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Subject: {A-A} (A-A) "Cascades" Trip Report
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1999 00:10:37 -0800
From: "Stephan Cox"

On 11 January, 1999, Amtrak ran the inaugural of their new "Amtrak Cascades" equipment. I was a passenger on Train 753's maiden run with the new trains, riding from Seattle to Tacoma.

First, when I made it to King Street Station, I looked outside and noticed how aesthetically pleasing the new trains are. Fresh in my memories were the old blue-stripe Talgos and how plainly bland they looked. Then I took a good look at the new Cascades and noticed the sweeping lines and burgundy-with-green cheat stripes while craning my neck to see the "Cadillac" fins at the end of the consist that flowed cleanly to the F59 engines on either end.

I booked a seat in Custom Class and was boarded before the hoi polloi. I had no trouble finding my car since, instead of the old WADOT sandwich boards the corridor used to use, the car numbers were clearly and visibly displayed on large displays next to the door along with the train number itself. Again, a step ahead from the usual.

The custom class seats are about as big as an average airline seat and are quite accomodating (although they're still nothing like the "Lay-Z-Boys" on the Superliners). The audio control units are on the end of the arm of your chair which means your headphone plug won't be jabbing into your thigh while allowing more freedom to change channels from the movie soundtrack to other sorts of music. My only gripe with the seats is that the tray table is awkwardly placed right onto your lap which makes for a somewhat uneven, even cramped, surface.

As a Custom Class passenger, I was entitled to a free soda and a food item no more than $2.50. I went into the Bistro car and procured a Pepsi along with a bowl of Ivar's clam chowder. The Bistro was very attractive with it's soft tones and the Pacific Northwest map on the ceiling.

After securing a free meal and some Amtrak Cascades merchandise, I went into the Diner/Lounge car. The etched glass and copper-like table lamps were very classy while it was also nice to have clearer windows than on previous Talgos.

The trip went along fine, although one shock absorber wasn't working and thus made for very bumpy conditions in the Bistro (good thing they put lids on the chowder). Fortunately, a Talgo technician was aboard to rectiy the situation. Before the trip, I was able to see Renfe Talgo's Jean-Pierre Ruiz while being delighted to the lilts of "The Acapella-gos", a female singing group that looked vaguely enough like Canadian mounties. There was also an artist aboard who sold copies of his paintings depicting Northwest passenger rail scenes.

All in all, this was a nice, albeit short, trip on one of my top 5 passenger trains (the other four are the Coast Starlight, the Canadian, the Eurostar and the Japanese Shinkansen). I do plan on taking a longer trip aboard the Cascades (at least one way) and I think the nicest touches were the GPS system that told me we were about to pass through my old home town of Puyallup and the checked baggage, which means I won't be stirring up "rail rage" by accidentally hitting someone with my large tote bag. Although it may still have some bugs to work out after Monday's shakedown, these trains are believed to be big hits with passengers who don't want to trifle with I-5.

If anyone from the list or from WASHARP wonders which passenger I was, I was the big fella in the drab jacket.

Stephan James Cox Bleu d'Argent

"I bought a ticket to the world, but now I come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line, when I want the truth to be said?" ---"True" by Spandau Ballet

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