Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Mar 21, 2016


In India, my wife, Kundan and I have travelled extensively by train. But, in the United States, we did so only once. And that was back in 1987, when we went from Boston to New York.

(Incidentally transporting 8.4 billion passengers annually, over its 71,000-mile track, Indian 

Railways is one of the world’s largest railway networks. Amtrak, on the other hand, carries 30.8 million passengers over its 21,300-mile track, according to Wikipedia).

So when the opportunity arose for us to go to the Bay Area in California on March 10, 2016, for a wedding, we decided to follow our neighbor-friend, Jim’s recommendation to travel by train. Jim’s information about travelling by Amtrak, and a chance to enjoy the scenery along the way, overcame my reluctance to spend 17 hours on this journey by train.

Kundan & Pritam at Salem, OR t]Train Station, on March 10, 2016

Jim was kind enough to transport us from our home to Amtrak station in Salem, by his car. He stayed with us until the train had started rolling. Kundan and I were very touched by his extraordinary help and gesture of caring.


We arrived at the station about 15 minutes before the train’s departure time of 3:37 p.m. It allowed me enough time to take a few pictures. Meanwhile, Jim off-loaded our luggage and got it checked in.

By the way, each passenger is allowed two check-in bags, and two carry-on items.

Checked in baggage can be reclaimed at your destination. But baggage can be checked-in only at some stations.

Salem Station

Salem Station is a masonry structure. It was built in 1918, and restored in 2000. In 2011, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Amtrak leases Salem Station from the Oregon Department of Transportation for $1 a year. Also Amtrak is responsible for its maintenance.

Salem, OR Train Station

Ticket Office is inside the building. Also there are restrooms, a water fountain, and a few benches for the convenience of passengers and people who come to see them off or receive them on their arrival.

Jim & Kundan at Ticket Office at Salem, OR Station

We were booked on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. And it was on time.

Coast Starlight Logo (Open Stock Photo)

It is hard to believe that once it had been dubbed “Star-late” because of its dismal two-percent on-time performance. But changes made since then had helped improve its on-time performance to 86 percent by 2008.

Coast Starlight at Salem, OR Station on March 10, 2016

Starting in 1973, Coast Starlight has been, every day linking 29 West Coast towns, from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA.

 In 1981, its Double-deck service was introduced.

Double Deck Coast Starlight at Salem Station on March 10, 2016

Sightseer Lounge Car

Its Sightseer Lounge Car has floor-to-ceiling windows making it easy for passengers to enjoy the passing scenery. Alcohol is served in the Lounge Car after dinner, but only until 10:00 p.m.

Sightseer Lounge Car

Dining Car

Complete meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Dining Car. Dinners are served in shifts starting around 5:00 p.m. Meals can also be delivered to passengers at their seats.

Dining Car 

The Cafe Bar offers a variety salads, snacks and desserts besides wines and beers.

Sleeping Car 

passengers receive complimentary meals (with the exception of alcohol), in the Dining Car.
They are required to use proper language, and have all articles of clothing all the time.

Roomette Lower Berth (Open Stock Photo)
Roomette Upper Berth (Open STock Photo)


Parlour Car

The train has a Parlor Car, which is used as a special lounge for sleeping car customers. It offers a reading library, games, movies and complimentary continental breakfast. Wines and hor d'houvers are featured during afternoon hospitality hours.

Parlour Car (Open Stock Photo)

Parlour Car (Open Stock Photo)

Coach Class

We were travelling Coach Class. Coach Car featured sealed transparent windows, a luggage rack for large items, and overhead shelves for smaller items.

Coach Class

Coach Class Seats

Our compartment

At Salem Station, we were directed to Coach No. 7, which had our preferred lower level seating.

Conductors Helping Passengers Board the Train at Salem Station

In our compartment there were 12 reclining seats. They were arranged in three rows of two-seat berths, on each side of an aisle.

Seats were wide, comfortable and with adequate leg-room. Each seat had adjustable leg and foot rests, a folding tray, and an overhead light, which could be turned on or off.

But the seats did not have seat-belts. Also they did not have armrests separating passengers in two-seat berths.

A sliding door separated seating area from the outside lobby. The lobby area had a staircase leading up to the upper deck, and luggage rack for carry-on items of the upper-deck passengers. Also there was an ice-cold water dispenser. Besides there were four restrooms.



One restroom was reserved for ladies. Another one was wheelchair-accessible.

Each of the other two restrooms had airplane-style facilities: a toilet, diaper-changing board,  and a washbasin with mirror. Besides, there were dispensers for soap, paper towels, and facial tissues. Also there were two portholes, one to discard used paper-towels and the second one for other toiletries.

One of the restrooms also had a separate area with a cushioned stool, apparently for resting and for changing clothes.


Our 12-seat compartment had only seven passengers. Besides us, all other passengers were goingto Sacramento. 

Some people in our compartment were helpful. One person offered to take our trash to the trash bin.

Passengers in our compartment included a retired professor and his wife. The professor was probably hard of hearing, since he talked aloud, even when conversing with his wife sitting next to him.

One passenger was returning home in Fresno, CA., after visiting with his daughter in Tacoma, WA. He was considering his daughter’s proposal for him to move to Washington State.

He had bad cough. He said he chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from years of smoking. But  he had quit smoking six-years ago.

Apparently, he had met the other gentlemen very recently, since he exchanged his contact information with them, only when the train was about to reach Sacramento, CA.

No smoking was permitted on the train. At certain stations, smokers were allowed to get off the train, to smoke, but only in designated areas. Use of marijuana is not permitted anywhere on the train or any of the Amtrak stations.


Over its 1,377-mile run, from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA, it connects 29 West Coast cities, and transports about 1,175 passengers every day.

Coast Starlight has a very scenic route. In Oregon, up to Eugene, both side of track were lined with smaller communities, verdant vista, and sheep & llama pastures.

Small Communities

Verdant Vistas
Sheep & Llamas

And near Eugene, OR, there was also graffiti.




For several miles, after Eugene there were stands of trees, hills and water-bodies. 


Hills & Water Bodies

The train passes by snow-covered mountains of the Cascade Range. But by the time we got there, it was already dark, and we could not see anything.

Probably, people travelling in the opposite direction, pass through the area in daytime. They may be more likely to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Cascade Range (Open Stock Photo)

In the dark of the night, Coast Starlight chugged along through Chemault, and Kalamath Falls in Oregon, and Dunsmuir, Chico and Redding in California. As the day was breaking, at 6:15 a.m., on March 11, 2016, we arrived at Sacramento, CA.

Conductors at Sacramento, CA Station

Everyone, except us, in our compartment left the train at Sacramento.

Only one lady boarded the train there to come to our compartment. Immediately she started complaining about the Amtrak officials, and threatened to have her attorney sue them.

From Sacramento the train proceeded to the Bicycle City of Davis,

Davis, CA

Oil refinery city of Martinez,

Martinez, CA (Open Stock Picture)

 and the Pixar Animation Studios city of Emeryville.

Pixar Animation Studios, Emeryville, CA (open Stock Picture)

Around 8:35 a.m., we arrived at our destination, Oakland Jack London Square.

Jack London Square, Oakland, CA

 Known for its sustainability practices, Oakland is a major port city in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Also it is one of the most ethnically diverse major U.S. cities.

Oakland, CA (Open Stock Picture)

Map of Oakland, CA

Train swung side-to-side as its wheels glided on the rails. Soon after leaving Salem, OR I gave up reading and working on my laptop, since the movements caused motion-sickness-like symptoms.

After arrival in San Ramon, CA, for several hours, l experienced the same side-t-side swinging movements, worked on my laptop, sitting our son, Snehal’s family dining table. 

Attended by about 150 guests, the wedding of our niece, Sheetal with Sattva, on March 19, 2016, was a 12-hour gala.  

Sattva (R) & Sheetal (L)

It was held under redwood trees, in the sylvan setting, at Deer Park Villa, in Fairfax, CA.

Outdoor Wedding Venue at Deer Park Villa, Fairfax, CA


The wedding will be a memorable event of our California visit.


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