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Coast Starlight from Seattle to LA


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#1 Rush2112

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 12:35 AM

I finally got the time to take the Coast Starlight for an overnight trip.  It was back in August. (Sorry, things have been busy since then and I don't often post openly.)  This was only my second overnight train trip, the first being years ago with my parents from BOS to WAS on the old Twilight Shoreliner.

I flew up to SeaTac from Sacramento.  That is one of my favorite plane trips because it is not a long flight but if you sit on the right side of the plane (when flying northbound) you get a great view of all the volcanos including Mount St. Helens and Crater Lake.  I met friends in the Seattle area and we spent a few nights in Mount Rainer National Park.  We had planned to be there for the Perseid Meteor Shower and it was amazing!

When I first booked my trip I was just going to go from SEA back to Sacramento but then I decided I should go the entire route and book through to LA.

The station in Seattle seemed to be nicely redone and I waited in the area for disabled since I have had a couple of knee surgeries and the last one did not go that well.  A kind gentleman helped me board (funny, I don't recall if he was actually a Red Cap but I did of course tip him) and I met my Sleeping Car Attendant.  I had the disabled bedroom and told her that I might try to get upstairs for meals but was not sure.  We left on time which was around 9:30 in the morning as I recall.

Once I got settled in I looked at the stairs I would have to use to get up to the Pacific Parlor Car and the Dining Car and decided my knees were not up to it after doing more walking than I can usually handle without pain, while I was in the National Park.  I also found out that not only would I have to go upstairs I would also have to go through another sleeping car before getting to the Parlor Car.

So next time I saw my SCA I told her that I would appreciate it if she could bring me a sandwich or something for lunch from the Parlor Car.  She said "We are going to need to get on the same page" and being used to grumpy Amtrak personnel from my local trips in Northern California sometimes (and reading forums here and other places) I was not really that phased.  I told her let's just plan on her brining me all meals for the rest of the trip and that I was flexible as far as times, understanding that she had a lot of other people to attend to also.

She said that would be fine but was not sure they would have a sandwich in the Parlor Car for me because they plan ahead with only a certain amount of food, or some nonsense like that.  I said if the Parlor Car did not have a sandwich for me the first day of the trip for some strange reason then a lunch item from the dining car would be fine too.

A little while she brought me a very nice turkey sandwich, chips and a coke like I had requested.  No dessert but I remembered that if you want something on Amtrak you need to ask, which I did for future meals.

I gave her a $5 tip for brining the meal.  I am not sure if anyone in the dining car sees any of that money but I figure their must be an arrangement between the SCA and dining car staff but I don't know how that works.

The accessible bedroom was nice.  Of course Amtrak has not updated their long distance fleet in many years so it is sort of like being in a time warp and the train reminded me of the overnight train I took from Boston with my parents many years ago (we had connecting "deluxe" bedrooms as they were called back then and of course that one a single level train and not the double-decker Superliner used here in the West).  The training was clean if a bit worn.

I knew what to expect for the bedroom from my research before the trip but it is still a little strange having a toilet in the bedroom with just a curtain to separate it if needed, but that was not needed since I had the room to myself.  Having a sink and toilet in the room was fine and there was no odor thankfully.  And sometimes, depending on the view, I would sit on the toilet (with the lid down) and watch the scenery from that side of the train. 

The view along the Puget Sound leaving Seattle was nice and even though I have read people like the view higher up on the second level of the Superliners, I liked being closer to the ground and feeling like everything was so close just outside the window, since it was I guess.  LOL.

In Portland since it was a 30 minute stop I did get off the train for some "fresh air" and since smoking is not allowed trackside their you have to go through the station and go out front so I got to see the station, which I always wanted to see from the inside.  It was a sort of long walk but if I take my time and the ground is level I do okay with my trick knees and a cane depending.

The rest of the day was really relaxing with views of the water and then into the mountains.  At some point my SCA asked about dinner and I ordered the 'Amsteak' and a full dinner including dessert.  I again tipped $5 for that meal.  The steak was really good as was the rest of the meal.

It was fun keeping track of my location though my mobile phone and I had purchased a radio scanner to listen to railroad communications and although I did pick up some information I need to learn how to lock in just a few channels so I don't miss as much conversation while it is scanning among the channels in that band.  It was nice to get the automatic messages (trains speed, temperature) from the detectors along the route.

After a while my SCA attend asked if I wanted my bed made up, which I did, and I have another $5 tip for that service.

I was just stacking the trash from my meals in the bags provided when they were delivered and I was not sure if the SCA would want to take it.  I did not ask so it stayed getting stacked on my trip.  Next time I will probably just stuff it all in the trash bins outside my room.  I thought maybe the plates got recycled but I guess not.  I did take the steak knife provided with dinner and left it by the sink in my room.

I laid in bed and relaxed and watched the nighttime work go by, and watched some videos on my iPad.  I decided it get brave and go up to the Pacific Parlor Car for a nightcap.

That was a bit of a mistake because the steps are so steep they were really a killer on my knees. And I had to travel one sleeping car over, which I knew would be the case.  But it turns out there was not an actual Pacific Parlor Car on this consist, due to equipment issues obviously, and it was a lounge car of sorts.  It was not a sightseeing car on stop and café down stairs, like on the Zephyr when I ridden in coach from Sac to Reno.  It was a bit of a disappointment and a real bummer when I had to go downstairs to the bar area (which would have been upstairs on a real Parlor Car).  So it ended up being a lot more steps than I was really do deal with.  The lounge attended was very nice, actually seeming a little lonely, so I chatted for a few minutes but just got a bottle of wine to take back to my bedroom.  I ask asked for some apple juice.  When he gave it to me he said he was not charging me.  Since it was served in a cup I did not think I would have been charge anyway since I thought juice was free in the Parlor Car and only sleeping car passengers have access to the Parlor Car.  Plus, I could have asked my SCA for free juice.  (I did ask her for a couple of bottles of water and did have her bring me some coffee when she had a chance, when I saw her at one of the stops the next day.)

I slept really well.  I am sure the wine did not hurt.  LOL.  I just felt so cozy in my bed with the world going by and I never heard any noise from other passengers even though there are a couple of bathrooms and a shower outside the accessible bedroom. 

I woke up the next morning when we got to Sacramento and it was funny laying in bed looking out at a station I use once a month or so to take Capitol Corridor trains into the San Francisco Bay Area.  I realized I could just hop off that train and get a ride home but I was glad I was going to be one it for the trip all the way to LA.  I did get off and smoked from fresh air, my first smoke break in many hours.  Again, it seems funny getting back on when I was within a few miles of home. 

I got some more sleep since the Sacramento stop is around 6 in the morning.  I had a leisurely lie in but did crack open my bedroom door a bit to let my SCA know I was up.  She stopped by around 8 AM I think and asked about breakfast and I asked for some French toast and bacon and milk.  She offered to unmake my bed and I said I wanted to sort of lounge around today.  Breakfast arrived pretty quick and I gave another $5 tip for the service.  I enjoyed literally having my breakfast in bed.  The trip into the Bay Area is beautiful since you are next to the water for so much of it but it is scenery I have seen lots of time before so I also did some reading and caught up on emails.

I ordered lunch when my SCA stopped by again and had her turn the bed back into seating and gave a $5 tip.  It was a pretty leisurely day going through the Bay Area and then inland to the Salad Bowl of the World in the agricultural areas of the Central Valley.  Later in the day we got to the part of the trip that goes along the Pacific Ocean and I really enjoyed that view for the 100 or so miles it lasts, even if I was sitting on my toilet (with the lid down!) because it was on that side of the train.

The rest of the trip into LA was very mellow.  I had another steak for dinner and it actually was not as good a cut as the night before.  I gave my SCA another $5 tip.  We had talked a little bit at some of the smoke stops and while not outgoingly friendly she was a nice person and did her job, even if I kept having to remember, "if you want something on Amtrak, ask for it".  As much as a I love trains, it is not a job I would want with the long hours, even if you get a few days off at a time afterwards.  (With most people having to work a second job anyway, to make ends meet.)

As we were getting close to LA my SCA asked if she could take my used bed linens and she also took all my bags of trash from meal services and stuff them into the waste bins in the corridor outside my room.  (Next time I will probably do that myself.)  I thanked her for her service this past 36 hours.  We got into LA a bit early, around 8:30 PM I think.

I made my way to the Fly-Away bus and for $9 had an easy trip to LAX, where I got on a hotel shuttle to spend the night before my flight back to Sacramento the next day.

I used Southwest Airline points for my fight up to Seattle and my flight from LAX back to Sacramento, and I used hotel points at the hotel by LAX.  I had a room at the Paradise Inn in Mount Rainer National Park so that was the most costly part of the week vacation, but I had planned a year ahead because my buddies in the Pacific Northwest like me wanted to check out the annual Perseid Meteor Shower from the National Park and things need to be booked in advance if you want a room at the Inn.

The train part of the trip was only around $200 thanks to early booking.  It was worth every cent.

Would I do it again?  Well, I have planned a trip with my cousin in the Bay Area and we are going to share the accessible room and go up to Portland for a long weekend in February.  I will get to see the part north of Sacramento in the daylight then.  This will be a roundtrip but again, only from the Bay Area to Portland, and not the entire trip from Seattle to LA.  The cost of that for the two of us is around $550.  I hope she does okay in the upper berth!

I also booked a trip from Sacramento to Philly for a LGBT confernce  a month from now.  It will be two nights on the Zephyr followed by a night on the Capitol Limited, then the Acela or a regional up to Philly for a conference and meeting.  I am flying back but look forward to 4 days on the train in the middle of the winter in the middle of the USA.  This will either cement by love of train travel or make me never want to do it again!  For those who love long, rambling travelogues, look for a trip report on that one sometime next year!

Happy Holidays to all
 



#2 OBS

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 01:01 PM

Great report, Thanks!



#3 Bob Dylan

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 02:52 PM

Nice trip, it sounds like you had a great time and that's what matters!

If and when the PPCs go back on the Starlight I hope you get to book an upstairs Bedroom in the Sleeper next to the PPC, it's the best thing Amtrak has going now!

Edited by Bob Dylan, 21 December 2016 - 02:53 PM.

"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
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Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#4 v v

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 07:22 PM

Enjoyed your journey, thank you



#5 Rush2112

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 10:27 PM

Great report, Thanks!

Thanks.  Sorry about the typos.  I lost my first version since I guess I got timed out before I finished posting, so I was not as careful on the second try.  Next time I will do it in Word first then paste the report.



#6 Rush2112

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 10:30 PM

Nice trip, it sounds like you had a great time and that's what matters!

If and when the PPCs go back on the Starlight I hope you get to book an upstairs Bedroom in the Sleeper next to the PPC, it's the best thing Amtrak has going now!

Thank you.  I will need to be on the first level in an accessible room but when I do the trip in February from Sacramento to Portland, and back, it looks like I will be next to the PPC so if I can get up the stairs at least there will not be a lot of walking, plus my cousin when be with me to help.  I hope there is a PPC on that consist so I can check it out.  I trust the wine tasting will help my knee pain.  :)



#7 Rush2112

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 10:32 PM

Enjoyed your journey, thank you

Thank you.  I really enjoying reading other reports with lots of details so I can pick up a few tips from others' experiences.  Next time I will try to post pictures too.



#8 Tennessee Traveler

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 10:40 PM

The PPC will not be on the Coast Starlight in January and February unless they do run one as someone stated on another topic onc day a week each direction Northbound from Los Angeles on Friday and Southbound from Seattle on Sunday.  If that is the case then the late night Friday or early Saturday morning if running late departure north from Sacramento and the southbound arriving Sacramento on Monday may possibly have the PPC.  I would not count on it though in January and February.


Edited by Tennessee Traveler, 25 December 2016 - 10:41 PM.


#9 Rush2112

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 02:27 AM

Thank you for that 411.  It's too bad another signature train feature is being removed.  I suspect that in four years there will be no more Amtrak service.  Why can't we have nice things in America?



#10 Tennessee Traveler

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 11:18 AM

I'm not really worried that Amtrak will go away but more that on board service will continue to be downgraded especially in the dining cars.



#11 dogbert617

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 02:11 AM

Does Amtrak still run the Pacific Parlor Car? Darnit, if they've stopped running that! I was thinking about getting a 15 day USA Rail Pass(for Chicago to LA on Southwest Chief, LA to Seattle on Coast Starlight, and Seattle back to Chicago on the Empire Builder), and that the only part I'd upgrade to get a sleeper would be riding the Coast Starlight, partially since I like what I've read about the PPC. And since when I looked at sleeper costs, the cost(for whatever reason) was less to upgrade to a sleeper on the Coast Starlight, vs. the Southwest Chief or Empire Builder.

 

Hope the PPC still is running, if I do decide to go for a USA Rail Pass and do such a trip sometime next year.


Edited by dogbert617, 28 May 2017 - 02:14 AM.


#12 JayPea

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 07:11 AM

They still run the PPC's, but have pulled them off for "routine maintenance" the last few years during the winter months. How much if any maintenance is done is a matter of speculation. ;) And during the months they are in regular service, one will be pulled off for repairs every so often.
Amtrak Routes Traveled: City of New Orleans, State House/Lincoln Service, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Cascades, Crescent, Capitol Limited, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Pacific Surfliner, Cardinal.
 
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled:
Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle  (Union Pacific) Panama Limited (Illinois Central)

Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB),Galesburg-Bloomington (CZ/Lincoln Service )
 

Amtrak Miles: 81242

Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8478

Bustitution Miles: 450

Excursion trains ridden:  Centralia and Chehalis Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, Alaska Railroad, 1880 Train (Black Hills Central RR) and trains at the Illinois Railway Museum, California Railway Museum, and the Monticello (IL) Railroad Museum.

#13 dogbert617

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 02:35 PM

They still run the PPC's, but have pulled them off for "routine maintenance" the last few years during the winter months. How much if any maintenance is done is a matter of speculation. ;) And during the months they are in regular service, one will be pulled off for repairs every so often.

I see. Thanks for explaining that. So I guess my odds of riding a Coast Starlight with a PPC, would be better in the summer months? And are there certain days of the week in warmer months where your odds of riding a Coast Starlight with a PPC, are better during the summer months?






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