03 January 2013

Rail - A ride up the coast and back in time

The South Coast Railroad Museum (in Goleta, adjacent to Santa Barbara) is sponsoring an excursion on Saturday, 19 January 2013, from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo and back.

They are chartering two restored classic passenger club lounge cars which will be attached to regular Amtrak runs between Santa Barbara (SBA) and San Luis Obispo (SLO).  The train leaves SBA at 10:22 a.m., arrives in SLO at 1:00 p.m., and then leaves less than an hour later to return to SBA at 4:32 p.m.  (Passengers may also board and detrain in Goleta.)

The two cars are the Overland Trail (from Southern Pacific's Overland) and the Acoma (from the Santa Fe's Super Chief).  As I write this it appears that seats on the Acoma are sold out, but space remains on the Overland Trail, though it no doubt will sell out soon, too.

The cost of the excursion is noteworthy for its reasonable price: $79-86 roundtrip depending on which of the cars you book.  (The regular round-trip fare on Amtrak is only slightly less.)

Amtrak photo of Coast Starlight along the coast
The South Coast Railroad Museum operates this type of excursion often under the Central Coast Flyer name; two more are on tap for 16 February ("Sweetheart Special") and 23 March.  Check out their website for future trips if you would like to coordinate a trip to the area in conjunction with one of these excursions.  They also operate the Santa Barbara Vino Train, a round-trip day excursion from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara using the Overland Trail.

In case you are not aware, it is this portion of the route between Los Angeles and Seattle that puts the "Coast" in Amtrak's Coast Starlight.  From Santa Barbara to Grover Beach, most of the trackage is in sight of the ocean and includes beautiful vistas you'll never see otherwise, because U.S. 101 runs inland.  It's considered one of most scenic train rides in the world.

Useful links:
- Trains Magazine post about the excursion

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