The Coast Starlight leaves from Los Angeles at 10.15am. The train was packed with about 600 passengers, so it was full. The consist included 3 revenue sleeper cars, the restored Pacific Parlor car, dining car and cafe lounge, and 4 superliner cars, one with a video arcade. It's a class system on the train with the sleeper car passengers staying upfront, and the coach passengers staying in the back. In my next post, I'll tell you more about the on-train experience. In this post, I'll tell you more about the trip itself. Click on any image for a closer view.
From LA, the Coast Starlight runs through the San Fernando Valley over to the coast, and up past Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. Through this part of the trip, there are spectacular ocean views, and beautiful vistas of the rolling golden hills.
There were lots of people getting on and off at most stops. Although it tracks with highway 101 here and there, most of the time the train goes through roadless regions, farmland, and vineyards. It turns in through Salinas, arriving in the Bay Area (Oakland and Emeryville) around 10pm. There was a big transition at that point with lots of people getting off (particularly those who had joined in the central coast/Santa Barbara stations) and those getting on.
At this point we climbed into our bunks to go to sleep, and we didn't register the late night/early morning stops in Sacramento, Chico, Redding or Dunsmuir. We woke at dawn, looking out at a very different landscape of conifers and steep hills. We saw the sunrise behind Mt Shasta, which was spectacular, and then on up through the cascade range picking off one snow capped volcano after another.
There were lots of tunnels in this section towards the Cascade Summit, and snowsheds as well. In one spectacular section we did a 180° into the Williamette valley.
Then it was through central Oregon, with rural farmlands and covered bridges, before the final stretch into Portland. We disembarked into the wonderful old Portland Union Station.
This train is popular, and not just with people willing to spend on the sleeper accommodation. There were lots of people riding in coach class, and for many it's the only practical way into smaller towns (like San Luis Obispo CA, or Eugene OR). I had thought that some of these long distance trains are a bit of an anachronism, but it's clear they aren't, and for every casual tourist couple like us, there are many people relying on them for access.
By the way, we were on time or early into every station--beats my poor Surfliner, which is plagued with traffic delays!
Next time: life on board the train.