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The Santa Barbara Vino Train

--Vino Train graphic compliments of Tom Anderson   

A Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Adventure, free from driving,
board the Vino Train from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara round trip. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Story and photos by Carl Morrison,

The trip includes breakfast northbound, with about 4 hours in Santa Barbara to explore up to eleven wine tasting rooms within walking distance of the Amtrak Station, and dinner southbound.  There is enough time in Santa Barbara to also enjoy the many other attractions downtown. 

Most trips include two elegantly restored vintage 1956-era railcars which are added to the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Train No. 1761 that leaves Los Angeles Union Station at 7:35 a.m. on one or two Saturdays each month. 

You return in the same cars on Train No. 1790, leaving Santa Barbara at 4:35 p.m. arriving in Los Angeles at 7:15 p.m.

Table of Contents
Continue down the page, and click 'next' at the end of each page, or skip to any section below:
The Cars of the Vino Train
- Rail Travel to Santa BarbaraWine Tasting Rooms in S.B. - Trip Back to Los Angeles -
Slide show of all Images in this Report.

The Cars of the Vino Train

The Silver Splendor awaits Vino Train passengers in Los Angeles Union Station.

The Overland Trail ready for departure on the Vino Train.

Silver Splendor Facts

Manufacturer:     Budd Company
Built for:     Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
Year Built:     1956
Service on:     Denver Zephyr
Weight:     70 tons
Capacity:     50 day
Construction:     Stainless Steel
Trucks:     Inside Swing Hanger
Top Speed:     110 MPH
Our stylishly appointed Vista Dome Lounge-Dining Car is the ultimate in land cruising excellence. The graceful glass-enclosed rooftop observation room provides unparalleled views in all directions.

With day trip and dining capacity for up to 60 guests you travel elegantly while gliding along immersed in breath-taking landscapes. Attentive onboard staff will pamper you with respectful and lavish personal service of a long gone era in railway history.

We invite you to please come join us on the SILVER SPLENDOR and enjoy the sumptuousness of gourmet travel.

Built by the Budd Co. in 1956 as Chicago, Burlington & Quincy No. 4735, this stainless steel Vista-Dome coach raced between Chicago and Denver on a daily basis until 1980. the latter 9 years under Amtrak ownership. Originally named SILVER BUCKLE, she was part of the last 2 complete conventional train sets to be ordered new in the pre-Amtrak era and traveled over 4.5 million miles.

With standard coach seating for 50 and 24 seats up in the dome, the SILVER BUCKLE provided fast and comfortable service for budget-minded patrons till Amtrak s bi-level Superliners arrived. Officially retired in 1981, the car spent time in storage at Oakland, California and Beech Grove, Indiana before being auctioned off to a railcar shop owner in 1993.

In 1997 the current owners, Heidi and John Caestecker, purchased the car in the Midwest and moved it out to Fullerton, California with the intent of restoring it to operating condition as a luxurious Dome-Diner-Lounge. Dining capacity will be 24 at tables upstairs and another 24 in the long end of the lower level. A cocktail lounge seating 10-12 will be featured in the short end, with kitchen and restrooms under the dome.

With the luxury appointments now installed for the car's rebirth, SILVER SPLENDOR is now in active Amtrak service and is available for private charter or public excursion. For more information about our next public trips, please visit the trips page by going to the Public Trips Page. For more information about chartering the car for private ventures, please visit our Private Charter Page or

Double-click any photo below to see a double-sized image; Click BACK to return to this page.

Boarding the Vino Train in LA. Station

This was the locomotive leading us to Santa Barbara.

Lower-level seating for 24 in the Silver Splendor.

The Dome of the Silver Splendor.

The lounge in the Silver Splendor, used as a place for staff  on Vino Train trips.

Stewardess service throughout the Vino Train.

Breakfast buffet enroute to Santa Barbara:
-Southwest Frittata-
-Grilled Chicken Sausages-
-Belgium Waffle-
-Fresh Fruit-
Coffee, fruit juices, and other drinks available.

Overland Trail

Manufacturer:     Pullman Standard
Built for:     Southern Pacific Railroad
Year Built:     1949
Service on:     SP/UP Overland route
Weight:     70 tons
Capacity:     39 day
Construction:     Steel
Top Speed:     110 MPH
The Overland Trail is a 39 seat Club Lounge with Barbershop and Shower. It was built by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company for delivery to the Southern Pacific Railroad in December of 1949. Numbered SP 2981, the car was specifically ordered in October of '47 for the San Francisco Overland, a train jointly operated by the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and the Chicago & North Western railroads between Chicago, IL and Oakland, (San Francisco) CA.

Southern Pacific club-lounge 2981, the first of the six barbershop lounges, was outshopped from the Pullman plant in Chicago, Ill. in December of 1949. The lounge car was a standard 85 foot long car measuring 10 feet wide and 13'6" tall. It was delivered in an elegant two-tone gray paint scheme (with white stripes separating the grays).

A most gracious quarter-circle bar adorns one end of the lounge and is surrounded by deeply etched, diamond patterned decorative mirrors and etched glass partition "wings" (with a pine bough motif), while photo murals are featured on each side of the doorway at the other end of the lounge (opposite the bar) and depict Mount Lassen to the left and El Capitan at Yosemite to the right. Murals, applied to many different cars from this order, featured scenic highlights at locations all along the Southern Pacific's vast system. The murals were part of the Southern Pacific's promotion of tourist travel through-out Southern Pacific territory.

The Overland Trail (SP 2981) was originally assigned to the "Overland Route" which was the path of the original, historic transcontinental railroad. The transcontinental railroad was a joint project by SP predecessor Central Pacific which built from Sacramento, California east, and the Union Pacific Railroad which built west from Omaha, Nebraska. This route was completed joining east and west with the historic driving of the golden spike at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. The third member of the "Overland Route" was the Chicago and Northwestern filling the gap between Omaha and Chicago. This total route covered 1,780 miles from Chicago to Oakland.

The Overland Trail is equipped with (what is thought to be) the sole operating streamliner era railroad barbershop in the world. Once a common feature aboard the premier trains of old... the railroad barbershop succumbed to the realities of the jet age in the mid 50s.

The 2981 served faithfully, racking up around 5 million miles for the Southern Pacific during its railroad career. However, as the fortunes of passenger trains waned in the 1950s and 60's, so too did the glory of this stylish railcar, when in October of 1966, the beautiful lounge of 2981 was stripped and converted into a dance floor. The Southern Pacific (wanting to keep idled onboard service crews working during the winter), along with the Reno Chamber of Commerce, started the Reno Fun Train (a winter time "gamblers special") which ran between Oakland, CA and Reno, NV bringing revelers, who otherwise, would not make the drive from the Bay Area over the treacherous Donnor Pass, to Reno.

Amtrak was created on May 1st, 1971 to "rescue" the American passenger train. The 2981 was purchased by Amtrak in 1973, and numbered Amtrak 3500. She finished her railroad career, still assigned to the Reno Fun Train serving as a bar/dance car into the late '70s. The car transitioned to private hands after Amtrak retirement and spent a decade as a derelict on various railroad spurs under several owners. Fortunately for the 2981 (and we hope, many future generations), a new chapter has been written for this glorious car. Once again adorned in authentic railroad colors, she has been given the name Overland Trail and has undergone extensive mechanical, structural and cosmetic restoration to return her to the rails as a classic form of travel, suitable for the stylish and sophisticated, or for those simply wishing to relive a bygone era.

Seating for 36 passengers in the Overland Trail.

Complimentary drinks are served by the stewardesses from the bar at the end of the Overland Trail.

 Breakfast buffet enroute in the Overland Trail.

A most unique feature of the Overland Trail is the Barber Shop onboard.  A shower and toilet is just off the barbershop. (right)

Breakfast buffet enroute to Santa Barbara:
-Southwest Frittata-
-Grilled Chicken Sausages-
-Belgium Waffle-
-Fresh Fruit-
Coffee, fruit juices, and other drinks available.

Christy prepares fresh waffles as Conductor Bill tells the guests how best to procede through the buffet.

Very friendly staff meets your traveling needs.

Fare for the Vino Train is:

$145.00 per person in the Overland Trail.

Includes downstairs seating in either the Overland Trail and escorted walking tour of the "Urban Wine Trail"

Wine tasting fees are not included and are settled on an individual basis.

Special reserved seat in the Dome of the Silver Splendor is $170 round trip.  Otherwise, downstairs seating is $145 in this car as well.  Check to see if the Silver Splendor is included when you make reservations trip.  A reserved seat in the dome for an additional $20 per person was offered during our trip.  There was room on this day to upgrade during the trip.

The Route of the Vino Train to Santa Barbara

Our first sight of the Pacific Ocean is at Ventura, CA.

After the breakfast buffet, guests enjoy miles of ocean view between Ventura and Santa Barbara.

View through a side dome window.

View through a rear dome window.

Escorted Walking Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Tour is lead by Tom "Wine Guy" Anderson.

We detrained at the Santa Barbara Station and immediately found ourselves in the one and only shower of the day, so umbrellas came out quickly.

Another group boards in Santa Barbara for a round trip to San Luis Obispo while we wine taste and enjoy Santa Barbara.  When they return at 4:30, we reboard for our trip back to Los Angeles.

Conductor Bill helps the last Santa Barbara passengers board for their round trip ride to SLO.

As the train leaves, we see Old Faithful No. 90208, a 'cabbage (cab/baggage) car' that has no engine, but is a remote cab for the train.  This special train does not have to turn around in SLO.  It simply reverses back south with the Engineer in this cab.

Santa Barbara Station.

A boy studies the train schedule inside the Santa Barbara Station.

When two rail cars are used on the Vino Train, Tom has 1/2 of the group stop at Oreana for tasting.  They opened at 10 to accommodate 1/2 our group this day.  They are at 205 Anacapa St.

Santa Barbara Winery

Quite a bit of foliage outside might cause you to wonder where the Santa Barbara Winery is located, but check the map for 202 Anacapa St., just across the street east from Oreana.

Santa Barbara Winery also opens at 10 a.m. so expect some early tasters to join you.

Kunin Wines Tasting Room

Still cloudy, but not raining when we arrived.

But sunny when we left.

Seth Kunin, owner, was having a wine and cheese tasting for Kunin Wine Club members who stopped by to pick up their monthly wines.

This server (left) promoted the Vino Train to all she served.

Wine Guy (right) with a couple on the Vino Train.

A group of Moms have a tasting weekend.

Municipal Wine Makers

One door south of Kunin is Municipal Wine Makers.

Corks 'n Crowns

Corks 'n Crowns is on the opposite of Kunin Wines.

I had lunch at FisHouse at Anacapa and East Cabrillo Blvd.  I found a cup of chowder and 1/2 crab melt for $8.50.  Across Cabrillo was a view of the wharf and a sailboating class, but it was too cool for me to walk out on the pier.

The view east from the same spot.

Margerum Tasting Room

After lunch, I took the 25 cent electric trolley up State Street to photograph the Hotel Santa Barbara, where I will be staying on a future train trip to Santa Barbara.  Look for that report on my index page of reports when it is filed:  After stopping at the Hotel Santa Barbara, I walked on up State Street to De La Guerra St., turned right one block to Margerum Tasting Room, 813 Anacapa St., opening at noon.  Au Bon Climat Tasting Room is next door with a sign in the window that their tasting would be at Margerums this day - a nice two-for-one stop.

Hotel Santa Barbara, 533 State Street
A perfectly located and appointed Hotel for a Santa Barbara stay.

Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation around downtown and the beach.  Rentals are available at the Train Station and on State Street.

Entrance to Margerum's Tasting Room

I like the bottle top covers at Margerum.

Time to make our way back to the station and, when the Overland Train returns for our boarding, a quick photo to remember the day.

The Route of the Vino Train back to Los Angeles

Tom "Wine Guy" Anderson designed the current logo on the Overland Trail.

No. 90208, sounding like the ZIP code for Carson, CA, lead us back to LA.

No umbrellas needed while meeting the Vino Train for our trip back to Los Angeles.

(Right) Conductor Bill helps guests reboard the Vino Train.

Late afternoon sun highlights the surf and cliffs below the Vino Train.

Bill answers guest's questions in the Overland Trail

Dome guests enjoy a picture-perfect view from their seats.

We paused, locomotive-to-locomotive with the northbound Pacific Surfliner providing this photo opportunity from the Overland Trail.

Bill Hatrick, Overland Trail owner and restorer, is always available for rail-related conversation.

Thanks to Bill Hatrick and John Caestecker, owners of the Overland Trail and Silver Splendor respectively,
for the terrific day on the Vino Train!

Be sure to sign up for a future Vino Train trip quickly because they sell out the trips quickly.  Go to to check the schedule, then call

(877) 4 LA-Rail (877) 452-7245 and make your reservations.

Click here for a Slide Show of All Photos in This Report

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