This travelogue only covers a few highlights on this particular journey from Oakland to Los Angeles, California, on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. I take this journey many times each year and have written extensive travelogues and taken numerous photos on prior journeys. To see those other travelogues and photos, click here.
YEAR MON DA DAY Actual-Departure-Time (Scheduled-Departure-Time) Time Zone
1999 AUG 26 THU 12:00 (09:15) AR Pacific Time CH 96 (161.550) Oakland CA
We had been keeping track of the status of this train using the Amtrak web site since about 6:30 A.M. this morning. Everything north of Marysville showed that the train had arrived 55 minutes late, but everything south of Marysville showed that the train was expected to arrive 55 minutes late. Even after 8 A.M., the system showed that the train was expected to arrive 55 minutes late into Sacramento at 7:05 A.M.! If the train had arrived into Sacramento and the station agent entered the arrival and departure times, the system should be saying "arrived 55 minutes late" instead of "is expected to" arrive 55 minutes late.
As it turns out, the train had actually made up most of the 55 minutes prior to Sacramento, was about to arrive into Sacramento about 5 minutes late, but ended up losing over two and a half hours due to Union Pacific track work just north of Sacramento. Thus, the train arrived into Oakland at 12 noon instead of 9:15 A.M. One thing Ray and I are sure of: Amtrak will be puting us on a bus from Los Angeles to Fullerton instead of a train! There is no way that they will hold the last San Diegan train for almost 3 hours to wait for the Coast Starlight! That is why I never purchase Business Class seats to connect to the southbound Coast Starlight. If they substitute a bus for the train, they still want to collect your tickets. Having paid extra for the Business Class, I refuse to turn over my tickets. I have never had to do so, but sometimes they have made me go into the station to exchange my tickets and get my refund plus a regular ticket for the bus.
Normally the 31 Car (Loading Number 1131) is 2 cars beyond the Pacific Parlour Car. Thus, Ray and I walked two cars beyond the Pacific Parlour Car to board our car. But, to our surprise, that car was number 1132! I was told that they found a problem with the coupler when they inspected the car. To avoid a safety problem enroute, they cut the car out of the consist and put it at the end of the train where there would not be another car attached to the defective coupler. So, Sleeping Car 1130 was now at the end of the train and our car 1131 was only one car away from the Pacific Parlour Car! We walked back and boarded that car.
Roan is our Car Attendant on this trip who I have heard is one of the top notch Car Attendants on the Coast Starlight. He has been described as looking just as fresh and friendly at the end of the journey as at the start of the journey, which is often no small feat!
The Pacific Parlour Car Attendant is Garrett Nelson, also one of the best staff members on the Coast Starlight!
1999 AUG 26 THU 12:28 PT CH 14 (160.320) MP 23.0 UP Detector 41 MPH
1999 AUG 26 THU 13:30 (10:31) DP Pacific Time CH 14 (160.320) San Jose CA
Shortly after leaving San Jose, the Conductor, John McCormick, came to our room and introduced himself to us. I think he had heard of TrainWeb before and was a bit curious. John McCormick has been with several railroads over his 31 years of service. Originally he worked with the Pennsylvania Railroad and the last railroad he worked on was the "T" in Boston, Massachusetts.
1999 AUG 26 THU 13:35 PT CH 14 (160.320) MP 51.6 UP Detector 60 Axles 51 MPH
1999 AUG 26 THU 13:43 Pacific Time CH 14 (160.320) South of San Jose CA
I heard a really strange sound come and go under the train. I said to Ray: "What was that?" The only previous experience I had with a sound like that was when I was on the Amtrak San Diegans and we hit a shopping car that someone threw onto the tracks. It got hung up under the train and kicked up the ballast making a racket under the train. This sounded very similar. It turned out that we hit and were dragging a mattress under the train! We stopped for about 5 minutes so the mattress could be removed.
The Chief made an announcement letting everyone know that the train ran over a mattress and box spring that someone had thrown onto the tracks. He let everyone know that was the reason for all the noise and why we stopped for five minutes.
1999 AUG 26 THU 14:23 Pacific Time CH 14 (160.320) Gilroy CA
The Chief of On-Board Services on this train is Jay Fountain. He is the Chief that helped to make the Pentrex video of the Coast Starlight. I asked him if he knew who would be the Chief on September 13, 1999 when Ray and I make our trip to take immersion photographs for Amtrak of the Coast Starlight. He told us that it would be Jerry Griffo who made the PBS videotape on the Coast Starlight.
Ray and I headed to the Pacific Parlour Car about 2 P.M. That is a good time to go to the Parlour Car to make sure that you have a seat. We looked for a table with an AC outlet and found that the middle table on the coast side had an outlet. I set up my computer, started working on my travelogue, and waited for the Champagne party to begin!
Joyce, a magician from Zebra entertainment came over and asked if I had been on the Coast Starlight yesterday since I looked familiar. Those of you reading this know that I was not on the Coast Starlight yesterday, but I've been on it many times and Joyce looked familiar from a previous journey on the Coast Starlight. She came over and did a few magic tricks for us. When she realized that several of them were familiar to us from previous journeys on the Coast Starlight, she showed us how she did a couple of them.
Joyce noticed that I was writing down the names of crew memebers. To help out, she sat down and started to write down the names that she knew. Garrett Nelson, the Attendant of the Pacific Parlour Car noticed her efforts and decided to pitch in with help on the names. Since he did know most of the staff, he was able to fill in all the blanks. Here they are:
The staff on this train is the most friendly and helpful that I think I have ever run into!
1999 AUG 26 THU 15:10 Pacific Time CH 14 (160.320) Salinas CA
I mentioned to Jay, the Chief of Onboard Services, that I assumed we would probably be taking a bus from Los Angeles to Fullerton since the Coast Starlight is running 3 hours late. Jay said to make that a "definitely" instead of a "probably"! I sort of knew that, but didn't want to say that.
Ray had enough time to get off the train for a few minutes and take a few photographs. This was an official smoking break.
There was an announcement that we would probably be delayed in Salinas for an extra hour because the brakes on the baggage car would not release. But, no sooner did they make that announcement that the train began to move! Evidently our Conductor, "Smooth Al", solved the problem and got the train on the way. We departed Salinas at 3:30 P.M.
1999 AUG 26 THU 17:31 Pacific Time CH 14 (160.320) Paso Robles CA
1999 AUG 26 THU 18:35 Pacific Time AR CH 96 (161.550) San Luis Obispo CA
Ray and I got a chance to get off the train at San Luis Obispo and wander around the station for a few minutes. This was an "official" smoking break.
1999 AUG 26 THU 18:45 Pacific Time DP CH 96 (161.550) San Luis Obispo CA
1999 AUG 26 THU 19:19 PT CH 96 (161.550) MP 269.7
1999 AUG 26 THU 21:20 Pacific Time AR CH 96 (161.550) Santa Barbara CA
Santa Barbara is another official smoking stop for the Coast Starlight!
1999 AUG 26 THU 21:35 Pacific Time DP CH 96 (161.550) Santa Barbara CA
1999 AUG 27 FRI 00:03 Pacific Time Arrival into Los Angeles (LAUS) CA
1999 AUG 27 FRI 00:45 Pacific Time Depart Los Angeles (LAUS) CA
1999 AUG 27 FRI 01:25 Pacific Time Arrival into Fullerton CA