By the Coast Starlight: 39 hours from LA to Seattle

What it's like to take Amtrak's Coast Starlight from Southern California to Seattle, Washington.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Sleeper to Seattle

My journey began earlier, having to get the train to get here, LA's Union Station. It's the beginning of the Coast Starlight route to Seattle. 

For the full story, check out Sleeper to Seattle: 39 hours on Amtrak's Coast Starlight.

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Union Station

The main hall of Union Station is rather gorgeous. 

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One of the recently launched Siemens Chargers on the Pacific Surfliner route. We checked out this locomotive extensively at the unveiling

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Coast Starlight

The Coast Starlight is typically nine cars, or "coaches."

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Note the curved skylights. This must be the lounge car.

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Lead on

Up front is a 4,250hp GE P42DC, built in 2001.

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This GE Dash 8-32BWH dates from 1991. I believe it is only used for head-end power.

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Home sweet home

My Surfliner Bedroom, home for the next day and a half.

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Sleeps 2.5

The couch folds down into a repetitively wide bed. It could sleep two, if you don't mind getting cozy. An additional bed folds down (the flat surface at the top of the image). I had the cabin to myself, which was lovely.

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Hall with a view

A narrow fit, though that's true of most trains.

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Half and half

This is halfway down the coach with my cabin. On my right are stairs to the lower level and doors. Ahead are roomettes.

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I love these little roomettes. The seats convert to a bed, and another drops down from above.

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Dinner is served

The dining car. Reservations only, and you'll typically eat with others from the train. 

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Most of the route has only a single track, so occasionally you have to wait for another train to pass.

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For most of the first few hours, you head up the coast alongside the famous Rt 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway.

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A bit of rain as we continued up the coast. Most of this part of the route is also covered by the Pacific Surfliner. 

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Business class

After the dining car is business class. The seats looked pretty comfortable, but I'm not sure I'd want to spend all 30-plus hours in them. It seemed most people had both seats to themselves.

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Lounge car

Look at that! This was a great place to spend some time.

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Snacks and beverages beneath the lounge car.

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How far we've come

If you go all the way to the back of the train, you can look out at where you've been. 

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Don't worry, the weather got more interesting as we went further north. 

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Coach coaches

The coach seats aren't that much smaller than the business class seats. Out the window you can see one of the cop cars that the police used to haul away a rowdy passenger. 

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Rolling hills

California gets mighty green when we have rains.

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Somewhere halfway up the coast. This window added a lovely tint. 

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Decent variety, and even vegan options. 

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Surf and turf

This was, no caveats, excellent. The "Land & Sea" combo, of a Black Angus steak, crab cake and a Bernaise sauce. I had it for dinner both nights.

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Darkness falls

A few night owls in a quiet lounge car after midnight. At this point we were in Oakland.

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Locomotive in the night

Also waiting patiently in Oakland, Union Pacific's 7419. It's one of the incredibly common GE Evolution series locomotives.

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One of the larger, and cozier, beds I've slept in on a train. The cabin is also surprisingly quiet, far quieter than most overnight trains I've been on.

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I awake to the mountains of Northern California, dusted with snow.

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This is the Mt. Shasta area, which is surrounded by state and national forest.

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Sun and snow

This was definitely the most scenic section of our trip, with the weather cooperating right in time for some amazing views.

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And then the weather turned as we entered Oregon. 

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More exploring

As we entered our second night, I realized I hadn't fully explored the train. All the way forward was the baggage car, which was surprisingly empty. 

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I met a couple on the train who had never been to Portland. After the conductor claimed we had 30 minutes, we went to explore Union Station. Unfortunately we were called back after only 5 minutes.

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Hello, Seattle!

After nearly 39 hours, we arrive in Seattle. 

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King Street Station

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Cold and snow

Just my timing, arriving in Seattle during a particularly cold week. Fortunately, my hotel is right across the street.

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The view from my hotel room. Not bad at all. 

This was a delightful adventure. Read about all the details in Sleeper to Seattle: 39 hours on Amtrak's Coast Starlight.

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