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 Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14

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BackRhodes

  • Total Posts: 652
  • Joined: 6/14/2011
  • Location: Mendocino County, CA
Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/19/12 7:23 PM (permalink)
I recently took a road trip of a different kind: RAILroad trip...
 
I found out of a detour for train #14, the northbound Coast Starlight...this is what RR type people are on the lookout for...passenger trains being diverted onto scenic freight only routes...
 
Davis to LA on the normal route...then LA to Davis the next day on a detour route via Soledad Canyon, Lancaster, Mojave, Tehachapi, Bakersfield, Lathrop, Niles Canyon...
 
I took my pocket GPS with me to record the routes...when I got back I spent some time linking the various gps "tracks" together and color coding them... 
  
 
 
Although what you see above is the average speed, we topped out at 82.5 mph...
 
Day 1:  Coach class in the diner car... meals NOT included in ticket price
 
LUNCH: Angus chuck "steak burger"...with optional 2 strips of bacon...on a seseme bun
DINNER: Herb roasted half chicken...with salad, warm roll, and milk
 
Day 2:  Sleeper class in the Pacific Parlor Car (which runs on the Coast Starlight ONLY) meals included in the ticket price...
 
LUNCH: Peanut M & M's...there was a snafu for the Pacific Parlor Car they don't have enough capacity to serve ALL the sleeper class passengers in the Parlor Car, and by the time thr steward got to my car all that was available was 1 last sandwich, so, no fun for lunch...and I wasn't all that hungry after eating at Philippes earlier...
 
DINNER: Slow cooked flat iron beef, braised in Bordelaise sauce, with whole grain rice pilaf and vegetable medley, warm roll, salad...I wish I took a picture of this...the beef was absolutely fork tender and very scrumptious...I could've eaten twice the portion served, the steak was about 4" x 4" and at least 1 inch thick...Hagen Das ice cream for desert...
 
There was a mid afternoon wine & cheese tasting in the Pacific Parlor Car (for sleeper class passengers only) at $9.oo...
 
Wines available for purchase were local Summerland Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Rabbit Ridge Zin, J Lohr 7 Oaks Cab, Wente Riverbank Riesling Arroyo Seco.
 
Cheese tasting included Vella Dry Jack, Smoked Tillamook Chedder, Marco Polo Black Pepper Cheddar.
 
The wine and cheese selections are different for train #11 (southbound Coast Starlight)
<message edited by BackRhodes on Sun, 02/19/12 8:11 PM>
 
#1
    californyguy

    • Total Posts: 513
    • Joined: 10/30/2002
    • Location: sacramenty , CA
    Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/19/12 7:52 PM (permalink)
    WOW!congrats on getting lucky on your trip,,and  most of the food & that cheese tasting looks fantastic ,,I did not know Amtrak still had it in em !
     
    #2
      BackRhodes

      • Total Posts: 652
      • Joined: 6/14/2011
      • Location: Mendocino County, CA
      Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/19/12 7:58 PM (permalink)
      Going down south we went Coach Class, and for both meals I was joined by 2 yound ladies (about 30 years old) and we had great conversations...in the coach car was an obnoxious drunk guy that was full of prison tattoos a few seats away, and everybody was glad when he left...
       
      Coming back up (north) we had a roomette, which is more comfortable and quiet than coach...The Pacific Parlor Car is available to Sleeper Class passengers only...we had a roomette on the lower level of one of the sleeper cars, and my travel buddy spent some time in the lounge car. I was happy to stay in the roomette because the seat & pillow combination was good for my back...
       

       
      The Pacific Parlor Car can seat only 12 people at a time for meals, so there's several seatings...
       
      "Parlor Cars" were introduced by railroads in the later 1800's as a way of increasing passenbger comfort by offering food snack and reading materials for premium class passengers...and during the evolution of railroads there was competition between the RR's to see which one offered the most opulant parlor car...some were quite fancy...eventually they were discontinued...I'm glad to see Amtrak revive this concept...as far as I know these are only available on the Coast Starlight...
       
      I was able to get in some "window time"...I was able to open the door window on the lower level and stick my head out, wearing safety glasses, and take photo's...this is not notmally allowed but we were the only people on the lower level until the train stopped in Oakland (it was non stop from LA to Oakland, stopping only for crew changes)...and when detraining I gave the car attendant a tip...
       

       
      This is the famous Tehachapi Loop...it's an "Alpha Loop" which means it crosses over itself (Omega Loops are open horsehoe loops do not cross over themselves). Here you see us heading westbound, with tanker cars on the upper portion where it has two tracks...
       
      My Canon digital SLR has a polarizing filter on it...this helps eliminate unwanted reflections and increases color saturation.
       
       

       
      Looking out the window...enjoying the view
       
      We had locomotives #4 and #117 on the head end...#4 is one of the first series of Amtrak P42 engines...
       
      #3
        BackRhodes

        • Total Posts: 652
        • Joined: 6/14/2011
        • Location: Mendocino County, CA
        Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/19/12 8:27 PM (permalink)
        californyguy
           WOW!congrats on getting lucky on your trip,,and  most of the food & that cheese tasting looks fantastic ,,I did not know Amtrak still had it in em !    

         
        It was better than expected...my primary reason was to log in very rare RR miles...
         
        I try to go the most luxery class possible, depending on my budget...while trying to save money by going coach, I don't regret upgrading to sleeper class. We didn't actuallly use the beds because we detrained in Davis around midnight...in Oakland a large family boarded, and set up the beds right away and put the children to sleep...
         
        You're going to see some changes at the Sacramento station as they make improvements...that's the good news. The bad news is that it will be a long hike from the station office to the platforms, with only 1 large tunnel according to the image I saw on www.trainorders.com  and part of the changes include moving some of the platforms so a new courthouse can be built...
         
        More good news: if you have time between trains you can wander over to the California RR Museum just south of the platforms...
         
         We detrained around midnight and it took 2 hours to get from Davis to Middletown via Hwy 128 because it was getting icy...my travel buddy's wife had a sleeping bag waiting for me, so I didn't get home until the next day...
        Check out the Amtrak webby site...probably have amenities you no longer expect...
         
        #4
          mar52

          • Total Posts: 7599
          • Joined: 4/17/2005
          • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
          Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/19/12 8:47 PM (permalink)
          Nice report.  Thank you for taking the time to map it.  I love traveling by train and haven't had a reason to do it.
           
          Scenery is a plus.
           
          Your blue detour route looks like it follows US Route 99.  Not much to look at on that one unless the flowers are in bloom.  Dining in the od car sounds like a great experience.
           
          Glad you enjoyed yourself.
           
          #5
            Tex-Max

            • Total Posts: 103
            • Joined: 12/15/2011
            • Location: Saratoga County, NY
            Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/20/12 12:28 AM (permalink)
            Great photos BackRhodes.  I have been on Club Cars on the train but have never seen a Parlor Car.  The wine, cheese, and rolling scenery sounds like a perfect winter afternoon. 
             
             
             
            #6
              Filetofish

              • Total Posts: 59
              • Joined: 11/29/2010
              • Location: Gloucester, MA
              Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/20/12 8:21 AM (permalink)
              Thanks for the review.
               
              #7
                Shara

                • Total Posts: 123
                • Joined: 8/25/2003
                • Location: Asheville, NC
                Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/20/12 1:34 PM (permalink)
                Thanks for this report: like the other poster said I didn't know Amtrack still had it in 'em! I've taken many two-day East Coast train trips (though not recently), but they were mostly nightmarish.
                 
                The last one  (in the 1990's) took 28 (shoulda been 18) hours  from New York to Orlando. A derailment on another track backed up the whole South, it seemed, and we sat and sat and had delays everywhere. Amtrack ran out of everything--they brought in lukewarm Popeye's chicken baskets and sold 'em at one point. Not good.
                 
                And I had three boys under 7 with me. Oy! So I don't have the best memories of Amtrack. I think their Eastern service in general pales to what they offer out West...
                 
                #8
                  californyguy

                  • Total Posts: 513
                  • Joined: 10/30/2002
                  • Location: sacramenty , CA
                  Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/20/12 1:49 PM (permalink)
                  thanks for adding to the report & great pictures.I used to commute from Sac to Martinez twice a week- nice ride , and for awhile they had some chef created decent food b ut they stopped that- enjoyed those trips though.Here is an article from todays Bee on changes at train station- hate to be pesemistic ,but I bet it will be a lot longer than they say
                  http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/20/4276328/amtrak-riders-must-walk-two-block.html
                  <message edited by californyguy on Mon, 02/20/12 1:50 PM>
                   
                  #9
                    Greymo

                    • Total Posts: 3663
                    • Joined: 11/30/2005
                    • Location: Marriottsville, MD
                    Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/20/12 2:22 PM (permalink)
                    I love train travel so I enjoyed  reading  about your trip very much.  Thank you.
                     
                    #10
                      BackRhodes

                      • Total Posts: 652
                      • Joined: 6/14/2011
                      • Location: Mendocino County, CA
                      Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 3:22 PM (permalink)
                      I can't speak to what the quality of service & scenery is "back east"...but anything west of Denver IS going to have great scenery...
                       
                      A polarizing filter gives the best results if taking pictures through a window...
                       
                      Yeah Mar, it was along Calif Hwy 99 from Bakersfield to Lathrop...There's another old Santa Fe track a litte to the east along Santa Fe Road, but that's used for frieghts...not much scenery unless you look at the Sierra's to the east, which were snow capped all the way due to recent storms...so that was where I amuzed myself at the open window, waving back to people that waved at me, and just enjoying the rush of wind on my face and hair...even with safety glasses your face gets peppered with fine grit, so you gotta really want it, to do it...this is what old time steam locomotive hogheads (engineers) experienced...it was dangerous, dirty, gritty work...
                       
                      I'd like to someday do a big loop...take the Antrak version of the CZ (California Zephyr) to Chicago, then tak ethe Empire builder to Sea-Tac, then the Coast Starlight to Davis (CA)...I'd also like to do the Super Chief run...
                       
                      Even though I'll still take my yearly RR safety exam and be qualified, I don't think I'm going to be doing active RR work anymore...it's very hard work and my old body is not as resilient as in the past...It's much less taxing on my body to be a passenger, take pictures, & flirt with the single ladies...and I have other interests besides RR'ing to keep me busy, such as my Homestead Radio Show...
                       
                      As good as the Pacific Parlor Car is...the ultimate experience are private luxery charters in restored rail cars...such as the very rare STEAM train from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon this spring... a photographers delight...for those with video cameras, the best place to position yourself is just past (street) grade crossings, because ALL trains are required to give 2 long, 1 short, and 1 long whistle (or horn) blast just prior to entering a grade crossing, which makes for exciting and nostaglic footage. This run will have TWO steam loco's on the front (and at least 1 diesel behind them to supply "head end power" [electricity] to the passenger cars)...
                      <message edited by BackRhodes on Wed, 02/22/12 3:42 PM>
                       
                      #11
                        billyboy

                        • Total Posts: 2363
                        • Joined: 1/23/2005
                        • Location: New York City, NY
                        Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 3:44 PM (permalink)
                        Thanks for the pics and the write-up, BackRhodes!  Not a part of the country I get to very often.  I take Amtrak frequently but it is usually from NYC to Boston or to Syracuse, NY.  Not too many scenic vistas on those routes.
                         
                        #12
                          ces1948

                          • Total Posts: 1499
                          • Joined: 8/6/2003
                          • Location: Port St Lucie, Fl
                          Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 4:08 PM (permalink)
                          Looks like you got pretty close to my old home town of Tulare, Ca but probably veered west of there after going close to Visalia. The tracks used to go directly through downtown Tulare along old hwy 99 but I heard they were taken up many years ago. We used to take the train from Tulare to Fresno for trips to the Zoo when I was in elementary school.
                          Your trip looks like a lot of fun.
                           
                          #13
                            easydoesit

                            • Total Posts: 470
                            • Joined: 6/20/2007
                            • Location: La Crosse, WI
                            Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 4:44 PM (permalink)
                            Nice narrative all the way. BackRhodes, not just here, I'm enjoying the Phillipe's thread too.
                             
                            I'm just curious (not nosy, I hope), being as you seem deep into the railroad life, what is that you will stay qualified for, Conductor?
                             
                            I'm asking because as a life-long (retired) rail, I have accumulated a few cards too, Track Safety for the section, and Conductor, and my favorite point of pride, a full-blown Engineer's card, and for road service, not just the yard.  That is not an easy thing to be good at.  But at least you sit in one spot in a warm cab.  But if your card is Conductor, like you said, it is murderous hard work, on freight trains anyway.
                             
                            Although those moderate temperatures you have there will hopefully make it more bearable.  Like, try snapping a hundred air hoses in northern Wisconsin at 200 AM on a February night at 20 below, when everything is too stiff to move.  
                             
                            I will never forget the time my engineer broke a knuckle on a set of coal empties during those same February nighttime conditions.  At least, thankfully, it was not too far back.  
                             
                            After I had changed out the knuckle and was back on the engine, sweating like a pig in spite of the cold temperatures, trying to get my breath back and settle my body down, Mr Hot Dog gives me a big smile, says "Here we go," and immediately broke in two again.  This time a drawbar!  That killed the trip, of course.     
                             
                            Ahhh, such fun memories.  I'm sure you have some too.
                             
                            #14
                              easydoesit

                              • Total Posts: 470
                              • Joined: 6/20/2007
                              • Location: La Crosse, WI
                              Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 4:50 PM (permalink)
                              To anyone who cares --
                               
                              I allowed myself to be indulgent on that last post.  It's not Roadfood!  I wondered if I should post it at all, but I'm thinking of recent remarks that posting are down, and that is a legitimate concern.  I want to keep this great place alive, and I am also interested in the railroad aspects of BackRhodes' posts, just because of my own life.
                               
                              So if it was wrong, OK.  If it was good, that's great.  If not appropriate, OK too.
                               
                              #15
                                BackRhodes

                                • Total Posts: 652
                                • Joined: 6/14/2011
                                • Location: Mendocino County, CA
                                Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 5:08 PM (permalink)
                                I'm Ok with it...what did you do for "beans"  (RR talk for food)
                                 
                                Brakeman...
                                 
                                If I was smarter and less hungry I'd have taken photo's of the food...next time I'll try to remember that photo's come before eating...
                                 
                                But it WAS the food that was the highlight...even the diner car food was good...
                                 
                                Union Station has been described as the last great RR station...and across the street is the Olvera St mercado.
                                 

                                This is the old ticket counter - no longer in service...

                                Just look at those heavy timbers...!!!

                                Exquisite tile work...

                                You just can't find workmanship and materials like this any more...
                                 
                                #16
                                  BackRhodes

                                  • Total Posts: 652
                                  • Joined: 6/14/2011
                                  • Location: Mendocino County, CA
                                  Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 5:25 PM (permalink)
                                  I've been offered Fireman (hogger trainee, which means I'd also have to train as conductor...new rules , you know)
                                   

                                  Union Station opened May 7th, 1939...I don't know the vintage of this fountain...

                                  Hungry and like Mexican food...???  Hang a right at this gazebo and you'll have several eating establishments to choose from at the Olvera St mercado. This area is dripping with history, including the oldest dwelling in "civilized" California...this was the destination of the Santa Fe Trail...for a long time it was just a sleepy pueblo...

                                  Tehachapi Pass is known for wind...a favorite of Gliders (soaring aircraft) and wind machines...the more the hot air rises in the Mojave Desert, th emore cooler air from the coast is drawn in, creating predictable west to east winds...

                                  These are huge...the blades are so large they can be brought in only on special railcars...
                                   
                                  #17
                                    easydoesit

                                    • Total Posts: 470
                                    • Joined: 6/20/2007
                                    • Location: La Crosse, WI
                                    Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 5:33 PM (permalink)
                                    Yes, and I do know about those special railcars -- I was involved with RICA (Railway Industrial Clearance Association, google 'em) for many years, as their Secretary/Treasurer, and at other times, as a Director.   Fun stuff, making those camels fit through the eye of those mountain needles. 
                                     
                                    #18
                                      chewingthefat

                                      • Total Posts: 6097
                                      • Joined: 11/22/2007
                                      • Location: Emmitsburg, Md.
                                      Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 5:46 PM (permalink)
                                      Great report, I love train travel. I've been cross country 3 times, Northern route once Southern route twice. First time 1957, I was 11, rode the Super Chief from Chicago to LA. Last time 1988, Chicago to Montana. amazing scenery, we have the most majestic beautiful Country on earth!
                                       
                                      #19
                                        BackRhodes

                                        • Total Posts: 652
                                        • Joined: 6/14/2011
                                        • Location: Mendocino County, CA
                                        Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Wed, 02/22/12 5:50 PM (permalink)
                                        The Pacific Parlor Car carries on the tradition of fine RR dining...such as on the CZ (California Zephyr)...
                                         
                                        Linen table clothes & napkins, & fresh cut flowers on every table...
                                         
                                        Santa Fe had flat glass windows on their dome cars, but the CZ had the more expensive curved tinted glass...
                                         
                                        Here is lunch in the CZ dome...note the flower vase and dishes all had CZ monograms...
                                         

                                         

                                         
                                        #20
                                          jaylhorner

                                          • Total Posts: 427
                                          • Joined: 10/4/2007
                                          • Location: Saratoga, NY
                                          Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Thu, 02/23/12 9:41 AM (permalink)
                                          billyboy


                                          Thanks for the pics and the write-up, BackRhodes!  Not a part of the country I get to very often.  I take Amtrak frequently but it is usually from NYC to Boston or to Syracuse, NY.  Not too many scenic vistas on those routes.

                                          "Not too many scenic vistas on those routes."   Hudson River ..... pretty good vistas. 
                                           
                                          #21
                                            Jim2903

                                            • Total Posts: 232
                                            • Joined: 7/27/2006
                                            • Location: Hoffman Estates, IL
                                            Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Thu, 02/23/12 9:59 AM (permalink)
                                            Great report -- thanks for sharing! I'm well acquainted with that stretch of Hwy 99 from my days covering the dairy industry as a trade journalist (cover retail grocery now).
                                             
                                            #22
                                              sk bob

                                              • Total Posts: 1801
                                              • Joined: 12/29/2005
                                              • Location: South Daytona, FL
                                              Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Sun, 02/26/12 9:49 PM (permalink)
                                              great job BackRhodes. thanks for taking us on the trip with you.
                                              great photos & commentary.
                                              is that you in the cowboy hat?
                                               
                                              #23
                                                BackRhodes

                                                • Total Posts: 652
                                                • Joined: 6/14/2011
                                                • Location: Mendocino County, CA
                                                Re:Amtrak Trip: Coast Starlight train #11 and #14 Mon, 02/27/12 1:10 AM (permalink)
                                                Yup...
                                                 
                                                #24
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