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
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
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
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
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
"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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