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History of the Coast Starlight

 

Before Amtrak, travelers could not travel the length of the Pacific Coast without transferring between trains and various railroads.  Service from San Diego was provided by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.  The Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) operated the full-service Coast Daylight and the Lark service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  SP also operated the Cascade between Oakland and Portland.  Union Pacific, Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railroads provided service between Portland and Seattle.  In 1970, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad.

 

When Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971, a single route was formed to run between Los Angeles and Seattle (and for a short while, down to San Diego).  This unnamed, thrice-weekly was simply #11 going southbound and #12 going northbound.  A Los Angeles to Oakland train (#98 northbound and #99 southbound) supplemented this service.  Service was also provided between San Diego and Los Angeles (the San Diegan, now the Pacific Surfliner) and also between Portland and Seattle (Mount Rainier/Puget Sound, now Amtrak Cascades).

 

In the November 1971 timetable, the Los Angeles to Oakland train revived the Coast Daylight name and was also extended to San Diego under it’s new assigned numbers of #12 and #13.  The San Diego to Seattle train received its new name, the Coast Starlight, and became #11 and #14.  A few years later, the Coast Daylight merged with the Coast Starlight to become a daily train.  The San Diego to Los Angeles segment was later dropped, although for a few years in the min-1990s, the Coast Starlight sent two through-coach cars down to San Diego as #511, the last Pacific Surfliner of the night.  These cars returned the next morning and were re-coupled to #14 to continue to Seattle.

 

During the Summer of 2008, the Coast Starlight was re-launched with refurbished equipment, new amenities and a rejuvenated spirit.  The Pacific Parlour cars are unique to the Coast Starlight and offer first class passengers an alternative dining experience, espresso coffee service, domed views and an onboard movie theater.   Already one of Amtrak’s most popular routes, the re-launch has spurred a fifteen percent jump in ridership.

 

 

 

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