Travel on the Amtrak Cascades from Seattle, Washington, U.S. to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
MP PPPPPP CH CC FFFFFFF DP STA MILE YYYYMMDD TTTT (SSSS) - City/Comment
MP 0000.0 CH 70 161.160 DP SEA 0000 19990915 0810 (0745) - Seattle, WA
There was a slight delay before boarding the train. A problem had developed with the track somewhere between the yard and the station which made it impossible to bring the train to the station. The southbound train for Portland was scheduled to leave at 7:30 AM and our northbound train to Vancouver was scheduled to leave at 7:45 AM. Initially it was thought that the delay might be an hour or more, but they were able to clear the problem much sooner than expected. We got to board the train just 15 minutes late at about 8:00 AM and were on our way out of the station by 8:15 AM! The Portland train had already started to board before our train left the station and would also probably depart shortly.
We upgraded our tickets to Business Class to experience the additional ammenities that are provided. In Seattle, a person from the train stands behind a desk by the station doors to the platform to check everyone in prior to boarding. By 7:15 AM, the line was very long. Ray and I got into the line, but within a few minutes there was an announcement that Business Class passengers could use the line on the right.
I saw a sign for Business Class passengers to the right, but there wasn't any line. As soon as the announcement was made, one person immediately went to that sign and the Conductor took care of him next. So, I went up to the sign. The Conductor took care of my ticket right after he finished with the current person in the other line. Seat selection was done at this time and we were assigned to seats 4A and 4B in Business Class #2. When it came time to board, the Business Class passengers were boarded before the long line of regular coach passengers.
There are two Business Class cars in our train. A tour group totally occupies the lead Business Class car. We upgraded our tickets to Business Class to experience the additional ammenities that are provided. Business Class features two seats on one side and a single seat on the other side.
Row 4 isn't a terrible place to sit, but most of the other rows are better, especially row 5. I have about 2 feet of window space next to me but then there is a barrier of about 18 inches between my window and the window in front of me. The A and B seats of rows 2 and 3 are arranged to face each other. Thus, 4 people traveling together can be accommodated. The window is aligned with those 4 facing seats as to provide a totally unobstructed view. The window at row 5 also provides a long unobstructed view.
The overall impression of the train is that it is very roomy. In Business Class, having one seat on one side and two on the other side of the aisle helps foster the perception of roominess. The shape of the interior is square and the windows are very large, which all adds to the roominess of the car.
I have never seen so much courteous attention paid to passengers, even on the Coast Starlight! There seems to be more than one person assigned to attend to everyones comfort. I haven't figured out the roll of each person yet, but this train definitely has a Chief of Onboard Services. There is also probably at least one Car Attendant for the two business class cars.
There are only 3 seats in this Business Class car that face backwards to the motion of the train. A couple that sat in one pair of those seats asked the Chief if there were any forward facing seats avaialbe. With the group traveling in the first Business Class car, there weren't any forward pairs of seats available. The Chief offered to let them sit in two of the single seats, or would find them a forward facing pair of seats in regular coach. The couple finally decided to take two single seats, one in front of the other.
I don't know if this Cascade train is usually this full or if it is just unusually full today because of the large group traveling in Business Class.
The Conductors seem to have a bit of a different uniform than the ones that I have seen on other trains. These uniforms look more like a business 3 piece suit.
The train crosses a couple of bridges and then begins a long treck north right against the shore of the Puget Sound. The water can be seen out the west (left) side of the train.
MP 0001.1 CH 70 161.160 -- --- 0001 19990915 0000 (----) - Seattle Tunnel 17 - 5141 ft
MP 0004.6 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0005 19990915 0000 (----) - Detector
MP 0017.6 CH 66 161.100 DP EDM 0018 19990915 0841 (0812) - Edmonds, WA
Heard on scanner: "760, I shoveling coal up here as fast as I can!" "I was just wondering if you needed any extra hands up there." (Laughter)
MP 0027.2 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0027 19990915 0847 (0855) - Detector
MP 0029.8 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0030 19990915 0000 (0858) - Addl Track: Boeing Plant
MP 1783.9 CH 66 161.100 DP EVR 0033 19990915 0907 (0834) - Everett, WA
MP 1783.3 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0032 19990915 0000 (----) - Everett Tunnel 16 - 0.4 mi.
MP 0058.9 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0064 19990915 0000 (----) - Detector
MP 0066.8 CH 76 161.250 DP MVW 0072 19990915 0958 (0922) - Mt. Vernon, WA
The special group from the first Business Class Car was served in the Dining Car first. That filled up the Dining Car for the first seating.
Ray and I had breakfast in the dining car. The train has two cars for eating. One is the Bistro where you can either purchase food to take to your seat, eat it at the bar in the Bistro, or sit at one of the few tables in the Bistro. The other car for eating is a full service Dining Car with service at your table. The service was prompt and courteous. They serve full meals, but I think they are prepared off the train and just reheated onboard. Even so, the food was still quite good. Our server kept coming over to our table making sure that we had everything we wanted and to refill our coffee cups from time to time.
We had breakfast with a gal from my home town of Boston, Massachusettes. She came out on the Amtrak Empire Builder and would soon head all the way back through Canada on VIA Rail! She had a wonderful time coming out here, staying in Glacier National Park for a couple of days on her way to Seattle.
With seating in the dining car arranged like that in Business Class with tables for 4 on one side and tables for 2 on the other side, the Dining Car was quite roomy with plenty of room even in the aisle.
MP 0081.9 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0082 19990915 0000 (----) - Detector
MP 0083.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0084 19990915 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 18 - 1113 ft
MP 0088.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0089 19990915 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 19 - 0141 ft
MP 0088.8 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0089 19990915 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 20 - 0328 ft
MP 0091.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0092 19990915 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 21 - 0715 ft
During this journey, they played the movie: "It's a mad mad world." The movie can be seen clearly from everywhere in the car on a good sized overhead color television. Sound is provided at each seat via headphones. You can either bring your own headphones or you can purchase them on the train for $3 and keep them. During the movie, captioning would show up on the TV screen telling when stations were about to come up, which station we were in when we arrived, and even gave information about some of the scenery along the way!
The bathroom door on the train was automated just like the other doors on this train. A slight touch of the handle and the door would automatically open the rest of the way. A slight touch of the hangle again once inside and the door would automatically close. However, you must manually lock the door once inside. Other doors in the car worked the same way, automatically sliding open and closed at just a touch. If you did not close a door, even the bathroom door, it would automatically shut itself after a preset interval.
MP 0097.0 CH 76 161.250 DP BEL 0098 19990915 1030 (0952) - Bellingham, WA
By coincidence, the Board of Directors of VIA Rail was onboard. They were being given a tour of the new Talgo Cascades. Ray and I talked with the Vice-President of VIA Rail about the possibility of TrainWeb producing a set of 360 x 360 immersion photos of the VIA trains and routes similar to what we are doing on this trip for Amtrak and Rocky Mountaineer. We swapped business cards to explore this future posibility.
This rail journey has resulted in a couple of business leads that we were not expecting. Yesterday we had lunch on the train with the president and general manager of a shortline railroad in the state of Washington and today we run into the VIA Rail Board of Directors!
MP 0110.5 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0111 19990915 1055 (----) - Detector
MP 0119.6 CH 76 161.250 AR --- 0120 19990915 1105 (----) - US Canada Border
The town of White Rock is in Canada right over the boarder. The train tracks travel right between the town on the right and the shore on the left. There is a large white rock off to the left just before reaching the town.
MP 0134.8 CH 66 161.100 DP --- 0135 19990915 0000 (----) - Detector
MP 0156.0 CH 66 161.100 AR VAC 0156 19990915 0000 (1140) - Vancouver, BC