Pacific Railroad Society is selling tickets on excursions with ex-SP 4-6-2 2472, a round trip south from San Luis Obispo to Tangair on Saturday, May 6th, and one-way from San Luis Obispo to San Jose on Sunday, May 7th, 1994. We have elected to do both of these, traveling up to San Luis Obispo on the Saturday, on the Coast Starlight, and returning to LA on the Coast Starlight on Monday, May 8th.
This morning, we start our journey by driving to Glendale Station, where we board the Coast Starlight and find our private room (daytime occupancy of an Economy Sleeper). The weather for this whole three-day trip is clear and sunny, while the hillsides are still green from spring rains.
Coast Starlight Route Description
The train is approaching San Luis Obispo almost an hour late. We can hear on the scanner that the steam excursion is planning to leave on time (4 pm), before the train we’re on gets in. So, we notify the conductor, who radios to the other train, and they agree to exchange us and one other passenger with the same problem between trains at the south end of the double track (sidings) at San Luis Obispo. This is duly carried out, with us getting down onto the ballast between the trains, then walking to the steps of a car on the adjacent excursion train and climbing aboard.
Once on board, and safely seated next to one another on this quite full train, we’re greeted by Will Walters, who is the lead PRS person for this excursion, and settle down for the trip back to Tangair, on the line we just came up on. The train is turned on the wye at Tangair, near the north edge of Vandenberg Air Force Base, and returns to San Luis Obispo as darkness falls. Here, transportation is provided for the PRS group over to a motel on the edge of town, where we get dinner at a nearby restaurant and go to bed.
Southern Pacific 2472 is a class P-8 4-6-2 built in 1921 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. Originally assigned to passenger service over the Overland Route between Oakland and Ogden, UT, for many years it ran in commuter service on the San Francisco Peninsula until final dieselization of that service in 1957. After the locomotive sat in the San Mateo County Fairgrounds for almost twenty years, its present owners, the Golden Gate Railroad Museum, restored the locomotive to operable condition in time (just) for Railfair ‘91.
We’re just about the only PRS people heading north today (rather than driving back to Los Angeles), so we take a taxi back to the station to board our train, while Will and others head on up to Cuesta Grade to take photographs of the train as it passes on its uphill climb. After boarding, it rapidly becomes clear that there are very few people traveling on the return trip. (Apparently, the southbound excursion from San Jose to San Luis Obispo on Friday was much better patronized.) The car attendant, a 2472 restoration and maintenance volunteer, spends much of the trip bitching about her exclusion from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum’s Business Car, where the group leaders are riding in luxuriant exclusivity.
We stop in King City for an hour or so to service the locomotive. A number of people use the bathrooms at the Greyhound ‘depot’ during this time interval.. The excursion is in San Jose and concluded by mid afternoon. In San Jose, we take a taxi to the hotel we have picked from the AAA Tour Book. We watch Sunday Night Baseball, then go out to a restaurant for dinner.
We’re returning to Southern California the same way we came north. Again, we have taken daytime space in an Economy Sleeper for a private room on the way back. After calling Amtrak to find out how well the train is doing (it’s over an hour late), we decide we have time to eat breakfast before heading for the San Jose station. After breakfast, we checkout of the hotel and take a taxi over to the station. The train has maintained its previous level of tardiness, and is in the station ready for boarding not long after our arrival.
Arriving in Glendale, we walk to our car and drive home to Sierra Madre, where we arrive in time for a normal bedtime. In the morning, we’ll drive over to Hermosa Beach, to our weekday lodgings, and I’ll then drive to work in El Segundo.