Quick Rail Trip to Sacramento
Travelogue and Photos by Steve Grande
Wednesday & Thursday, June 11 & 12, 1997
I took an unexpected rail trip from my home in Anaheim to Sacramento, California to meet with Dave Mangold, Vice-President of the Amtrak Historical Society on a brief pass that he was making through the area on his western rail journey.
On Saturday, June 7, 1997, I received a letter from David Mangold mentioning that he would be laying over in Sacramento for a few hours between the westbound California Zephyr Train #5 (scheduled in at 3:05pm) and the northbound Coast Starlight Train #14 (scheduled out at 11:42pm). This was sent to me by U.S.Mail since most originators of the Amtrak Historical Society are not yet online. Dave asked if I would try to reach Amtrak Historical Society members or potential members in that area that might be interested in helping to plan next years conference to be held in Jack London Square in Oakland, California May 1, 2 and 3, 1998.
I had Amtrak tickets in my possession that could take me from Santa Ana to Oakland, California that were about to expire on July 2, 1997. I had purchased these tickets in January 1997 when it cost just a couple dollars more to go round-trip than one-way. The new pricing for Amtrak West has reduced the price of one-way travel to exactly half the price of round-trip so it no longer makes sense to buy a round-trip ticket if you only plan to go one-way. The tickets were good for 3 people to go from Santa Ana to Oakland, but they wouldn't be of any value if I didn't use them before July 2nd. Since I had already used half the tickets in going from Oakland to Santa Ana, they no longer had any redemption value. I had just been looking for an excuse to use these tickets to travel back up to the San Francisco Bay Area and this was a great reason to use the tickets!
I tried to call Dave Mangold at home to let him know that I would be meeting him in Sacramento. Part of his letter indicated that he was thinking of going all the way to Oakland, but wasn't sure if that would be possible because of the short layover time in Oakland between the westbound California Zephyr and northbound Coast Starlight. I didn't want to be standing on the platform in Sacramento as Dave rolled through the station on his way to Oakland, so it was fairly important that I contact him before his arrival. I tried to call Dave on Sunay, June 8th, but he had already left on his journey and wasn't going to be reached easily for another week ... except to just try and catch him at the platform in Sacramento!
It was a bit of short notice, but I got the word out about Dave's stop in Sacramento to all the rail lists and people that I knew were living in that area. I wasn't too hopeful about getting many, actually about getting anyone, to show up on short notice. However, I did get positive feedback from Kirk Shneider of California Transit and John Raina of "East Bay Railroad Sightings." Kirk would come down from Davis on an earlier southbound Capitol and meet me when my train arrived in Martinez. John would come up from Oakland on the same California Zephyr Train #6 that Kirk and I would take up to Sacramento and we just planned to meet onboard. One more person, Bob, contacted me and said he would meet us in Sacramento. Bob knew both Kirk and John, I think, but Bob and I had never met and Kirk and John had never met each other before this meeting! I'll have to get Bob's last name as I didn't jot it down from this meeting. I didn't get confirmation from anyone else coming to meet Dave Mangold in Sacramento, but I had posted enough information so that anyone that wanted to join us would be able to find us.
So, I started my journey. I drove to Santa Ana and parked my van at that station. 72 hour parking is allowed without having to notify anyone. I expected to be back within 48 hours, so that was fine. Usually, I drive all the way to Bakersfield to avoid the bus ride. It only takes about two and one-half hours to drive from my house to Bakersfield where the bus takes four hours. This time, however, I was planning to return on the Coast Starlight. Having my van parked in Bakersfield wouldn't do me any good upon my return!
I was parked in Santa Ana at about midnight. I waited in my van until the bus arrived. The bus was arrived at about 12:45am, about 15 minutes late. That didn't matter as there is plenty of slack in the schedule. There were two other people waiting for the bus, but after a brief discussion with the bus driver, it was determined that they would be able to get much closer to their destination using Greyhound, which shares the same terminal in Santa Ana. They would just wait in the same place for a few more hours for the Greyhound bus to arrive.
There were only about 16 people on the bus. With a seating capacity of about 44, that meant that everyone could stretch out over 2 chairs. I've been on this bus when it has been filled to capacity on a Friday night, but weekday nights seem to be quite a bit more empty. My tickets had been issued to take a train from Fullerton to Los Angeles and then a bus from Los Angeles to Bakersfield. These are unreserved tickets good on almost any Amtrak bus or train between Fullerton and Bakersfield. Since this bus doesn't stop at Fullerton, the ticket is also good from Santa Ana, the nearest thruway Amtrak bus stop to Fullerton. The bus driver took both my ticket from Fullerton to Los Angeles and my ticket from Los Angeles to Bakersfield.
Our next stop was Los Angeles. We arrived about on time at 1:30 a.m. I must have dozed off several times during the ride to Los Angeles as I only remember a few landmarks along the way. Most of my entire bus ride was that way. I remember every major stop, but I can't remember much else. Time passes pretty quickly for me when I am dozzing off. That is fortunate as I find the ride between Los Angeles and Bakersfield pretty boring, especially in the dark.
We lost a couple and gained a couple of people in Los Angeles. If I hadn't already had a ticket for this bus in Santa Ana, I would have been able to board it anyway. In that case, I would have to get off in Los Angeles and purchase a ticket at the Los Angeles Amtrak Ticket window. I've had to do this before and have seen many others also do that.
All the previous times I had taken this bus were on Friday evenings where the bus was full by the time it left Los Angeles. Thus, on those other trips, the bus would head straight for Bakersfield non-stop. Since this bus was still pretty empty, it would make a couple more stops on the way to Bakersfield. These were in Glendale and Santa Clarita. As mentioned before, this bus will often go direct from Los Angeles to Bakersfield on Friday evening. There are other Amtrak thruway buses coming from other cities that stop at Los Angeles on their way to Bakersfield. Whichever one still has room is sent to stop at Glendale and Santa Clarita to pick up any passengers there on the way to Bakersfield.
Glendale is only a few miles from Los Angeles. We stopped there for about 5 minutes and picked up 2 more passengers. Immediately after leaving the Glendale Amtrak Station, we stopped at a 24 hour AM/PM market for 20 minutes. Many people got off the bus to get something to eat or drink. I purchased a cold drink in a bottle and brought it back on the bus with me. I bought a bottle rather than a can so I could re-seal the drink and put it into the seat back. We proceeded on to Santa Clarita. We stopped there for less than 5 minutes and didn't pick anyone up. I slept most of the way both before and after Santa Clarita. We finally arrived into Bakersfield at about 4:30 a.m.
The train backed into the platform at 4:45am and left the station like clockwork at 5:00am. I grabbed my favorite seat, one of the "single seats" on the Amtrak California Cars. I always take one of the two that is the farthest away from the Cafe Car, but not in the Cab Control Car. The Cab Control Car only has 2 of the "single seats" instead of 4 as the other California Coach Cars do. Also, the Cab Car often remains locked until there are so many passengers on the train that the additional car is needed. By sitting so far from the Cafe Car, I avoid the constant traffic of people going back and forth to the Cafe Car and the annoying noise of the open door between cars.
I put on my scanner earphone and tuned to the road channel used for the first segment of this journey. I must have fallen asleep pretty quick as the next thing I remember was the Conductor waking me and asking for my ticket. I gave him my ticket for Oakland, but told him to mark me down for Martinez on my seat check. I don't think he noticed that my ticket was actually good for 3 people and I was traveling alone! Martinez is the first stop on the San Joaquin line where I can change to a train heading for Sacramento. It would have been faster, but there is no way I was going to get off in Stockton and take the connecting Amtrak thruway bus to Sacramento. If there is a way to go by train, then that is the way I go, even if it is a bit longer.
I awoke sometime before 8am. I purchased a danish and a bloody-mary from the cafe car. A bloody-mary with breakfast is something I can seldom enjoy except when I travel by train. There is no need to worry about impaired driving when I'm going to use a train for all my travels! The train was about 30 minutes late into Martinez and arrived around 10:20am. Kirk Shneider had already arrived and was waiting for me. We hung around the station to watch the southbound Coast Starlight come through, also running late. It was being pulled by a freight engine which immediately explained its late arrival. One of the Coast Starlight locomotives must have failed along the way.
Kirk and I then went to a local diner around the corner. I just had coffee since I had already had a danish a short while before. Kirk ordered a breakfast as he hadn't eaten yet. As the day wore on, I regretted not having a more substantial breakfast myself. We didn't stop to eat again until quite late in the evening. We left when it was starting to get close to the time for our northbound California Zephyr Train #6 to arrive into Martinez at 11:53am.
The California Zephyr Train #6 arrived near its scheduled time. We boarded the train and immediately met John Raina who had come down to the vestibule to find us. On our way up to Sacramento, we used my cellular phone to check on the status of Train #5 and found that it was running 2 hours late. That would mean that Dave Mangold wouldn't be into Sacramento until after 5pm. This presented a bit of a problem. The last return train from Sacramento left at 5:45pm which would leave Kirk and John stranded if our meeting with Dave lasted any more than about 30 minutes. We had all come quite a way for just a 30 minute meeting!
Kirk came up with an idea that helped out. We got off in Davis where Kirk and his wife live and walked about a mile to get his car. We then drove up to the Sacramento Amtrak station which is only about 15 miles from Davis. John stayed on the train up to Sacramento to meet with Bob and anybody else that might show up to greet our arrival unexpectedly. We all managed to find each other in the Sacramento Amtrak station at about 3pm, including Bob who had driven there.
Having still a couple of hours to kill, we took a local transit bus over to the offices of the Modern Transit Society (MTS), publishers of "Moving People". We were immediately drafted in helping to stuff letters into their latest issue that was about to be mailed. So, we had a bit of a conversation about next years Amtrak Historical Society conference and other issues while we helped stuff newspapers. I noticed that this issue advertised their new web site at www.trainweb.com/mts and I was pleased to see that.
We still had a bit of a wait after that, so we boarded one of the Sacramento Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) and got a bit of a tour of that system. We arrived back at the Sacramento Amtrak Station in plenty of time before the California Zephyr Train #5 arrived.
The train arrived soon after we got into the station. We waited at the base of the tunnel under the tracks. Coach passengers would come down one ramp, sleeping car passengers down the other, but all would have to pass by us to get to the station. After almost everyone had come down the ramps and still no Dave, I was getting a bit concerned. I found it hard to believe that Dave would even attempt to go on to Oakland with the train being 2 hours late. That would give him less than an hour between his train and the northbound Coast Starlight.
I left the others to continue to guard the junction in the tunnel while I went up to the platform to investigate. Bob had already gone ahead of me, but he didn't know what Dave looked like. The platform was almost empty except for 3 people chatting way down at the front end of the train. This could be Dave, but I thought he was traveling alone. I continued to walk down the platform but wasn't able to confirm that it was Dave until I was practically on top of him. I guess I was expecting to find him wearing the "Amtrak Historical Society" baseball cap and T-shirt that he had at the convention.
Dave was surprised to find me at the platform to greet him as I had expected that he would be. He was traveling with two other railfans. I don't have a good memory for names or faces, but if I'm not mistaken, they were both named "Jason". The rest of our crew soon came up the platform and joined us and introductions were made all around. Dave and his travel companions are all railfans, so they were busy taking photos, examining the consist and writing down numbers. Hence, the reason why they hadn't come down the ramp even after everyone else had left the platform.
Kirk and John were much more familiar with the local terrain that I, so they discussed some ideas of where to photograph trains before the remaining light of the day was lost. Being in California, the conversation quickly turned to the Amtrak California Cars that usually aren't anywhere but in California. Dave asked if there would be a place where he could take a photograph of them. The timing of that question could not have been more perfect. I said: "Yes, there is one set in the station right now just on the other side of the California Zephyr that you just came off." Just then, the California Zephyr pulled out of the station and left us standing about 20 feet directly in front of the Amtrak Capitols California Car trainset! That was a pretty impressive entrance right after that question!
After taking some pictures of the California Cars, we headed over to Old Sacramento. The railroad museum was closed, but we got some ideas for the outings to accompany the next Amtrak Historical Society conference. There are quite a few railcars and other historical things outdoors to see in Old Sacramento even when the museum is closed. Thus, we examined and photographed a number of the railcars in the outdoor railyard. We also took a "self-guided" tour of the "Delta King", sister ship of the "Delta Queen" including some parts normally closed to the public. Can a "King" be a "sister"? I guess that works for ships.
While at the rear of the Delta King, another boat was waiting for the railroad bridge to open. The bridge was a turnstyle type of bridge and was the one used by all the Amtrak trains that stop in Sacramento. We waited to watch the bridge open, the boat to go through, and then the bridge to close. Many times this bridge has gotten stuck in the open position delaying all of the passenger and freight trains serving Sacramento for minutes or hours. It isn't common for the bridge to get stuck, but it does happen from time to time.
Using both Kirk's and Bob's cars, we drove to a number of places to take photos of trains. Very oddly, both Kirk and Bob were driving the exact same model cars that were also the exact same color! There was a one year difference in the cars, but any differences were not obvious. Thus, it seemed like we were in a convoy!
We stopped at a number of places to get photos of the Sacramento LRVs and some places where some good shots of the Amtrak California Cars of the Capitols were obtained. In this effort, we followed the tracks down to Davis and then took a number of photos of the Davis station. Dusk had finally set in and the opportunity of taking more photos had ended. We decided to got to a retaurant near the Davis station for some food and beer and to talk about ideas for the next conference of the Amtrak Historical Society.
The restaurant was right next to the railroad tracks, but all the freight trains were being held waiting for the Coast Starlight to get through. We called to check on the status of the Starlight so we would know how long we could spend in the restaurant. It turned out the Starlight was running over two and one-half hours late because of track work around San Luis Obispo. Thus, we had a lot of time available. The sun had just set and Dave's train wouldn't arrive into Sacramento until almost 2:30 am.
With the help of Kirk, John and Bob, we came up with a list of ideas for the 1998 Amtrak Historical Society conference. I'll be following up on helping to get things rolling over the next few months and the ideas and contacts of the others will go a long way to helping to make this one of the best conferences.
We then started talking about whether we needed to go back to Sacramento to catch the northbound Coast Starlight or could just catch it right in Davis. Most of Dave's luggage was in Kirk's car, but two pieces had got checked at the Sacramento station. If we could contact the Sacramento station and make sure that luggage was put on the train, then we wouldn't have to drive back to Sacramento.
We went to the Davis Amtrak Station where Kirk was known to the Amtrak Ticket Agent. He did everything he could to help out. Unfortunately, they could not find one of the bags in the checked luggage in Sacramento. Thus, Bob gave Dave and his traveling companions a ride back to Sacramento so they could find their luggage before boarding the Coast Starlight.
My travel plans at this point were a bit interesting if not a little bizzare. I had planned to return on the next southbound Coast Starlight, but that wasn't scheduled into Sacramento until about 6am in the morning. Even if both the northbound and southbound Coast Starlights were running on time, I knew that I would have 5 hours from the time Dave left until I'd have to head to the station. I really didn't want to pay for a whole day in a hotel for so few hours, but the Sacramento station is locked up at night.
Before I started on this whole journey, I had checked the schedules and found that the northbound and southbound Coast Starlights cross a bit north of Chico. I could take an inexpensive coach trip up to Chico and get to my bedroom on the Sleeping Car at 3:33am. I had already double checked and found no difference in the cost of the bedroom regardless of whether I boarded in Sacramento or Chico. The railfare from Chico was just a few dollars more than from Sacrameno. Thus, if I went up to Chico and changed trains there to head south, I could be in bed by 3:33am and sleep as much through the day as I wanted undisturbed .. and would save paying for a hotel room.
Unfortunately, the timing was exactly wrong. The northbound train was running 2 and 1/2 hours late while the southbound train was running only 20 minutes late. That would put me into Chico 10 minutes after the southbound train had already left! Thus, I decided to just take the northbound Coast Starlight up to Sacramento and spend about 3 hours in the hotel. That seemed a bit of a rip-off, but I didn't know anywhere that I could comfortably and safely spend 3 hours near the station. The Davis ticket agent was very helpful and got me a refund on my $22 ticket from Sacramento to Chico. Actually, don't ask me why, it is a long story, but I had accidentally purchased 2 tickets from Sacramento to Chico. Thus, I got a refund of $44. That helped to pay for some of the hotel stay, but not nearly all of it. John and I used a 50% off coupon that he had from the Jack London Square visitor directory to buy tickets for the short ride on the Coast Starlight from Davis to Sacramento. That came to all of $7.50 all toghether for the two of us. I think the calculation on that was $5 minimum Amtrak fare less the 50% discount on one of the passenger fares.
As we left the Coast Starlight in Sacramento we met up with Dave Mangold once again as he boarded the train. They had found the checked baggage and were all set to head out on the remainder of their journey. After the train left, we headed for the station. Going through the Sacramento is much shorter for getting across the street than attempting to go all the way around the building. The agent had just locked up and seemed to be upset that he had to open up to let us pass throught the station.
I checked into the Vagabond Motel that is right across from the station. This is where the crew from the northbound Coast Starlight, Conductors and Engineers, stay for the night. They get up in the morning to relieve the crew on the southbound Coast Starlight. There used to be a shortcut from the station to the hotel through a cut in the chain link fence around the station. After going through that cut, you then have to run across a wide street that merges into the interstate entrance ramp. This could be very dangerous during the day, but there isn't much traffic both late at night and early in the morning during the time the Coast Starlight stops in Sacramento. They seemed to have repaired the fence and thus made it a long walk to and from the far corner just to cross the street. I asked the desk clerk what time the Amtrak crew requested their wake up calls and I made mine for about the same time.
When I got up at about 5:45am, the first thing I did was call 1-800-USA-RAIL and check on the status of the southbound Coast Starlight. It was now running 2 hours late! I should have made one last check in Davis before cashing in my Sacramento to Chico tickets. If the train was already that late by then, I could have stuck with my original plans, saved staying the 3 hours in the hotel, and avoided aggravating my Sleeping Car Attendant who got up in the middle of the night to let me board in Chico, only to find that I didn't show up!
I could sleep for a couple more hours, but I didn't dare. I hadn't gotten a normal nights sleep the previous night because of my bus and train travel and I had only gotten 3 hours sleep this night. With that kind of sleep deficit, it would be possible for me to go back to sleep and not hear any alarms or wake-up calls 2 hours later. Normally, I can wake up without any alarm by just telling myself what time I need to get up ... but if I'm way behind on sleep, I can sleep through anything!
Thus, I got up and headed down to the station 2 hours early. The desk clerk was surprised to see me so soon after she had just checked me in a few hours before. I paid the bill and headed for the station. I managed to kill a couple of hours walking around the station and then wandering out to the platform.
They announced the Coast Starlight would be arriving soon and a lot of people came to the platform. In a few minutes, they announced something else that I couldn't here. I thought it was just a "final call" for the Coast Starlight, but a lot of people came to the platform, including a lot of people that went to the Sleeping Car boarding area. I thought that was strange as very few people take a Sleeping Car on a trip that has no further overnights. A Conductor was waiting on the platform also. Usually he would re-direct people to go to the correct end of the platform, thus I thought it was even stranger that so many would be at the Sleeping Car end. Then, a ticket agent drove out with the baggage carts to the platform. That only confirmed that it was the Coast Starlight that would be arriving as it is the only train at that hour that would have checked baggage. She also didn't attempt to tell anyone they were waiting at the wrong end of the platform. It seemed so strange! All indications from the announcments to the baggage carts indicated the Coast Starlight would be arriving next, yet there were loads of people waiting to board, including on the Sleeping Car end of the platform on a train without any further overnight travel!
Just then I heard the train horn, which was not a train horn from the Coast Starlight, and the second southbound Capitol train of the day pulled up to the platform! That explained all the people at the Sleeping Car end of the platform. They were boarding the Coach-only Capitol train! It seemed strange they would bring this train into the same platform on which the Coast Starlight had just been announced and which had been set up to load baggage and other passengers. The Capitol didn't stay long and was out of there pretty quickly.
A few minutes later, I heard a freight engine horn. Then, I saw the southbound Coast Starlight pull into the station with a freight engine in the lead! Evidently, a problem with the lead Genisis engine was the cause of the delay. Placing a slower accelerating freight engine to pull the train didn't help it make up any time either. I am starting to be concerned about these new Genisis locomotives. This was the second time in two days that I saw a Coast Starlight being pulled by a freight engine! Every time I see that happen, it reminds me of the book Zephyr - Tracking a Dream Across America by Henry Kisor. I'm sure whoever authorized the cover photo was a railfan, but I'm not sure how much of an Amtrak fan they are. It is a nice photo, but it doesn't say much of Amtrak to see their nice silver train with the red, white and blue stripes to be dragged around by a freight engine.
The Car Attendant took my ticket which was good. Usually you have to wait for the Conductor to come to your room to take your ticket. If the Diner has made last call for a meal, or it is the middle of the night, the Car Attendant will often take your ticket and give it to the Conductor. That way, you won't miss the meal, or have to wait up at night for the Conductor to get to you.
I did go to breakfast and had the "Coast Starlight Special" which was an omlete with peppers and onions along with toast, coffee and juice. The other two that joined me at my table were from coach. The lady across from me didn't seem unfriendly, but she brought a paperback and read through the meal. Thus, I couldn't really call her sociable either. The guy that sat next to me didn't say much either. I tried a few attempts at conversation, but they just lead to one word or short sentence replies at best. Thus, I just enjoyed the view and most of breakfast went by quietly.
On my way back to my room, I grabbed one of the many bottles of Spring Water that our car attendant had put out for his passengers. I could see I was going to like this Car Attendant as he kept coffee going all day long. I noticed the ice drawer was sealed with tape. I wondered what the problem was with that drawer but never got a chance to ask. He had my room set up with everything: schedule, route guide, safety guide, complimentary stationery, and the complimentery vanity basket of soaps, shampoo, etc. Even the evening mints that are usually placed on the pillow at night were there! He had told me that he had my bed all set up for me in Chico, but closed it up when I didn't show up.
I hung up my jacket and turned my scanner on low volume on the road channel used by that segment of track. I closed and locked the glass sliding door and the curtain. I made one seat in the room flat and reduced the angle of the other to almost flat. Thus, I had the chairs almost into the bed position, but left one propped up slightly. I didn't bother to bring down the matress, but I did bring down both pillows. I could have asked the Car Attendent to do all this for me, but I figured I put him through enough bother for one morning before I even boarded the train!
I fell asleep for a while. The next thing I remember was that we had already crossed the bridge just before Martinez and had just left the Martinez station. I don't remember anything again until we stopped in the Oakland yard. From the scanner, I heard they were going to change crews right there rather than wait until the train got all the way into the station. Once we arrived into Jack London Square I saw that"Cirque del Sol" had a big tent set up in the parking lot right across from the station. I got out and walked to the front of the train. The freight engine had been replaced by an engine from the Amtrak California Car sets. I'd never seen the Coast Starlight lead by one of those before. It would mean that we'd be able to accelerate faster and would probably make up some time. I took a picture of the front of the train and ran back to my Sleeping Car. I wasn't sure how much longer we'd stay here as I knew they'd want to cut it as short as possible to make up some time. The platform was already getting pretty empty.
I got out again in San Jose. A friend was suppose to meet me there and return a WebTV unit I had loaned him to investigate. The late arrival threw off his schedule and he didn't show up. Looks like I'll have to wait until I return again on the Fourth of July holiday to this area to get back the unit. My Dad keeps asking me why he keeps seeing this word "internet" everywhere and asks me to explain it. I try my best, but he doesn't seem to understand it. Have you ever tried to explain the word "television" to someone that doesn't know what it is? He asks me to use it in a sentence, but that doesn't help much at all! I figure the best way for me to get him to understand it is to show it to him. Since he doesn't have a PC, the next best thing would be to connect the WebTV unit to his television. That is why I'm so anxious to get this unit back. Then, I can show him TrainWeb and maybe he will then understand a little more about what I do.
Finally, I had no more plans for the rest of the way along this trip. Thus, I decided to catch up on some of that sleep I had missed over the last couple of days, but my pattern of dozing and waking pretty much continued for the rest of the journey. For those of you that are interested, I posted when I heard each detector at the bottom of this travelogue. Where you find gaps is where I either dozed off or went for dinner.
Since I had a late breakfast, I didn't bother with lunch. I did go to the champagne happy hour around 3 in the afternoon and had almost 3 glasses of champagne plus some cheese, crackers and fruit. The Pacific Parlor Car was almost full of people as the party had been announced in all of the sleeping cars over the P.A. system.
I made reservations for an early dinner at 5pm. The people I sat with seemed to have a quite a bit more knowledge of rail travel than those that I had breakfast with. A couple sat across from me. They had come off the California Zephyr and stayed in Sacramento for the night. We had a good conversation, but for the life of me, I can't recall much of it! I do remember that the man told his wife that the view of the ocean doesn't come up until Santa Barbara. I corrected him on that and let him know that we'll be by the ocean not too long after we leave San Luis Obispo and that we'll be right along side the ocean and cliffs for about 2 hours. But I did mention that he was correct that there are some addional views of the ocean also south of Santa Barbara. The dinner was excellent. I declined the desert and headed back to my room to enjoy (or sleep) the remainder of the trip.
After we left Glendale, the Car Attendant came by and gave me an Amtrak pen as a gift. This wasn't quite up to par with some of the nicer gifts that are often given out on the Coast Starlight, but I guess he can only give out what is supplied to him. I gave him a $5 tip which is what I usually tip per person per day for decent service. If you want to read a lengthy discource about my experiences and opinions of tipping on Amtrak, take a look at http://trainweb.com/travel/tipping.htm.
I then gathered up my things and waited for our arrival into Los Angeles. Once the train had stopped, I walked through the train to the Coach Cars. The Sleeping Cars are serviced in Los Angeles and don't travel any further south than this. Only the Coach Cars travel the remainder of the Coast Starlight trip from Los Angeles to San Diego. An announcement had been made for Sleeping Passengers to walk through the train to the last three Coach Cars that were continuing south. You can also get off the train, walk down the platform, and re-board the Coach Cars. I don't recommend that if you can avoid it. I've done that before. Sometimes you have to wait as much as 30 minutes before they will even board the Coach Cars and you then have to settle for whatever seats are remaining. We once did this on a cold dark evening in November where I think the Los Angeles temperatures were a record low. We were traveling with both our children and plenty of luggage. We waited out on the platform for over 30 minutes while all the checked baggage was loaded into the Coach/Baggage Car first. When we boarded, we got four of the last remaining seats. It was the first time I had ever seen a Superliner Coach Car traveling full of "standing room only" passengers! The bottom line is, its better to walk through the train to the Coach Cars then to get off the train and reboard.
The rest of the trip down to Santa Ana was uneventful. We left Los Angeles only about an hour late. There is actually a lot of padding built into the schedule, especially between Glendale and Los Angeles. When the Coast Starlight runs on time, it usually gets into Los Angeles very early. Then, there is a long wait in Los Angeles since the thru-coaches can't leave until 9:35pm.
Once we arrived into Santa Ana, I headed for my van which was right where I had left it less than 48 hours ago! It was almost midnight and the next Amtrak thru-way bus to Bakersfield would be arriving in less than an hour. From the station it took me about 20 minutes to drive home.
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