Train Dinner

First meal on Amtrak, brought to the room by Dan, the car attendant. With the exception of the sauce, I wolfed it, no pun intended. Train travel is hungry work, especially when you go REAL SLOW through these picturesque downtown areas of Central California coast and farm towns, and you see all of the cool eateries.

Note to self: always bring plenty of (healthy, protein-laden) foods on the train to supplement the meals. I did okay this time, but it never hurts, even on a trip as short as four hours.

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Southern Pacific Caboose

Superseded by advances in technology railroad management, the noble caboose no longer rides the rails in the United States. Southern Pacific 1886, shown here, has not only been saved from the scrappers by the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, they have completely restored her inside and out to a like-new condition.

Riding past this, I added the museum onto my bucket list.

Casmalia, a healing beauty

Just off of the Vandenberg Air Force Base reservation we turned inland and rode through this hidden valley of oaks and sycamores surrounded by rolling green hills. I’d never been through Casmalia, and it looked like a hidden gem.

But this beautiful place has a rough past. It had been a railroad boomtown when the Southern Pacific first came through, then an oil boomtown when the oilfields nearby were still producing. Finally, just over the hill in the background somebody opened a toxic waste dump in 1973 that wound up polluting the groundwater. The EPA shut the dump down and took it over in 1992 as a Superfund site, and the effort to remove some 4.6 billion pounds of toxic waste is still underway.

The town is starting to return to normal, but I can see a time in the future when, the ground water once again clean, more life will come to this beautiful little valley.

Sabbatical Day 7: Waiting for the Starlight

Standing on the platform of Oxnard Station on a cold January day, waiting for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to carry me to Portland.

I look up at Topa Topa and there is snow even on our local mountaintops. The Amtrak stationmaster, following my gaze and knowing the course of my journey, nods. “You will see plenty of snow on this trip,” she said.

“I know,” I replied with a smile. “Especially between Portland and Chicago.”

I can look at snow all day long if I am seeing it from out of a window of my warm train.

Sabbatical Reading: Train Training

Two things I have learned about traveling by train: a) passenger rail is different in every country; and b) traveling comfortably on a train is an art form.

I have never taken an overnight trip on Amtrak, but I have five nights entrained in the coming month, so I want to hack this ahead of time.

Jim Loomis is THE man when it comes to North American rail travel, and this quick but very thorough read was an immeasurable help in me getting ready for my train-ing.