Amtrak Historical Society 1998 Conference
in Jack London Square, Oakland, California
Travelogue and Photos by Steve Grande
April 30 to May 4, 1998
Travelogue of the rail journey of Steve Grande and Ray Burns to the Amtrak
Historical Society 1998 Conference on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.
Click here for conference photos!
Click Here For More Info At
Thursday, April 30, 1998
Ray and I drove to the Fullerton Station in my car since Ray uses a
high-level vehicle that does not fit into the overnight garage at the
station. Most van conversions and some full-size pick-up trucks
probably will not fit into the garage at the station. Since the garage
is the only place near the station where overnight parking is allowed,
you have to take that into consideration.
If you are taking a rail journey of less than 3 days, then you can just
park almost anywhere in the garage. However, if you need to leave your
car for more than 72 hours, then you can get a parking pass from the
Fullerton Ticket Agent that will be good for the length of your rail
There is a specific Amtrak San Diegan that connects with the Amtrak
Coast Starlight. That is train #769 Monday through Friday, and train #759
on Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes I've even left a little early and taken
a Metrolink from Fullerton to Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS). By
arriving early, it gives me a chance to look around the station. This time,
however, I decided to go first class all the way and booked the new
Pacific Class tickets to Los Angeles! The regular one-way adult coach fare
from Fullerton to Los Angeles was $6 and the Pacific Class surcharge was
an additional $9 for a total of $15. That may seem like a lot for the
surcharge for the upgrade, but it is more worth it when you travel
further on the San Diegans. I think the $9 surcharge is either the same
regardless of how far you travel, or it might be just a little more for
The train arrived into Fullerton pretty close to schedule. Since the
first three trains from San Diego to Los Angeles each morning are the
new Amtrak California Cars, that was the consist of our trainset.
On the single level Amfleet/Horizon combo trainsets, a new Concept 2000
Car is used for the Pacific Class Service. On the bi-level California Cars,
a Superliner is used for Pacific Class Service. All Pacific Class seats
are reserved, but unassigned. Unlike regular coach seats on the Amtrak San
Diegans where your tickets do not indicate any particular train number
and time, Pacific Class tickets indicate the exact train number and
departure time. You are guaranteed to have a seat on the train! "Standing
Room Only" on the San Diegans is infrequent, but it has been happening more
now than in the past, even after the San Diegans have increased service to
10 trains each way each day. Just as a side note, you tickets will
indicate "Custom Class" rather than "Pacific Class." I don't know if they
intend to actually make the tickets read "Pacific Class."
I was surprised at the difficulty we had in finding two seats together.
It seemed that Pacific Class was filled to at least 50% capacity, and
probably more. As usual, people that were traveling alone would occupy
the window seat of each seat pair. While there were plenty of empty
seats, the only empty pairs of seats that we could find were a couple
near each end of the train.
In addition to the more comfortable guaranteed seating with plenty of
room, Pacific Class passengers are also provided with free coffee, juice
and the morning newspaper. Depending of the time of day, they are also
given free pastries, cheese and crackers, a fruit plate, and even free
wine or champagne! Everything is served to you at your seat by a Car
Attendant dedicated to the Pacific Class Car. Since we were going to be
going directly to the Coast Starligth with similar offerings on the
Pacific Parlour Car, we just took the free juice and newspaper.
Our train pulled into a track right next to the Coast Starlight as we
came into Los Angeles. Amtrak tries to have these trains right next to
each other in the station to make it easy for passengers and baggage to
Our reservations to travel to this event by the Amtrak Coast Starlight
had been made months ago through
Slotsy Tours & Travel.
Best I can tell, Arrow, the Amtrak reservations system,
assigns requests for Standard Bedrooms by starting with the lowest numbered
room in the lowest numbered sleeping car and works its way up. Arrow
seems to first give out all the rooms on the upper level of the sleeping
car before it begins to give out rooms on the lower level. Since I usually
make my reservation many months in advance of my travel, I often get room
number 2, the lowest numbered room of car number 1430 the lowest numbered
sleeping car. Room number 1 is reserved for the car attendant.
That is exactly what happened when I made my reservations for this rail
trip. We were assigned room number 2 in the 1430 car. The first two digits
of any Amtrak car number is the same as the Amrak route number. Since
the northbound Coast Starlight is Train #14, then all the cars on that
train start with the number 14. The first sleeping car is number 30, the
second is 31, and the third is 32. When the Coast Starlight has an
occassional fourth sleeping car, that is numbered 33. If you hear Amtrak
staff talk about a particular car number, they will often just use these
last two digits. You will hear them say: "in the 30 car." I think
sleeping cars on all amtrak trains are numbered in the 30's. By the same
token, coach cars start with 10. Thus, on the Coast Starlight they are
numbered 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Yes, 5 coach cars are not uncommon at all for
the Coast Starlight!
For those of you that are railfans and keep track of car numbers, when I
say "car number", I am talking about what you think of as "loading number"
or maybe some other term. 1430, 1431, 1432, etc. are the changeable numbers
that you will find backlighted near the outside of each center vestibule
door and even in the aisle vestibules near each end of the car. There is
another number that is actually painted on each end of the car both
inside and out which is the actual car number that is of interest to
both railfans and the people that maintain the cars. But, to the onboard
service staff and to us rail travelers, it is the "loading" car number
by the outside of the door as we enter that is of interest to us!
Unfortunately, this Coast Starlight did not have the new Pacific Parlour
Car. Instead, it had one that had not yet been remodeled. At first, I
thought this was a good sign. I was sure that 3 of the 5 or 6 Parlour
Cars had been completed. Since there are only 4 trainsets on the route,
the chances of a newly refurbished Pacific Parlour car being on all of
the the other trainsets was about 100%. I was concerned that the rail
outing of the Amtrak Historical Society on the Coast Starlight on
Saturday have one of the refurbished cars since a tour of that car was one
of the main purposes of that outing.
Further unfortunately, I heard from a railfan on the train that the
northbound Wednesday Coast Starlight had a dining car substituting for
the Pacific Parlour Car. That would end up being the one that we would
tour on Saturday! Later, I heard further confirmation from others that
only one of the three Pacific Parlour Cars was in service! Of the other
three, one was the old one that we came up with and the other two were
substitute dining cars. So, that was a bit of a disappointment as there
were several people coming to the Amtrak Historical Society Conference
from all over the country that had been expecting to tour this new car.
While we were onboard, someone mentioned that the "Tack Geometry Car"
was at the tail end of our train! We decided to take a look at it and
get some photos of it in Santa Barbara. This was a long Coast Starlight
with two engines, a baggage car, a transition sleeper, three revenue
sleeping car, the Pacific Parlour Car, the dining car, the sightseer
lounge car, five coach cars, a deadhead dining car, and then the track
geometry car. Knowing it would be quite a walk from our sleeping car to
the rear of the train, we set out to go as far back in the train as we
could before we reached Santa Barbara. We got as far as the very last
coach car. The deadhead dining car door was locked.
When we got to Santa Barbara, we got out and walked two coaches back
to the track geometry car and took a number of photos of it. Someone
got out of the track geometry car and also took some photos of other
parts of the train and station themselves! I started to get a bit
worried as we were still down by the end of the train as the station
started to clear of passengers. We walked toward our sleeping car, but
not wanted to try to make it all the way past 3 cars with doors
(lounge, dining and parlor cars), we boarded the coach car closest to
the lounge car and walked the rest of the way back inside the train.
The view of the coastline from the Coast Starlight is spectacular!
You get to see about an hour of the surf pounding against the cliffs
between Oxnard and Santa Barbara. After Santa Barbara, the train again
approaches and runs right along the coastline for an additional two hours
between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. In some places, the Coast
Starlight runs right at sea-level just feet from the edge of the water.
At other times, it runs along the cliffs high above the pounding surf.
The view of the green covered mountains rising out of the Pacific Ocean
can be awe inspiring!
If you take this trip, I would strongly encourage you to include this
northbound segment of the Coast Starlight in your travels. By going north
from Los Angeles, you are guaranteed a view of the ocean during daylight.
The southbound Coast Starlight will sometimes go along this coastline in
darkness, especially if running late during the winter when there are less
If you are getting a Standard Bedroom (what was once called an "Economy
Room"), then I would suggest that you get a room with an even number
going up and an odd number going down (think: "even up, odd down"). If
you do that, you have a 99% chance of being on the side of the train with
the ocean view! If your Amtrak ticket agent or travel agent isn't that
familiar with the Coast Starlight, they may give you an argument and try
to convince you that you have a 50/50 chance of being on the ocean view
side no matter which side your room is on. But, I guarantee you that is
not true! Of all the travel I have done on the Coast Starlight, only
once was there one sleeping car in the entire trainset that was oriented
"backwards". And, that was because there had been terrible rains for many
days and trainsets were being turned at locations other than the endpoints
of Los Angeles and Seattle. Thus, if you get a room number that is
"even up or odd down", though no guarantee, you are almost certain to be
on the oceanview side of the train! That is why I recommend that you do
use a travel agent like
Slotsy Tours & Travel (Ed. Note: No longer books Amtrak travel.) or
Zephyr Travel & Tours.
They know about the orientation of the sleeping car rooms and will help
you to book a room with a view of the ocean. By chance, if all those
rooms are sold out, you can just relax in the Pacific Parlour Car and
watch the ocean from there! You may want to do that anyway, even if
you do have a room with the view of the ocean.
If you have booked the Family Room or the Special Handicapped Bedroom,
then you will have a window on both sides of the train and it won't matter
to you which side the ocean is on! Deluxe Rooms are another story and it
could very well be that the orientation of the cars of the Coast
Starlight was arranged to accommodate the Deluxe Bedrooms. When traveling
north, the view in of the ocean is in the morning and early afternoon
starting just a couple of hours after leaving Los Angeles. The Deluxe
Bedrooms are on the same side of the car as the even numbered Standard
Bedrooms and thus get a direct view of the ocean on the northbound segment
of the journey. Southbound, you can open the curtain and/or door to your
room and look across the aisle at the ocean. Though you do have a view of
the ocean either way, it is much more comfortable to look out the window
in your Deluxe Bedroom on the northbound trip than to look across the
aisle on the southbound trip.
Around 3 P.M. there was the Wine Tasting in the Pacific Parlour Car.
The Wine or Champagne Tasting is a regular feature in the Pacific Parlour
Car and usually starts sometime around 2:30 or 3:30 P.M. Crackers and
cheese along with a variety of fruit is also served. There are usually
three glasses of different wines served. We were handed a paper that
described each wine that we were served. Bottles of the wine can also be
purchased right in the Parlour Car for about $10 per bottle. The paper
mentioned that usually only three wines are served, but that we would
have a special "fourth" wine to taste today. For some reason, that fourth
wine was never served. Despite that minor dissapointment, the wine
tasting was a very enjoyable experience as it usually is in the Pacific
The Coast Starlight leaves the coast shortly before arriving into San
Luis Obispo on this northbound segment. Right after San Luis Obispo,
the train goes winding around the famous horseshoe curve where you
can see both the front and back ends of the train at the same time if
you are near the middle of the train (such as in the Pacific Parlour
Once you get up to the Salinas area you will see large farms that stretch
off as far as you can see until they reach the mountains. This view
alone goes a long way to helping people understand how California is able
to produce many of the fruits, vegetables, and even wines that are
shipped to the rest of the nation and the world! However, to many, it is
even more of a surprise to find out that these seemingly endless acres
of farmland are small compared to the hundreds of miles of farmlands that
you can see vanish into the distance as you travel up the San Joaquin
valley! Take a trip on the Amtrak San Joaquins that run between
Bakersfield and Oakland to see this phenomenal amount of farmland
North of Salinas there is a bridge on rollers that takes us over a river
and the San Andreas fault. These rollers allow the bridge to roll back
and forth during an earthquake and minimizes damage that could be done
to the bridge and tracks. We had to go fairly slow through this area.
For dinner we both had the Jack London Broil. That was the same steak that
I had some months ago on the Coast Starlight that I thought was the most
delicious steak I have had in my entire life! The steak was very good, but
they did not prepare it the way it was described in the menu. They said
that there would be blue cheese with it. That is the way it was prepared
last time and I think was the key ingredient that made it the best steak
that I've ever had! This one was prepared just as well and was quite
delicious served along with garlic mashed potatoes and snap peas, but was
missing that one ingredient of blue cheese that would push it to the top
of my rating system!
We arrived into the Jack London Square Station in Oakland, California,
pretty much on schedule. We hauled our heavy suitcases that were loaded
with Amtrak related books and tapes the few blocks to the Jack London Inn.
While we were registering in the hotel lobby, the Coast Starlight
caught up with us heading down the tracks that go right down the middle
of the street just a few feet in front of the hotel door.
The Jack London Inn is under new management. They have definitely fixed
up the outside and the front lobby. It also seems they have done quite
a bit of work to fix up the hallways and various aspects of each room.
I definitely found it a more pleasant place to stay than in the past, but
it still could use quite a bit of improvement. For example, the drawers
fell out of half our dresser and the air-conditioning still doesn't seem
to be working properly on the top two floors, but it was obvious that the
management is actively working on upgrading the facility. They had a new
phone system installed and each phone has a data port for a modem. There
weren't any instructions on the phones nor any phone books in the room
yet, but a guess at dialing "9" before local and 800 calls worked fine.
From the bill, it does appear that they do not charge for local and 800
With the view of the tracks from many of the front facing rooms of the
Jack London Inn, I am more inclined now than ever to recommend this as
the best place for railfans to lodge in Jack London Square. I may still
have to apologize for some of the problems that you will find at that
hotel, but at least those problems are getting to be less and less.
Friday, May 1, 1998
Happy 27th Anniversary Amtrak!
At about 9 A.M. Ray and I were heading down to breakfast, but to our
surprise, the Atrium Room was open and Jeff Kocar, President of the
Amtrak Historical Society, and Dave Mangold, V.P., were setting up the
tables. We decided to also set up our material now rather than later.
Ray and I had brought along two suitcases almost filled with Amtrak books
and videos. When we placed them onto a long banquet table, they almost
filled the entire top of the table. I also had baseball caps from almost
20 different Amtrak routes and set those out. In order to fit them all on
the table, we had to lean one on top of the other, but we finally did fit
everything! We also set up a three slide shows on my computer and placed
the computer on the table. The three slide shows were: (1) The new Amtrak
Coast Starlight Pacific Parlour Car, (2) The new Amtrak San Diegan
Equipment, and (3) The innaugural Texas Eagle / California Service.
David Mangold had set up the largest display of Amtrak Timetables I have
ever seen, dating back to the early years of Amtrak operation! All the
attendies were given a goody bag that contained various items from Amtrak
and various rail groups, including an Amtrak related video!
The first person to present was Joe Deeley, the Product Line Manager for
the San Joaquins. He showed us a number of slides displaying the
increasing ridership and on-time performance of the Amtrak San Joaquins.
Next, he covered the expected addition of new train service direct from
Bakersfield to Sacramento, diverging from the normal San Joaquin route
After Joe Deeley's presentation, there were slide shows by David Mangold,
which displayed photos of a lot of trains showing various phases of the
Amtrak paint schemes, follow by a detailed slide presentation of the
journey of the Amtrak Southwest Chief through the state of New Mexico.
Saturday, May 2, 1998
We all met at the front of the hotel at 7:15 A.M. From there, we were
taken by the Amtrak crew shuttle vans to Emeryville. Our particular van
was also taking 3 members of the crew for Train #6 to their train, the
eastbound Amtrak California Zephyr. Thus, we first stopped at the Oakland
Yard to let them off. Ray and I didn't realize that we would be stopping
at the Oakland Yard first and we didn't immediately realize that is
where we were. We started to get out until Jeff Kocar told us we weren't
at Emeryville yet! I had seen Emeryville many times from the train, but
never from the front. So I was mystified about seeing all the engines and
railcars around me until Jeff said that we weren't at Emeryville yet!
Since the group had come to Emeryville by multiple vans and methods, we
all got back together in the station. The southbound Coast Starlight
arrived a little late. Our group was assigned to the very last Coach
Car so we had quite a ways to walk. The Sleeping Cars stopped pretty
close to the station and we had to walk past the dining, lounge, and
four other coach cars before arriving at our coach car.
Some Amtrak people from Caltrain met us in Emeryville and handed out
Caltrain goody bags to everyone. I noticed a web address for Caltrain
that I don't believe I had seen before which was:
I've already gone ahead and added this link to the web page at:
Just to clarify any confusion you
may have about what Amtrak has to do with Caltrain, Amtrak provides
all the Conductors and Engineers for Caltrain and also does all the
dispatching and maintenance for Caltrain. I'll mention more about this
Bruce started his narration in Emeryville. We were introduced to a few
other people from Caltrain and I will be providing the names of each
in the report on this conference that you will be able to find at
The Coast Starlight arrived a bit late. The sleeping cars were right in
front of the station and we were assigned to the last coach on the train.
We had to walk past the first class lounge car, the dining car, the
regular lounge car and then the first four coach cars before we got to
our coach car.
As we expected, this train had a dining car substituting for the Pacific
Parlour Car. Thus we didn't even bother to take a tour through the rest
of the train. Without a Pacific Parlour Car, the consist of the Coast
Starlight is pretty much the same as the consist of most other Amtrak
long distance trains. Regardless, the ride from Emeryville to San Jose
was pretty pleasant and the Conductor provided narration of some of the
sights along the way.
Bruce also provided narration during parts of the journey. Once we
arrived into San Jose, we were gathered together on the platform and
introduced to a few other members of the Caltrain staff. Each of them
explained their roles in relation to Caltrain.
We boarded the next northbound Caltrain and took it to one stop up to
Santa Clara. There we had about 15 minutes to look around the museum
and model railroading layout inside the historic depot before boarding
the next southbound Caltrain.
Once we got back to the San Jose Station, we were given a presentation
about the history of the station. Then, we walked up a block to the
operations center for Caltrain. I was very surprised to find that this
was an Amtrak facility rather than a Caltrain facility! I knew that
Amtrak provided the operations and maintenance personnel for Caltrain,
but I had no idea of how strongly related they were to the Amtrak theme
rather than the Caltrain theme.
Certainly for all outward appearances, the public sees Caltrain as just
Caltrain. There aren't any Amtrak logos on the trains and only the Caltrain
logos appear on the trains and all timetables and other literature. But,
once we got to the Caltrain operations building, about the only
identifies I could find were those of Amtrak! The building had Amtrak
signs on it as well as a logo on the lobby wall. There were many Amtrak
souveniers on display in the front lobby. Every document that I was able
to observe on desks and walls had the Amtrak logo and not the Caltrain
logo. Yet, this is where all Caltrain operations are done!
All the Caltrain personnel were wearing clothing with Amtrak logos.
It was explained to us how they try to instill a company spirit into the
new hires into the Caltrain program, the Amtrak company spirit! They
think of Caltrain as being the "little Amtrak" in contrast to "big Amtrak".
"Little Amtrak" runs the penninsula trains while "big Amtrak" operates
the statewide and nationwide passenger rail network.
We assembled in the conference room, were served cookies and Snapple,
and were give a slide presentation about the Caltrain operations. On
our way out of the presentation, we were each given two buttons that
are otherwise hard to find.
Next, we went into the room where dispatching of the Caltrains is done.
The room wasn't real large so only 5 or 6 of us could go in at a time
to view the operations. There were 4 large computer screens being used
by one person to handle the dispatching.
There was suppose to be a hardhat tour of the Caltrain maintenance
facility, but we had to skip that as we were running a bit behind
schedule. The Amtrak people already had enough sets of hardhats and
goggles all made up for us, but there just wasn't enough time to do
that part of the tour.
It seems like this day wasn't going exactly as planned. A UP car that
was putting down ballast derailed while we were being given this tour.
No Amtrak trains could be run from San Jose up to Oakland until this
problem was cleared up. Thus, instead of the Amtrak Historical Society
getting to see the inside of the California Cars, they were going to get
to see the inside of an Amtrak Thru-Way Bus!
Kirk Schneider, author of
California By Train, Bus & Ferry
and WebMaster of www.catransit.com,
suggested that we go back to Jack London Square by Caltrain, Muni, and then
by either the Ferry or Bart. That sounded like a much better option to me
than taking a bus back! And who could be a better guide to help us weive
our way back to Oakland than Kirk Schneider, who wrote the book on it!
At first, there were just 4 of us then went to buy the Caltrain tickets
while everyone else boarded the Amtrak bus. Ray went back to let the others
know that we would not be taking the bus. Ray told them we would be taking
the Caltrain and the ferry. Actually, Ray didn't realize that we were only
going to take the ferry if there was enough time to get back to the hotel
for the next presentation. Otherwise, we were going to take BART across
the bay and then walk the 5 blocks or so back to the hotel. But, I think it
was the mention of the ferry that inspired almost everyone else to change
their plans! Within a few minutes, all but about 4 people had gotten off
the bus and purchased tickets for the Caltrain!
Several of us boarded the last car of the Caltrain. However, it wasn't
until Bruce (from Caltrain/Amtrak) went through the train and gathered
up all our members and moved them to the last car with us that we realized
that almost 20 of us had switched to take the Caltrain back!
Bruce gave us a narrated tour all the way up the penninsula to San
Francisco. This really worked out great! The Caltrain was not planned as
part of the outing for today, but it made a great substitute for the
Amtrak California Cars that we could not tour. It also fit in with the
events of the day better since we had just completed the tour of the
Caltrain offices in San Jose.
Once we got up to San Francisco, we switched over to the new muni line
and that took us right up near the ferry building. If we had wanted to
transfer to BART, we could have done it right inside the subway without
even going above ground. However, we were able to postpone from 3:30 P.M.
to 4:30 P.M. the talk that was to be given by Amtrak. Bill Scott, a
Conductor for the Amtrak Coast Starlight between Oakland and Sacramento,
was also attending the Amtrak Historical Society Conference and was
with us on the rail journey up from San Jose. He was able to reach Dawn
Soper, who would be presenting for Amtrak West, and let her know that
we would not reach the hotel until 4:30 P.M.
We took the ferry from the ferry building back to Jack London Square.
The ferry left us off at the dock that is directly in front of the
Amtrak West Oakland Headquarters and two blocks from the Jack London Inn.
We arrived in plenty of time for the rescheduled 4:30 P.M. presentation.
Dawn Soper gave us a presentation about what is happening in the
Pacific Northwest. I will cover those items in a summary of this conference
at www.AmtrakHistoricalSociety.com. For a
quick summary, I'll just mention that 4 new Talgo trainsets are being
built. Three of them are being paid for by the state of Washington and
the fourth by Amtrak West. These trains will go into use later in the
year to add additional services between Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and
Eugene. The entire service in this area will be renamed to
The Cascades, but each trainset will be given the name of one of
the mountains. Dawn gave us an overview of what the interior and
exterior of these trainsets will be like and how both employee and
customer input played a great role in the design and layout of these
Dawn then went on to talk about the Los Angeles - Las Vegas Service
that is expected to go into operation in 1999. A Talgo train is already
in the works for this service and it will be basically the same design
as The Cascades, but with a color scheme more in line with the
glitz of Las Vegas. Dawn also talked about the new trainsets planned for
The San Diegans which is covered extensively on this web site at
The Amtrak Historical Society Banquet was held later that evening.
Unfortunately, the expected keynote speaker from Amtrak West was not
able to make it to the banquet. Instead, an alternate program was
quickly put together. Dorris Brigs of NARP told us a number of amusing
stories that she had heard during her Amtrak travels and she encouraged
all of us to collect stories during our rail travels. Then, we were given
a talk about Operation Lifesaver. The evening was rounded out by a number
of Amtrak slide shows.
Sunday, May 3, 1998
On Sunday morning we went over to the Jack London Square in Oakland and
were given a tour of the station, including the back room and baggage
area. That was pretty much the end of the Amtrak Historical Society 1998
I worked in the hotel for most of the rest of the morning and the early
afternoon. Ray and I then went down to the Jack London Amtrak Station in
Oakland. We found John Raina there who also attended the Amtrak Historical
Society Conference and who also runs the
"East Bay Railroad Sightings"
web site. John connected his computer up to the internet right from
the counter at the Amtrak Station. I was able to check on a couple of sites
online and even take a quick look at the activity in the Fullerton Station
using our webcams at:
Ray and I caught a late afternoon Capitol train and went down
to visit a friend in San Jose. We came back on the Coast Starlight. This
Coast Starlight was running pretty late, but we still almost missed it!
It was running late, but it came into the station earlier than the
reservations people at 1-800-USA-RAIL predicted. Fortunately, we had made
a reservation for the Coast Starlight. If we had not already made the
reservation, they would not have sold us a ticket and we would have had
to purchase a ticket onboard from the Conductor with a significant
This Coast Starlight was the same one that the Amtrak Historical Society
took south from Emeryville to San Jose the previous day, but now it did have
the newly refurbished Pacific Parlour Car! I later heard that particular
car had a problem and was unexpectedly taken off to be serviced and that
is why it was not on the trainset for the Amtrak Historical Society.
We arrived into Oakland fairly late. John Raina was at the station again
as I guess he often is at night. After a brief chat, we said our final
good-byes for this trip and headed for our hotel.
Before retiring for the evening, I connected to
and checked on what time the train was expected into Oakland. The
reservation system indicated that it was right on time! I set the alarm for
7:45 A.M. and called the operator to have a wake-up call at 8 A.M. That
would give us time to check-out and be down to the station by 9:20 A.M.
The station is only about three blocks from the hotel.
Monday, May 3, 1998
I tried to get the latest status of the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight
from the web page at
but was not able to connect to it this time. Thus, we just assumed the
train was still running on time.
After we checked out of the hotel, we started heading down to the station.
Immediately after stepping out the front door of the hotel we could see
that there was already a train in the station. The time was 9:11 A.M., so
the Coast Starlight had arrived at least 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
Since we didn't know how long it had been there, we didn't know exactly
how far ahead of schedule it had arrived.
By process of elimination, we had guessed that this Coast Starlight would
have the newly refurbished Pacific Parlour Car and it did! I saw our Car
Attendant help someone into the car with their bags. By the time we got
to the door, he had already headed up the stairs helping that person. So,
we just put our suitcases on the rack by the vestibule and headed up the
stairs and into our room, room 2 in the 1130 car, by ourselves. As soon
as we had put a few items in the room, we headed straight to the diner
for breakfast. As long as the southbound Coast Starlight is running on
schedule, there is plenty of time to go to breakfast after boarding in
Oakland. We figured we'd eventually catch up with the Conductor and be
able to give him our tickets.
There is a wide selection of items available for breakfast. We each had
the two eggs with home fries, toast and bacon on the side along with
orange juice. In addition, I also got a cup of coffee. For those of you
that have yet to travel in a Sleeping Car on Amtrak, all food and
beverages served in the dining car, except alcoholic drinks, is included
in your ticket price. In other words, all your meals, including salads,
soups, main entrees, breads, deserts, and non-alcoholic beverages are
free! So, when you think about whether to travel coach or sleeper, be
sure to take the cost of food and beverages into consideration. The
difference may not be as great as you think, especially if two of you are
sharing a room!
After leaving the Dining Car, we headed straight for the newly refurbished
Pacific Parlour Car and sat in a table on the western side of the train.
We were looking for some old small steam engines that we had seen on the
western side of the route the other day. Actually, there are three
different parallel rail routes between Oakland and San Jose. Sometimes the
Coast Starlight will be diverted to use a different one of the routes for
various reasons. We evidently did not take the same route south today as
the Coast Starlight took yesterday. Yesterday we say these engines on the
side just after we crossed a river but before we got to the salt plants.
Today we didn't see the river nor the engines by the time we got to the
We went to the early seating for lunch at just about noon. I wasn't really
that hungry and was just going to order Soup & Salad. Our server,
however, convinced me to also order the Black Forest Ham & Cheese Sandwich.
I ended up eating all of the soup and just half of the sandwich. Both were
excellent, but I just couldn't eat any more than that! I skipped the
desert and had them wrap up the other half of my sandwich to take home.
After lunch we went back to our room for a couple of hours. For most of
the journey from Oakland to Santa Barbara, Conductor Bruce Adair
(B. Cameron Adair), pointed out many interesting sights along the way,
including quite a few that were not included in the Route Guide!
We headed back to the Pacific Parlor Car at about 2:30 P.M. to avoid
the rush before an announcement was made for the afternoon Champagne
tasting. We sat at a window on the ocean side. Soon the tasting began!
They served two types of Champagne. First, they gave each person a little
sip of each Champagne. After you decided which one you liked better, you
could have as much as you want of the one that you liked!
We ran on-time all the way to San Luis Obispo. At that point we had to
back up quite a bit and go switch over to the UP yard track. The northbound
Coast Starlight pulled into San Luis Obispo and we headed south on the UP
yard track. I guess we must have joined back into the main at some point
south of San Luis Obispo.
While in the Pacific Parlour Car we had an interesting discussion with
four friendly people including two ladies in the booth right behind us,
Ms. Jackie Tatum and Ms. Chandler Caldwell.
Ray and I had made reservations for the last seating for dinner which was
for 6:15 P.M. That is about the latest you can eat dinner on the Coast
Starlight when it is running close to schedule. We departed from the
Pacific Parlour Car and went into the Dining Car. Ray had the Salmon and
I had the Coast Classic Roast Beef. We had a nice couple sit with us,
Donald and Jane Howland. All of us greatly enjoyed our dinner. The food
was excellent! And for those of you worried about any cut-backs in the
quality of food and the food service, it is not happening on the Coast
Starlight! First, everything was served using real china and silverware
along with white linen napkins. There was a choice of 5 different entrees
for dinner: New York Strip Steak, Brian's Chicken Breast, Salmon Steak,
Raviolis and Coast Classic Roast Beef! With that you had your choice of
either Baked Potato, Garlic Mashed Potatos, or rice. Plus, for a vegetable
you could have either mixed vegetables or snap peas. Does that sound like
a cut back in food service quality to you? Our server for both lunch and
dinner was Shelley Pratt and her service was also excellent!
- Chief of Onboard Services: Marcus
- Dining Car Attendant: Shelley Pratt
- Conductor - Oakland to Santa Barbara: Bruce Adair (B. Cameron Adair)
Click here for conference photos!
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