The Grand Tour, Day One [15 January 2003]

I have always wanted to take a trip by train across the United States, to experience what it was like to travel coast-to-coast during the heyday of the passenger train. In January of 2003, a number of factors combined to make the trip possible. First, I had plenty of time on my hands, so taking a week off wasn't an issue. Second, Amtrak had deep discounts on most long distance trains, including sleeper space. And finally, Amtrak's future was somewhat uncertain in early 2003. For $550, I was able to make a reservation for a journey that would take me down the California Coast to Los Angeles, then over the Santa Fe trail, through Chicago, along the old Pennsylvania Railroad to the old Pennsy headquarters in Philadelphia, then sprinting at night along the Northeast Corridor to Boston. It was a chance to really see the country.

Bright and early on the morning of January 15th, my wife drove me down the hill to the Caltrain commuter station at Hillsdale. CDTX 917 arrives to take me down the Peninsula to San Jose.
While waiting over at San Jose, Amtrak California 2052 and Caltrain 913 strike a pose in the winter sunlight.
After a brief wait, Amtrak's southbound Coast Starlight pulls into San Jose, right on time. A good omen for this long journey I'm starting today.
Coming into San Luis Obispo, we meet the northbound Starlight The simultaneous arrival of two trains dramatically increases the level of activity at this small station.
As we pulled out of SLO, I was able to dash to the last car and get this departing shot out of the rear window. The absence of express boxcars has been a welcome change.
Between SLO and Santa Barbara, we exit the mountains and head for the coast, passing through a green and scenic Cuesta Grade. As the Starlight descends the grade, sharp curves cause the head end to bend into view.
We arrived on time into Los Angeles Union Station. The last of the great American train stations, LAUS was built in the 1930s, and reflects Hollywood's influence during the depression.

[Day One][Day Two][Day Three][Day Four][Day Five][Day Six]