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Coast Starlight - SEA-LAX last day

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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Last Day of trip home

Text and Photos by Robin Bowers

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent

Comments are appreciated

    After a restful night in room C on the southbound Coast Starlight, we awoke to start our day in Sacramento, CA our third capital city stop on Coast Starlight. One of the surprises traveling at night is where you will wake up in the morning. Breakfast was over and we were getting ready for the day as we neared Emeryville.

    The capital of California, Sacramento was founded in 1849 as California's original charter city, rich in the state's history. The gold rush, pony express and first transcontinental railroad all originated here. As we approach Sacramento station, note the remnants of the Southern Pacific's locomotive shops. The Central Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific's predecessor railroad, began their construction in 1864, five years before it linked with the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah, to create the country's first transcontinental route.


Golden Gate Bridge.


The City.


We were running about one hour late currently.


We arrived in Salinas near 12:50pm about one hour late after having just past the site of Monday night's wreck. The broken signal cross arm was lying in the dirt at the crossing with many pieces of paper scattered about as a reminder of the occurrence.


Equipment on display at Salinas station.




    Salinas is at the head of the Salinas Valley and is known as the "Country's Salad Bowl" because of the many varieties of vegetables grown here. The boyhood home of the Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck here has been preserved; the town is the proud home of the National Steinbeck Center, which focuses on the writer's life and rich history of the area. A major stop on the professional rodeo circuit, its own rodeo began in 1901 as a Wild West Show. Every third week of July is the big event for cowboys and fans of traditional competition.


The sleeper 32117-Wisconsin, our car, followed by sleeper 32094-Montana, with the diner followed then by the business car then the cafe-observation car and the coach cars. 

    Russell and I both enjoyed traveling in our big bedroom, this being the first time for either of us. Going northbound we had a roomette downstairs so coming back it gave us a chance to compare the two opinions. For a single traveler the roomette works great. The second person gets the upper bunk which was designed for use by contortionist to practice on but great if you are a teenager or younger. And if you have to make a night bathroom visit then the upper bunk is definitely not your cup of tea. Upper bunk or lower bunk you have to leave the room and go outside the room and down the hall to the restroom. Hopefully you brought your hard sole slippers to wear on the train and good for such occasions. Plus your shower and more restrooms are located downstairs.

    We enjoyed the size of our room. Width wise of the sleeping cars, the roomette is about one-third and big rooms are about two-thirds of the width so you do not feel on top of each other. The sofa was great if one wanted to nap while the other could sit in the chair watch out of the window. One of the best accoutrements was the enclosed toilet and shower and wash basin. If you are old enough to remember the telephone booth where there was a shelf to sit on while you made your call then you can imagine this shower/toilet set up. You sit on toilet and instead of phone there is a shower head. The noise we heard when Russell first hit the flush button was deafening. The room shook and sounded like the whole room was going to be suck downed the drain. As we used the toilet, we were less surprised as time passed. I was very curious to experience this shower so after breakfast I closed the door with a waterproof sound. It is a tight space if you are under two hundred pounds, more than that, then the downstairs shower would be more comfortable as it is somewhat roomier. One of the first things, and a must to do, is to close and cover the TP. The next customer might be unhappy to find wet tissue. I turned the water on and washed with the water going down the drain near the door jamb. I stepped outside to dry off for more elbow room and then wiped down the shower to help the drying time along. All in all I thought it was a slick setup and an excellent use of space. The wash basin was good for a quick hand wash and also good ice bucket. Getting in the upper bunk is much easier with more room to turn and you don't have to be as much of a contortionist. To get in the top bunk you use a ladder hooked to the top bunk. My only bad effect from using the ladder was the rubber covering on each step made of several deep ridges. These are more appropriate for a door stop to scrape the mud and snow off shoes and boots. Just a plain bare wooden step would be much more comfortable on bare feet for those of us who don't sleep in our boots.


California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo view from Cuesta Pass on Horseshoe Curve. The facility houses over 6500 inmates from minimum to medium security custody.

    Our stop in SLO was short just long enough for crew change. As we were an hour down leaving SLO and the new conductor was very interested in getting to Los Angeles on time and he wasn't shy about using the ponies. After SLO our next stop was Santa Barbara after which all the stops remaining to Los Angeles were discharge only. After a short quick stop in Santa Barbara, the conductor was snapping the whip and letting the ponies run full out and we went through most stations in the blink of an eye.


Vandenberg Air Force Base.

    I'd be remiss in telling about traveling on the Coast Starlight without remembrance of the glories of the historic past that are not present today. The crown jewel on one of Amtrak's premier trains was the Pacific Parlour Car. Amtrak notes: The Pacific Parlour Car is our "signature" lounge car available for the exclusive use of sleeping car passengers. This car provides a casual and nostalgic place to enjoy the passing scenery in a luxurious and historic piece of equipment. Many amenities are available to sleeping car passengers that include bar service, separate menu for breakfast, lunch and evening meals, onboard movies and daily wine tasting events.

Pacific Parlour Car

    The Pacific Parlour Car is located between the Sleeping Cars and Dining Car. This first-class Lounge Car operates only on this train and is for the exclusive use of Sleeping Car passengers. Pacific Parlour Cars once operated on the Santa Fe's famed El Capitan of the 1950's before Amtrak acquired the cars and upgraded them to their current configuration. The wine tasting experience will present different wines and cheeses from locations along the route of this great train. Have some fun exploring the amazing world of wine that is often right outside your window. Wine and cheese from each state as you travel through, California, Oregon Washington. All of these wines are available for purchase at the end of the event.

    Sip on the wine and nibble on the cheese and look out the window and see where it was grown and produced. And you can buy a couple bottles of the local wine to take for the end of trip drink. What could go wrong? Sounds like a Chamber of Commerce hot sale to me. What's not to like? The Pacific Parlour Car is now deceased and has moved on. Profits over customers is the motto of the Amtrak sky bus drivers running this railroad. Be that it as it may, there is a need for a first class lounge on all the long distance trains. But let's not give the customers anything nice or extra. I feel lucky today that I have one punched ticket for the Pacific Parlour Car ride. Sad that no more memories can be made. 


View near Point Conception.

    After dinner in Santa Barbara, we headed back to the room to gather, pack and change into our street clothes and prepare for arrival in Los Angeles. Since we brought up stairs only two small bags to the room, there was just a small amount to stash. One thing that is a must if you are traveling in the sleeping car is a power strip if you carrying charging appliances. I had my computer, camera, GPS and we both had our phones to charge. There is only one outlet per room and long cord could be plus also. 

    After leaving Santa Barbara, the loco's were feeling their oats and enjoying their run and it made for a more exciting ride. Soon we were galloping through Simi Valley and doing a final check of the room. Then came the San Fernando Valley, the Van Nuys Airport, the Burbank Airport and finally the great city of Glendale. The tensions and excitement were rising as the minutes ticked away and then I spotted it, the landmark that signaled I was home-Los Angeles River. Home, as I went pass the Metrolink shops and then with the river on the left we were making a right into the platforms at Union Station in Los Angeles. After having been assigned our track we passed the first clock on the platform showing 8:58 then passed the next was 8:59 and when we finally came to a full stop, the clock changed to 9:00. On time! Right down to second. Excellent job by crew. We left Seattle on time and arrived in Los Angeles 1377 miles later and on time. Granted there were locations where we were over a hour or more late so I think that makes it a most impressive accomplishment. A big A plus for Amtrak, the onboard crew and the ponies.

    Leaving the sleeping car we stepped on the platform with a waiting Red Cap for us and our bags. After acquiring a full load and getting everyone's destination, we took off down the platform to the end then across other platforms, crossing over the Gold Line tracks and into a parking area. When a lady passenger shouted, I thought for sure her panties were on too tight. "Guess we're getting a tour of the alleys and worker's area tonight." she said as we pulled up to the first class lounge, Metropolitan. Definitely a coach patron. Entering through the back we were greeted by the welcoming attendant, who after checking our tickets pointed the available snacks and drinks. We settled into the comfortable chairs to wait and catch our breath before our next and last train trip of going to the Northwest and return. I saw the attendant restocking the snacks and she was stocking the big chocolate chip cookies so I asked her if I may have one? Sure she said and handed me one. Then I asked for one for my friend? No problem so I walked away with two big chocolate chip cookies. The Red Cap knocked on the door and said our train had arrived and we could now board and to follow him to his cart. We loaded up and proceeded to the platform for train 796. We boarded and left on time at 10:13pm southbound out of Los Angeles. A few minutes before 11pm we were standing on the Santa Ana Station platform walking to the parking structure and my car. My car looked just like it did when we had left it and a half hour later I was pulling in to my parking space at home.
End of Trip. 

I am sending many thanks to everyone who helped to make this birthday expedition a success with long lasting memories.

Extra thanks to Elizabeth and Bob for hosting a birthday feast with a stunning water view.

And special thanks to Russell for being a great traveling companion and spending his time on my birthday expedition.

Thanks for reading.
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Text and Photos by Author, Robin Bowers

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent

Comments are appreciated