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The Vino Train - Portland Wine and Roses Edition June 5 - 10, 2013

The Vino Train - Portland Wine and Roses Edition

Inaugural Run,  Los Angeles - Portland, Oregon Round Trip

June 4 - 9, 2013
Photos and text by Carl Morrison,, except where noted.


"I do not travel a great deal by train, but when I do, I prefer LA Rail."  (What Ben Franklin might have said if he were alive today.)

CLICK HERE for the original advertisement and agenda of the Inaugural Portland Wine Train.


Pacific Sands in Los Angeles

This Trip, June 4 - 9, 2013, to Portland involved 5 nights and all passengers had accommodations on either the Pacific Sands or the Salisbury Beach for the traveling days as well as the nights spent in Portland, Oregon.  Additionally, the Overland Trail served as a daytime lounge and diner for all meals enroute.  This proved to be an excellent arrangement so you had options for where you spent your time while underway.

When traveling on LARail private rail cars, you will find the cars on the end of the Amtrak train opposite the locomotives. This trip used these private rail cars:  The Pacific Sands (above), the Salisbury Beach, (below) and the Overland Trail (below).

--Overview from


Overland Trail in Los Angeles


Salisbury Beach in Los Angeles


The Overland Trail Lounge Car was between the sleepers in the three-car consist at the end of the Coast Starlight.  We spent most of the day and evenings in the Overland and took all of our meals there while on the road.  In Portland, we had breakfast onboard, then lunch and dinner on our own as we were out and about town.  It was comforting knowing that we could return to our sleeping car or the Lounge during the day and much more convenient that moving to a hotel during the three nights we spent in Portland.


Son Matthew and I had Bedroom C in the Salisbury Beach where Matthew enjoys the comfortable seat and large window during the day.  A movable chair is also in the room.  Bill Hatrick had told me before the trip that smaller, soft luggage pieces were better handled within the room than large ones. 


Our bedroom in the Salisbury Beach still in LA Station.

We each brought a garment bag which fit perfectly in the closet.  The small soft bags fit above the bathroom.


Our bedroom set up for sleeping.


The sink tilted out of the wall above the stool.  When finished using the sink, one just tilted it back up into the wall and the water magically ran down a drain in the wall. 


Overland Trail with bar, kitchen, and Barber Shop! beyond.

Guests on the trip, while having a room for day and night use, could also congregate in the Overland Trail lounge carWith both 4-top tables and comfortable living-room-style seating, all guests could be in the car during at mealtimes and would be seated at the seating time of their choice.


Soon after departure, Bill Hatrick had a welcoming meeting and covered safety and reminders about the itinerary.


Tom Anderson, "The Wine Guy"

Tom lead the wine tastings onboard as we traveled through Santa Barbara and Paso Robles as well as on a wine bus tour in Willamette Valley, Oregon.


An attractive offering after we departed Los Angeles.


Thomas C. Pearson, owner of the Salisbury Beach, and granddaughter who worked as a car attendant and server.


Yours Truly, "Vestibule Rider," at Oxnard, California Station

One of the great joys of travel by private rail car is the opportunity to spend time at one of the open vestibules.  Wear safety glasses, provided by the car's owner, or sunglasses that will not fly off in the 70 mph wind as you sneak a peek down the track.  Also, wrap your camera strap around your wrist or neck.   Properly outfitted, you will feel the thrill that a dog feels hanging out a pickup truck's passenger window, but possibly with less drool of the end of your tongue.  Finally, you will not have to deal with the dreaded window reflection you get while taking photos on Amtrak trains since all your shots have to be from behind glass with them.  (On Amtrak trains, opening a vestibule window can get you put off the train.)

The following shots are from the vestibule on either the Salisbury Beach or Pacific Sands while being pulled by the Amtrak Coast Starlight.


Crowne Plaza at Ventura Beach


The Ventura River as it meets the Pacific Ocean.


The coastline from the Hollister Ranch bluffs.


Another advantage of riding in the vestibule of a private rail car being pulled by an Amtrak train is that you can get a rare shot of the full length of the Amtrak train in one shot.  This day the Coast Starlight had an unusual consist.  The Pacific Parlour Car was missing from its usual place before the diner, but this day another diner had been substituted for the Parlour Car.


The Overland Trail and the Pacific Sands and Hollister Ranch from the vestibule of the Salisbury Beach.


Pacific Coast north of Point Conception, California


A cattle trail leads from a corral and water tank up to a California Oak, a shady spot for the cattle to spend the heat of the day.


Salinas Valley


A Farmall tractor, pulling a trailer built to haul irrigation pipes, traverses a road through a field of leafy
green salad in the "Bread basket of America".  I believe the local football tournament is called "The Salad Bowl".


Santa Barbara allows passengers enough time to take photos before reboarding for some lunch and wine tasting.


Bill soon rang the dinner chimes for lunch.

--Photo Credit:  Matthew Morrison

One does not fret about lunch time while enjoying the passing California scene from a private rail car.


This couple quickly bought a bottle of wine from a wine tasting room very close to the Santa Barbara train station during our brief stop.


Soon thereafter, a delicious lunch was served.


Gary Combs of the Central Coast Flyer, which also uses the Overland Trail, gave a commentary to Eugene, Oregon.


Tom Anderson served wine from Santa Barbara as we traversed the California Central Coast.


Between San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, we enjoyed Pomar Junction wine tasting.


Several passengers had friends meet them at various stations along the route.  This couple brought orange juice and champagne for a toast beside the train in San Luis Obispo.


We had sunny California weather as we left San Luis Obispo and made our way up Questa Grade.  Again, using the open vestibule of the Salisbury Beach and the Pacific Sands, I was able to capture an image of the entire Coast Starlight as it pulled the three LARail private cars north toward Paso Robles.


Once we traversed the horseshoe curve climbing upward on a 2% grade, we looked back southwest and could see the trestle we had crossed a few minutes earlier, the adjoining avocado groves, and the agricultural buildings of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Dennis could often times be seen in the Pacific Sands vestibule as we rounded the many curves on Questa Grade.  He had a scanner set at the railroad frequencies and kept us abreast of the official communication between the dispatcher, engineer, and conductor.


Before the summit, the tracks paralleled Hwy. 101, which could climb the grade at a steeper grade than a train could.


To make the ascent only 2%, the track building crew had to make many tunnels as we climbed higher above San Luis Obispo.


After a restful night's sleep aboard the Salisbury Beach, we had perfect views of Mt. Shasta from the open vestibules or the windows of the Overland Trail during and after breakfast.


On adjoining tracks or sidings we could see freight train consists up close and notices some different cargo compared to the typical Southern California loads.


One of the most enjoyable times for me on this trip was being in a vestibule with owner Bill Hatrick.  He confided that being a "Vestibule Rider" is his favorite time of being a private railcar owner because as a kid, he was always chased out of the vestibules by the conductor.  The following are photos of Bill in the vestibule as we rode through the mountains of Oregon and through some snow sheds.






Once we were down the mountainside, I knew from previous trips that we would cross the river upstream from a nice covered bridge, so planned accordingly for my first shot of the bridge from an open vestibule.


Another crew change station is Eugene, Oregon, giving passengers time to stretch their legs.



Crew change stations are a good time to have friends and relatives meet you on the platform for some photos and short conversations.


This stop also gave Tom Anderson time to check the durability of the Overland Trail lettering he had designed and installed.


A rare photo of the three LARail car owners together on this trip (left to right):  Thomas C. Pearson, owner of the Salisbury Beach Doug Spinn, owner of the Pacific Sands; and Bill Hatrick, owner of the Overland Trail.  To get them all three to smile, I think I said, "Hey, the Triumvirate all together at once!"   ("Triumvirate" is three powerful individuals)  I thought this would be more appropriate, and successful in bringing a smile, than calling them Railroad Tycoons or Railroad Barons.


In Portland, we tied up at Union Station.  The railcars remained our sleeping accommodations, so there was no need to transfer to a hotel.




The street cars are an excellent way to get around Portland.  We boarded the line to the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation a few block from the station.  It crossed above the station, over the Willamette River, then upriver to within sight and walking distance of the Museum.


From the light rail line, we had an excellent view of the lift bridge that we had traversed to enter Portland.


Downtown Portland and the Willamette River from the city's light rail.


Some on the Portland Vino Train passengers would go here the following day for the beginning of the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.


The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation in Portland has just moved into new quarters and you can walk among the locomotives being restored.


X197 from another angle.

 Oregon Railroad & Navigation Railway #197

This jewel of the early 20th Century era of steam locomotives arrived in Portland just in time for the 1905 Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition, 2 years after the Wright Brothers first flew, and 3 years before Henry Ford rolled out his first Model T. She then went on to serve Portland commerce for over 50 years before retirement in the 1950s. Residing in Oaks Parks like her sisters since 1958, she was also moved to the Brooklyn Roundhouse and undergoing restoration today by the all-volunteer Friends of the OR&N 197.


No. 700 is a massive restored locomotive, with stairs and platform for viewing inside the cab.

Spokane Portland & Seattle 700

Built: 1938         Manufacturer: Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, PA
Length: 111’      Weight 440 tons   Drive Wheel:  77”
Horsepower:  5,000            Boiler Pressure: 260 psi        Fuel: Oil
Donated to PDX: 1958       Volunteer Organization:  Pacific Railroad Preservation Association

Built in 1938 as a 4-8-4 Northern Pacific Class A design, she is close to 111′ long, 10′ wide and almost 17′ tall. With locomotive and tender weighing almost 440 tons and a boiler pressure of 260 psi, her 77″ diameter drivers can apply 5,000 horsepower to the rails and exceed 80 mph. It’s oil fired, and features design specified roller bearings throughout which was quite advanced for the era.

This beautiful example of the latter years of steam locomotive development pulled the famous Empire Builder until that train was dieselized in 1947. She continued to faithfully provide passenger service from Portland up the Columbia River Gorge to Spokane until 1956, and in 1958 the 700 was ultimately placed on permanent display at Oaks Park in SE Portland. Returned to operation in 1990, she is lovingly operated and maintained by the all-volunteer Pacific Railroad Preservation Association.



No. 4449 dwarfs a worker within.

 Southern Pacific #4449

The only remaining operable "Streamlined" steam locomotive of the Art Deco era, this locomotive pulled Southern Pacific "Daylight" coaches from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the scenic Coast Route and then on to Portland until 1955. In 1974 she was completely restored specifically to pull the 1976 Bicentennial Freedom Train throughout the US to the delight of over 30 million people. She is arguably one of the most beautiful locomotives ever built—and kept that way by the all-volunteer Friends of the SP 4449.



The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation had some nice outdoor displays as well.


One of the full days in Portland included a bus tour of several wineries, the first of which was the Duck Pond Winery.


Before the Duck Pond's Tasting Room opened at 10, Bill darted across the highway and began walking the right-of-way of the Willamette and Pacific, a railroad in the area.  Later in the day, he proudly showed me two tie nails he found dated '28 and '33.


These two ladies poured in the tasting room and led us on a tour of the wine making facility.




Refrigerated wine tanks.






While waiting for the bus to reload, one member of our group found some mistletoe and a couple took full advantage of it.


Soon we were on our way with some wine purchases to McMinnville for more tasting in the many tasting rooms downtown while some continued to the Air and Space Museum.


Tom "The Wine Guy" and I teamed up and visited as many tasting rooms as possible for future Vino Train tour destinations.


Willamette Valley Vineyards tasting room hostess, Kendra Wells.


Ben agreed with my purchase from the Willamette Valley Vineyard.


"I don't travel much by train, but when I do, I prefer an LARail car pulled by the Coast Starlight.


Tom found a great place for lunch, the Golden Valley Brewery.



Other tour members enjoyed lunch at one of the many restaurants downtown.


A nicely restored Willamette and Pacific station stands on the same main street.


The tallest landmark in town.


Panther Creek's wine tasting room downtown is in the former electric company building "reflected" in their pinot noir below.







Back on the bus for the last tasting room, Dobbes.


Some, who had gone on to the Air and Space Museum joined us at this final stop.




Bill always seems to be in a festive mood even without drinking wine.


Back at the Portland station, our LARail cars had been turned and we were ready to head southward the following afternoon.



The food was excellent at each meal.  Three meals a day underway and continental breakfast onboard while in Portland.


Lookout Lake from inside the Overland Trail.


The open vestibules of the Pacific Sands and Salisbury Beach were excellent spots to share with other photographers as we traveled through the Oregon mountains.


You surely get the feeling of luxury train travel in an LARail private car when you can have dinner for two with dessert at a four-top table and spend as long as you like in conversation after dinner.




Railfans and Rail Modelers in the group enjoyed sharing home videos on their laptops after dinner.


Crew change stops for the Coast Starlight
such as in Jack London Square in Oakland allow time for private railcar passengers to detrain and stretch as well.



Bill Hatrick, Overland Trail owner, looks very official while welcoming passengers back after the Oakland stop, as Doug Spinn and Tracey welcome Pacific Sands guests back onboard.


Gary pointed out the abandoned town of Drawbridge which is slowly sinking into the south end of the bay.  I've taken similar photos of dilapidated structures and sent them as postcards entitled, "One more payment, and it's mine all mine."


Conductor Bill, a big Southern Pacific fan, knew about these bridges in San Jose with the symbol of the fallen flag Southern Pacific still in good shape. 



Kurt Snider, right, joined us for the one-way Portland to LA portion of the Vino Train.


Traveling south of Salinas, passengers had more time for viewing the world go by outside their picture window and for enjoyable conversation.




The inaugural trip of the Portland Vino Train was a delightful experience.  We arrived back in Los Angeles on time.  Some of us took an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to stations south of LA after an enjoyable time on the north outdoor patio of the station reminiscing about our trip.

This trip will be repeated so sign up quickly when you see the posting at  The original posting about this trip is at: 

You will not find a better value, better staff, nor a better route, in America for a 6-day, 5-night private vintage railcar vacation than the Portland Vino Train, and you can quote me on that.

While writing this report for TrainWeb, I heard the song entitled, "I wish I could go traveling again," by Stacey Kent from her album, "Breakfast On The Morning Tram" on Music Choice on cable TV.  I think it is appropriate after such a grand trip.

 Click Here for the video on YouTube which will open in a new browser window.

The lyrics:

I wish I could go traveling again
It feels like this summer will never end
And I've had such good offers from several of my friends
I wish I could go traveling again
I want to sit in my shades, sipping my latte
Beneath the awning of a famous cafe
Jet-lagged and with our luggage gone astray
I wish I could go traveling again

I want a waiter to give us a reprimand
In a language neither of us understand
While we argue about the customs of the land
I wish I could go traveling again
I want to sit in traffic anxious about our plane
While your blasť comments drive me half insane
I want to dash for shelter with you through the tropical rain
I wish I could go traveling again

I want to be awakened by a faulty fire alarm
In an overpriced hotel devoid of charm
Then fall asleep again back in your arms
I wish I could go traveling again
But how can I ever go traveling again
When I know I'll just keep remembering again
When I know I'll just be gathering again
Reminders to break my heart ?

I wish I could go traveling again
It feels like this summer will never end
And I've had such good offers from several of my friends
I wish I could go traveling again.



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