What Made the Coast Starlight Unique

In the Superliner era of Amtrak, the western long distant trains have all looked alike and offered pretty much the same service.

Over the years there have been a few tweaks, such as varying menu fare in the dining car by route, but otherwise there are no significant differences among the trains.

One exception has been the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight. During the 1990s a product line manager for Amtrak had former Santa Fe cars remodeled into the Pacific Parlour Cars that became the train’s signature service for sleeper class passengers.

In June 1999 I was at the Amtrak station in Sacramento, California, waiting for a excursion train to arrive that was being operated for members of the National Railway Historical Society. NRHS was holding its annual convention in Sacramento.

But the first order of business was the arrival of the southbound Coast Starlight. A few of us were standing near a doorway to the Pacific Parloir Car and we asked an Amtrak employee if we could go inside and take a look.

Sacramento is a service stop for Nos. 11 and 14 so we knew we had time. “Sure, come on up,” was the response.

So I got a glimpse inside something that made the Coast Starlight unique.

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