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Valentines Day

Romance of the Rails

Amtrak from Fullerton round-trip to San Luis Obispo, California, Carl and Sue Morrison

Click any picture for a larger version.

We left Fullerton Station, February 13, 1999.

In the Fullerton Sante Fe Station, the Overland Trail was part of the consist on a southbound San Diegan on its once-a-month round trip to San Diego. A ride on this private car might be our next train trip. You can read more about it at

We had tickets from Fullerton to L.A. where we boarded the "Coast Starlight" for San Luis Obispo.

In L.A., we stepped off the San Diegan and at the same platform was the Coast Starlight waiting for us.

The Coast Starlight consisted of Amtrak Genesis Engines 115 and 116, Experss Baggage 1701, Transition Sleeper 39010 (with a lower level entry on the front, and upper level entry on the back to match the adjoining cars. It is used as a crew car.), Sleepers "Ohio" 32103, and "New Hampshire" 32097, Pacific Parlour Car 39973, Diner 38057, Sightseeing Lounge 33031, Coaches 34131, 34504, 34103 and 34109 (labeled 1414, our car), a box car 70041, single-level coach and cafe cars.

On our way north, out of the station, we first passed the control tower for the yard.

We settled into our coach seats, on the preferred sea side of the car, in the upper level. As it turned out, we were between two escorted groups of which boarded legally, the other which simply followed their escort and took any seats on any car he decided. The Ast. Conductor, Lionel (no kidding) reprimanded the escort for 'again' boarding improperly. The whole car was for San Luis Obispo passengers only. Many people board and detrain in San Luis. In the station, one rental car, Thristy, maintains a direct phone for pickup. I went to get the rental car and Sue stayed at the station with the luggage.

Next to us a single traveler selected a seat. We invited him to lunch with us knowing seating was always with other passengers and we felt we might as well talke with this person at lunch as anyone.

As our lunchtime conversation revealed, he was Bill Clark, on his way to Grover Beach to visit a former "Little Brother" who was dying of cancer. He was picked up by his sister who also lived in Grover Beach. He was returning to L.A. the following day also, so we made plans to travel back down the coast together the following day.

North of Santa Barbara, the train goes along the coast for the longest ocean-view ride in the USA. Hwy. 101 goes on the inside of Vandenburg AFB, but the train goes outside. We were definitely close to the ocean the whole way. Picture taking through windows can be a challenge, but if you turn off the auto flash and hold the camera close to the window the photos might be acceptable.

Our destination was reached and we rented a Thrifty Rental car (they have a phone in the lobby and will pick you up and take you to your car.) Spent some time downtown and watched the beginning of the Mardi Gra Parade but tired of it soon and went to the Apple Farm for dinner and eventually to the Holiday Inn Express in Grover Beach.

We found the Monarch Butterfly Grove we'd visited on earlier trips to Pismo Beach

Sue was the first to spot a Monarch on the ground. Their winter residence here is supposed to be from November to February, but we noticed the visitor's center was saying Nov. to March. There were plenty of Monarchs here on Valentines Day.

Children, under careful eye of parents, were gently helping slow moving Monarchs.

One boy stood very still as a model after a Monarch landed on his pant leg.

Going into Pismo proper, we saw the town symbol...a clam. Nearby is a quilt shop Sue likes to visit.

We parked near the pier and walked to a few shops, including a beanie baby/taffy shop. Hey, this town has it all!

Farther north is Avila Beach, which we'd never visited. If you go there, go through the small town to Hanford Pier...where the action is.

A California brown pelican welcomed us as we started walking out onto the pier

Not much further was a gull.

The main attraction on Hanford Pier, for me, was lunch at the Olde Port Inn. Walk all the way to the end, through the fish packing facility, and on the very end is an excellent restaurant with a glass walled patio, still under the roof of the large building.

We weren't the only ones there for lunch. When the food came out, these guys all opened their wings and soared in formation until diving for handouts. While looking up to photograph them, I realized my greatest fear of being under sea gulls.

When dinner was served, seals, which we had heard barking as we walked on the pier, were the main benefactors of the fish processing facility. There were 3 seals at the time we were watching.

We made good time getting our car back to Thrifty and catching Amtrak Train 11, The Coast Starlight, back to Fullerton. The train was scheduled in from Seattle about 3:30 p.m. and actually got there about 3:55...very close by USA train standards.

Have you been clicking the small pictures to see a larger version? All photos have larger versions stored behind them. This page is the first one I've made where I took only a portion of the larger picture to make the thumbnail.

Onboard, The Tourist magazine was at each seat in coach. In the magazine was an ad for Workin' on the Coast Starlight, a video by Pentrex. When we got home, I ordered it and enjoyed watching it very much. Of course they produce many other videos.

Danger....Construction Zone!

Because the rest of the pictures of the trip are still in my camera, bookmark this site and return later for the rest of the story.


Thanks, Carl