Amtrak’s Coast Starlight: America’s most beautiful train ride?

March 1, 2016

By Barry D. Wood, Special for USA TODAY

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Back in the 1940s, the Southern Pacific Railroad described its Coast Daylight between Los Angeles and San Francisco as “one of America’s most beautiful train rides.” It still is.Website Insert Choose Only One copy

Rebranded by Amtrak, the Coast Starlight leaves Union Station in Los Angeles at 10:10 each morning.  Two hours later near Santa Barbara and lasting for 100 miles the train scoots along bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.  Travelers are treated to stunning views — the sea on one side, the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other.

Traveling on a clear February morning, my recent journey was a wonderful reminder of the appeal of train travel.

My day began early, arriving at the remarkable Art Deco, mission-style Union Station in L.A. at 8 a.m. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief from Chicago had come in thirty minutes early and several of its passengers were already awaiting their connections.

As travelers on long distance Amtrak trains know, much of the enjoyment is the people you meet.

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