It was a perfect opportunity. When I had to go from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, it was a chance to for me to experience a new train ride; the historic and celebrated Amtrak Coast Starlight.
My one-night journey would depart from Union Station, in downtown Los Angeles. Opened in 1939, Union Station is a resplendent piece of architecture, with travertine marble walls, terra cotta floors and polished wood-beamed ceilings. It’s the largest train station west of the Mississippi.
Taxi stand is right in front of the entrance. Connecting motor coach transportation is reached through the garden patio.
Luggage loaded, it’s “All Aboard!”
On the double-decker trains, the roomettes do not have an en suite bathroom. There is one W/C upstairs for the roomette sleeper passengers and several, including two shower rooms, downstairs.
If your budget allows, this is the way to go, especially if it’s on a cross-country, two-night journey. The lower couch pulls out to nearly a double-bed size and there is also an upper bunk.
The en suite bathroom. SO convenient!
Here’s my short YouTube video tour of the Deluxe Sleeper. It’s the same Superliner, different train.
The route of the Coast Starlight hugs the California coastline for hours.
Settled in, I wander into the refurbished, first-class Pacific Parlour car to meet my fellow passengers. And it was getting close to lunch time, too.
Built in the 1960s, the Pacific Parlour Car is a throwback to the old Sante Fe trains. With cushioned swivel chairs, dining and a full bar with bartender, it’s the focal point of the journey. There are six of these vintage rail cars still in service.
By mid-afternoon, it’s time for the complimentary wine and cheese tasting. Local California, Oregon and Washington wineries are featured along with artisan cheeses, too.
All totaled, there were four wines to taste, an assortment of cheeses, crackers and even fruit.
Still thirsty, the bar is open!
Afterwards, the bar was open and reservations were taken for dinner. Parlour Car guests could choose to dine in that car or make reservations in the full-car diner, located a short walk from the Parlour Car but with more dining tables available.
My ears were popping as the Coast Starlight makes a gradual incline as we get closer to Oregon. Dinner in an hour.
Here’s a peek at the menu for the entire train trip.
Not that hungry? There’s a snack bar below the observation club car, available to all passengers.
Everyone has a place to relax and enjoy the view or get something to eat, no matter if you are in a coach seat or sleeping compartment.
Just enough time to hop off the train and stretch a bit before dinner. The weather is much cooler.
Atlantic salmon with rice pilaf and veggies. And wine. Again.
Gorgeous scenery to accompany a leisurely dinner.
Still too early to call it a night, I wandered down to the lower level of the Pacific Parlour Car to find a movie theater. This was a total surprise for me. After a few minutes, I climbed back up the steps to the upper level and to my roomette. Time to call it a night, especially since I knew I’d wake up early to look out the window and head back to the Parlour Car for breakfast.
Woke up to find snow! First time in two decades to see snow. We were still climbing into the mountains.
Scenery, scenery and more scenery. Then it was time to mix and mingle.
The second afternoon quickly passed and there was another wine and cheese party! A little less fancy than the previous day’s event, but a welcome diversion nonetheless.
Soon, I’d have to gather up my luggage and get ready to leave the train in Vancouver. Washington, not British Columbia, Canada. Turns out that Vancouver, Washington is much closer to the port on the Columbia River than the main station in Portland.
With a few minutes to spare, and in need of an ATM machine, I hopped off the train and toured the station. There was even a snack shop.
One last look at the Pacific Parlor Car.
Five minutes after departing Portland, the Coast Starlight arrived on-time at my station stop in Vancouver, Washington. From here, it was only a 15-minute taxi ride to the Red Lion Inn, for my pre-cruise night before boarding American Cruise Line’s Queen of the West in the morning.
Interesting Fact: Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is an historic train route, one that 1930s and 1940’s Hollywood celebrities would ride from Van Nuys to San Luis Obispo, California for a secret getaway to “San Simeon,” William Randolph Heart’s magnificent castle.
All told, we traveled 1,200 miles from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Washington in 30 hours. I slept, typed, photographed, wined and dined my way north, rested and ready for my next adventure.
For more information, go to Amtrak.com or phone 1-800-USA-RAIL.
All photos are mine except for the photo of the Vancouver station.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com and self-appointed “expert” on cruises, trains and solo travel. By sharing news and reviews plus my cruise and travel experiences, I hope to entertain, inform and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Be sure to enjoy a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.