In India, my wife, Kundan and I have travelled extensively by
train. But, in the United States, we did so only once. And that was back in
1987, when we went from Boston to New York.
Jim was kind enough to transport us from our home to Amtrak
station in Salem, by his car. He stayed with us until the train had started rolling.
Kundan and I were very touched by his extraordinary help and gesture of caring.
Ticket Office is inside the building. Also there are restrooms,
a water fountain, and a few benches for the convenience of passengers and
people who come to see them off or receive them on their arrival.
We were booked on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. And it was on
It is hard to believe that once it had been dubbed
“Star-late” because of its dismal two-percent on-time performance. But changes made
since then had helped improve its on-time performance to 86 percent by 2008.
Starting in 1973, Coast Starlight has been, every day linking
29 West Coast towns, from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA.
In 1981, its Double-deck
service was introduced.
Its Sightseer Lounge Car has floor-to-ceiling windows making it easy for passengers to enjoy the passing scenery. Alcohol is served in the Lounge Car after dinner, but only until 10:00 p.m.
|Sightseer Lounge Car|
Complete meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Dining Car. Dinners are served in shifts starting around 5:00 p.m. Meals can also be delivered to passengers at their seats.
|Dining Car |
Bar offers a variety salads, snacks and desserts besides wines and beers.
passengers receive complimentary meals (with the exception of alcohol), in the Dining Car.
They are required to use proper language, and have all articles of clothing all the time.
|Roomette Lower Berth (Open Stock Photo)|
|Roomette Upper Berth (Open STock Photo)|
The train has a Parlor Car, which is used as a special lounge for sleeping car customers. It offers a reading library, games, movies and complimentary continental breakfast. Wines and hor d'houvers are featured during afternoon hospitality hours.
|Parlour Car (Open Stock Photo)|
|Parlour Car (Open Stock Photo)|
We were travelling Coach Class. Coach Car featured sealed
transparent windows, a luggage rack for large items, and overhead shelves for
|Coach Class Seats|
At Salem Station, we were directed to Coach No. 7, which had
our preferred lower level seating.
|Conductors Helping Passengers Board the Train at Salem Station|
In our compartment there were 12 reclining seats. They were arranged in three rows of two-seat berths, on each side of an aisle.
Seats were wide, comfortable and with adequate leg-room. Each seat had adjustable leg and foot rests, a folding tray, and an overhead light, which could be turned on or off.
But the seats did not have seat-belts. Also they did not have armrests separating passengers in two-seat berths.
A sliding door separated seating area from the outside lobby. The lobby area had a staircase leading up to the upper deck, and luggage rack for carry-on items of the upper-deck passengers. Also there was an ice-cold water dispenser. Besides there were four restrooms.
One restroom was reserved for ladies. Another one was wheelchair-accessible.
Each of the other two restrooms
had airplane-style facilities: a toilet, diaper-changing board, and a washbasin with mirror. Besides, there
were dispensers for soap, paper towels, and facial tissues. Also there were two
portholes, one to discard used paper-towels and the second one for other toiletries.
One of the restrooms also had
a separate area with a cushioned stool, apparently for resting and for changing
Our 12-seat compartment had
only seven passengers. Besides us, all other passengers were goingto Sacramento.
Some people in our compartment were helpful. One person
offered to take our trash to the trash bin.
Passengers in our compartment
included a retired professor and his wife. The professor was
hard of hearing, since he talked aloud, even when conversing with his wife
sitting next to him.
One passenger was returning
home in Fresno, CA., after visiting with his daughter in Tacoma, WA. He was
considering his daughter’s proposal for him to move to Washington State.
He had bad cough. He said he chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease from years of smoking. But he had quit smoking six-years ago.
Apparently, he had met the
other gentlemen very recently, since he exchanged his contact information with
them, only when the train was about to reach Sacramento, CA.
No smoking was permitted on
the train. At certain stations, smokers were allowed to get off the train, to
smoke, but only in designated areas. Use of marijuana is not permitted anywhere
on the train or any of the Amtrak stations.
Over its 1,377-mile run, from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles,
CA, it connects 29 West Coast cities, and transports about 1,175 passengers
Coast Starlight has a very scenic route. In Oregon, up to
Eugene, both side of track were lined with smaller communities, verdant vista, and sheep & llama pastures.
|Sheep & Llamas|
And near Eugene, OR, there was also graffiti.
For several miles, after Eugene there were stands
of trees, hills and water-bodies.
|Hills & Water Bodies|
The train passes by snow-covered mountains of the Cascade
Range. But by the time we got there, it was already dark, and we could not see
Probably, people travelling in the opposite direction, pass
through the area in daytime. They may be more likely to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
|Cascade Range (Open Stock Photo)|
In the dark of the night, Coast Starlight chugged along
through Chemault, and Kalamath Falls in Oregon, and Dunsmuir, Chico and Redding
in California. As the day was breaking, at 6:15 a.m., on March 11, 2016, we
arrived at Sacramento, CA.
|Conductors at Sacramento, CA Station|
Everyone, except us, in our compartment left the train at
Only one lady boarded the train there to come to our
compartment. Immediately she started complaining about the Amtrak officials,
and threatened to have her attorney sue them.
From Sacramento the train proceeded to the Bicycle City of
Oil refinery city of Martinez,
|Martinez, CA (Open Stock Picture)|
and the Pixar Animation Studios city of Emeryville.
|Pixar Animation Studios, Emeryville, CA (open Stock Picture)|
Around 8:35 a.m., we arrived at our destination, Oakland
Jack London Square.
|Jack London Square, Oakland, CA|
Known for its sustainability practices, Oakland is a major port city in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Also it is one of the most ethnically diverse major U.S. cities.
|Oakland, CA (Open Stock Picture)|
|Map of Oakland, CA|
Train swung side-to-side as its
wheels glided on the rails. Soon after leaving Salem, OR I gave up reading and
working on my laptop, since the movements caused motion-sickness-like symptoms.
After arrival in San Ramon,
CA, for several hours, l experienced the same side-t-side swinging movements, worked
on my laptop, sitting our son, Snehal’s family dining table.
by about 150 guests, the wedding of our niece, Sheetal with Sattva, on March
19, 2016, was a 12-hour gala.
|Sattva (R) & Sheetal (L)|
held under redwood trees, in the sylvan setting, at Deer Park Villa, in
|Outdoor Wedding Venue at Deer Park Villa, Fairfax, CA|
wedding will be a memorable event of our California visit.