Saturday, 2 June 2012

San Jose to L.A. by train: The Coast Starlight

I like trains. They're comfortable and spacious, and they allow you to soak in the scenery as you travel. Sure, they're slow, but they give you the impression of actually traveling, and they allow you to psychologically adapt to your changing environment in a way that flying through a featureless sky over distant terrain simply does not. I had the option of flying to L.A., taking the bus, or taking the train. Sure, the train takes a staggering eleven hours to make the 550 km journey, but it passes through scenic territory and hugs the coast for a significant part of the journey, so the decision to burn a day on the train was pretty easy. The fact that the ticket was a reasonable $55 made the decision a little easier, too.

The train was pretty empty on the day I took it, and I spent most of my time on the observation car, which has huge windows and outward-facing seats. There was lots of space in the lounge car, but it probably wouldn't be so great if there were more people on the train. The windows of the passenger compartments are also heavily tinted, making it difficult to take decent pictures with good colour balance.

It's only about 550km between San Jose (where I caught the train) and L.A. as the crow flies, but the train ends up covering over 600 miles and the trip takes over 11 hours.

The observation car (from the Amtrak blog).

A strawberry farm near Salinas.

The front of the train as the track doubles back on itself.

The coast south of San Luis Obispo, along Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Heading East towards Santa Barbara

Farm near Oxnard
A suburban farm near Oxnard, in the twilight.

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