The Coast Starlight [October 2000]
In October of 2000, I took a brief, one day trip up to Chemult, scouting for photo locations. Amtrak is
pretty useful for this kind of last minute travel, as they don't tend to "yield manage" as heavily
as the airlines. The Coast Starlight is supposedly Amtrak's premier
train, but in recent years it seems to have become a "fallen star", as amenities and
service have dropped off. The train is also know as the "Starlate", a tribute to its
tardiness along the former SP Cascade Line. Sometimes, the delay is Amtrak's fault, but
more often I've observed what could only be described as "creatively bad" dispatching along
the route. However, two things really make the Starlight stand out: sleeper passengers have
their own lounge car, the Pacific Parlor, rebuilt from former Santa Fe high level lounges. It's a great
place to enjoy a glass of wine and the spectacular scenery. The other plus is the food, which
is substantially better than on any other Amtrak long distance route. So, you might be late,
and a few things not quite right with your room, but you enjoy the ride and arrive well fed.
Seems like a good compromise to me.
|After boarding at night in San Jose, I bedded down somewhere around
Martinez. During the night, the CTC "code line" went out, and we had to
creep along north of Sacramento. As a result, we arrived in the daylight hours
||North of Mount Shasta, the line transits the high volcanic
region of northern California. A great place to view the scenery (and have a beer) is the
Pacific Parlor Car.
|Arriving in Klamath Falls, we changed crews and offloaded a
||"Now, y'all are sure you want to drop off here?" My skeptical car
attendant looked at the heat and desolation of the Chemult platform, and couldn't
figure out why anyone would want to stop here...
|On the return trip south, we stopped once again in Klamath Falls. Here we see
the changing of the engine crew.
||The Pacific Parlor Car, at night.
[October 2000][February 2001]