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.
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.
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.
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: www.narprail.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: RailroadMusic.net
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.
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 they recommended: 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.
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.
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.
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.
Left: Gravel Plant south of San Jose
Right: Amtrak Coast Starlight travels right through Elkhorn Slough
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.
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
Lunch 11:50 - 1:10 On Your Own In Old Sacramento
Adjourn and Farewell 3:30
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