The Southwest Chief historic route was first traversed by the earliest Indians who first discovered its twists, turns and passes.
The Sleeping Car Attendant is responsible for providing all services for passengers ticketed in Sleeping Car accommodations, including room preparation, luggage service and any assistance necessary to ensure a comfortable journey.
The name Coast Starlight is derived from the names of two former Southern Pacific trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight.
by Jessica Harris
It was going to be a family gathering in Monterey, California. These affairs aren't always so joyous in my family so I decided I was going to have a good time getting there and back — I was taking Amtrak. It started out in Albuquerque, which I had to drive to because there's no passenger rail service in the Texas Panhandle where I live.
As soon as we boarded the Southwest Chief (which was right on schedule) we were shown our Sleeping Car (this is the best way to ride the train). My partner went to the Observation Car but I was happy to stay where I was and take a little nap before supper.
Supper was served through some very scenic views — everybody remembers how good the food is, but I always remember the views. There is nothing like watching the world go by as you eat.
The communities of Pueblo People went by us as we followed Interstate 40 (more or less) and then we pulled into Gallup, New Mexico — an interesting town on the edge of Indian Country. I noticed it had grown since I'd driven through just a few years back. I also noticed the sun was getting low and I started straining to get a glimpse of Mt. Humphries, which is visible long before there is any hint of the mountain town nestled at its feet.
We in fact pulled into Flagstaff, Arizona in the darkness and I got off for a few minutes to drink in the cold air that had thrilled me when I was a Phoenician. Then, back onboard, our beds pulled down by our Sleeping Car Attendant, I drifted off to sleep, lulled by the sound and movement of the train. I awoke once to see us crossing the mighty Colorado River into California.
A word about the Car Attendants — they are unfailingly kind and helpful, even to passengers who are less than polite. Our Attendant, Victor, surpassed the normal high standards we have come to expect. He was friendly and funny, and everyone in the car enjoyed him immensely.
We awoke as the train was pulling out of San Bernardino, loving the beauty of that valley. Breakfast came somewhere between Riverside and Fullerton, as the towns turned to city and the nearness of Los Angeles became apparent. And then, sooner than we knew, we were there at Union Station.
Los Angeles Union Station is a work of art — everywhere that these stations have been preserved people come just to admire them. This one is major. From the ceilings and walls to the chandeliers to the terra cotta tile floors, beautiful outside as well, this station is a marvel of architecture and interior design.
In a very short time we boarded the Coast Starlight, not knowing what a treat was in store. Although we would be leaving the train before bedtime, we got a sleeper anyway as I assumed I would need the privacy and quiet. But the Coast Starlight is packed with things to do — sleeping car passengers get complimentary champagne (from the California vineyards it passes through) and there is no way to sleep once the train moves through the beautiful Simi Valley and goes on to the Pacific Coast — miles and miles of mesmerizing ocean, then a chocolate and wine-tasting event in the parlor. There was barely time for a short nap before we were passing through Salinas, then before we were ready it was time to get off in San Jose.
The Coast Starlight continues onto Northern California, Oregon, Washington State and finally Vancouver, BC, Canada. One of these fine days I will get on that train in Los Angeles and take it all the way north and then turn around and come back.