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Amtrak Cascades
Southbound Travelogue

Travel on the Amtrak Cascades from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Seattle, Washington, U.S.

Click here to view photos.

Ray and I had checked our luggage with the VIA Baggage Room. They will hold your bags for you for $2 per bag. We were going to be taking some photos around the station and then meeting with people at the Rocky Mountaineer Railroad. Ray and I did not want to be dragging our luggage all around the building with us.

We picked up our luggage at about 5:20 P.M. and brought it over to the express check-in line for Business Class passengers. The first person to receive us gave us our seat assignments, our Customs Declaration forms, and our snack-pack vouchers. The next person we had to pass through was a security guard who asked to see our driver's licenses and had us sign a register with our name and address. The third person we had to pass by was U.S. Immigration Services. He just wanted to see my driver's license also. We would still have to go through U.S. Customs while onboard the train.

There were already a couple of other people in business class when we got to our seats. I had forgotten about whether the Talgo had electric outlets, but these new sets definitely have an outlet at every seat in Business Class!

I'm always impress by the roominess of the Talgo. It is obvious on the tubular Amfleet cars why they seem so short on space. Whoever thought the interior of trains should have the same look and feel as airplanes robbed passenger cars of most of the benefits that they have over planes! The tubular Amfleet construction resulted in limited headroom, limited overhead storage and inadequate window space. The Horizon Cars are boxy like the Talgo Cars, but they still give the feeling of being in a vehicle that is tight on space.

In the Talgo Car, you feel like you are in a very comfortable lounge. Each row contains two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side of the aisle. The pairs of seats have a large armrest between them which opens up into a holder for two cups! Having only 3 seats instead of 4 certainly adds to the feeling of roominess. But there seems to be more than that. The overhead clearance is much better than on the Amfleet or Horizon Cars, but there is much more room to store overhead luggage. Even a decent size suitcase should fit comfortably over your seat in the Talgo. The large windows also add to the openness of the car. In Amfleet and Horizon cars the door leading from the seats to the vestibule appears to just barely fit where the seats and overhead luggage racks end. On the Talgo, the door between the seats and the vestibule is an electronic sliding glass door that occupies only a small amount of the area of the wall in which it is mounted.


MP 0156.0 CH 66 161.100 DP VAC 0156 19990921 1800 (1140) - Vancouver, BC

While the train is on segmented rail, the Talgo does tend to sway a lot and give a very jittery ride. Once the train gets onto continuous welded rail, the ride is as smooth as glass!

Different people might have different opinions on this one, but my own personal view is that passengers should not travel with children in Business Class unless they know that they are very well behaved during travel. When my two girls were younger, I did travel with them in Custom Class. But I know that they are very well behaved and very quiet on the train when it is just our family traveling. However, I won't travel in Business Class if they are bringing friends along as I know that things can get a bit more noisey.

There was a mother traveling with two small children between one and three years old. These children would wander up and down the aisle in Business Class and climb up on various seats. The mother constantly had to retrieve the children and bring them back to their proper seats, which was accompanied by a lot of protest and screaming. There would also be sporadic outbursts during the entire trip.

I've raised two children of my own and know how they and the friends they travel with can get. If I travel in regular Coach Class, I expect to find a lot of children traveling with their parents and expect the behavior that is bound to accompany children. I think it is great to bring children on the train. Almost all children are exciting about their first train ride and find it hard to contain themselves. The memories of train travels taken by people when they were children often turn them into lifelong train riders. Thus, I certainly want to encourage parents to travel with their children by train!

When I went out to restaurants with my children, we'd always go to a "family restaurant". We knew there would be a lot of other families there and we'd be neither surprised nor upset when the atmosphere turned out to be what it is like anywhere a lot of children can be found. However, we would not take our children to a fine restaurant frequented almost exclusively by adults. Those restaurants have a quiet and romantic atmosphere. We felt it would be an inappropriate place to bring children, even though we could afford to do so. In the same way, it seems inappropriate to bring children into Business Class, especially ones that are noisey and who run uncontrollably up and down the aisle climbing on everything.

I think one of the reasons people pay extra to ride Business Class is to get away from the noise and traffic that can often by found in regular coach. There are fewer people in Business Class than regular Coach which is why there is so much less traffic up and down the aisles. Since the full upgrade price has to be paid for children just like for adults, few parents purchase the Business Class upgrade when traveling with their children. That does lead me to wonder why those few families that do upgrade to Business Class actually do so. It can't be to get away from the noise and disruptions of the regular coach section since they are one of the major contributors to those factors! Children usually don't like much of the food in the snack-pack as it is mostly non-sweet crackers, cheese, fruit and bread. As healthy and popular with adults as these types of snack are now, it is not something I would have looked forward to as a snack when I was a kid! I don't think it is the express check in as I think Amtrak usually offers pre-boarding for families traveling with children in major terminals like Seattle and Vancouver.

So, I'm not sure exactly what advantage a family gets by traveling Business Class. I know it gives the Business Class travelers a bit of the regular coach experience that they paid extra to avoid.

MP 0134.8 CH 66 161.100 DP --- 0135 19990921 0000 (----) - Detector

-- ------ -- -- ------- -- --- ---- 19990921 1903 (----) - White Rock, BC

At Blaine, the train stops and picks up agents from U.S.Customs. They collect the Customs Declaration Forms, ask a few questions, and might search your luggage. The Customs Agents travel with the train so as not to delay the train.

The U.S. Customs Agents were very friendly, they asked about what we had to declare, which was less than $200 between the two of us. They asked if we had a good time in Canada. Since we were the last people on the train for them to get to, they spent a little extra time with us. We talked about our web site a little, but since neither agent gets on the internet much, we talked more about the trip we just completed on the Rocky Mountaineer.

I'm watching the overhead monitor. It is continuously updated with our current location, expected arrival time, current time, current temperature, and next stop. There is also a map of our route shown with the distance we have traveled highlighted along with a flashing indicator for our currently location. My guess is that this current information is coming from the GPS on the train.

MP 0119.6 CH 76 161.250 AR --- 0120 19990921 1105 (----) - US Canada Border

MP 0110.5 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0111 19990921 1055 (----) - Detector

MP 0097.0 CH 76 161.250 DP BEL 0098 19990921 1030 (0952) - Bellingham, WA

MP 0091.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0092 19990921 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 21 - 0715 ft

MP 0088.8 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0089 19990921 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 20 - 0328 ft

MP 0088.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0089 19990921 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 19 - 0141 ft

MP 0083.6 CH 76 161.250 -- --- 0084 19990921 0000 (----) - Tunnel No. 18 - 1113 ft

MP 0081.9 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0082 19990921 0000 (----) - Detector

MP 0066.8 CH 76 161.250 DP MVW 0072 19990921 0958 (0922) - Mt. Vernon, WA

MP 0058.9 CH 76 161.250 DP --- 0064 19990921 0000 (----) - Detector

MP 1783.3 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0032 19990921 0000 (----) - Everett Tunnel 16 - 0.4 mi.

MP 1783.9 CH 66 161.100 DP EVR 0033 19990921 0907 (0834) - Everett, WA

MP 0029.8 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0030 19990921 0000 (0858) - Addl Track: Boeing Plant

MP 0027.2 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0027 19990921 0847 (0855) - Detector

MP 0017.6 CH 66 161.100 DP EDM 0018 19990921 0841 (0812) - Edmonds, WA

MP 0004.6 CH 66 161.100 -- --- 0005 19990921 0000 (----) - Detector

MP 0001.1 CH 70 161.160 -- --- 0001 19990921 0000 (----) - Seattle Tunnel 17 - 5141 ft

MP 0000.0 CH 70 161.160 DP SEA 0000 19990921 0810 (0745) - Seattle, WA

  • MP = Mile Post
  • PPPPPP = Mile Post mileage
  • CH CC = Radio Channel
  • FFFFFFF = Radio Frequency
  • AR = Arrival
  • DP = Departure
  • -- = Train skips station without stopping
  • STA = 3 letter code of station
    • cal = Caltrain
    • met = Metrolink
  • MILE = Miles from starting point
  • YYYYMMDD = Year, Month and Day of Travel
  • TTTT = Actual Time
  • SSSS = Scheduled Time

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