Sunday, November 17, 2013

Aboard the Coast Starlight

Coast Starlight at Jack London Square in Oakland
I finally did it. A work function in Seattle required my attendance, and I booked the trip to Seattle on Amtrak's "Coast Starlight".

There was quite some mixed information I could find on the Internet. Some people wrote about the horrible delays. Some people wrote about their experiences with sleeping car accommodations and attendants. I really enjoy traveling by train, having done so multiple times in Germany. Nevertheless, I never took a long-distance train in the US, and was always curious about the experience.
Here we go. While writing this I'm sitting in the Willamette Parlour Car, and the train is slowly making its way through northern Santa Clara while I'm sipping on a Sierra Nevada. Finally, an opposing train clears the single track across the Bay towards Newark, and we're picking up speed.

I was quite excited when Patricia and the kids dropped me off at Diridon station. In fact, yes, I was nervous. I'm going to be on this train for the next 24 hours, and I really don't quite know what to expect. What people are going to be there? What about the staff? What about amenities? Do they have snacks?

My bed for the night.
The train arrived on time at San Jose. I boarded Sleeper car 1432, and the very friendly attendant directed me to another room than the one on the reservation, since that one was just vacated by passengers leaving the train in San Jose. "Room 7 is all set up for you and ready to go". Whatever, I don't mind. I dropped my bag in the Roomette. It's basically a two seat compartment that converts to two bunk beds. Not super roomy, but perfectly adequate private accomodations for a single traveler.  I took a stroll towards the dining car to orient myself. I notice hot water (coffee?) and fresh apples in every sleeper car. It appears the sleeper cars are coupled at the head-end of the train, while regular seating cars are in the rear. I opted to skip dinner since I already ate at home. The menu looks promising.

There seems to be a good mix of passengers on the train. Most of the younger people headed towards the rear of the train in San Jose, while I went with the more settled folks toward the front. The train -- and especially the dining cars -- is surprisingly non-crowded, though I think this is primarily due to my travel date in the middle of November.

--> Part 2

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