Sam Copelan's Trip on Amtrak's Coast Starlight & Pacific Surfliner
From Tom and Linda Fry
Way last March I wrote you about my little friend Sam Copelan's upcoming train
journey. Finally, here is his travelogue. Except for Mom's notes,
these are all his impressions of the trip in his own words. We only made
a couple of grammatical changes. Sam is six and is just finishing
Kindergarten. He really loves trains. His little sister in the pictures
is Hannah. They had a great time on this trip and are still talking
about it. Thanks for considering it. There are four photos
Sam's Train Travel Journal
April 4-10, 2001
A note from Mom: My son Sam is a train man's man! It all started when he
was 16 months old in the mall. My usually calm and happy baby threw the
worst temper tantrum when I refused to buy him a little wind up train
that he was holding in his fat, baby hands. I knew that this was odd and
that the train was something that he must have really NEEDED. Thus began
his love affair with trains. He has read nearly every book and seen
nearly every video ever made. In his Kindergarten class, he is the
resident expert on trains, their functions, and their history. Finally,
we booked our first train trip from So. California to Washington state to
visit family. Below is Sam's journal.
April 4, 2001
7:00 a.m. Oceanside
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
I am cold and I was waiting for the train to hurry up and get me but it
was taking too long.
Then we stopped in San Juan Capistrano and I thought
that we were at the
station. I was happy because I cant wait to get on the train that were
going to live on. But we have to ride a little bit more to get to Los
Angeles. I'm wearing my train hat, the train guys will like it.
I saw box cars and tank cars. I saw other cars that were flat, like flat
cars or something.
9:00 a.m. Los Angeles
Amtrak Coast Starlight
We have moved to our sleeping car. This is the most perfect, perfect
place! It is so comfy. This is more perfect than my house! I wish we
could live here on the train. I wish it would take 12 days on the train.
I used the bathroom. I liked it. I was scared when I put the toilet seat
down, because the red light blinked and it all went "splshoowhee!"
Someday, I am going to be a train doctor. I need to fix broken trains.
At lunchtime, we ate lunch in the dining car. I had chicken strips and
french fries and milk and fruit cocktail. It was good. It was fun eating
there because it gots more people there. It's like eating at a birthday
party. And we saw islands out my window. I like choosing from a menu. The
ride is so much fun because we get to go over 9 feet bridges and out my
window I see cows!
So far, we went through 7 tunnels. It gets very dark and you cannot see
and you pretend to be scared.
I know a little about trains but not very much. On train shows, I learned
that they used to have a little red caboose at the end of the train but
at the end of that year, they took off a little red caboose and put a
blinking light on the last car.
We had dinner again. It was heavenly good. They are treating us like
kings. We had an ice cream sundae. We got to sit with someone that is
from where there is a lot of snakes and where Survivor is. Mom said it is
I just saw tank cars! They can be white and black. But they can't be blue
because it's hard to see what it says. Black tank cars are the best. And
cars with lots of holes are called "pig cars" so animals can breathe.
These sleeping cars are cool because I can do stuff with my family.
by the way, first of all, trains don't eat and second of all, trains
don't talk - well, except for Thomas and the other engines. Trains get
train gas and diesels get diesel gas and bad diesels get devil gas. Like
Diesel #10 who wants to destroy good engines!
Right now out my window,
I can see James the Red Engine leading our
And 3rd of all, trains don't play. They only take passengers, coal
other stuff to people who need them.
And 4th of all, trains do not have
babies. They only make them from old
smashed trains that went to the junkyard!
5th of all, I see a switch track
out there for trains on the same track
and if they're going the wrong way, they can turn and go the right way.
Later, I'll tell about the 7th of all when I hear something else about
trains that are not
Oh, I never thought this day would come!
7th of all, some trains do talk that we don't know. Only if they're blue,
red or green. Like Thomas or the train on "Dora the Explorer" or "The
Little Engine that Could." Only those can talk.
Tonight, my sister and
I got to sleep on the top bunk. I slept on the
outside and there was a net to catch me from falling. We even had a blue
night light! I'm really cozy comfy here. Before bed, we had to take a
shower while sitting on the potty but we weren't really going potty. Mom
wanted the big lights out so that no one could see her underwear. I said,
"I see London, I see France!"
April 5, 2001
Today we saw lots of snow. I think I'm on train rule #10 and that is - if
you see snow, you're probably going higher. Soon you'll need to put on a
Mom keeps thinking that the conductors walking around are engineers,
I say, "Mom, then who's driving the train?" She always says, "Oh yeah."
Girls like Barbies, but boys like Trains!
Before dinner, I was looking out the window. I saw a break-down train and
it wasn't going anywhere- it was just staying. Then a train passed by us
and I yelled, "Whoa!" because it was so short.
Then we stopped at a bridge. I see the tracks moving up so a boat could
pass by! I don't believe it, this is so amazing! I'm so scared going over
water because there may be a so strong storm that would break our bridge
and we would all fall through the water. Singing songs does make me feel
better like "A Million Little Bunnies" or telling funny jokes.
A note from Mom: We had a wonderful time visiting family. However, Sam
would often ask me privately, "Mom, how many days left until we get back
on the train?" Finally, his day to leave the fun loving cousins and
return to his sleeping car and his beloved attendants, chief, and
April 9, 2001
I have decided that when I grow up, I will drive the "S"(ed: for Sam)
track instead of the "M" track. (Amtrak) We got to talk to the Chief. I
told him that I was going to be an engineer. He said that first I have to
work on a train as a conductor. Then, I get to be the chief. Then, they
will send me to train school to be an engineer. I think that would be
Now, we are in a tiny little room. I think that it is very cute. At
train station, it was very crowded. I saw a freight train going by. We
never get on the freight trains but they carry stuff that we want. They
After dinner, I had a chocolate ice cream sundae. It was good. Then we
went downstairs to take a bath. It would be nice if we had our own
bathroom again but this is fine too. It sprays me like a water balloon
fight. Then we went back upstairs to our beds. I slept on the up bunk and
on the end so Hannah wouldn't fall out.
April 10, 2001
This morning, our engine broke down. His name was "Genesis." There are 3
engines on the front now. The engine pulling us now is called
"Workhorse." It was certainly a long wait. It's a good thing there are
two good engines in case this one breaks down. I am a train doctor but I
couldn't get it because the door was locked.
We saw an old wooden trestle and we are making a loop inside a horseshoe!
We are carrying a little red caboose but it is not ours. Somebody wants
us to pull it but I don't know who.
We passed by a prison. It was big. It was full of bad people who steal
and tell lies. Next to it, I saw some little ponies running. They were so
Whenever I wear my engineer hat, the man in the parlor always asks, "Why
aren't you driving the train?" I said, "I'm not driving the train because
you're not sitting down!" He is such a teaser.
Because our train broke down, we had to take a bus because our L.A. train
was on time but our train was not on time. There was a little car that
took us really fast like a smooth roller coaster that doesn't go on
rails. The man wore a red train hat and he took us to the bus.
I like trains. We stayed at the train station at 2:30 in the morning
waiting for dad to come. We were ok but we were a little scared.
Next time, I want to go on a train again because it was so fun. And I
want to eat in the dining car and play in the kiddie room. I also want to
look out from our little bedroom.
Two days on the train is not too long. It is fun. I like planes too but
trains are slower and I like slow. Trains are the best!
A farewell from Mom: Our time is done and we will now return to the pace
of our ordinary lives. Although Sam is young, I doubt that he will ever
forget this trip across the Pacific Northwest via Amtrak's Pacific Coast
Starlight. Much thanks to the crew for their kindness to our little
family. Trains are the only way to go and may they never lose their place
in man's quest for travel.
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