

We departed at the assigned time and we soon went to the Diner for breakfast.  Tom, Car Attendant in 1132, has confirmed on the earlier trip that the only way to get fresh eggs for breakfast on the train was to order an omlette.  I enjoyed the omlette, though it seemed a bit overcooked.  Of course, in each sleeper, before breakfast and during the day, Robin had coffee, cranberry, apple, and orange juice, but for ice, we were instructed to go to the Parlour Car.  I find it much more convenient to have ice in your own car so you do not have to walk to another car for it, and interrupt the Parlour Car Attendant to get a cup of ice, and walk back, get the juice, then return to your room.

We departed SAC as the sun was rising.  We backed out of the station, eastward, to the wye, then turned south instead of passing westward through the station, across the river bridge heading for Emeryville.

Sacramento Sunrise

Canada Geese

Once we were underway, Robin soon had time to make up all the rooms of departed guests.  Since there would be no guests boarding all the way to Los Angeles, any unoccupied room in Sacramento would remain unoccupied for the duration.  With this in mind, and the fact that Robin had been our car attendant on the northbound trip, she offered one of the Bedrooms to us.  This was much appreciated, and we reflected our appreciation in our tip at the end.  There are many advantages of  a Bedroom over a Roomette on the train.  As you can see below, the 6-foot long couch allows one guest to lie down while the other guest can still use the table and chair.  Also, the Bedroom has a shower/toilet combination, and sink, mirror, and small cabinet top next to the sink.  It has a closet for a couple of jackets as well.

Bedroom's full-length couch by day/lower bunk by night.
Bedroom's table and chair.
Remodeled Bedroom's shower/toilet behind the door (about the size of an airplane toilet), and sink and storage cabinet above and below the sink.  Of course you can use the car's shower/dressing room downstairs, or one of the many restrooms in the car.

The mirror on the door behind the chair has a mirror, making the room seem much larger.  If you have two Bedrooms, this door can be opened, otherwise, it is just one more thing to rattle.  There is a small shelf above the chair.  Beside the chair, there is room on the floor for a small bag, which you would have to move only to use the shower/toilet.

We paralleled Hwy. 99 from Sacramento to Bakersfield, through the Central Valley, the "Bread Basket" because of the number of edible crops grown there.

I knew that California was one of the leading states in cotton production, but was surprised to see it growing, ready for picking, along our route.

Table grapes and wine grapes to the horizon.
Almond trees and grapes.

Sun World's trackside warehouse advertised the various types of plums and grapes (above).


This vineyard had fabric protection throughout, to protect from birds?  Sun?

Our only stop was at Bakersfield for crew change and Nicotine Feign stop.  We were told 'don't go past the posts' on the former depot platform.



Our limited movement on the platform was to "the posts."

The new crew (right).


IMG_7950.jpg IMG_7951.jpg

Turning east at Bakersfield, after passing a few groves, the terrain soon changed from flat farmland to upgrade, curves, and tunnels as we traversed the Tehachapi Mountains.

I moved from our Bedroom to the Parlour Car where I could easily move from side to side in the car to photograph the front and back of our trainset slowly navigating the curves.

Our consist (right) as we were rounding the knoll in the loop.

The Tehachapi Loop is the highlight of this route, but it is hard to photograph from the train.  The best view is from east of the loop where the track is elevated and you can see the entire loop, but your train is shorter than the loop and you won't see any train on the loop.  I was hoping that the northbound Coast Starlight might be in the loop awaiting our arrival, but we passed her before the loop.  She had preceeded us through the loop by a few minutes. 

It was interesting talking with Steve Grande, of, via cell phone, as we approached the loop, since he was on the northbound Coast Starlight this same day.

Crossing over the tunnel that we had come through on the upgrade into the loop.  Note that the tunnel is single track, with a siding that makes the loop.  This is a major bottleneck on this line, but we continued without stopping.
Our view ahead after completing the Tehachapi Loop and its increased elevation heading east/south.
Entrance to the loop with the tunnel on the left.

The loop around the knoll.

My feeble attempt to blend the 2 photos together to help understand the loop from tunnel (left side), around the knoll and over the tunnel.

The tunnel, signal tower, and track passing over the tunnel.
A farm beside the loop.
A train-watcher's paradise home.
Hwy. 58 parallels the track at some points, and continues from Bakersfield to Barstow.

Sign viewable from highway and railroad.
Mojave, CA, commercial planes.
Landing strip, control tower, and hangers.

This was a great trip.  Unusual because we took the coastal route north and the Tehachapi route south on the Coast Starlight.

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