The Coast Starlight Amtrak train runs from Seattle to Los Angeles and I joined it at Oakland Jack station on Tuesday morning. It was due to depart at 8:50 but the engine had to be changed at Sacramento so it arrived 2 h late. I catch the train to work everyday and usually a 10 minute delay annoys so me so much I’m on to Twitter quizzing and moaning at gner. But in this instance there was nowhere I needed to be and my hotel was just a crash pad and not destination, so I chilled out. I wandered to a local cafe for a bacon sandwich which had the most hideous artex ceiling- it was like a thousand Mr whippys, but the sandwich was good.
I think I prefer the USA train set up, although as a disclaimer I’ve never used a UK train for long distance. In the USA the tracks are at ground level and my train had two storeys. To board you have to climb up using a little step that gets put on the platform after the train has stopped. I booked my ticket online for a bargain cost of $49 and all my ticket said was 1 x reserved coach seat. However, once the train arrived the chief conductor asked my destination and directed me to the last coach as I was travelling to the end of the line. Each carriage has its own conductor who knows whose on board and assigns you a seat. Towards the front there are roomettes which have 2 seats that become beds, perhaps if I’d done the 35 h trip from Seattle to Los Angeles i’d of splashed out for one. I was happy with my seat though it was huge, had loads of leg room, leg supports and a foot rest.
Most of my day was spent in the observation car, it’s floor to ceiling glass and the seats face the windows. I loved being sat in there, everyone is happy because they love the train, the route journey and all of its views. People kept pointing out various sights and sharing facts they knew and we passed through vineyards, farms, mountains and ravines. At Salinas we were held up again as a car broke down on the track and near San Luis we passed a massive male prison in the middle of nowhere. During dinner I shot out of my seat to the other side to see the launch pad originally intended for the space shuttle in Lompoc.
For dinner I ate in the dining car, tables are for 4 people so you get sat with fellow passengers. Two were train regulars travelling to see family and the third was from Czech Republic, he’d just won a green card in the ballot and was moving to LA as he wanted to be a film director.
Post dinner I returned to my seat as the observation car windows had become dusty when we travelled through the mountains. As no-one was sat next to me I pulled up both foot rests and made a little nest and watched the sunset on the Pacific Ocean.
At 22:30 the train pulled into Los Angeles Union station, it was only 1.5 h late in the end. I had the most perfect day and was sorry to leave the train, it’s a journey I’ll never forget.
Photos can be found here