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The Coast Starlight is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on the West Coast of the United States. It runs from Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. The train was the first to offer direct service between the two cities. Its name is a combination of two Southern Pacific (SP) trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight. The train has operated continuously since Amtrak's formation in 1971. Unique among Amtrak's long-distance trains, the Coast Starlight featured a Hi-Level lounge for sleeping car passengers — the "Pacific Parlour Car" — which was discontinued in February 2018.

Coast Starlight
Coast Starlight passing Alviso Marina, December 2013.jpg
The southbound Coast Starlight in Alviso, California in 2013
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Operating
Locale Western United States, Pacific Coast
Predecessor Coast Daylight, Cascade
First service May 1, 1971
Current operator(s) Amtrak
Ridership 1,235 daily
450,929 total (FY15)[1]
Start Seattle, Washington
Stops 28
End Los Angeles, California
Distance travelled 1,377 mi (2,216 km)
Average journey time 34 hours, 44 minutes
Service frequency Daily each way
Train number(s) 11, 14
On-board services
Class(es) Sleeper Service, Business Class and Coach Class
Disabled access Train lower level and all stations accessible
Seating arrangements Superliner Reserved Coach Seat (upper and lower level)
Business Class Seat
Sleeping arrangements Superliner Roomette (2 beds)
Superliner Family Bedroom (4 beds)
Superliner Bedroom (2 beds)
Superliner Bedroom Suite (4 beds)
Superliner Accessible Bedroom (2 beds)
Catering facilities Dining car
Pacific Parlour Car (Sleeping Car passengers only)
Observation facilities Sightseer Lounge Car
Entertainment facilities Movies and wine tasting in the Pacific Parlour Car (Sleeping Car passengers only)
Baggage facilities Checked baggage available at selected stations
Rolling stock GE P42DC diesel locomotive
Superliner car
Budd Company Hi-Level Pacific Parlour Heritage car
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed 79 mph (127 km/h) (top)
39.7 mph (63.9 km/h) (average)
Track owner(s) BNSF, UP, and SCRRA




Before the formation of Amtrak, no one passenger train ran the length of the West Coast. The closest equivalent was Southern Pacific's West Coast, which ran via the San Joaquin Valley from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, with through cars to Seattle via the Great Northern Railway.[2] SP operated the Coast Daylight between Los Angeles and San Francisco and the Cascade between Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon. SP also ran overnight trains between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area – the all-sleeping car Lark on the coast route and the mixed coach and Pullman Owl on the San Joaquin Valley line. Service from Portland north to Seattle was provided by Union Pacific, Northern Pacific Railway or Great Northern Railway. In 1970, Great Northern and Northern Pacific were merged into Burlington Northern Railroad, which continued to provide service. Santa Fe's San Diegan ran south from Los Angeles to San Diego.


Ex-Southern Pacific locomotives hauling the Coast Starlight in February 1972, before the rolling stock was repainted in Amtrak livery
The Coast Starlight in the Cuesta Hills above San Luis Obispo in 1985

With the start of Amtrak operations on May 1, 1971 a single train began running between Seattle and San Diego. The unnamed train ran three days a week; on the other four days (northbound Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; southbound Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) another unnamed train ran between Oakland and Los Angeles (initially 98 northbound and 99 southbound). On November 14 Amtrak officially dubbed this dual operation as Coast Daylight-Starlight and extended the former Coast Daylight's southern terminus from Los Angeles to San Diego. The Los Angeles–San Diego through-running ended with the June 11, 1972 timetable change, replaced by a third San Diegan.[3] In June 1973 Amtrak began running the combined Coast Daylight-Starlight daily. Positive response led to Amtrak to retain this service, and the Coast Daylight name was dropped on May 19, 1974.[4] An additional train, the Spirit of California, ran the section of the route between Sacramento and Los Angeles on an overnight schedule from October 25, 1981 to September 30, 1983.[5]

With the November 10, 1996 timetable change, Amtrak added through coaches between Seattle and San Diego attached to the last Amtrak San Diegan train of the evening (#511).[6] They were coupled onto the first morning train back to Los Angeles where they were re-coupled to the Coast Starlight to Seattle.[7] This was discontinued with the October 26, 1997 timetable change because of train 11's poor timekeeping. Instead, if train 11 arrives at Los Angeles prior to the final Pacific Surfliner departure, through passengers to Orange County and San Diego board the connecting Surfliner train; otherwise passengers board a bus. (This option occurs more often than the train).

Ridership declined by 26% between 1999–2005 as freight congestion and track maintenance on the Union Pacific Railroad reduced the Coast Starlight's on-time performance to 2%, which Amtrak characterized as "dismal." By mid-summer in 2006 delays of 5–11 hours were common. Critics dubbed the train the Star-late.[8] During early summer 2008, the Coast Starlight was relaunched with new amenities and refurbished equipment. In July 2008, refurbished Pacific Parlour cars returned to service as part of the relaunch. This was much anticipated, due to the success of Amtrak's relaunches of the Empire Builder. Between FY2008 and FY2009, ridership on the Coast Starlight jumped 15% from 353,657 passengers to 406,398 passengers.[citation needed] Operating conditions on the UP improved as well; by May 2008 on-time performance had jumped to 86%.[9]

Service was suspended north of Sacramento for a month in 2017 after a freight derailment damaged a bridge near Mount Shasta, California.[10]


During Season 9 of Reading Rainbow in 1991, the Coast Starlight was used in several segments in the episode "Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express". One of the segments included the host, LeVar Burton, exploring the Coast Starlight, introducing viewers to an engineer, and showing a history of trains.


Amtrak Coast Starlight (interactive map)

Except for two sections, most of the Coast Starlight route is on former Southern Pacific lines now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. Until April 25, 1982, the Coast Starlight used the SP West Valley Line between Tehama and Davis, California — with a stop in Orland — bypassing Sacramento. The Coast Starlight was rerouted to the line between Tehama and Roseville, east of Sacramento, via Chico.[11] In southern California, the Starlight's stop in Glendale was replaced by a stop in Van Nuys.

The Coast Starlight runs over the following lines:[12]

The route also passes directly on Vandenberg Air Force Base property next to the ULA and SpaceX launch pads, both visible to passengers aboard the train.


Sample Consist
September 1, 2018
Location Oakland, California
Train Amtrak #14
  • GE P42DC #132
  • GE P32-8 #507
  • Viewliner II Baggage #61049
  • Superliner Transition Sleeper #39043
  • Superliner Sleeper #32111
  • Superliner Sleeper #32001
  • Superliner Sleeper #32042
  • Superliner Diner #38068
  • Superliner Coach #34508
  • Superliner Lounge #33025
  • Superliner Coach #34049
  • Superliner Coach #34035
  • Superliner Coach-Baggage #31017
  • Budd Sleeper #800355
  • Budd Dome Diner Lounge #800604

The train uses double-decker Superliner I & II equipment, including a Sightseer Lounge car that has floor-to-ceiling windows to view the passing scenery.

The interior of a Pacific Parlour car.

Prior to February 2018, the Coast Starlight was unique in that it included a first-class lounge car called the "Pacific Parlour Car". The cars were Budd Hi-Level Sky Lounge cars, built in 1956 for the Santa Fe's El Capitan service. Called a "living room on rails", the Parlour car offered several amenities to first-class sleeping car passengers including wireless Internet access, a full bar, a small library with books and games, an afternoon wine tasting, and a movie theater on the lower level. In January 2018, in a cost-cutting measure, Amtrak announced the discontinuation of the Pacific Parlour Cars, citing the move as "part of Amtrak's ongoing work to modernize its fleet of equipment."[13] The last day of service was February 2 for northbound train 14 and February 4 for southbound train 11.

Baggage is placed in one of Amtrak's new Viewliner II single-level baggage cars or in designated coach-class cars.

The Coast Starlight typically uses two GE P42DCs for locomotive power. Secondary locomotives that are occasionally utilized are the older GE P32-8BWHs and GE P40DCs.

EMD F59PHI locomotives used on the Capitol Corridor and Cascades services can often be spotted on the Coast Starlight as they are ferried from either the Pacific Northwest or Northern California to Amtrak's shops in Los Angeles, where equipment required for major locomotive servicing is available.

While the length of the train varies, in 2011 the "peak" consist comprised a baggage car, Transition sleeper, three sleeping cars, Pacific Parlour Car, dining car, Sightseer Lounge, and four coaches.[14]


  1. ^ "Amtrak Ridership Rolls Up Best-Ever Records" (PDF). Amtrak. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  2. ^ The Official Guide of the Railways. The Railroad Journal. January 1947. Page 881, Table 112.
  3. ^ June 11, 1972 Coast Starlight timetable
  4. ^ Goldberg 1981, pp. 16–17
  5. ^ Vurek, Matthew Gerald (2016). Images of Modern America: California’s Capitol Corridor. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 9781467124171.
  6. ^ November 10, 1996 Coast Starlight timetable
  7. ^ Staff (January 1997). "Scanner". Trains: 25.
  8. ^ Geiger, Kimberly (8 August 2006). "Coast Starlight Losing Its Luster". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2006.
  9. ^ Engle, Jane (11 June 2008). "Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train Classes Up Its Act". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved 4 July 2008.
  10. ^ Sailor, Craig. "Amtrak resumes Coast Starlight service from Seattle to Los Angeles". Bend News Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Caltrans 1984, p. 29
  12. ^ SMA Rail Consulting (April 2016). "California Passenger Rail NETWORK SCHEMATICS" (PDF). California Department of Transportation.
  13. ^ "Amtrak Advisory | Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed". Retrieved 2018-02-01.
  14. ^ Amtrak 2011, p. 42


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