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Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 6:25 am

Arrived at Seattle's shabby King Street Station at 6:30 for a 7:30 departure to Portland. Since I already had my ticket, and it has been a while since I had taken Amtrak, I waited around to see when we could begin checking in.

One of the interesting things about Amtrak is how much of their business is patterned after the airlines. The tickets are printed on an ATB printer, with reserved seats, business class, and everything. There's even a frequent traveller program, or you can get miles on Alaska Airlines. The only question was when to check in. I waited around a bit and saw an agent start to checking in passengers for the northbound train to Vancover BC. The agent said someone wiould be around soon, so a line started forming at the ajoining counter. I got on it and waited. About 7AM the conductor came out and began handing out seat assignments. Although the staff were friendly, I was not asked whether I wanted a window or an aisle. I was given a window seat in the first car of the train.

At 7:15, boarding commencecd and was fairly orderly. We were assigned seats by car and seat number, I found my seat quickly and settled in. The train is one of the new "Talgo" style trains which are sleek and comfortable on the inside.

The Airline similarities continue in the interior decor. There are aircraft-style seats which recline, a tray table and footrest, plus video screens in the ceiling with the rail equivielent of "Airshow", a facility for audio, and even a safety card. The cabin was clean, but no staff were in existence to help with boarding. We left on-time at 7:30 and once underway, there was even a safety video.

Once underway I headed for the Bistro car for breakfast. I had a breakfast bagel, orange juice and coffee for about $5.25-very reasonable. Once I returned to my seat, we were just about to pull into Tacoma where the train filled up completely. Once underway, a film was shown (Thomas and the Magic Railroad - pass). You could either use your own headphones off your Walkman for free, or you could buy a set for $4 which are yours to keep. I mostly read, looked out my window or listened to the 5 channel audio which was not extensive, but adequate.

The total trip was a little under 3 1/2 hours averaging about 80mph. The ride was remarkably smooth for a train, but you still had to brace yourself on the seatbacks as you moved through the car. We pulled into Portlan's Union Station about 7 minutes early. I only had a carry-on and so was out the door right away.

The next evening I made the return trip to Seattle at 6:15. Portland's Union Station has been impecibly restored with the large old wooden benches, ornate ceilings and wall murals of northwest scenes. The conductor came out and started checking people in 30 minutes before departure, with boarding at 6 PM and by 6:15 we were on our way.

The return trip was about the same as the trip down. I went back to the Bistro for dinner and had a bowl of Ivar's clam chowder (local delicacy), plus a smoked ham and cheese sandwich on black molasses bread plus a northwest Microbrew for $11.50. A little on the pricy side, but the food was all high quality and very good. I can't remember the film on the return journey but it was about high school cheerleaders attending a competition. I decided not to watch and kept reading.

We pulled into King Street Station at 9:45, right on time, and was quickly out the door.

Impressions: Very pleasant. The day trip was scenic, the food was good, if a little pricy for dinner, and the staff are frendly and helpful. The movies are a great idea. I'd do it again if the need arose.

Charles, S.J.
The customer isn't a moron, she is your wife -David Ogilvy

RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 11:36 am

That sounds like it was really fun. I would love to travel by train more often, but my faimly rarely does. What is a heck of alot cheaper to take the train, instend of flying? We dont have any passenger railroad up here, so it is difficult to travel by one. They way you described it made it sound alot like an airplane/airline, except alot slower! Oh, and i think the cheerleading movie you were talking about was "Bring it On" which i tought was a good movie. Well, thanks for the great report!


RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 12:41 pm

I just heard on City of Seattle television that the train is like $20 bucks either down to Portland or up to Vancouver. Thats cheap considering the Sounder commuter train (Tacoma-Seattle via Auburn) that passes through the same station is about $5 (which is still a LOT cheaper than downtown parking!).
By the way, whats wrong with King Street Station? I haven't been in there for a few years, but I don't ever remember it being "shabby"... you know its Venician...
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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 1:19 pm

I really have been wanting to take Amtrak from the East Coast to out West for a awhile now. Most people think I'm crazy because I can go anywhere on my carrier for completely free. But I just wanna see the scenery, and experience a train ride since my last one like 7 yrs. ago.

Does anyone recommend which Amtrak coast-to-coast routes are the best? My bet is the one that goes through Colorado, Utah and into the Bay area.

I love planes, but I also like train travel too!
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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 1:38 pm


My ticket cost me $58 round trip, but that's probably not the cheapest. Amtrak has excursion fares ala the airlines based upond day of the week, time of day, etc. Without checking you can probably get down and back for $30 if you book far enough in advance.

King Street Station needs a lot of work done to it. The exterior is Venitian (as was the interior at one time), but the inside is filthy, with fixtures that have been there since at least the early 80's (probably 70's). The original ornate ceiling has been covered up with a false fiberglass job, and the whole thing has the feel more of the Greyhound Bus station (now THAT'S shabby) than a train station. If you ever go to Portland, have a look at Union Station and you'll see what I mean.

BTW, there is a movement afoot to resotre King Street Station to it's original glory. There were signs up that appear to have been there for some time, but I don't know what the progress was. Probably still trying to raise funds..

Charles, SJ
The customer isn't a moron, she is your wife -David Ogilvy
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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Sun Jan 07, 2001 5:50 pm


In 1995, my family and I took a trian trip from LAX to ORD. We took the Desert Wind train. I really enjoyed it. If you want to go into the bay area, you will want to take Amtrak's california zephyer. It goes from ORD to OAK. I'm sorry for using airline codes, when we are talking about trains.

It was really neat going through the rockies. We arrive in SLC at 4:00am, and were in denver by the evening. We got to Denver on the 4th of July!   I watched some of the best fireworks from the lounge car, looking over to the baseball field. I remember waking up the next moring in the middle of Kansas.

If you have any specfic questions, please email me.
Also, did you get my last email?
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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Mon Jan 08, 2001 5:00 am

An effort is being made to restore King Street Station. I was there last summer, and it looked like some work was starting. I took the exact same trip you did (well, actually SJC-SEA on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, SEA-YVR on Horizon Air, YVR-SEA-PDX on the Talgos). From YVR-SEA, the dining car is functional, so you can have a sit-down meal, as opposed to just the Bistro Car. The train sets cannot be taking apart due to the location of wheels between cars, so the SEA-PDX route has a dining car too...it functions as just a nice quiet place to sit if the Bistro overflows.

We sat in the Business Class section, which is 2X1, as opposed to 2X2. The seats can rotate around so that they face each other, and there are power outlets at every row (believe this is true in coach also). Also, you get a voucher for a snack bar purchase and a complimentary newspaper. However, I think Coach is still a much better value. I recall that when I looked into fares, it was $44 round-trip in coach, as opposed to nearly twice that much for Business. This was per segment, not for the entire YVR-SEA-PDX trip.

The Talgos are limited to 79 mph currently, but track improvements, the addition of cab signals, and the adjustment of crossing sensors should help the trains move faster (eventually!).

RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Mon Jan 08, 2001 7:16 am

Oh... I haven't been in the station for a while, so I don't have any recollection of "shabbiness", but I don't doubt you... its not in the greatest part of town either.

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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Mon Jan 08, 2001 8:41 am

I would love to take the train again. I took it a long time ago, and I really enjoyed it. A nice little weekend trip to N ew York, would be great. At least your trains operated on time!!! 

« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Mon Jan 08, 2001 11:21 am

Sounds like a nice trip. It's nice to hear that Amtrak are updating their rolling stock and improving their service.

I haven't been on a Intercity or Interstate train in my own country for quite a while, but there are always plans being discussed in the media for ugrades to services and rolling stock.

I have wanted for a long time to do a long rail trip in the USA, probably L.A. or San Fran to Chicago or NYC. At one time Amtrak were offering special tickets in Oz (through Travel agents) where you had a certain amount of days travel, such as 30 days / 45 days etc (in different class configurations). Can't remember how expensive it was, but it was a lot cheaper than the equivalent eurail pass and probably a lot more fun!

Are there any "special" cross country services in the USA at the moment? Like the Eastern & Oriental ones?


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RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Mon Jan 08, 2001 1:53 pm

What a great trip report, and it was very helpful to me to read all of your posts. I just made reservations tonight for me and three of my friends to fly to Denver and take the Amtrak back to SLC. We are flying frontier. OK I really need some advice... What is the best way to get from D.I.A. to a decent hotel and then to the train station? Our flight gets in at 5:50pm, and the train leaves at 8:30 am. Does anyone know of any shuttles from the airport that would be cheaper than a cab? Or how much would a cab ride from DIA to the city cost? Any advice that you could give would be very helpful, like places to stay, eat, etc. Thanks in advance!

RE: Non-Av Trip Report: SEA-PDX On Amtrak

Tue Jan 09, 2001 4:11 am

woo hoo I LOVE train travel!!!

Airplanes don't have dining/bistro cars!!!

Southern California will get talgo train service soon on the run from L.A. to Las Vegas. The trainsets have already been purchased.

The Pacific Surfliners (formerly known as the San Diegans) are quite nice too. They run San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles-San Diego. They are bi-level cars and have in-seat audio and video entertainment in Business Class with at seat meal service in Business Class.

Next time try the Coast Starlight which runs Los Angeles-Seattle. It's Amtraks best train, and uses Superliner II bi-level equipment. Make sure you go First Class (First Class means sleeping car accomodations). First Class passengers have their own seperate lounge car, called the "Pacific Parlour Car". They show movies on the lower level. You will also receive all your meals (three meals a day) in the dining car included. In the lounge there are complimentary soft drinks, juices, and snacks, as well as wine, fruit and cheese. It isn't the Eastern & Oriental from Singapore to Bangkok (I WILL take that trip one day, it's on my list) but it's quite enjoyable.


LONG LIVE RAIL TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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