I've always wanted to take the Coast Starlight somewhere. I look at Amtrak's Rail
Sale on their web site every once in a while, and they had a $35.60 fare each way
between Los Angeles and Seattle, so I decided it was time to make the trip. I could
have gone all the way to Seattle, but I thought Eugene would be just as interesting
but easier to see in a short time. So I bought a ticket to go north on August 12 and
south on August 14. The train was scheduled to arrive in Eugene around 1:00 Tuesday
afternoon and leave Eugene at 5:00 on Wednesday afternoon, getting me back to Union
Station sometime after 9:00 Thursday night.
The train had 4 locomotives, a baggage car or two, 3 sleeping cars, a "parlour car"
for the sleeper passengers, a dining car in the middle to keep the riff-raff in the
coaches from mingling with the upper classes in the sleepers, a lounge/observation
car, and 5 coach cars (each of which had 68 seats, nearly all of them filled). I was
in the middle coach car, which gave me a view of the front of the train on some of the
The lounge car has a snack bar downstairs as an alternative to the full meals in
the dining car. They show movies in the lounge car several times a day. There's a
VCR downstairs that feeds 2 TV sets upstairs, one at each end of the car. For some
reason they only have 2 movies they show over and over, on this trip "Showtime" and
I slept off and on from Emeryville, waking up when we stopped at
Sacramento, Chico, and Redding. The train was running so late at that point that
the sun was up by the time we went past Mount Shasta.
Nothing of much significance happened until we were about 2 hours from
Eugene, where we had to pull off onto a siding in the middle of the forest to let 2
uphill freight trains pass. The first one went by, and we continued to sit there.
Eventually they came on the paging system and said the second freight train had broken
down, and since it was a single-track section, we would have to sit there until they
got the freight train running again. They let us get off the train if we wanted to
(mainly for the benefit of the smokers), but it was in the 90s out there, so
most of us didn't stay out for long. After about 4 hours of sitting there,
they got the freight train running, and everybody on the train booed as it
We got into Eugene around 6:30, 5 1/2 hours late. It had gotten up to 104 in
Eugene that day, and it felt like it was still about 100 at 6:30. Kind of took
the fun out of being there, and it definitely took the fun out of walking (with my
backpack on) to the motel, which was over a mile from the Amtrak station.
When I got to the motel, the air conditioning in my room didn't work. It was bad
enough that they hadn't had it on all day to keep the room cool, but it only ran for
about 5 minutes, then the compressor shut off. 5 minutes of air conditioning didn't
even make a dent in the heat in that room, so I went back to the office and told them
my air conditioning wasn't working. The girl in the office thought she knew what the
problem was and tried a couple of things to fix it, but eventually she gave up and let
me move to another room. The second room was much nicer.
I got up early the next morning so I could beat as much of the heat as possible. I
went up to the top of Skinner Butte while it was still cool. Enjoyed the view, met a
friendly cat, saw a nice cobweb and passed the SMJ House on the way down.
Eugene has a really well thought-out bus system. All the buses begin and end their
routes at the Transit Center downtown, so it's possible to get from one place to
another anywhere in the city with a maximum of one transfer. And they allow enough
time between when the bus is supposed to return downtown and when it's supposed to
begin its next trip that they always run on schedule. The system's only weak point,
as I found out later that 100-degree day, is that the buses don't have air
I took the bus to Hendricks
Park, a mountain park in the middle of the city. Ran into 2 more friendly cats
I took another bus out Highway 99 toward Junction City, hoping it would be like San Fernando Road, but Eugene doesn't seem to have anything
like that anywhere. I walked back toward downtown, following the railroad as closely
as I could, and getting almost all the way back to the Amtrak station in time to see
the northbound Coast Starlight coming through (only an hour or two late today).
When I got back downtown, I took another bus out Coburg Road just to see what was
out there, but there was nothing I couldn't see in any other city in the country.
Carl's Jr., Albertson's, etc. So I took the bus back downtown, got something to eat,
and went to the Amtrak station to wait for the southbound Coast Starlight (which was
an hour late, of course).
The trip home was uneventful. We were running over 2 hours late at San Luis Obispo
and still over an hour and a half late at Santa Barbara, but they made most of that up
in the last 104 miles to Los Angeles, so we pulled into Union Station only about 40
minutes late. The train was rattling on that stretch like I hadn't heard before.
Overall, it was a worthwhile trip. Eugene is a nice city, and Amtrak is an interesting way to travel. The slowest way to travel (the Coast Starlight averages 40 miles per hour), but probably the most comfortable form of public transportation.