Hearst Castle in San Simeon

In 1980, $82 (double occupancy; almost $250 in today’s money) would buy you a ride on the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles or San Francisco (via bus to Oakland) to San Luis Obispo, an afternoon tour of Mission San Luis Obispo, overnight lodging at San Simeon Lodge, a morning tour of Hearst Castle, and return trip by the Coast Starlight. Meals not included, but there were “many restaurants specializing in seafood.”

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The Coast Starlight‘s schedule was convenient for such a trip provided you agreed that a single morning was enough time to visit Hearst Castle. The southbound train left San Luis Obispo at 2:15 pm while the northbound train left at 2:40 pm. If you wanted more time, an extra night at San Simeon Lodge was $36 (double occupancy; $105 today).

Amtrak 1980 Lunch Menu

Like the 1979 lunch menu shown a few days ago, this one is protected in plastic lamination. The only crass advertising is a two-paragraph blurb on the back cover, which also lists wine and beverages.

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The menu itself is even more limited than in 1979. What passes for the full-meal side offers soup and sandwich, a cold plate, and a hot turkey sandwich. The “lighter-fare” side has a steak sandwich, hamburger and cheeseburger, a vegetable plate, and a BLT, as well as a couple of salads. Meals similar to the 1979 offerings of spaghetti and meat sauce, chicken stew, or filet of perch are completely absent from this menu.

Northwest National Parks Tour

Although this brochure prominently mentions Amtrak, and advises potential customers to “See Amtrak or your travel agent,” the tour was actually organized by a private company called Grand National Tours. Notice that the cover illustration shows the Great Northern Empire Builder near Glacier Park, not one of the destinations on the tour. Except for an optional ride from Portland to Seattle, the entire tour was by bus, not train.

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The twelve-day tour visited Olympic Park, Victoria, the San Juan Islands, North Cascades Park, Mt. Rainier Park, the Columbia Gorge, Crater Lake, Redwoods Park, and the Oregon Coast. The lowest possible price for the tour of $836 (about $2,500 in today’s money) included bus transportation, hotels, and park admissions, but only one meal in the entire twelve days.

Tours to Disneyland & Southern California

In 1980, $36 ($105 in today’s money) would buy you a night in a hotel, admission to Disneyland, tickets to 11 Disneyland rides, and transportation between Amtrak’s Fullerton station and the hotel and between the hotel and Disneyland. Even after adjusting for inflation, that amount wouldn’t get an adult into Disneyland today (though today the admission includes unlimited rides).

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This brochure also has three-day and five-day tours, the latter of which includes visits to Knott’s Berry Farm as well as Disneyland. The brochure also mentions Universal Studios and other theme parks. Apparently, the brochure title, “Disneyland & Southern California,” means “Disneyland & Other Theme Parks.”

Amtrak Willamette Valley

In 1980, with support from the state of Oregon, Amtrak added two trains per day between Eugene and Portland–a route already served by a third train, the Coast Starlight. I was on the inaugural run of the Willamette Valley trains and reported on them in Passenger Train Journal.

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The train failed to meet its targets and the state discontinued funding for it after 1981. In 1995, Oregon renewed funding for trains between Eugene and Seattle called (after 1998) the Cascades.

1979 Dinner Menu

This menu quite obviously goes with yesterday’s lunch menu. The cartoon locomotive on the cover is exactly the same, though the sky is darker suggesting an evening rather than a noon meal. The other cars in the train shown on the other pages are double-deckers, indicating Superliners, rather than the single-deckers on the lunch menu.

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The taller cars apparently used up the space that the lunch menu devoted to advertising Amtrak’s accomplishments, as this menu does not include any such crass diversions. The menu offers four dinner entrĂ©es: New York steak, salmon, roast beef, and roast duck. The steak dinner was $8.95, or about $30 in today’s dollars.

1979 Lunch Menu

This menu was obviously designed to go with yesterday’s breakfast menu, but unlike yesterday’s plain paper menu, this one is printed on both sides and laminated in heavy plastic. Two of these menus could be laid side-by-side to show a train consisting of a locomotive, coach, sleeper, and diner. In actual practice, Amtrak ran most trains with coaches first, then diner, then sleepers.

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Extra space is used to advertise Amtrak’s “accomplishments”: purchase of Amfleet cars, refurbishment of stations, and the availability of rail passes and family fares. The menu itself has items similar but not identical to those on the 1978 San Francisco Zephyr menu. Multiply prices by 3-1/3 to get today’s values.

1979 Breakfast Menu

This menu was printed on one side of lightweight paper. It looks like it could have doubled as a placemat, but from the fact it is folded I suspect instead that it was meant to be inserted in some sort of menu cover.

Click image to download an 1.3-MB PDF of this menu.

Except for the addition of a children’s menu and some price increases due to the rampant inflation of the 1970s, the menu is pretty much the same as the breakfast portion of the 1978 San Francisco Zephyr menu. The latter menu noted that a children’s menu was available separately, so it appears the basic menu hadn’t changed, only the prices.

Amtrak Superliner Manual

Amtrak’s Superliners were more reliable than the worn-out long-distance cars Amtrak inherited from the private railroads, but that’s about all the good I can say about them. Amtrak selected the wrong builder–Pullman instead of Budd–which delivered the cars late and overweight. The coaches were far less comfortable than the Santa Fe Hi-Level coaches they were patterned after, and the sleeping cars were a dim reflection of the Hi-Level sleepers that Budd had originally proposed to build in the 1950s.

Click image to download a 3.9-MB PDF of this brochure.

Placed in every room in the Superliner sleeping cars, this manual described the four different types of rooms, but the “operating instructions” focused mainly on the economy bedrooms. Though Amtrak now calls these roomettes, they are more like sections with sliding doors than roomettes, as they have two bunks and no toilet or sink. The deluxe bedroom is more like the double bedrooms of old, and are the only rooms with their own enclosed toilets and, in later versions, showers. The family and special bedrooms extend the full width of the cars, allowing passengers to see out the windows on both sides of the train. Continue reading

1978 Metroliner Timetable

Built by Budd and originally funded by the federal government under the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, the Metroliners–along with the United Aircraft Turbo Trains–were supposed to be America’s answer to the Japanese bullet trains, which had top speeds of 130 mph when introduced in 1964. Both trains were capable of going faster than 160 mph, but when placed in service between New York and Washington the Metroliners were confined to speeds no greater than 120 mph.

Click image to download a 247-KB PDF of this timetable.

Penn Central ran two non-stop Metroliners a day, taking 2-1/2 hours between the nation’s political and financial capitals. As shown on this wallet-sized timetable, Amtrak had dropped the non-stop Metroliners and its fastest runs took 3 hours 10 minutes. By comparison, the fastest Acelas today take 2 hours 53 minutes. This 1978 timetable shows thirteen weekday Metroliner departures each way, compared with seventeen Acela‘s today.