As previously mentioned, I’ve wanted to take the California Zephyr to California for decades. I finally did it. It turned into an even larger excursion to make a loop, including three other train routes: The Coast Starlight, The Pacific Surfliner, and The Southwest Chief. (You can visit Amtrak’s web page for each route by clicking on the links.)
Here is a quick synopsis of the trip. I left Denver on the Zephyr to Emeryville, California where I stayed with friends for a few days of sight seeing. I departed on the Coast Starlight from Emeryville to Los Angeles, where I changed trains and continued my journey on the Pacific Surfliner to the San Diego area. I stayed with family for about 5 days. I took the train back up to L.A. and transferred to the Southwest Chief that would take me back east along a more southern route to Raton, New Mexico. From there, I took a dedicated Amtrak bus north to Denver — a complete loop.
I’ve got a bunch of photos, but in a lot of cases, the quality is not very good due to reflections off the window, or the window tinting interfering with the color, etc. Click on the photos for a larger view.
From front to rear, the train consisted of two locomotives, baggage car, a crew dorm, three coach cars, observation/lounge car, dining car, and two sleeper cars.
To learn more about sleeping accommodations, take Amtrak’s 3-D tour, here. There’s even a shower downstairs.
This was my first time sleeping in a bed on a train. It was surreal. The primary thing that kept me from sleeping better was my own excitement. I’d doze off and then wake-up and want to sit up and look out the window, wondering where we were.
The sounds were interesting. There was a whining in the rails that would change pitch. The car would sway up, down, back and forth, but not annoyingly so. It would actually rock me to sleep. I’d always wake-up when we stopped to let a freight train pass in the opposite direction because everything would suddenly get quiet. I was up, like a boy on Christmas morning, as soon as the sky lightened, watching the sage brush in the rising sun as we headed towards Reno, Nevada.
Being the geek and rail fan that I am, I brought along my GPS which would tell me where we were and how fast we were going, and my scanner radio so I could listen to radio communications with the train.
- Part 1: California Zephyr
- Part 2: California Zephyr
- Part 3: Bay Area
- Part 4: Coast Starlight
- Part 5: San Diego Area
- Part 6: Southwest Chief