Planes, Trains, and Even a Bomb Scare! My First Amtrak Experience


I like trains.  But given our anemic rail system here in the states there isn’t much opportunity on the west coast to get from point A to point B in any logical or efficient manner.  I had previously only taken trips in using the speed rail systems in Europe and Asia, so I was really excited when  friends suggested we take an overnight trip up the west coast on the Amtrak Coast Starlight route from Los Angeles to Seattle.  We could book sleeper cars using Ultimate Rewards points, get on in L.A. and get off 36 hours later in Seattle where we would overnight and fly home from there.

After a quick UR points transfer and call to reservations, I was all booked and we were ready to roll.

We arrived at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles with just enough time to enjoy the newly opened ‘elite’ lounge.  The lounge was comfortable, with a coffee machine and a few snacks and drinks.  Once our train was ready to board we were picked up and transported in golf carts by ‘red caps’ to our home for the next 36 hours.

Red Caps And Golf Carts

I had initially booked a ‘roomette,’ essentially a small private space on either side of the train with a sliding glass door and two seats facing each other.  Patrons use shared bathroom and shower facilities and the seats fold down at night into a single bed, with a bunk up top.  Very cozy indeed.  Redemption rate is 15,000 Amtrak points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards) and that covers up to two people.

My friends had booked a ‘bedroom’ and once I saw one, I immediately got on the phone with an agent to see If I could pay the extra 10,000 points to upgrade.  Bedrooms have private bathrooms and showers and a lot more room to move around.  A quick points transfer later, I had my new room assignment.

Bedroom With Private Bath And Room To Move Around
Ultra Small Bathroom Which Also Doubles As The Shower

Both sleeper classes come with all meals included and a small small amenity kit with single use shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap.  Bedrooms have a couch that converts into a double sleeper, and a bunk that folds out at night to sleep one additional person.  Up to three people can travel on this one 25,000 p0int award.  A great value if you don’t mind the close quarters.

Small Amenity Kit

We left on time and were quickly on our way through some of the most beautiful scenery the west coast has to offer.  The views are nice at 36,000 feet, but not this nice.

Stunning California Coastline

We continued through farmland, forests, animal pastures, beautiful mountain ranges, and even encountered some snow along the way.  Most of our daylight time was spent in the Parlour Car which had refreshments, comfortable lounge chairs, and huge picture windows that extended up the curvature of the car.

Views From The Parlour Car

There was also two dining cars, a small movie theater and a snack bar.   Plenty of space to spend time comfortably out of your room if you so desire.  Wine tasting was on offer both nights, with a selection of local wines and cheeses before dinner was served.

Dining Car

The meals were not spectacular, mostly pre-packaged and warmed up, but we certainly didn’t go hungry.  If you needed an extra snack between there was a snack window in one of the cars selling candy, chips soft drinks and other things to tide you over to the next meal.   There were also apples, oranges, bottled water and coffee available 24/7 in each sleeper car.

Brown Chicken Dinner

After dinner the first night, our cabin attendant Cheryl had turned down my bed with fresh linens in preparation for the night.  Aside from a bit of rocking and rolling and the train whistle blowing, I slept pretty soundly.  I awoke the next morning to this:

Sunrise Somewhere In The Oregon Countryside

The train made several stops along the way.  Most were only a few minutes, a couple were slightly longer, which allowed some time to walk around outside for a bit of fresh air.  Unfortunately, the quick stop we were meant to have in Eugene, Oregon  turned into three hours when a fellow passenger reported that she had overheard someone mention a bomb on board.  Thankfully, no bombs were found and after each car was thoroughly searched, we were given the all clear and were back on our way.

The Big Guns Checking The Train For Bombs

Even though we arrived two hours late, by the time we pulled in to Seattle, we were already planning our next train adventure!


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