Coast Starlight 1989 Timetable

The Coast Starlight was a true Amtrak success story. Prior to Amtrak, the Southern Pacific had reduced Portland-Oakland train service to three times a week. Travelers from north of Portland to south of Oakland would have to change trains twice. Amtrak initially continued the three-times-a-week service but extended the train to Seattle and Los Angeles.

Click image to download a 771-KB PDF of this timetable card.

This extension proved so successful that Amtrak quickly increased service to seven times a week each way. For much of the 1970s through the 1990s, the Coast Starlight was Amtrak’s most popular overnight train. Initially, the train went through to San Diego, but on this segment through passengers turned out to be less important than local ones, so the Starlight terminates in LA with a separate San Diegan (now known as the Pacific Surfliner) connecting LA with San Diego.

In 1998, Union Pacific bought Southern Pacific, which had deferred maintenance on its Portland-Sacramento tracks. UP spent years restoring and upgrading the route, and this track work often delayed the Coast Starlight, reducing its on-time record to 2 percent. This led to a 26 percent decline in passengers. Ridership has since recovered, but in most recent years the Empire Builder has been Amtrak’s most popular overnight train, with the Coast Starlight a close second.


Coast Starlight 1989 Timetable — 2 Comments

  1. As a little kid back in the 70’s, I remember reading in the rail fan press about how the Amtrak takeover restored passenger trains to the Port Road branch in Pennsylvania and Maryland for the Washington DC sections of the Broadway and National Limiteds. Amtrak’s takeover of the Los Angeles-Portland service also resulted in the restoration of passenger trains between San Jose and Oakland (up until then without service since the Oakland Lark was discontinued in 1960,) but never seemed to get any mention. I wonder if there are any other lines where Amtrak has restored service that was already gone when they took over?

  2. There were a few others that lasted a while with Amtrak. One that comes to mind is the Desrt Wind between Los Angeles and Ogden, later Salt Lake City. It restored the former City of Los Angeles route that stopped with the advent of Amtrak in 1971. The Desert Wind started up in 1971 and was cut back to Salt Lake after the Zephyr started on running on D&RGW tracks in 1983. The train ran until 1997 when the usual Amtrak budget cuts axed a train that never really made money, or even paid any bills. There have been several plans for restoration since, none of which has come ot fruition. The only way the Desert Wind will become a money maker is if Amtrak could find a way to cut the running time to Vegas from LA from the 7.5-8 hours it had in 1997 to something like 5.5 to 6 hours. Without some major track upgrades, something the UP isn’t willing to do, I don’t think it has much of a chance. There are probably other service restorations that Amtrak made but i can’t think of more off the top of my head.

    Regards, Jim

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