Amtrak Photo Essay
Round-Trip Fullerton, California to Sacramento, California
via the Amtrak Coast Starlight
February 24 through 27, 2006, Friday through Monday
This Amtrak Coast Starlight photo essay is from my round trip rail travel from Fullerton, California to
Sacramento, California, Friday, February 24, 2006 through Monday, February 27, 2006
to attend the NARP Region 12 meeting at the California Railroad Museum.
I had planned this trip to be a truly relaxing round trip train ride from Fullerton to Sacramento, California. If everything
ran on schedule, it would be an all day train ride on Friday, February 24, 2006, departing Fullerton at 8:16 AM and arriving
into Sacramento at 11:59 PM. The trip home on Monday, February 27, 2006, would be another all day train ride departing
Sacramento at 6:30 AM and arriving into Fullerton at 10:42 PM.
Click on each photo in this report for larger images.
Left: Freight train through Fullerton Amtrak / Metrolink Station
Right: Inside the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Coach Seating
My wife would be flying up to Sacramento after work and arriving at about midnight into Sacramento, about the same time
the northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight was scheduled to arrive into Sacramento. My wife doesn't have the flexibility to
take enough time off work for the train, and she doesn't quite have the patience to enjoy lengthy train rides as often
as I do. So, when we vacation together, she will often fly when I take the train. I had arranged a shuttle van to pick my
wife up at our house and take her to LAX, more than thirty miles from our house. I tried to find a more convenient flight for
her out of our local Orange County airport, but all those flights either left too early or made connections. I also arranged
for another shuttle to pick her up at the Sacramento airport and take her to our hotel, the Capitol Plaza Holiday Inn.
Left: Amtrak locomotive at Los Angeles Union Station platform
Right: Ron in front of Amtrak Coast Starlight Pacific Parlour Car
Since two can pretty much travel about as inexpensively as one when you have a room on the train, I invited my friend Ron to
take the train with me. Ron flew down on Southwest Airlines from San Jose to Orange County the day before our northbound
train ride. Since we'd be traveling together, I knew that I would not be writing a detailed lengthy travelogue for this trip.
Writing a travelogue is actually how I enjoy my time while traveling alone on the train. When I travel with someone else, I
just don't have the same motivation to delve into writing a detailed travelogue.
Our northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight departing from Los Angeles
I have called this a "photo essay" as I don't consider this adequately detailed to be called a full blown travelogue. Although
the central purpose of this trip was to attend the Annual Region 12 NARP Meeting, my intent was not to document that meeting.
If I do run across further information about that meeting on the web, I will add a link to that web page. In the meantime,
you can find more information about the National Association of Rail Passengers at:
Left: Los Angeles skyline photographed from the train
Right: A couple of the many bridges over the Los Angeles River
Roger Keilbach was our Sleeping Car Attendant. I've run into Roger a number of times over my ten years of Amtrak travel. When
we first met, Roger was using a desktop computer on the train to work on some Amtrak side projects. Our similar interests in
computers and technology got us into some conversations right off the bat. Roger has been working for Amtrak for about 30 years
and he has been my Sleeping Car Attendant on the Amtrak Coast Starlight quite a few times over the years. If you get Roger as
your Sleeping Car Attendant, I think you will be quite pleased. He keeps the coffee on with lots of bottled water and juice
always available. Roger also posts maps of the route and other information on the wall near the refreshment area upstairs in
the center of the Sleeping Car. You'll find Roger very helpful and informative if you run across him in your Amtrak Coast Starlight
travels. Since I already knew that I'd be in the same Sleeping Car (#30) traveling up on Friday and back on Monday, I knew that
Roger would be the Car Attendant for my Sleeping Car both ways. The same crew goes north on the Amtrak Coast Starlight for two
days and then turns right around after one night in a hotel in Seattle and heads back south for two more days. Thus, there would
be the same train equipment and same onboard staff on both my trip up on Friday and my trip down on Monday.
Maps & Info posted in Roger's Sleeping Car Refreshment Area
The trip did turn out to be relaxing and relatively uneventful. There was one small exception to that. At some point before
we got to Santa Barbara, the train made an extremely fast emergency stop (for a train that is!). I was in the Deluxe Room
in the individual seat in Room E with my back facing our direction of travel. All of a sudden, the empty glass from the
Bloody Mary that I had just finish lept off the drink holder under the window! The train came to a pretty quick stop. I had
the scanner radio turned on at the time and the engineer said that the train had just barely missed hitting a van by 2 feet
that was in the railroad crossing. They said the driver had lept out of the van at the last moment, but the train missed the
van anyway, but by only about 2 feet.
Metrolink yard just north of Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS)
I've been in an Amtrak train that hit a vehicle before and came to an emergency stop, but nothing fell off my table. Actually,
in more than ten years that I've been riding Amtrak, I've never been in a train that stopped so quickly that anything has
fallen on the floor ... and I have been on the train a few times when they've made emergency stops. For the major consideration,
it was fotunate that the train didn't hit the van and nobody was injured. For the minor consideration, it was a good thing my
drink was empty or it would have been all over me and everything. But, maybe if it was more full, the extra weight of the liquid
in the glass would have kept it in place. I don't know, but I don't think so.
Amtrak Coast Starlight Pacific Parlour Car
Left: Self-Service Continental Breakfast & Snack Serving Area
Right: Big Comfortable Swivel Parlor Chairs
Left: Table Area and Bar Serving Area in background
Right: Lounge type seating area
Left: Lower Level Theater Television
Right: Lower Level Theater Seating
I had been taking a few photographs in the Pacific Parlour Car earlier in the day. Then I returned to my room. I always place
my camera on the shelf under the window when I'm in the room and not using the camera. I went to grab my camera when I saw
something that I wanted to shoot, but noticed that my camera was missing. In my ten years of rail travel, I've broken one
camera, temporarily lost another, and had a third go temporarily dead on me. So, there have been three times over the last
ten years that I've had to buy a new camera during the middle of my rail trip. Naturally, I panicked when my camera was missing
and started to think this may be another one of those trips where I may again have to buy a new camera.
I went to the Parlour Car where I last used the camera and it wasn't there. Nobody had found and turned in a camera.
I looked around my room on the train, but I wasn't hopeful as I knew I would have put it on that shelf if I had left it in
the room. Then it just suddenly dawned on me: the emergency stop! Sure enough, when I looked beside my chair in the room,
the camera was caught between the chair and the floor. The camera had flown off the shelf when the train made an emergency
stop. I was so concerned about the drink spilling everywhere before I realized that the glass was already empty, that I didn't
notice that the camera and other things might also have flown off the table.
If you seldom ride the train, don't be overconcerned with emergency stops. As I mentioned above, this was the first train
trip I had ever taken where the emergency stop was fast enough to cause items to slide off the table. Trains usually don't
stop that fast, even when they make an emergency stop.
Left: View of the coast line between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo
Right: Climbing the grade just north of San Luis Obispo
During the northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight trip, Ron decided to detrain at his home town of San Jose. He came up with the
idea of staying at home Friday night and then driving his own car up to Sacramento on Saturday after the Regional NARP meeting
was over. I would then be able to cancel the car rental reservation that I had made.
Fresh air break at Salinas
The train arrived almost on time into San Jose and then arrived almost on time into Sacramento, about 3 minutes after
midnight! My wife's flight was delayed, so I actually arrived at the hotel before she did! I guess there has to be a
first time for everything!
View from our hotel room. The old Southern Pacific Shops are in the background that are being refurbished to become part of the
California State Railroad Museum Technology Section. We stayed at the Capitol Plaza Holiday Inn, but you can see the Vagabond Inn
in the lower section of the photo. Not seen in front of that is a Dennys Restaurant. A bit more difficult to see in the photo is
an Amtrak California Cars train set at the platform of the Sacramento Amtrak Station. If you look carefully, you can see the train
and the platform covering beyond the Vagabond Inn but in front of the Southern Pacific shop building.
Railroad Music entertainment at the Regional NARP Meeting. See:
Left: Jonathan Hutchinson, Amtrak Director of Government Affairs, West Coast
Right: Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor
After the Regional NARP Meeting on Saturday, we went to an Indian Buffet Dinner at
Kaveri Madras Cuisine at 1148 Fulton Ave in Sacramento
which I consider to be one of the best Indian restaurants anywhere. Later that night we wandered around Old Town Sacramento
and even went down to the Sacramento Amtrak Station briefly. It was almost time for the arrival of the northbound Amtrak
Coast Starlight, but we didn't wait around for it.
The Tower Bridge in Sacramento, California
On Sunday, we met with a couple that live in Sacramento that are friends of Ron and went to lunch at an Indian Buffet that
Sher-e-Punjab in Carmichael.
After that, it was starting to get close to the time that we would need to drop my wife off at the airport.
We drove my wife to the Sacramento Airport and said our good-byes. Ron still had at least a two hour drive ahead of him to go
from Sacramento back down to San Jose. I came up with an idea of how to kill two birds with one stone. I checked the Amtrak Capitols
schedule and found that there was a train leaving San Jose at 7:40 PM heading back to Sacramento that evening. So, I offered to
drive with him from Sacramento down to San Jose where I could catch the train back up to Sacramento. It was just a bit after 5 PM
when we started out, so we figure we'd have time to make it with plenty of time to spare.
Driving to Great America Amtrak / ACE Station in Santa Clara, California.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of traffic heading back to the Bay Area at the end of this weekend. It took us more than two and
one half hours to do the drive. As we started getting closer to San Jose, we decided to go for the Great America Amtrak Capitols
Station in Santa Clara instead of trying to get to the Amtrak San Jose Station. The drive to the Great America station was a
bit shorter and the northbound Amtrak Capitols train departs at 7:52 PM from that station, a bit later than the 7:40 PM
departure from San Jose. We did get to that station about 7:35 PM in plenty of time to catch the train, though it was a bear to
figure out how to drive to the station. We did see a stairway down to the platform from a road bridge that went over the station,
but there wasn't anywhere to park on top of the bridge. Thus, we had to find the road that went around and under the bridge.
Left: Great America Amtrak / ACE Station in Santa Clara, California.
Right: Northbound Amtrak Capitol arrives in "push" mode into the station.
As I had expected, it wasn't a staffed station, but there also weren't any ticket machines. The only option was to purchase
the tickets onboard. There were a surprising number of other people waiting for the train at this station, about a dozen.
I was glad that I didn't have to wait too long for the train as it was a bit cold and raining. The bridge over the station
provided enough cover from the rain, but it didn't do much for the cold or the wind! The train arrived into Sacramento on time
at about 11:00 PM.
Left: Photo from my single seat with 2 tables at the end of the California Car. Almost a private room!
Right: Amtrak trains after arrival at the Sacramento Amtrak Station
I just boarded the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight in Sacramento at 8:25 AM, so there may yet be more to come!
Please check back later.
Sacramento Amtrak Station at about 7:30 AM - a rainy morning
Left: I'm not sure, but it was floating out in the water
Right: The new highway bridge just before Martinez
New bridge before Martinez and some activity in the auto import rail yard
Left: If you look closely you can see that together they are moving a girder
Right: We were delayed at the railroad bridge waiting for this ship to pass
Amtrak California Zephyr waiting to depart Amtrak Emeryville Station
Left: BART crossing over our train in Oakland
Right: Oakland Amtrak Service Yard, Amtrak California Car train set in backgound
Left: Amtrak California Cars train set in service bays at Amtrak Oakland Yard
Right: Train car washers in Oakland Amtrak Yard
Jack London Inn just feet from the tracks at Amtrak Oakland / Jack London Square Station !
Left: Amtrak Oakland / Jack London Square Station
Right: Rail yard constuction just north of Amtrak San Jose Station
Left: Gravel Plant south of San Jose
Right: Amtrak Coast Starlight travels right through Elkhorn Slough
Scenery just before heading out of the hills down into San Luis Obispo
The southound Amtak Coast Starlight arrived into Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS) at about 10:45 PM, about one hour and 45 minutes
behind schedule. Passengers had a bit of difficulty trying to get from the train to the connecting bus in the bus boarding area.
A film production crew had set up in the tunnel under the tracks and almost completely blocked the passage of people trying to
get through the tunnel. Film equipment, chairs, tables, and production crew were scattered from wall to wall in the tunnel.
Passengers had to zig zag their way between production crew members and equipment to get through everything. Huge power cables
were taped to the floor everywhere making it difficult to roll carry luggage down the tunnel. My luggage wasn't too heavy, so
I just lifted it and carried over all the power cables. Later someone told me they were filming a Burger King commercial. That
congestion in the tunnel delayed the transfer of passengers from the train to the bus a bit, but not too much since there weren't
that many passengers on the train. Only one bus was used to carry the connecting passengers to all the station south of
Los Angeles, including all the way to San Diego, and the bus wasn't even full.
Do you plan to someday travel on the Amtrak Coast Starlight? Have you traveled on it in the past and plan to do it again in the future?
If so, now is the time to book a trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. The Pacific Parlour Car is always in danger of being removed
from the train. The dining service on the Amtrak Coast Starlight will go to Simplified Dining Service in May 2006. Eventually,
the Dining Car and Sightseer Lounge / Cafe Car may be replaced by one of the new Dining Lite Car conversions. Now is the time to
book that trip! Due to numerous problems, especially very poor on-time performance, the ridership of the Amtrak Coast Starlight is
at an all time low. Your help is needed!
Book your trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight today! Tell all your friends, relatives and everyone else that you know to try a
trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. Then write your congressmen and senators. Reduced dining service is definately coming to the
Coast Starlight in May 2006. Eventually, it might even have its Dining Car and Sightseer Lounge Car replaced by a single new
"Diner Lite" car with reduced space for both dining and sightseeing. The future of the Pacific Parlour Car is very uncertain.
Ride it today before it is gone, and tell your representatives the important role this car plays in your decision to travel
using the Amtrak Coast Starlight. Even the future of the entire Amtrak system and the Coast Starlight in particular is not
certain. You need to let your national and state representatives know your feelings about having a rail travel option.
For more information, please
click here to go to
Set #1 /
Set #2 /
Set #3 /
Set #4 /
National Association Of
Trains: A Travel Choice Americans Want
Meeting of the
National Association of Railroad Passengers
California, Hawaii & Nevada
California State Railroad Museum
February 25, 2006
10:00 AM -- 3:30 PM
10:00 - 10:15 Call to Order
Business Meeting of the Regional Association
- 10:15 - 10:20 Announcment of Directors for 2006 - 2008
- 10:20 - 10:35 Treasurer's Report, Bob Glover, NARP Treasurer
- 10:35 - 11:20 Matt Melzer, NARP Intern, will recount his six months at the NARP office,
and provide an update on the latest national priorities.
- 11:20 - 11:50 Larry Scott, NARP fundraising consultant, will provide a review of NARP's future fund raising plans.
Lunch 11:50 - 1:10 On Your Own In Old Sacramento
Return from Lunch Musical Interlude
- 01:10 - 01:30 Rosie and the Railroaders: they have two passions - fast trains and good music
They are dedicated to playing first-class traditional music while rekindling an interest in trains.
Keynote Speaker 1:30 - 2:00
- Hon. Jim Costa, Member of Congress, 20th District, California
What's Happening on the Railroad 2:30 - 3:30
- Jonathan Hutchinson, Amtrak Director of Government Affairs, West Coast
- Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor
Adjourn and Farewell 3:30
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