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Amtrak Coast Starlight : Aug 28 - Sep 2, 2002
Los Angeles, California to Eugene, Oregon (Round-Trip)
http://www.trainweb.com/travelogues/stevegrande/2002i01a.html


Eugene, Oregon, Amtrak Station

I did not intend to write a travelogue for this rail trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. I had decided to just relax during this rail trip over the labor day weekend as I traveled to an from a family event in Eugene, Oregon. Thus, what I have posted only covers a few incidents that occurred on my rail journey on the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight on Monday, September 2, 2002. If you would like to read a more complete travelogue and view photos of my travels on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, please click here and select one of my other trips.

I was only prompted to add this entry because of a couple of unusual incidents that happened on the return leg of my trip on the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight on Monday, September 2, 2002. Otherwise, there would not have been a travelogue posted for this partucular rail journey at all!

I boarded the train at about 5:15 P.M. in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday, September 1, 2002. Before we even got to the next stop of Chemult, Oregon, the train had to stop and wait as there was a fire burning ahead in the forest. After about 20 minutes, we were given the go ahead, but proceded slowly. About 10 minutes down the tracks, there was a helicopter hovering just a little above a small body of water, scooping up the water in an effort to fight the fire. Everyone on the train assumed that the fire must be at least a couple of miles from the tracks. But, just after we passed the tracks, we saw a lot of fire burning the underbrush on the other side of the tracks! The fire was just a few feet from the railroad bed! I was actually very surprised that they let our train travel so close to the burning fire.

Then, Monday morning, about 2 A.M., September 2, 2002. I awoke because there seemed to be a very unusual noise coming from below the train and the air conditioning was off. The train was dead silent. I had a battery charger plugged into the electric outlet in my room, and I noticed that the charging light was no longer on. That was a clear indication that the power was off. Only the emergency lights were on in the corridor.

I turned on my radio scanner to find out what was going on. The train soon stopped rolling and I could see flashlight beams outside my window. There was an electrical short under the Pacific Parlour Car that had burned the electrical cable in at least 3 places. A few small fires got started behind the train from the shorted cable. The Conductor went back along the tracks and put those out. A couple attempts were made to bring the Head End Power (HEP) back up, but the cable would just start arcing again.

It was then decided that the Pacific Parlour Car would have to be removed from the middle of the consist and deadheaded back at the end of the train. This all happened around milepost 317.1 at about 2 A.M. The Conductor asked the Dispatcher if they could remove the Parlour Car at Castle Crags, but the Dispatcher told them they should do it at Conad.

The Conductor looped back the power after the last sleeping car, which meant the Pacific Palour Car, the Dining Car, and all of the Coach Cars, were without power and without air-conditioning. The train then proceeded to the siding at Conad. We waited while a long freight train passed our train. Then, the Conductor and Assistant Conductor set the manual brakes in the Dining Car and the Cafe Lounge Car. The train was separated between the Pacific Parlour Car and the Dining Car. The front part of the train then proceeded across the switch to the other track, then backed up into the other track to drop off the Pacific Parlour Car.

After disconnecting the Pacific Parlour Car from the rest of the train, the front part of the train (which included the 2 locomotives, baggage car, and all sleeping cars) moved back to the other track to connect to the rest of the train. This placed the sleeping cars right up against the dining car, now that the Pacific Parlour Car had been taken out. Once again the train moved forward until it was completely past the switch. The train made a reverse move again until it backed into the Pacific Parlour Car. The Pacific Parlour Car was attached to the rear of the train and deadheaded back.

Power was restored to all of the train except for the Pacific Parlour Car. There was a private car at the end of the train. They did have a nice view off the back of their car until the Pacific Parlour Car had to be attached to the rear of their car.

In the morning, most of the passengers, and even the Car Attendants, were baffled as to what happened to the Pacific Parlour Car. They were surprised to find that the Dining Car was directly attached to the rear sleeping car!

We had been only 30 minutes behind schedule when we left Klamath Falls, but after this incident, we arrived into Redding almost 3 hours and 30 minutes late and departed from Chico, California, 4 hours late.

At Sacramento, it was decided that the Pacific Parlour Car and the private car would be taken off in the Oakland Yard where Amtrak has a switching engine available. That made more sense anyway since the private car originally planned to be switched off the Coast Starlight and onto the morning eastbound California Zephyr in the Oakland Yard anyway.



Davis, California, Amtrak Station

In the Oakland Yard, the Pacific Parlour Car and the private car were removed from the train and then the Pacific Parlour Car was placed back onto the end of the train so that it could be taken down to Los Angeles for repair.

The third incident on this trip is almost more unusual than the other two. I ate dinner totally alone in the dining car! It wasn't that I ate at a table all by myself, it was that nobody else came in to eat from the Sleeping Cars from the start through the finish of my meal! The train was pretty crowded yesterday. I think that is why I ended up with a downstairs room. Most of the Sleeping Cars have a number of occupied rooms on this train. Usually, if there is a light load of passengers, the downstairs rooms are empty since the computer seems to fill the upstairs rooms first. But a lot of the downstairs rooms are filled on this trip. However, I think a large number of passengers got off the train at stops that are north of San Jose. Thus, the train has a relatively light load of passengers at this point.

Because of the light load of passengers, the Dining Car Steward did not bother to set up dinner reservations. He just announced that it would be first come, first serve, at about 5:00 P.M. When the first call for dinner was made, I went to the Dining Car. I usually go for an early seating. The earliest seatings are usually the least crowded and I like to have the maximum amount of time to digest my food before going to sleep later in the evening. Thus, I will often select the 5:00 P.M. seating when reservations are given, or just go to the Dining Car at 5:00 P.M. when they are not using a reservations system.

However, I was totally surprised to find that I was the only passenger from the Sleeping Cars to arrive at 5:00 P.M. I was further surprised when not one other passenger entered the Dining Car from the Sleeping Cars during the entire time that I ate my dinner, from about 5:00 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. or so! Thus, I ate my dinner totally alone, and had the entire side of the Dining Car closest to the Sleeping Cars all to myself!

Although we didn't have the Pacific Parlour Car, the wine tasting was still done in the Dining Car from about 3 P.M to almost 5 P.M. Richard Talmy was the Pacific Parlour Car Attendant on this trip. Richard is the best Parlour Car Attendant that Amtrak has for the Coast Starlight. He knows his wines and just about everything about wine tasting. I'm no expert on wine, but about 80% of what I do know about wine came from Richard's informative lectures during the wine tastings in the Pacific Parlour Car. Richard always goes over the basics of wine tasting each time, but seems to add some new aspect of wine knowledge to each presentation. So, the more of his presentations that you attend, the more you learn about wine! My home is well stocked with wine, and much that I learned about selecting wine came from these presentations. I did let Richard know that I appreciated his wine tasting presentations and that I had learned a lot from them. If you travel on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, you will be able to attend a wine tasting. But, if your Pacific Parlour Car Attendant is not Richard Talmy, don't expect it to be an educational experience about wine. It is not part of the job description for a Pacific Parlour Car Attendant. Richard also provides a running commentary of the scenery along the route throughout much of the day. Sometimes he is able to provide his commentary over the P.A. system to the entire train and sometimes not. But, he always presents it at least in the Pacific Parlour Car.

Another noteable staff member on this train is my Sleeping Car Attendant, Hakto Hung. Of the six Amtrak train trips that I have taken over the last month, Hakto has to be the most efficient of all of them. The car and restrooms seem to be continuously clean and Hakto is right there whenever you call him to put up or take down the beds. When I wander the car, he always seems to be busy working in one room or another, or bringing things for his passengers from another car. On some of the other trips that I took this month, I noticed that it would sometimes take the Sleeping Car Attendants up to an hour to answer the Call Button. I seldom use the call button and when I do use it, I don't pull (or push) it more than once as that tends to really annoy the Car Attendants. I know they are often busy with other passengers, but often waiting up to an hour to answer the call did not seem right. Plus, some Sleeping Car Attendants can be difficult to find if you go looking for them. Not Hakto! He seems to always be around and is often not far from your door even before you call him! Whenever I needed my bed put up or down, I usually would find him working in another room just outside my room. Thus, I could just ask him to take care of my room when he had a chance and would not even have to use the Call Button! My hat is off to Hakto Hung for being a very efficient and effective Amtrak Sleeping Car Attendant!

The train arrived into Glendale, California, just 6 miles from our final destination of Los Angeles, at 12:02 A.M. I was already packed up and ready to leave the train. This is usually a very quick stop to just drop off a few passengers. After the train had been sitting at the station for about 15 minutes, I pulled my radio scanner out of my luggage to find out what was the hold up. Just then, my cell phone rang and one of my daughters asked me if I felt the earthquake. I told her that I had not as it is usually pretty hard to feel an earthquake while on a moving train. She told me that a few books had fallen off the shelves in our home, but no damage other than that. However, I realized that this might be the reason for the delay. After a sizeable earthquake, the tracks often have to be checked. But, after listening to the scanner, I found out the earthquake was not the cause of the delay. It appears that the brakes on one or more of the passengers cars would not release. The crew kept at it for a while and eventually got the brakes to release. The train was finally on its way again at 12:35 A.M. after having been at the Glendale station for more than a half hour.

Finally, we arrived into Los Angeles at 12:48 A.M. on Tuesday morning, September 3, 2002. Since the last southbound Pacific Surfliner departed Los Angeles at 10:10 P.M., Amtrak had motorcoaches waiting to take us to our final stations. By the time the bus was all loaded up and departed Los Angeles, it was 26 minutes later at 1:14 A.M. The bus arrived into the Fullerton Amtrak Station at 1:57 A.M. where my car was parked in the overnight parking structure. I arrived home about 20 minutes after that.


    Southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight Consist:
    (Before Pacific Parlour Car Electrical Problem)
  • 47--- Genesis
  • 114-- Genesis
  • ----- Baggage Car
  • 39022 1110 Superliner 2 Transition Sleeping Car (Crew)
  • 32111 1132 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Texas)
  • 32072 1131 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Arkansas)
  • 32117 1130 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Wisconsin)
  • 39975 Pacific Parlour Car
  • 38062 Superliner Dining Car
  • 33037 Superliner Sightseer Lounge Car
  • 34111 1111 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34515 1112 Superliner 2 Coach Car
  • 34064 1113 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34046 1114 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34032 1115 Superliner 2 Coach Car
  • ----- San Marino Private Car
    Southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight Consist:
    (After Pacific Parlour Car Electrical Problem)
  • 47--- Genesis
  • 114-- Genesis
  • ----- Baggage Car
  • 39022 1110 Superliner 2 Transition Sleeping Car (Crew)
  • 32111 1132 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Texas)
  • 32072 1131 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Arkansas)
  • 32117 1130 Superliner 2 Sleeping Car (Wisconsin)
  • 38062 Superliner Dining Car
  • 33037 Superliner Sightseer Lounge Car
  • 34111 1111 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34515 1112 Superliner 2 Coach Car
  • 34064 1113 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34046 1114 Superliner 1 Coach Car
  • 34032 1115 Superliner 2 Coach Car
  • ----- San Marino Private Car (Removed In Oakland Yard)
  • 39975 Pacific Parlour Car

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