Long-distance trains travel as far as 2,800 miles and pass through as many as 12 states.
The name Coast Starlight is derived from the names of two former Southern Pacific trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight.
An Amtrak long-distance train typically consists of sleeper cars, coach cars, a diner car and/or a lounge car.
by Annette Berg
My grandson's long distance train tour started when I met him in Chicago at Union Station. We boarded the Southwest Chief from the Metropolitan Lounge where we had relaxed until train time. We were shown by Jose, our Sleeping Car Attendant, to our bedroom accommodations which were spacious and comfortable. Jose showed us all the features and explained that the Dining Car Attendant would be stopping by soon for our dinner reservations.
After a delicious dinner, we explored the train, then back to enjoy the scenes out our picture window. Bedtime brought Jose to make up our beds with grandson on the top bunk where he slept like a log.
Morning meant breakfast, then exploring where we found friends to chat with and play Nintendo with too. Mealtimes are always interesting with the community seating so you can meet new people and learn about their trips. After a full day of enjoying people and sights out the windows, we went to sleep while crossing the desert and awoke as we crossed the border into California.
We arrived in Los Angeles and were met by helpful staff, including Red Cap Alberto who took us into the station to the area set aside just for sleeping car passengers. We waited there while our Coast Starlight was prepared and brought into the station. When it was time, Alberto came back to pick us up and take us to the train. After boarding, we were met by our sleeping car attendant who also explained all about the train.
After lunch, where we met new friends, we went to the Parlour Car. I was able to hook up my laptop and check emails. We also checked out the movie playing downstairs. At dinner, my grandson was delighted to learn that he could order off the adult menu and get his salmon which he thoroughly enjoyed.
The bedrooms on the trains have several outlets so there was no problem charging up our electronics. The scenery on the Coast Starlight was absolutely beautiful, from the seeing the surfers in the ocean in the south to the towering pines in the Cascades. We arrived in Seattle early, in spite of leaving Los Angeles a little late. All in all, my grandson's first long distance train ride was very positive. He enjoyed meeting people, exploring the train and talking with the friendly staff.
After a 10 day stay in Seattle, I again boarded the Coast Starlight for Sacramento. Sacramento station has a beautiful mural of the ground-breaking for the transcontinental railroad. Nearby is Old Sacramento if you are up for a walk.
After boarding the California Zephyr for the rest of our train tour, we started our climb up the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with a delightful commentary all along the route through Donner Pass to Reno, some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. As we continued east, we were reminded as we retired to set our clocks and watches back since we would wake up in the Mountain time zone.
We awakened as we climbed through switchbacks to reach the summit of the Wasatch mountains, through canyons and the awesome sight of the Rocky Mountains which we traveled through all day, arriving in Denver after dinner. Unfortunately, due to the severe flooding in Iowa, we had to drop off some of our passengers in Omaha and detour on Union Pacific tracks the rest of the way to Chicago. However, in spite of the long ride (12+ hours) from Omaha without a fresh air break, the staff kept their smiles and good nature. When it was apparent that we would not be arriving in Chicago until after 9:00 pm, the dining car staff rustled up the delicious beef stew and rice along with fresh biscuits. The attendants all assisted to make sure that each and every passenger who desired a bowl of stew got one.
The professionalism exhibited by the staff of the #6 train arriving in Chicago on 8/12 is to be commended. Upon arrival, they did their utmost to see that those transferring passengers were taken care of and either directed to the awaiting Lakeshore Limited or to customer service. Thanks for making our Excellent Adventure a great trip.