Trip on the Millennium Coast Starlight
By Tommy Batts
Consist for train 14 departing LA on DEC 31 was 2 P42DCs, Bag Car, Ten Car, 3
Sleepers, Parlour, Diner, Lounge, and 5 Coaches. There was no private
varnish or express.
Brian Rosenwald was walking up and down the platform at LA. I asked our train
attendant if he was going to be riding with us and the TA said that in fact
he would be. The five coaches are nearly empty and would remain that way for
the entire trip. On the other hand, the sleepers were packed. Brian made
the welcome aboad announcement and among the other things that he mentioned,
he said that us lucky passengers who chose to ring in the new millennium
aboard the Coast Starlight would be in for a surprise. Most passengers I
talked to were getting off in the Bay Area and would not be aboard for the
We left LA 7 minutes late account tardy passengers. Only a few additional
minutes was lost between LA and Santa Barbara account passenger boarding and
double-spotting at stations. There were no stops for freight trains or Metrol
inks at all. After a smoke stop and crew change, we departed San Luis O. on
the advertised with a meet of train 11 at or near a station called Chorro.
We were a few minutes late at Paso Robles account a few slow orders, but
again, absolutely zero freight traffic. We departed ontime at each stop
north of Paso Robles and the we OS'ed out of Davis 5 minutes ahead of
schedule which put us into Sacramento a little early. Arrival time at Sac.
was 11:32P.M. Passengers were invited to the Parlour Car (for sleeper pax)
and Lounge (for coach) around 10:30. Rosenwald challenged passengers to
guess the 1999 ridership of the Coast Starlight and to the winner went a
bottle of Champagne or Martinellis Apple Cider. The highest guess was in the
billions and the lowest was 1300. Rosenwald jokingly said that that person
must have "gotten the Coast Starlight confused with the Sunset Limited."
Meanwhile, the OBS Chief distributed an assortment of top hats, crowns,
noisemakers and horns, each with "Year 2000" printed on them. The top hats
said "Coast Starlight 2000." Souvenir wooden Amtrak whistles were passed out
to children earlier in the day and the remaining whistles were handed out to
adults during dinner. They were redwood train whistles with "Amtrak 2000"
branded on the side. Rosenwald announced that due to our early arrival at
Sacramento we would be able to ring in the new year either on or off the
train, but warned that you could not drink alcohol off the train. I
reboarded about 11:45PM and shortly after, an announcement was made aboard
the train that a situation was developing outside the station and the P.D.
was asking Amtrak to have their passengers reboard and stay on the train. (I
never did find out what the situation was.)
The OBS chief began pouring champagne and then Rosenwald proposed a toast and
initiated the countdown over the PA at ten seconds before midnight. The
Onboard Entertainer entertained passengers for the remainder of the night (or
morning) and I turned in about 1:00a.m., late enough to record the 12:55AM
departure from Sacramento. Brian Rosenwald said earlier on the PA that there
was no other freight train on the line in Northern California and that we
"had this whole railroad to ourselves." Because of that, we ran as the
"validation train" from Sacramento into Oregon. This meant that to insure
the integrity of the switches, signals, and grade crossing equipment, we had
to run at 40 MPH since train 14 was the first train over this section of
railroad after the cutover. We resumed normal track speed at KFalls because
a freight train had already operated as the "validation train" from this
point northward, but that changed after crossing Willamette Pass when we
passed that freight train at a siding called Heather (I think) which is
between Chemult and Eugene. From that point on all the way up until Coalca
(a siding between Salem and Portland) where we met southbound No. 11, we ran
at 40MPH restricted speed because we were again the first movement over that
section of the railroad. Because of the restricted speed north of
Sacramento, we were 1 hour and 40 minutes late at Eugene, but we OS'ed out of
Portland one hour late and by Olympia we were only 45 minutes late.
I should have included somewhere in here that on Jan 1, wine glasses reading
"Amtrak into the Millenium! 1/1/00" were for sale in the lounge.
Web page by Matthew J. Melzer
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