Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, WA and back.
A long distance overnight train trip staying several nights in
a nice hotel in a leading city's downtown.
Late, Later, More Later and a red eye to end it.
Thursday November 14, 2019
Text and Photos by Robin Bowers
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night passed into sunrise and a new day began in an unknown
location until a look out the window showed that we haven't
traveled a great distance. We were only at our next stop after
Salinas, San Jose, but almost 12 hours late. Schedule time was
8:11 pm and we arrived at 8:20 am next morning. Schedule travel
time between Salinas and San Jose is two hours. That would make
for a ten hour delay due to the wreck.
Breakfast start time is 6:30 am on day 2 on
the Starlight. As is was close to 8:30 am, Russell and I decided
to go to breakfast. There is no reservation needed, just drop in
any time till nine. After we were seated, we had the same server
from dinner last night, as Renee welcomed us to breakfast.
As she was taking our orders, she was telling us about her
sleepless last night. Her room in the dorm car is behind the
baggage car and the two locomotive. All night long she heard the
hammering, pounding and other sounds and noise of the workers
removing the pumper truck from the point locomotive. As I
was told it looked like a soda can was smashed on the sidewalk.
Not nice. We couldn't go around as it was single track so we
waited till all parts and debris were collected and removed from
the locomotive. I think that on this site there were personnel
from Amtrak mechanics, Union Pacific, first responders, hazmat
clean up crew and the corner. It was lucky that there was a
highway adjacent and parallel to the tracks. During breakfast it
was announced that after our stop at the Oakland station we
would proceed to the Amtrak yard and replace the damaged
locomotive with another.
When the Starlight arrived in Oakland, CA, we
were still having breakfast in the dinning car while listening
to fellow passengers talk, gripe, bitch and fret about being so
late in their journeys. Spending all night at the Oakland
station does make one unhappy and certainly doesn't make for
good customer relations. After doing its station work the train
proceeded to the Amtrak yard about a mile away where we stopped
and the locomotive was changed out. The change happen fairly
quickly and we were on our way after about twenty minutes.
Day for Night
On a normal scheduled Starlight train we would be traversing this
landscape in the deep darkness of night but now we we getting to
experiences an unique and rare passage. Among our first sights was
the waterfront of Pablo Bay.
We rolled into Sacramento at
1:00 pm, nearly 13 hours late. Thank-goodness I didn't have to
wait in the Sacramento station since before midnight to catch
this train. This was a fresh air stop as they also refueled and
added water so I decided to take a picture of our new engine
Refueling in Sacramento.
Water for the sleepers.
Our new lead locomotive to replace #160.
While in the station Russell
called our hotel to see about cancelling our room for tonight.
There were several thoughts abuzz on the train now. A-the train
was 12 hours late for now till end of run. Period. Two options:
Take the train all the way to SEA but arrive 12 hours late but
would be unable to leave on time the next morning for its return
trip. Second- terminate somewhere along the way and finish the
journey with a bus bridge. Russell was perfect to make the call
to the Warwick with his many years in the hotel business. He
explained our situation and our objectives to which the operator
said he would change our reservation from four nights to three
nights. He said this is ordinary not done but was an unusually
circumstance about our lateness. Although he did say the story
did have a certain smell about it.
After that we settled in for the ride. For no
matter what time we arrived in Seattle, it was OK. I was pleased
to see Chico in the daylight, a nice looking town much better
than in the dark. Also enjoyed seeing Redding. Then it was just
to wait for dinner and enjoy the view.
Near Dunsmuir, CA
Dinner on the
train can be, and usually is, a pleasant affair. Our table
mates start out as strangers and after good conversation
during the meal you have had a enjoyable time. Eating on
Amtrak is not enjoyable these days especially for frequent
travelers. The menu has been the same for at least a couple
of years and same eastbound, westbound, north or south so it
gets boring very quickly. Last year on the Southwest
Chief I had the same items then as today. But what can you
expect from a railroad being run by a bunch of ex-fly boys?
Remember when airlines served food on their flights. A meal
served warm, heated up in ovens on the planes. Well, that is
what Amtrak meals are like now on their trains today. No
cooks in the train's galley now days, just help to reheat
our pre-made dinner. And are there meals on airlines today?
Well that is the future look coming to Amtrak. No meals on
trains, the next thing the mental giant fly boys have
planned for their customers. Earlier in the evening, the
dining room staff fed the coach passengers beef stew and
rolls in the lower level of the lounge car to help the
passengers with the lateness in their journeys which was a
nice gesture and appreciated. A full belly makes for a more
contented traveler so everyone on the train was fed.
After dinner as we were
relaxing in our room, Roger informed us that as of now the
plans were to annul the train in Portland and bus us to
Seattle. With arrival time for Portland at 4am, about six
hours from now it was decided to get some shut eye. Russell
and I plus an old lady were the only inhabitants on this the
lower level of sleeping car 1430. Russell relocated to the
roomette across the aisle and made up that bed and I made the
bed in our room for the night till Portland. The older lady
was ensconced on the big bed in the family room. With each of
us in our separate rooms we began our second night on the
railroad and tomorrow would start too soon.
Make up the room for night use.
Thanks for reading.