[I]t is conceivable that by 1970 one will not be able to circle the West by rail. The indispensable link, Southern Pacific's San Francisco - Portland Shasta Route is down to single-train service; and that schedule — the overnight Cascade — can scarcely escape the consequences of the company's belief that "the long-haul passenger train has outlived its usefulness."Those Turbos combined all the redeeming features of aircraft construction with fixed-formation consists. A few of the Corridor M.U.s remain as control cars for push-pull train sets, some powered by boxcab electric locomotives.
And when and if the passenger train does return, its format will not be recognizable. The airliner configuration of CN's Turbos and Pennsy's Corridor M.U.'s make no allowances for the trappings of old — for Pullman porters and table meals and drawing rooms and full-length lounges and shoe lockers and E units and all the other implications of the noun "limited." Thus it behooves us who recall and rejoice in the old order to renew acquaintance with the orthodox passenger train as often as we can ... while we can.
If you would seek the Vancouver, Wash. station, which is surrounded on all sides by track in a heavily industrialized area, this sign will point the way.
There may be no E units, but what I said.
Look carefully the next time you see a highway sign giving the location of a train station. There's nothing like a bulldog nose to announce a train.Instead of an electric M.U. or jet fuselages (or bus bodies) on rails, the Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle to Portland to Eugene corridor trains use the Talgo design that so intrigued Patrick McGinnis.
27 June 2010
The trains ordinarily have specially-painted diesels at each end. This Genesis unit looks a bit out of place. It was also on the point of the train I rode into Portland on the 28th. The fares are time-sensitive. I purchased a ticket TO Portland just before train time: $10. My return ticket, on the 6.15: $7. I asked the agent about the fares, he said there must not have been much advance demand for the return. I then asked to book my Portland ticket for the 29th to see if there was a cheaper rate. Yup: $9.
The trains are still the classic Talgo formation of lots of short cars articulated together. The interiors feature rotating bucket seats rather than the Spanish pattern facing pairs of seats that displeased Northeastern riders. The televisions give the train location and time to the next stop.
A few of the sections labelled coach have 2-1 seating. The automatic air-operated doors between cars make a fair amount of noise, and with the short cars, there is a lot of coming and going. While the doors are open, riders can hear the air-suspension bellows huffing and puffing. There's a lot of that on the curves at Vancouver.
Here's a going shot of the 6.15 ex-Portland after it has set down its relatively few Vancouver passengers and taken up a few more.
The Portland station is well-cared for, and it gets busy at train time. In the manner of many a traditional through station, passengers walk along a platform to a designated crossing area, and thence to the station. The platforming of trains so as to provide safe passage requires some thought. Milwaukee's two nineteenth-century stations offered the same challenges.
The sun continued to shine on my trip. The station is listed.
The passenger flow through the station put me in mind of London's Marylebone. No potted plants, fewer shops, and fewer trains. There was a full-service sundry shop where I purchased a Great Northern hat. As far as I know, no European station offers neon signage in this style. (It's different from the Illinois Central style at Memphis.)
Countdown shutters are useful.
28 July 2010
I did ask the station master's permission before taking these pictures. I saw Amtrak's new photography policy conspicuously displayed at several stations.
The Builder that left Chicago on June 27 was on time, or close to time, on Wednesday the 29th. The Red Lion, whether deliberately or not, assigned me a room with a great view of the river.
Talgo trains have an unusual boarding procedure, in which entraining Portland passengers check in and receive a seat assignment and a boarding pass that doubles as a seat check. At other stations, the conductor punches tickets as passengers board. (This has been a common practice elsewhere on Amtrak. Station dwell times are somewhat longer as all tickets are checked before passengers board.) The conductor at Vancouver teased me that I could "ride my bike" to Portland. (With a recovering arm and an Acela kit bag, I doubt it. But the Red Lion courtesy van will take guests to the end of the car line just across the river.)
The Talgo got me to Portland with ample time to stow that kit bag in the Metropolitan Lounge (something Mr Morgan didn't mention at Union Station or any of the other big city stations on his 1967 trip) and find lunch on the town.
Amtrak 11 Coast Starlight, Portland - Sacramento, 29 - 30 June 2010: Genesis diesels 136-192, baggage car 1247, transition sleeper 39019, sleepers 32044-32030-32051, Pacific Parlour Car 39973 Santa Lucia Highlands, diner 38058, Sightseer Lounge 33025, coaches 34029-34512-34018-31018-34508. Pullman porters? Each sleeper has a car attendant assigned, and the car attendant has a basket of champagne to hand out to passengers. Table meals? Included in sleeper fare (something Mr Morgan noted CNR doing in 1967) and on the Starlight, sleeper passengers can choose between the regular dining car menu or if they're adroit enough, special meals served in the Pacific Parlour Car. Drawing rooms? The across-the car family bedroom (Bedroom F, a mnemonic?) at one end of the lower level offers more space, and a shower. Full-length lounges? Southern Pacific had some single-level triple-unit kitchen-dormitory + diner + lounge cars offering 110 feet of passenger space. The Sightseer Lounge + diner + Pacific Parlour Car offer more passenger space, although the Parlour Car is for sleeper passengers only. (On the Starlight, a goodly number of well-off and possibly influential people were riding. Writers, artists, scholars, entrepreneurs. That's probably a Good Thing. There's something in catering to the first class trade.) Shoe lockers? Contemporary sleeper passengers are more likely, as I did, to bring only sneakers along. There's probably no interest in having dress shoes shined. E units? Only on the station signs. A multiple-engine platform for a genset, someday?
Leave Portland 2:25:05. Last call for lunch. Parlour Car steward taking reservations for wine tasting, $5 on the Starlight, was free on the Builder. Wisconsin cheapness wins. The Starlight has a special booklet detailing the train consist, which includes an arcade car (the baggage area of a coach converted with a few video games) and a movie theater downstairs in the Parlour Car, the menus for the dining car and Parlour Car (these are different in each direction and for each day of the trip) and the wines and cheeses (not Wisconsin, meh, same wines, pass) provided at the tasting event. Take siding at Gervais 3:18, 12 by with 11 cars 3:21, on move again 3:23; Salem 3:41 - 3:45.
Willamette University claims to be the oldest university on the Pacific Coast. This softball field looks like it's on the wrong side of the tracks, compared to Mary Bell Field. Time to walk the train.
The Santa Fe put a service counter on the lower level of its lounge cars. This has become the movie theater, with screenings as listed in the booklet.
Upstairs, a few large rotating seats, as ought be the case for a parlor car, some tables for groups, and tables for dining or for cards. The cash bar is at the far end.
I saw nothing on this car that looks like a food preparation area, perhaps the special meals, which are served on a different schedule from the dining car seatings, must be heated in the dining car, which has a full-length kitchen on the lower level.
Albany 4:15 - 4:19, Eugene 5:07 - 5:18, chance to hit the platform.
Superliner cars are taller than the Santa Fe high-levels that inspired them. The Pacific Parlour Cars are rebuilt from lounge cars, and are I believe the only former Santa Fe high-level cars still running.
A gentleman I struck up a conversation with in the parlor took this picture.
Eugene, Oregon, 29 June 2010
Beyond Eugene, the climb into the Shasta Range begins in earnest. The beginning of the trip follows the Willamette Reservoir, which, despite a protracted rainy season, is still low.
A dam or so further upstream, it looks full.
A sedan and a minivan tangled on Highway 54 close to the tracks, taking out a power pole, and both cars were close to the tracks, but not so close as to damage or block them. Dinner reservation for 7:30, fashionably late, encounter some O Scalers headed for the convention. Chemult 8:31 - 8:37, Klamath Falls 9:51 - 10:00. Bless me this is pleasant, riding on the rail. Bedtime. Car attendant knocks 5:00; Sacramento in half an hour. Arrive Sacramento 5:32. Plenty of time to hang out in station before Eleven leaves; grab a cup of coffee upstairs before detraining. Check luggage. Starbucks in station complex.
The Sacramento station is busier than Portland's, but not as tidy. Pigeons in and out of the open doors.
Mural commemorates the groundbreaking for the Pacific Railroad.
(to be continued)
1Volume 27, No. 9.