Klamath Falls to Seattle, Summer 2018

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by ParanoidAndroid, Dec 12, 2018.

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  1. Dec 12, 2018 #1

    ParanoidAndroid

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    ParanoidAndroid

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    I rode the Coast Starlight 14 northbound with my family from Klamath Falls to Seattle on Independence Day (Wednesday July 4th), returning by 501 and 11 on Saturday the 7th.

    The previous day, we were at the Oregon Caves in southwestern Oregon, and stayed at the magnificent Chateau, opened in 1934, during the height of the Great Depression. The rustic architecture, cozy interior, and old Monterey furniture all make it a great place to visit in and of itself. Of course, the caves are quite an experience too, with plenty of stunning stalactites and stalagnites! 

    That evening, we used Hwy 140 to get to Klamath Falls, with nice views of Upper Klamath Lake near the end. Along the way, I checked Transitdocs, and saw that our 14 had an estimated on-time arrival, but a departure of 10:30am (it's scheduled for 8:17am). Train 14 had been leaving Klamath Falls around 11am every day since that Sunday, but no alert had been posted on Amtrak's website. Classic lack of communication on Amtrak's part. We went to bed that night planning for an on-time departure, just in case it would leave on-time.

    The next morning, the train was estimated to be 40 minutes late arriving, so we had time for an admittedly high-calorie breakfast at the Black Bear Diner. I had their eggs benedict, which I usually love, but the hollandaise sauce wasn't done right, and in combination with the sides, it was heavy, fatty, and overall not great. I did get a hot cup of tea, though, so that made it a little bit better. Slightly disappointed but properly filled, we headed over to the station and got there around 8:45am.

    The station agent said that, indeed, the train wouldn't leave until 11am, because of trackwork. Hoping for minimal delays en route, we awaited the arrival of the Coast Starlight. 

    It rolled in at 8:58am, 51 minutes late. Confusion ensued as one employee on the train claimed we'd be stuck for 3 hours, while another claimed only 1.5 hours. Some people were worried, but nobody really cared, and we all just lounged around. Luckily for me, I had some time for a leisurely walk up and down the platform, and I took plenty of photos of the train and the station. I liked Klamath Falls. It's a medium-sized rural town, and a nice change from busy and repetitive suburbia. 

    Transitdocs still estimated a 10:30am departure, so I headed over to the end of the last coach car just before 10:30 to film the train leaving the station. As it turned out, the transitdocs estimate creeped back later and later, and I stood there awkwardly for half an hour, until the conductor announced the departure just before 11 o'clock. We finally jolted forward, starting our journey right at 11:00am, and I caught a great video of us leaving out of the back window. 

    The LSA came through for lunch reservations, and as we were in coach, we only had the later options, so we chose a 1:45pm reservation. We enjoyed the ride along Upper Klamath Lake from the east side this time, and saw several heron-like birds poking around the reeds and grasses as we glided along. The weather was beautiful that day, with only some light clouds in the sky. The rest of the ride to Chemult was uneventful, with the exception of the narrow and deep Lower Williamson Gorge, which we saw for a couple short moments. After Chemult, we started going around some curves, as we headed for the Cascades. Odell Lake peeked through the trees for a little while on the right. A bit after that, we stopped at a siding for 40 minutes, but no train passed. Our hopes of a reasonable arrival time into Seattle started dwindling.

    Just about when we passed the Cruzatte siding, we were called for lunch. I got just the regular cheeseburger (with real cheddar cheese!) with potato chips, which was tasty and satisfying, as I remembered it from before. Everyone had their eyes glued to the window as we twisted and bumped and turned along the steep cliff section as we passed over the Oregon Cascades. It was a memorable moment, seeing the Amtrak servers doing their work as usual, and everyone eating lunch, as we traveled through a remote area half way up a steep valley. There was a sheer drop off to our right, and a steep incline up to our left.

    We continued descending down the hill, heading southeast for a time (instead of northwest for the rest of the descent) to lower our elevation to the bottom of the valley. After passing by a freight train, we rolled through Oakridge (no stop), and then we meandered along Lookout Point Lake for quite a while. I saw two covered bridges, which are a true rarity, and especially rare on the West Coast. We finally exited the mountains, approaching our next stop, Eugene. We stopped for one last time to let the northbound Cascades train 508 clear the station, then we pulled in at 4:37pm, just over four hours late. Although most of the day had gone by, we weren't even half way to Seattle yet! I had a good stretch on the platform, and admired the old Southern Pacific station building. 

    Upon our departure, we were delayed yet again as we had to back out of the station and take the outer track to let the southbound Starlight 11 (on time, of course!) have the platform track. We waited for another freight train, then made a stop at Albany, nearly five hours late. We had gotten a dinner reservation for 7:30pm, so we waited around while we trundled through the fields of central Oregon.  After Salem, we were called for dinner. I got the thyme roasted chicken, which came with a mushroom sauce. The chicken was surprisingly (luckily?) cooked almost perfectly! It was just moist enough, and the sauce paired pretty well with it. Complete with a baked potato and some veggies, dinner in the diner was especially enjoyable. 

    We stopped at Portland for about a half an hour while we ate. I had fun remembering the first and previous time I was in Portland, two years ago. We would visit the station again a few days later when we headed south back to Klamath Falls. After we left, the train crossed the Willamette and Columbia Rivers as the sun set in the distance among the clouds. We continued north through Washington State, passing numerous towns celebrating the Fourth of July. As we sat in the lounge car, everyone oohed and wowed at all the fireworks being launched around us in the dark.

    We kept a steady speed through the dark forests of Washington, skipping Centralia (apparently, nobody was ticketed to there, and anyone getting on rode 508), and making a quick stop in Olympia. After that, we started on the coastal Puget Sound section: the supposed highlight of the trip, a magnificent sunset over the water as we ate dinner. But, of course, we were hours late, so everything was pitch black. The only thing I saw on this section were the dotted lights on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as we passed under it.

    We curved around Point Defiance in a tunnel under the town of Ruston, then we sped southeast toward Tacoma. As we approached the old Amshack station, we got views of what was probably downtown Tacoma and its brightly lit streets and ferris wheel. We saw a  few more fireworks here, too.

    After stopping at the lonely Tacoma platform, we went back to our seats and packed up all of our stuff. An uneventful 40 minutes passed, then we finally pulled into Seattle at 11:54pm, a hair under four hours late. We were so tired, longing for a hot shower and a long night's sleep, that we didn't even bother to take pictures of the train after getting off. We exited the station, and, instead of getting a taxi, we decided to take the streetcar to our hotel. As we waited on the thin platform in the middle of the road, we looked around at some poor homeless folks, on a run down sidewalk past midnight, complete with an old car and trash strewn about. It was quite an antithesis to the awesome and memorable time we had on the Starlight. After a few more minutes, an empty streetcar came and whisked us away to our hotel.

    Station arrival/departure times (may differ slightly from official records)

    Klamath Falls, OR 8:58am/11:00am

    Chemult 12:20pm/12:27pm

    Eugene 4:37pm/4:49pm

    Albany 6:11pm/6:13pm

    Salem 6:43pm/6:44pm

    Portland, OR 8:04pm/8:31pm

    Vancouver, WA 8:48pm/8:50pm

    Kelso 9:27pm/9:27pm

    Centralia passed by 10:09pm

    Lacey 10:29pm/10:30pm

    Tacoma 11:11pm/11:13pm

    Seattle, WA 11:54pm

    I've written a trip report on here before, for a trip from Los Angeles to Portland in summer 2016, but the writing wasn't that great. I hope my writing has improved for this one. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading! I might continue this story for the return trip a few days later on Trains 501 and 11 someday, with some highlights about our time in Seattle.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2018
  2. Dec 12, 2018 #2

    caravanman

    caravanman

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    Congratulations, a very nicely written trip report!

    It feels like a real journey, with details of your breakfast and the arrival into Seattle, etc. It is about how you felt, as well as what you saw.

    I often "store up" details from other's trips, in case I ever want to do something similar, so one question: Did you drive your own car, hire a car, or take public transport to visit the caves and then into Klamath Falls?

    Looking forward to the Seattle highlights!

    Ed.

    P.S.  Did the "real cheddar" cheese honestly come all the way from Cheddar Gorge in England?  :D
     
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  3. Dec 12, 2018 #3

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

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    Really well written report, thank you so much for sharing it. Glad to hear that the food was good. It gives me at least some hope that dining on Amtrak isn’t completely doomed.
     
  4. Dec 12, 2018 #4

    Maglev

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    This is a very well-written trip report!  It has plenty of detail but is not too long.  I look forward to reading more, and pictures would be great too!
     
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  5. Dec 13, 2018 #5

    ParanoidAndroid

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    ParanoidAndroid

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    We live in California, so we drove up in our car to the Caves and Klamath Falls, then left it at Klamath Falls until we returned from Seattle on the train, then drove back into California. The Caves don't have public transport to them, so driving was the only option. I'll upload pictures soon!
     

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