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TrainWeb Visitor Travelogue
www.trainweb.com/travelogues/nwest/1999g06.html

JULY 6, 1999
THE CASCADES
TRAIN 751: SEATTLE TO CENTRALIA
TRAIN 750: CENTRALIA TO SEATTLE

IN APRIL I TOOK MY FIRST JOURNEY ON AMTRAK'S CALIFORNIA CARS. I WANTED THIS TRIP TO EXPERIENCE AMTRAK'S NEW TALGO TRAINS THAT ARE USED ON THE CASCADES. THIS WOULD BE MY WIFE'S SECOND TRAIN RIDE. IN ADDITION THIS WOULD WE HAD OUR 13 YEAR OLD NIECE WITH US, WHO WOULD EXPERIENCE HER FIRST RIDE ON AMTRAK, OR ANY TRAIN FOR THAT MATTER.

WE STAYED AT A MOTEL 6 ALONG INTERSTATE 5 AT 200TH ST NEAR SEATAC. I HATED STAYING AT MOTEL 6 BECAUSE THEIR BEDS WERE ALWAYS SO UNCOMFORTABLE THAT I ALWAYS HAD A HARD TIME SLEEPING. HOWEVER, THE BEDS IN THIS MOTEL 6 WERE MUCH IMPROVED OVER OLDER MOTEL 6 BEDS. IN FACT EXCEPT FOR THE LOBBY THE MOTEL IN GENERAL SEEMED TO BE A GIANT LEAP FOR THE CHAIN. ADD TO THE FACT THAT THE HOTEL WAS $20.00 PER NIGHT CHEAPER THAN ANYTHING WITHIN 50 MILES OF SEATTLE, MADE THIS STAY VERY PLEASANT.

WE LEFT THE HOTEL AT 6:00AM TO CATCH THE 7:30 SOUTHBOUND TRAIN. IT HAD BEEN 3 YEARS SINCE I HAD BEEN TO SEATTLE AND FIGURED THEIR TRAFFIC PROBLEMS COULD ONLY HAVE GOTTEN WORST SINCE THE COMMUTER RAIL OR LIGHT RAIL ISN'T UP AND RUNNING YET. I WAS RIGHT. WE ENCOUNTERED SLOW BUMPER TO BUMPER TRAFFIC THE ENTIRE TRIP INTO DOWNTOWN SEATTLE.

WE ARRIVED AT KING STREET STATION AT 6:45AM. THE ONLY PARKING CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR THE STATION IS IN THE PARKING LOT OF THE KINGDOME. IM SURE WHILE THE STADIUM WAS STILL HAVING GAMES THIS PARKING SITUATION WAS TERRIBLE, HOWEVER THE KINGDOME HAS SEEN ITS LAST GAME. I TOOK SOME PICTURES OF THE STADIUM SINCE I NEW IT WOULD BE THE LAST TIME I WOULD SEE IT. DEMOLITION SHOULD BE STARTING ANYTIME NOW. CONSTRUCTION IS PROCEEDING NICELY ON THE NEW PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE OVER THE TRACKS AND THE NEW PARKING GARAGE WHERE THE TRACKS SERVING UNION STATION (ACROSS THE STREET) USE TO BE.

WHEN WE ARRIVED THE STATION AGENTS WERE JUST GETTING READY TO OPEN UP THE TICKET COUNTER. THERE WAS ALREADY A LINE. IT WILL BE SO NICE THIS SEE THIS STATION ONCE THE REFURBISHMENT IS COMPLETED ON THE STATION. AT THE PRESENT TIME THE STATION LEAVES A LOT TO BE DESIRED. THERE WAS TWO BOOTHS SITTING AT THE EAST END OF THE LOBBY. THERE WAS ROOM FOR TWO SIGNS ON EACH BOOTH BUT AT THE PRESENT TIME ONLY TWO SIGNS PRESENT: ONE FOR COACH CHECK IN FOR THE STARLIGHT AND ONE FOR COACH CHECK IN FOR SEATTLE TO PORTLAND CASCADE SERVICE. SINCE THIS WAS MY FIRST TRIP ON THE CASCADE'S I DECIDED WE WOULD RIDE SOUTHBOUND IN BUSINESS CLASS AND RETURN IN COACH TO SEE WHAT EACH WAS LIKE. OUTSIDE THE STATION ON TWO THREE STUB END TRACKS WAS SITTING 3 PRIVATE CARS AND THE ORIGINAL BLUE AND WHITE TALGO TRAIN.

AT ABOUT 7:10AM A CONDUCTOR CAME IN AND PUT SIGNS ON ONE OF THE BOOTHS, ONE FOR COACH PASSENGERS TO VANCOUVER AND ONE FOR THE BUSINESS CLASS PASSENGERS. I WAS STARTING TO GET WORRIED SINCE AT THIS TIME THERE WAS STILL NO TRAINS IN THE STATION AND NO SIGN OF THE CONDUCTORS FOR THE SOUTHBOUND CASCADE. FINALLY AT 7:15AM THE CONDUCTOR SHOWED UP FOR THE SOUTHBOUND TRAIN. HE DOESN'T PUT UP A SIGN FOR BUSINESS CLASS PASSENGERS SO I GO AND ASK HIM. HE THEN YELLS OUT TO EVERYONE RIDING BUSINESS CLASS TO CHECK IN AT THE TICKET COUNTER. I THEN WALKED OVER THE TICKET COUNTER WHICH HAD A LONG LINE HOWEVER, THERE WAS A SEPARATED LINE FOR BUSINESS CLASS PASSENGERS. THE CUSTOMERS IN THE REGULAR LINE WERE GETTING MAD BECAUSE THERE WAS ONLY TWO AGENTS, ONE OF WHICH DID NOT KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING, AND BUSINESS CLASS WERE THE ONLY ONES GETTING HELPED. EACH PASSENGER WAS RECEIVING A SPECIFIC SEAT ASSIGNMENT ON THE TRAIN. OUR SEAT ASSIGNMENTS COVER THE ENTIRE ROW IN THE BUSINESS CLASS (2-1 SEATING ARRAIGNMENT).

THE TRAINS FINALLY PULLED IN TO THE STATION AT 7:20AM. THEY BROUGHT TWO TRAINS IN AT THE SAME TIME AND THEN DISCONNECTED THEM. ARE BUSINESS CLASS COACH WAS THE FIRST CAR WE ENCOUNTERED. THE TRAIN LEFT RIGHT ON TIME WHICH SUPRISED ME AS LATE AS EVERYTHING WAS GOING ON IN THE STATION. THE SEATS IN FRONT OF USE WERE BEING OCCUPIED BY A YUPPIE MOTHER AND HER TWO CHILDREN. THEY HAD COMPETE CONTROL OF HER. THE SINGLE SEATS WERE ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE TRAINS WHICH I WAS IN. HER YOUNGEST, WHO HAD TO BE ABOUT 5 WAS IN THE SEAT IN FRONT OF ME. HE FIRST CLOSED ALL THE CURTAINS IN SITE. THE THEN BOUNCED UP AND DOWN IN HIS SEAT FOR THE NEXT THIRTY MINUTES. WHEN WE ARRIVED IN TACOMA, MY WIFE AND I DECIDED TO HEAD FOR THE BISTRO CAR. WE FOUND A TABLE AT THE FRONT END OF THE TABLE CAR AND SAT DOWN. WE THEN WENT INTO THE BISTRO CAR TO GET OUR FREE GOODIES. THE BISTRO ATTENDANT WHO HAD TO BE IN HIS MID FORTIES WAS EXTREMELY FRIENDLY. WE ALSO ORDERED SANDWICHES TO GO WITH OUR FREE GOODIES.

THE TRIP SOUTH WENT EXTREMELY WELL. WE WERE ON TIME INTO EVERY STATION. THE RIDE WAS EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE ALONG THE ENTIRE TRIP. IT TOOK A WHILE TO USE TO SEEING THREE SPEED LIMIT SIGNS ALONG THE RIGHT OF WAY. ONE FOR THE TALGO TRAINS, ONE FOR REGULAR AMTRAK TRAINS, AND ONE FOR FREIGHT. THIS WAS MY FIRST TIME TO SEE THE OLYMPIA/LACY STATION WHICH WAS VERY BEAUTIFUL. WE ARRIVED IN CENTRALIA ON TIME AT 9:15AM.

WE HAD AN HOUR TO WAIT BEFORE THE TRAIN 750 NORTHBOUND. INSIDE THE STATION WAS A MAP OF THE DOWNTOWN AREA OF CENTRALIA. THE DOWNTOWN AREA IS FILLED WITH ANTIQUE STORES AND OTHER SMALL STORES THAT ARE WONDERFUL TO WALK THROUGH. THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS THAT THE ONLY RESTAURANTS I SAW WHERE BARS.

WE ARRIVED BACK AT THE STATION ABOUT 15 MINUTES BEFORE THE NORTHBOUND TRAIN WAS DUE. THERE WAS THREE ELDERLY PEOPLE SITTING IN FRONT OF THE STATION WITH 5 CHILDREN I ASSUME WHERE GRANDCHILDREN. THEY WERE SITTING THERE COMPLAINING ON HOW TERRIBLE IT WAS THERE WAS NO WATER IN STATION AND NO RESTROOMS AVAILABLE. THEY OF COURSE DID NOT CARE THAT THE STATION WAS BEING RESTROOMS WHERE BEING REMODELED, THEY WERE INCONVENIENCED. THE TRAIN WAS RUNNING ABOUT 7 MINUTES LATE.

WHEN WE BOARDED THE TRAIN THE CONDUCTOR DIRECTED US INTO ONE OF THE COACHES WHICH WAS FULL. MY WIFE AND I FOUND A PAIR OF SEATS BUT OUR NIECE HAD TO SIT SEVERAL ROLLS BACK. WE DECIDED TO IMMEDIATELY HEAD TO THE BISTRO CAR. ONE UNUSUAL ASPECT OF THIS CONSIST WAS THE TWO BUSINESS CLASS CARS WERE SEPARATED BY THE BISTRO AND TABLE CAR INSTEAD OF BEING AT THE FAR END OF THE TRAIN. I WALKED INTO THE TABLE CAR AND FOUND ALL OF THE TABLES BEING OCCUPIED (INCLUDING TWO LARGE TABLES BEING OCCUPIED BY THE CONDUCTOR AND THE ASSISTANT CONDUCTOR SINGLY). WE DECIDED TO SIT DOWN IN AT ONE OF THE SMALL TABLES IN THE BISTRO CAR. A REPRESENTATIVE FROM TALGO RIDES EACH OF THESE TRAINS. THE ONE ON THIS TRAIN LOOKED TO BE VERY BORED EXCEPT WHEN HE WAS TAKING THE TIME TO CHECK OUT OUR NIECE. THE ONLY TIME I SAW HIM MOVE FROM ONE OF THE STOOLS WAS TO HELP MOVE SOME STUFF IN THE KITCHEN AREA BISTRO. 15 BEFORE TACOMA THE BISTRO ATTENDANT ANNOUNCED SHE WAS CLOSING EXACTLY ONE MINUTE BEFORE ARRIVING IN TACOMA, SO IF WE WANTED ANY FOOD DO IT NOW OR TOO BAD. AFTER LEAVING TACOMA THE LOUNGE ATTENDANTS DID CLOSE THEIR SHOP. HOWEVER, THE ASSISTANT DID GET FOOD FOR A COUPLE OF PASSENGERS WHO WERE REALLY HUNGRY AND BOARDED IN TACOMA.

RIGHT BEFORE ARRIVING IN KING STREET STATION, YOU GO UNDER THE NEW RETRACTING DOME OF THE NEW SEAFIRST STADIUM. ONE THING I THOUGHT WAS ODD IS THAT THE TRAIN PULLED COMPLETELY THROUGH THE STATION INTO THE TUNNEL, THEN PULLED ONTO THE STATION TRACK. WHY THIS MOVE WAS MADE SINCE THE TRACK MAKES A CONNECTION AT BOTH ENDS OF THE PLATFORM I DO NOT KNOW. THE EMPIRE BUILDER HAD JUST PULLED IN ABOUT 15 MINUTES EARLIER RUNNING 3 HOURS LATE. THEY MUST HAVE HAD A LOCOMOTIVE FAILURE SINCE ONE OF BNSF'S REPAINTED LOCOMOTIVES WAS ON THE FRONT END ALONG WITH A P32 AND F40. THE EMPIRE BUILDER WAS LONG TRAIN WITH 3 SLEEPERS, 4 COACHES, LOUNGE, DINER, TRANSITION SLEEPER, BAGGAGE, AND MHC.

OVERALL THE TRIP WAS WONDERFUL. THE NEW TALGO TRAINS PERFORMED GREAT, AND WERE VERY COMFORTABLE TO RIDE IN. I WANTED TO COMPARE THEM TO THE CALIFORNIA CARS, AND FOUND BOTH CARS TO BE COMFORTABLE AND ENJOYABLE TO RIDE. NOW WE NEED TO SEE BOTH OF THESE TYPES OF CARS ON MANY MORE TRAINS THROUGH THE WEST.

JOHN DORNOFF
INTERRAIL
DORNOCOL@GATEWAY.COM


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