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Dan Chazin's Trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight
Los Angeles-Portland
TrainWeb.com/travelogues/dchazin/1998k27a/1998k30a.html

It's 8:40 a.m. on Monday, November 30, 1998, and I've just arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles, where I will be boarding the Coast Starlight on my way to Portland, Oregon. I got out of bed at 4:30 a.m. this morning and, after spending some time online and packing up my belongings, I left the hotel at 7:10 a.m. At first, I attempted to take the same #3 bus that I had taken to Union Station on Friday. After waiting for about 20 minutes, a bus pulled up, but the driver parked the bus and walked off. I didn't feel like waiting any longer, so I went back to Pico Boulevard (about half a block from the hotel) where I caught the #7 Big Blue Bus of the Santa Monica bus line to the Rimpau Transit Center (actually, merely a bus transfer shelter). There, I transferred to another bus which took me to the Pico station of the Blue Line light rail service. Here, the tracks are above ground. This light rail line -- like most of those newly constructed -- requires you to purchase a ticket before traveling on the system. No one collects the tickets, but there are random inspections, and if you don't have a ticket when asked, you can be subject to a severe penalty. (Needless to say, I did purchase a ticket today, but no one came around to look at it). Service on this line is quite frequent in the morning rush hour; indeed, in the short time it took me to walk from the bus stop to the light rail station, two trains passed in the direction I was heading! I got on the next train, and took it one stop to Metro Center, where I switched to the Red Train which I took three stops to its terminus at Union Station. The passageway from the Red Train takes you to directly into the center of Union Station, right by the tunnel that leads to the trains.

I used four separate conveyances this morning to get to Union Station (two buses and two trains), but the total travel time was just one hour (including time lost making connections). I was not sorry that I had chosen this way to go, since it gave me the opportunity to ride two of Los Angeles' light rail lines as part of the trip.

When I arrived at Union Station, lines were already forming to board the Coast Starlight. Tickets for this train are collected at a booth before entering the tunnel to walk towards the platforms. Since I was in the sleepers, I was in no rush to board. First, I purchased a throw-away camera from the newsstand at the station. On Friday, I found out that the camera I had brought with me was not working, and although I had also taken my video camera (which was working fine), I wanted to have some kind of a still camera also. Then I made a few phone calls.

At about 9:00 a.m., I decided to board the train. The line for coach passengers boarding the train snaked back all the way to the end of the concourse, but there was no line for sleeping car passengers. So I got my boarding pass and went up to Track 10, where our train was ready for boarding. I put my belongings onto my Superliner sleeping car #32117 (named Wisconsin), leaving my heavy suitcases downstairs and bringing only my backpack to my Room #9. The attendant was nowhere to be found, but that was of no concern to me, since I knew where I was going. Then I went back down to the platform and walked down to record the consist.

Today's Coast Starlight is headed by two P-42 new Amtrak engines (#120 and #118), followed by two deadhead Amfleet I coaches, a baggage car, three Superliner II sleepers, the Pacific Parlour Car, a diner, a Sightseer Lounge, and five Superliner coaches (all but one of which are Superliner II equipment). There are no non-revenue cars at the end of the train, thus permitting one to obtain an unobstructed view out the back.

I reboarded the train and we left at 9:31 a.m., one minute late. Right after we left, I went into the Pacific Parlour car for breakfast. This refurbished ex-Santa Fe hi-level car -- open only to first-class passengers -- features both booth seating and elegant swivel chairs. The Coast Starlight is the only Amtrak train to have such a car (the Twilight Lounge on the Twilight Shoreliner is somewhat similar, but it is not nearly as nice as the Pacific Parlour car and does not have the amenities that the Pacific Parlour car provides). Breakfast is not served in the dining car on this train, but there is coffee, orange juice, fruit and a selection of pastries available for first-class passengers in the Pacific Parlour car. I was served orange juice and coffee and took some fruit. Gradually, this very elegant car began to fill up with first-class passengers.

Our first stop is Glendale, where we arrived at 9:43 a.m. and departed five minutes later, exactly on time. Two stops were made here, one for sleeping car passengers and the other for coach passengers. The classic Mission-style station is undergoing restoration, and it is now closed. Soon after we departed Glendale, I decided to walk to the back of the train, passing through all five coaches. I found that the first three coaches were quite full, with two people in most pairs of seats. The last two coaches were not as full, but the attendant assured me that they would be full, too, once we departed San Luis Obispo. Including the seating on the lower level of four of the cars, there are 348 seats available in the five coaches, and about ten of these seats are reserved for car attendants. A glance at the manifest indicated that at one point, 332 passengers are expected to be on board. So the coaches should be pretty full on today's train!

The one coach that does not have lower-level seating has been equipped with a "Kiddie Room." The area on the lower level has been refitted with benches along the walls, and an attendant with the title of "entertainer" was present blowing up balloons and keeping the children otherwise amused.

I returned to my sleeper and got my video camera, then went to the back of the train to get some video shots as we passed through a series of tunnels west of Chatsworth. This was the first of the magnificent scenery that we would encounter on this route.

When we arrived at Simi Valley at 10:28 a.m., I briefly stepped off the train. This is a new Metrolink station without any special character. Our stop here lasted six minutes, with two stops again being required. Then I returned to the Pacific Parlour car. The On-Board Chief started talking to me, commenting that the extra amenities on this train are entirely due to the vision of Brian Rosenwald, the Manager of this Product Line. The Chief showed me the downstairs of this car, which features a movie theater with folding seats of the type that are normally found in theaters. He mentioned that the room has been specially soundproofed, and that movies can be shown whenever passengers so desire.

Our next stop, at 11:12 a.m., was Oxnard. I walked to the front sleeping car and briefly stepped off the train here. On the way, I noticed that quite a few of the rooms in the various sleepers were still unoccupied, and the attendant for the first sleeper mentioned to me that his car is not sold out. (Subsequently, though, the attendant in my car indicated that all rooms in my car have been sold for at least some portion of the trip.) On a siding immediately adjacent to us was a train with California Car equipment, apparently being stored there temporarily.

Previously, I had heard on the scanner that we would be meeting Train #578 at Ventura, and that we would be taking the siding. Sure enough, at 11:34 a.m., we pulled into the siding at Ventura. To our right, on the main line, was Train #578 -- made up of almost exactly the same equipment that was on the southbound San Diegan on Friday, including the full-length dome! The southbound train soon started moving, and then we backed up onto the main line. The reason for this back-up move became apparent when we passed some maintenance-of-way equipment occupying the northern end of the siding.

What was not obvious, though, was what this Train #578 was doing here in the first place. The Amtrak timetable that I have, dated October 25, 1998, shows that north of Los Angeles, this run is served by a bus, rather than a train. Yet this train was clearly there, and it had passengers on it. I asked the conductor why this train was running, and he didn't seem to know anything more than I did. I'll have to find out what the story was with this train!

About 12:10 p.m., I proceeded to the dining car for lunch. I was seated at a table with a family of three (father, mother and young son) who had arrived this morning on the Texas Eagle from San Antonio. They had a deluxe bedroom on that train, and were now proceeding to Salinas, where they would detrain and take a bus to Monterey, where they live. My chicken meal was very good.

We arrived at Santa Barbara at 12:45 p.m. This had previously been announced as a "smoking stop," so I got off the train and looked around. The station here is also in the process of being renovated, and the Amtrak ticket office and waiting room are temporarily located in two trailers at the north end of the station. Because of the construction, only part of the platform is in service, and we had to make two stops. I got off at the first stop and reboarded at the second. We spent ten minutes at Santa Barbara, and when we left at 12:55 p.m., we were 45 minutes late.

For a short distance north of Santa Barbara, we run inland, and then we go back to hugging the coastline. For the next hour and a half, we run right along the ocean. What makes this stretch so special is that -- unlike the stretch south of Santa Barbara, where for most the way there is a road between the railroad and the coast -- here there are no roads at all. As the Rail Ventures book points out, the only way you can see this part of the coastline is from the train. I spent much of the time in the Pacific Parlour Car, looking at the magnificent scenery, and also walked to the back to the train to see the view out the back. The Pacific Parlour Car was very quiet and relaxing, and provided an excellent place from which to see the sights.

At about 1:50 p.m., we came to a stop. After five minutes, we moved on. The conductor subsequently explained to me that the defect detector at milepost 327.6 had warned us of a hotbox, but that after we stopped to check the train, this turned out to be a false alarm. Then, about 25 minutes later, while sitting in the Pacific Parlour Car, one of the conductors came over to me, mentioned to me something about there being empty rooms in some of the sleepers, and asked me to show him my ticket receipt. First, I showed him the boarding pass that I had received in Los Angeles. This was not good enough for him, and he asked to see the actual ticket receipt. I then showed that to him, and he carefully examined it, noting that in was in fact a receipt for a sleeper on today's train. Then he asked me if I had a business card! I was the only passenger sitting in the Pacific Parlour Car singled out for this special treatment, and neither I nor the other passengers could understand why this was done. (Well, actually, on second thought, perhaps I could think of a few reasons . . . .)

At 2:41 p.m., I heard over the scanner that we have an all- red signal ahead. We stop, and then an announcement is made over the loudspeaker that we are at Narlon, just north of Surf, and that we are stopped because we have to pass a freight train. About five minutes later, we got a clear signal and started moving again. By this time, we were running inland rather than along the ocean, but the scenery was still quite nice.

I remained in the Pacific Parlour Car, now sitting in one of the really plush seats at the end of the car. I started talking to a couple from North Carolina, who were intrigued with my interest in and knowledge of Amtrak. (At first, they told me, they thought that I worked for Amtrak!) Today, they were traveling to Sacramento, where they would stay overnight and then take the California Zephyr tomorrow morning to Grand Junction, on their way back home.

At 3:23 p.m., we passed the Guadalupe station. The Coast Starlight does not stop here, but the other daily Amtrak train, the Central Coast San Diegan, does (as do various Amtrak Thruway buses). This is the first station since Goleta, 86 miles to the south, and indeed it is the first real outpost of civilization in the entire 86 miles! Just around this time, it started raining. The weather had been rather gloomy for the last few hours, but this the first time that rain started coming down. Then, at 3:37 p.m., we passed the southbound Coast Starlight. This train is scheduled to depart San Luis Obispo at 3:30 p.m., so it is clearly on time, while we are running about 45 minutes late. Its consist seemed similar to ours, except that several express cars were visible at its end.

We arrived at San Luis Obispo at 3:43 p.m. The station here is an attractive stucco building which -- unlike other station buildings which are closed for renovations -- is open and in use. This station had also been previously announced as a smoking stop. At first, I thought that, due to the inclement weather, I would stay on the train, but then I decided to get off anyway. I put on my blue Gore-Tex jacket and stepped out to the platform, then walked into the station building. On the way, I noticed that several attendants were holding special Coast Starlight umbrellas. One of the attendants mentioned to me that we would all be getting one as a souvenir at the end of the trip. Well, it might be more useful if we got our umbrellas right now!

After walking along the platform to the back of the train, I reboarded at the last coach. On the way back to my room, I noticed that even the last two coaches on the train were now quite full. Then I walked back to my room. We departed San Luis Obispo at 3:56 p.m., and are still nearly 45 minutes late.

An announcement had been made that the wine tasting would begin in the Pacific Parlour Car as soon as we departed San Luis Obispo. The car was therefore quite full. I did not intend to participate in this wine tasting, and there was no point in my remaining in this rather crowded car. Ahead was the spectacular Cuesta Grade, so I decided to move to the Sightseer Lounge car where I would get the best views. (Although the Pacific Parlour Car does have curved glass windows at the top of the car, the lower windows are much smaller than those in the Superliner Sightseer Lounges, which provide more expansive views of the scenery.)

This stretch of the route is the most fascinating part of the ride so far. The train climbs 1,000 feet in about eight miles, going around two sharp horseshoe curves. The first of these curves is really spectacular -- even more so than the famous curve on the Pennsylvania Railroad west of Altoona. Unlike that Horseshoe Curve, here you curve back almost to the route at the beginning of the curve, which is visible directly below. You can really see how you are gaining elevation here! Then the line goes through a series of tunnels, with civilization visible far below to the right. You can easily see the front and back of the train as you go around the sharp curves. Unfortunately, the rain significantly impaired the visibility, but you could still see quite a bit. I'll have to do this trip again in clearer weather!

While watching this spectacular scenery, I heard over the scanner that a passenger who boarded at San Luis Obispo wanted to know if a roomette was available. The reply was that, indeed, Economy Bedrooms 11 to 14 in the 1431 car (the car in front of mine) were still unsold. Obviously, the sleepers are not sold out, but it seems that most rooms have been sold.

After we reached the summit tunnel, I returned to my room, where I continued working on these memoirs. Our next stop was Paso Robles, where we arrived at 4:58 p.m. and departed three minutes later. I made no attempt to get off here, and I never even got a chance to see the station, which was on the opposite side of the train from my room. After we left Paso Robles, it got almost completely dark out.

I continued working with my computer in my room and then, around 6:00 p.m., decided to go the Pacific Parlour Car to do some reading. I found that the car was rather cold, and the lighting was very dim. So I returned to my room, which was much warmer and which had excellent lighting. In the meantime, I overheard a couple sitting in the car asking our attendant, Terry, when they could get a dinner reservation. He said that he would see what was available. Earlier, while sitting in the Sightseer Lounge car, I had made my reservation with the steward for a 6:30 p.m. sitting, but in reading Steve Grande's travelogues, I noticed that one of his gripes was the failure at times to secure the proper dinner reservations. It seems that something fell through the cracks here for that couple.

At 6:07 p.m., at milepost 156.7 (I think), I heard a defect detector broadcast a report that there were no defects. Then, immediately afterwards, the train came to a sudden, jarring stop. On the scanner I hear the engineer state that there is a truck on the tracks ahead of us. The question was asked, "Did we hit anyone?," with the reply being, "No, not yet." Then, an announcement was made on the loudspeaker that we had a "near miss of an accident." Next I heard that, due to the jarring stop, a crew member wanted to inspect the train, so we proceeded slowly for a short distance, and then, when the crew member reboarded, we picked up speed again. Shortly afterwards, we passed through a tunnel (apparently, the 1,305-foot Tunnel #5_, constructed in 1923 as part of a line realignment).

I spent some time reading the Coast Starlight Tourist, an Amtrak publication a copy of which was placed in my room. It consisted mostly of commercial advertising articles, but there were a few short informational articles of interest. One of these articles, entitled "Why is the train sometimes late," stated that the alleged priority of passenger trains over freight trains is a "myth" which is "no longer true." The article continues: "Because the trackage is owned by the freight companies, our time slot is their prerogative." This certainly may be true in a practical sense, but I thought that the law still accords priority to Amtrak passenger trains over freight trains!

At 6:30 p.m., a dinner call was made, and I went down to the diner, where I was seated opposite a couple traveling back from San Diego to their home in Klamath Falls, and next to a man from Denver who was on his was to San Francisco. I had a fish dinner which was very good, and got ice cream for dessert. (The couple across from me got a huge portion of pork ribs, and the man next to me got tenderloin steak, which he seemed to enjoy very much.) Unlike lunch, when I spent only about half an hour in the diner, supper lasted an hour and 15 minutes. The man next to me turned out to be a regular Amtrak rider who consistently writes letters to Amtrak. He mentioned to me at one point that he recently had a one-hour meeting with Anne Hoey, an Amtrak Vice President in charge of customer relations. He also complained about the announcements being made on board this train, especially the rather corny ones made by the lounge car attendant. He could have continued talking even longer (and I did find the conversation very interesting), but I thought that an hour and 15 minutes was enough time to spend in the dining car, and I finally got up at 7:50 p.m. and returned to my room. During dinner, we arrived at Salinas at 6:52 p.m. and stopped there for six minutes. The station here is a stucco building which appears relatively modern.

Walking back to my room after dinner, I mentioned to the attendant in the Pacific Parlour Car that the temperature in the car -- which was now largely deserted -- was uncomfortably cold. When I reached my room, I turned out the lights for a few minutes and watched as we paralleled a highway through the southern suburbs of San Jose. Then I walked back to the coaches. At 8:22 p.m., we arrived at the San Jose station. I stepped off and walked into the brick station with a very impressive, high- ceiling waiting room. A couple who were detraining here commented that they had hoped to make a connection with an 8:00 CalTrain train towards San Francisco, and they were not sure what to do since they had obviously missed their train, and the next train would not be leaving until 10:30 p.m. We spent eight minutes in San Jose and left at 8:30 p.m. I returned to my room and did some work in this quiet and peaceful setting.

Our next stop was Jack London Square in Oakland, where we arrived at 9:28 p.m. This is the transfer point for passengers headed to San Francisco. I stepped off the train here and walked into the large new station. This station replaces an historic Southern Pacific station which was located in a deteriorated neighborhood and had been damaged in a recent earthquake. Although modern, it has a very high ceiling and is actually quite an attractive building -- much nicer than most contemporary Amtrak stations. Since my attendant indicated that the train would be stopping here for 8 to 10 minutes, I called home to check my messages (there were six of them). (Several attendants also used this opportunity to call home from phones in the station.) Then I reboarded the train just as the conductor was making his "All Aboard" call, and we departed two minutes later.

I returned to my room and watched as we proceeded down the middle of a street for a short distance. The couple who had occupied the room opposite mine had detrained in Oakland, and they had already been replaced by another couple, boarding in Oakland, who were going to Portland and then to Minneapolis.

Just 11 minutes after we left Oakland, we arrived at Emeryville. This is also a new, modern station, but quite attractive, with a high ceiling. My recollection is that this station was constructed before the new Jack London Square station in Oakland opened, and it currently serves as the western terminus of the California Zephyr, in addition to being the point at which passengers from San Francisco board our train. I detrained at my sleeper, walked into the station, and then reboarded at the rear coach. We spent nine minutes here. When we departed at 9:58 p.m., we were just six minutes late, having by now made up virtually all of the time that we had lost earlier. (The attendant in my car mentioned to me that the train often stops in the yard between Oakland and Emeryville to add or remove cars, but this did not happen tonight, permitting us to make up quite a bit of time.)

At 10:33 p.m., we arrived at Martinez. The station here is relatively small (that is, relative to the large stations in San Jose, Oakland and Emeryville), and it is faced with asbestos shingles. I did step off the train briefly here, but immediately reboarded at my own sleeper. However, the stop lasted for 12 minutes (actually longer than the stops at Oakland and Emeryville!), partially because we had to make a second stop to permit some passengers to get off or on the rear coaches. We are now 11 minutes late, but the attendant pointed out to me that there is over half an hour of make-up time between Salem and Portland, so if we don't experience any more delays, we should arrive in Portland early! (Actually, as will be evident from the comments below, there are a number of other instances of make-up time being built into the schedule.)

After Martinez, I went back to the Pacific Parlour Car and purchased a bottle of Portland Honey beer. I sat in one of the plush swivel chairs and read the morning Los Angeles newspaper that I had picked up earlier in the day. I had the whole car to myself. I was a little cool in the car, but I put on a sweater, and there happened to be pretty good lighting over the particular chair where I sat down. At 11:24 p.m., we stopped at Davis for three minutes, but I did not get off at this station. This stucco station is particularly charming. According to the Route Guide, it was built in 1913 and is now a historic landmark.

We arrived at Sacramento at 11:42 p.m. Our scheduled departure from this station is 12:10 a.m., so we were now back on time again. I detrained and walked into the majestic old brick station, with a large waiting room featuring a high arched ceiling. The station was, of course, deserted at this hour of the evening. Several notices called passengers' attention to the Union Pacific "meltdown" (that word represents my commentary; the notice used some more gentle wording) which resulted in severe delays to many Amtrak trains, and detailed the steps being taken to improve the situation. There is quite a distance between the Sacramento station and the train platforms, and it appears that a number of tracks have been removed and replaced by a parking area. Sacramento is a service stop, with many of the cars watered and the engine refueled during our stay here.

We left Sacramento precisely on time. Soon, Terry, the attendant in my car, came by to tell me that he would be going to sleep soon, and asked whether I needed his assistance to make up the bed. I assured him that I could do it myself. I spent a little more time working with the computer and then went to bed about 12:30 a.m.

During the night, we stopped at Marysville at 1:20 a.m., Chico at 2:09 a..m., Redding at 3:41 a.m., and Dunsmuir at 5:45 a.m. We should have departed Dunsmuir at 5:07 a.m., so we were again over 40 minutes late. I was awake for some of these stops, and heard the times for the others on the scanner. I wasn't able to catch a glimpse of any of the station buildings, however. I didn't sleep very soundly, but I did get several hours of sleep in total, I think.

At 4:14 a.m., about half an hour north of Redding, we stopped on a siding to permit the southbound Coast Starlight to pass us. I observed that train as it passed my window, and noticed that it included two express cars at the rear. The southbound Train #11 is scheduled to arrive Redding at 2:10 a.m., so it appears to be about two and one-half hours late.

I finally woke up for good about 6:20 a.m. I was surprised to see snow on the ground -- the first I've seen this season! Soon, the distinctive Mt. Shasta was visible to the right of the train. I remained in bed for a while, then got up and took a shower. Next, I walked to the back of the train to see us going through two tunnels near the Oregon border. Gradually, the land flattened out somewhat, and we passed through prairies known as the Butte Valley National Grasslands.

We arrived at Klamath Falls at 8:16 a.m. This was also announced as a smoking stop, so quite a few people got off the train here. I detrained and walked into the Klamath Falls station, a small but attractive stone building. The asphalt platform was covered with nearly invisible black ice, and although it had been salted in some places, you had to be very careful not to slip. The tracks here are on a curve, which afforded the opportunity for some good pictures. This is a service stop for the train, with trash being removed from the cars and some cars watered. After about ten minutes, we were ready to proceed, but we had to wait an additional few minutes to allow a southbound freight train to pass us. When we finally departed at 8:32 a.m., we were 21 minutes late, having made up much of the time we had lost overnight.

I then went to the diner for breakfast. I was seated with a couple from Lynden, in northern Washington, who were returning from Davis, California where they visited some relatives. They were taking the Coast Starlight to Seattle, where they would connect with a bus to Surrey, B.C., and from there they would be driving back to their home in Washington state. (Amtrak runs a daily train to Vancouver, B.C., but it does not connect with the Coast Starlight.) Opposite me was a woman from Eugene, Oregon, who was returning from Los Angeles. All three of my seatmates were traveling in coach. We had a very nice conversation over breakfast, which lasted for about an hour. The scenery for this period was quite nice, with Upper Klamath Lake visible to the left at first, followed by a scenic gorge of the Williamson River. Gradually, the snow cover on the ground increased, soon to the point that the dirt roads crossing the tracks (there were no paved roads around!) had been plowed.

We stopped at Chemult at 9:48 a.m. This is a small community, with only a few coach passengers getting on and off. An announcement had been made that this will be a very brief stop, so I made no attempt to get off the train. The station here is merely an Amshack, with a small wooden platform along the tracks. When we departed Chemult, I brought my computer to the Pacific Parlour Car, and continued working on these memoirs. The depth of snow continued to increase, and it soon began snowing. We briefly passed Lake Odell on the right, and about 10:30 a.m. we went through the tunnel at Cascade Summit. There appeared to be between six inches and a foot of snow on the ground! It was really beautiful out, and I certainly hadn't expected this much snow so early in the season.

I walked to the back of the train, where I was able to get some pictures (although by now the back window was quite dirty) and also took some video pictures from open windows on the lower level. Now the train descended through a series of tunnels and snow sheds. (It would have been really interesting to follow our progress on a detailed railroad atlas which, unfortunately, I did not have for this part of the trip.) As we descended, the snow decreased significantly, and once we got down to about 3,800 feet in elevation, it pretty much disappeared altogether. About 11:00 a.m., an announcement was made that the entertainer will be conducting an entertainment program in the Kiddie Room. I remarked that for me, the best entertainment was visible out the windows of the train! (It should be noted that, this time of the year, the southbound train covers this stretch of the route in the darkness, so it is best to take the train northbound to appreciate the scenery in this section.)

At one point, a couple who sat across from me mentioned that they had arrived yesterday from Kansas City on the Southwest Chief. That train is supposed to arrive at Los Angeles at 8:40 a.m., in time to connect with the Coast Starlight, but it was running about five hours late yesterday. As a result, passengers connecting to the Coast Starlight were told to detrain at Barstow, where a bus transported them to San Luis Obispo. They told me that about 18 passengers were on this bus, and they arrived at San Luis Obispo about half an hour before our train.

After a while, the batteries on my computer started running low, so I returned to my room and plugged the computer in. We finally reached the end of the steep descending grade (3,600 feet in 44 miles) at Oakridge, which we passed through about 11:50 a.m. A few minutes later, I saw the interesting red covered bridge which crosses the Willamette River to the left of the train.

Now the tracks parallel the Willamette River, which is on the right. Although the scenery is less rugged, there are a number of very beautiful views across the broad river valley. Unfortunately, it is cloudy and rather dreary out, but at least it is not raining.

We arrived at Eugene, Oregon at 12:44 p.m. This is the first rather large city that we have seen today! (Indeed, the only other real outpost of civilization was the much smaller Klamath Falls.) Just before we reached Eugene, it started raining lightly. Nevertheless, the station was announced as a smoking stop, so I decided to get off the train. I walked into the brick station, whose exterior is quite attractive but whose interior has been rather tastelessly modernized with a dropped ceiling. Then I walked back out to the train and reboarded at the last coach just as the "all aboard" call was made. Our stop here lasted for six minutes, and when we departed at 12:50 p.m., we were only 13 minutes late

I then went to the dining car for lunch. I was seated next to a woman who had just boarded the train in Eugene, where she was visiting her daughter, and was now on her way home to Seattle. Opposite me were a couple who live (for the winter) in Los Angeles, and were on their way to Seattle to visit their son for Christmas. All of these people had done extensively traveling around the world, and their travels were the subject of much of the conversation. Interestingly, the couple mentioned that they were very pleased with the compartment they occupied during a recent trip on VIA's Canadian, while the woman indicated that she and her husband were quite displeased with the double bedroom they had occupied on the same train, and thought that Amtrak's deluxe bedrooms were much nicer. I enjoyed my lunch, but one of the women was disappointed with hers. While eating lunch, we stopped for five minutes at Albany, Oregon. There is an attractive stone station here.

After returning to my room, I went back to the Pacific Parlour Car to observe the station stop at Salem, the capitol of Oregon. Here there is an imposing, classic brick station which is currently surrounded by a chain-link fence and being renovated. It was still raining pretty hard, and we stopped here for only two minutes. We departed at 2:11 p.m., sixteen minutes late. But, as the attendant pointed out to me last night, there is about half an hour of make-up time built into the northbound schedule between Salem and Portland, so unless we lose additional time for some reason, we should be arriving at Portland early.

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