Posted by: jsmcfadden | December 30, 2014

Train trip from SoCal back home

After a wonderful Christmas week with my parents and sister and her kids, and seeing John’s brother and family, as well, we headed home on the train. My thinking was we didn’t have to be anywhere, so delays — mentioned so often on Yelp! — wouldn’t cause us stress. And who wouldn’t want to take the Coast Starlight along the beautiful California shoreline?

The beauty started at the station, which in the clear morning looked rather like a movie set. Here’s what we saw looking back into the city from the entry way:

DSC_6385 adj palm trees











and then here’s the building signage:

DSC_6382 UNION station 1








The Art Deco theme is established! Inside, the space is tremendous. Here’s the old ticket counter with the morning sun coming through those gigantic windows. You can just imagine the ladies in their suits and hats and gloves, dressed up for traveling.

DSC_6375 old ticket counter with rope











The detail on the ceiling was impressive, too.

DSC_6377 ceiling beams












And just opposite, was the elegant door into the courtyard and the restaurant beyond.

DSC_6387 doorway
















Waiting area (John got a shot with a bird just posing on the armrest!):

DSC_6398 waiting room










And the two lovely courtyards where travelers could enjoy the Southern California sun while they waited for their trains to Denver or Chicago or New York City. Or even San Diego, though those trains go so often that there wouldn’t really be much time to sit and wait.

But isn’t this a calm and peaceful place? I  could imagine the passengers enjoying a moment of nature and wide space before they go into the train, that narrow and enclosed tube moving through the landscape. Just nice to breathe in some fresh morning air.

DSC_6400 adj courtyard

Notice the windows of the building in this photo. This courtyard is just behind that now-quiet old ticket counter space. I loved the shadows of the arching trees on the white stucco, filtering the sunlight onto that gleaming floor inside that we’d already admired.

DSC_6401 courtyard 2

[Having some trouble with spacing things so it looks the way I want it to. Probably the secret is to crop my photos a little larger so there’s no option of words to the left or right …]

Then we went in and followed signs to the place people with rooms or roommettes wait, a different lounge than the one pictured above, with a fancy name: Metropolitan Lounge.  I’m sure it makes boarding the train simpler and less difficult to group the folks, and I was eager to see this different waiting room. Here it is, upstairs and well-stocked with muffins, cookies, coffee, juice, and a TV.

DSC_6412 metropolitan lounge

It was nearly empty when we arrived, but filled up as other passengers arrived and got themselves a morning snack. Lots of luggage and several kids as well as dozens of adults who seemed to know what they were doing. We found out that the train was sold out, which explained the crowd.

Finally we were called to board the train, waited to reach our bags which were by now in the back of a large bunch, and then followed our attendant to the train. Through the station and down the passageway toward the tracks, then to the left and up a tunnel into the light of the SoCal sun. A huge train was to our left, nearly ready to pull out of the station. Our attendant told us our train would back in and we would be boarding in just a few minutes.

She was right, and we found our car — # 1431 — and then our roommette — 008, on the right side of the train. This meant our window would be facing inland rather than onto the ocean as we traveled north to Davis. We had a hard time imagining how our two bags would fit and then the nice couple across the walkway told us they just pulled down the upper berth a bit and stowed their bags up there. John figured out how to do that and got our two suitcases up there and out of sight. We got settled in our seats, the comfortable wide seats we remembered from our ride in coach up to Reno on the Snow Train.

photo (2)

So now we know we can’t really imagine a room when we think of the roommette. We need to imagine two facing chairs, with pillows and an outlet marked “for shavers only”,  plus a door which separates us from the aisle and curtains which let us have some privacy. It isn’t really space we reserved but privacy — and the meals, of course! Still, I was imagining our seats on the plane and being very glad we had more leg room, more room to each side, a huge window, and we could get up and walk around whenever we wanted!

We got settled into our seats. And then,

then we pulled out of the station.

departing station from phone


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