Coast Starlight

Route map:
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Coast Starlight
Coast Starlight crossing the Santa Ynez River as it drains into the Pacific Ocean near Surf, California, 2019
Service typeInter-city rail
LocalePacific Coast
PredecessorCoast Daylight, Cascade
First serviceMay 1, 1971
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Annual ridership338,017 (FY23) Decrease -4.2%[a][1]
TerminiSeattle, Washington
Los Angeles, California
Distance travelled1,377 miles (2,216 km)
Average journey time35 hours, 21 minutes[2] (southbound)
34 hours[2] (northbound)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)11, 14
On-board services
Class(es)Coach Class
Business Class
Sleeper Service
Disabled accessTrain lower level, all stations
Sleeping arrangements
  • Roomette (2 beds)
  • Bedroom (2 beds)
  • Bedroom Suite (4 beds)
  • Accessible Bedroom (2 beds)
  • Family Bedroom (4 beds)
Catering facilitiesDining car, Café
Observation facilitiesSightseer lounge car
Baggage facilitiesOverhead racks, checked baggage available at selected stations
Rolling stockSuperliner
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed40 mph (64 km/h) (avg.)
79 mph (127 km/h) (top)
Track owner(s)BNSF, SCAX, SDRX, JPBX, UP

The Coast Starlight is a long-distance passenger train operated by Amtrak on the West Coast of the United States between Seattle and Los Angeles via Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area. The train, which has operated continuously since Amtrak's formation in 1971, was the first to offer direct service between Seattle and Los Angeles. Its name is a combination of two prior Southern Pacific (SP) trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight.

During fiscal year (FY) 2019, the Coast Starlight carried 426,029 passengers, an increase of 2.0% from FY 2018.[3] In FY 2016, the train had a total revenue of $40.5 million, a decrease of 1.4% from FY 2015.[4]



Before the formation of Amtrak, no passenger train ran the entire length of the West Coast. The closest equivalent was the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP)'s West Coast, which ran via the San Joaquin Valley from Los Angeles to Portland from 1924 to 1949, with through cars to Seattle via the Great Northern Railway (GN).

By 1971, the SP operated just two daily trains between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area: the Los Angeles–San Francisco Coast Daylight via the Coast Line, and the Los Angeles–Oakland San Joaquin Daylight via the Central Valley. The SP also operated the tri-weekly Cascade between Oakland and Portland, Oregon. The Burlington Northern Railroad (BN) and Union Pacific Railroad ran three daily round trips between Portland and Seattle. The Santa Fe ran the San Diegan between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Amtrak era[edit]

The Coast Starlight at Tacoma in 1974
The Coast Starlight in the Cuesta Hills above San Luis Obispo in 1985

The Seattle–San Diego route was initially left out of plans for Railpax (later Amtrak) until protests from politicians in California, Oregon, and Washington.[5] With the start of Amtrak operations on May 1, 1971, a single train began running between Seattle and San Diego. The unnamed train (#11/12) ran three days a week; on the other four days, another unnamed train (#98/99) ran between Oakland and Los Angeles.[6] On November 14, Amtrak extended the Oakland–Los Angeles train to San Diego, renumbered it to #12/13, and renamed it Coast Daylight. The Seattle–San Diego train became the Coast Daylight/Starlight (#11-12) northbound and Coast Starlight/Daylight (#13-14) southbound.[7] Both trains were cut back from San Diego to Los Angeles in April 1972, replaced by a third San Diegan.[8] On June 10, 1973, Amtrak began running the combined Coast Daylight/Starlight daily for the summer months.[9] Positive response led to Amtrak to retain this service, and the Coast Daylight name was dropped on May 19, 1974.[8]

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.[10] From November 10, 1996, to October 25, 1997, through coaches were transferred between the Coast Starlight and San Diegan at Los Angeles.[11][12][13]

The Coast Starlight originally used the Southern Pacific West Valley Line between Tehama and Davis. That route included a stop at Orland,[14] but bypassed Sacramento. On April 26, 1982, the train was rerouted via Roseville on the Southern Pacific Valley and Martinez Subdivisions, with stops added at Sacramento, Chico, and Marysville,[15] per request from the state.[16][10] In 1999, the Coast Starlight was rerouted onto the more direct ex-Western Pacific Sacramento Subdivision between Marysville and Sacramento, with the Marysville stop closed.[17]

Ridership declined by 26% between 1999 and 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.[18] 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 relaunch of the Empire Builder. Between FY 2008 and FY 2009, 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 reached 86%.[19]

Service was suspended north of Sacramento for a month in 2017 after a freight derailment damaged a bridge near Mount Shasta, California.[20]

Amtrak Coast Starlight 14 northbound to Seattle passing Moorpark, California on Dec 27, 2018
The southbound Coast Starlight passes through a horseshoe curve north of San Luis Obispo

On February 24, 2019, the southbound Coast Starlight struck a fallen tree near Oakridge, Oregon after a rare heavy snowstorm. The train was stranded for 36 hours before tracks could be cleared for a Union Pacific locomotive to tow the train back to Eugene–Springfield.[21]

From October 1, 2020, to May 24, 2021, daily service was reduced to three trains per week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[22][23] On May 24, 2021, as part of its post-COVID service restorations, Amtrak restored the Coast Starlight frequency to daily service in both directions.[24]

In late June 2021, the Lava Fire seriously damaged a Union Pacific trestle on the Black Butte Subdivision between Klamath Falls, Oregon and Dunsmuir, California.[25] As a result, the Coast Starlight was initially split into two segments: Seattle to Klamath Falls and Sacramento to Los Angeles with a bus replacement service filling the gap between Klamath Falls and Sacramento.[26] However, on July 2, 2021, it was announced that service would be discontinued between Seattle and Sacramento until July 14, 2021, with Amtrak Cascades replacing service for passengers booked between Seattle and Eugene. Through service resumed on July 15 using overnight buses between Sacramento and Klamath Falls, and full-route train operation resumed on August 23.[27]

A resurgence of the COVID-19 virus caused by the Omicron variant caused Amtrak to reduce the frequency of this route to five-weekly round trips from January to March 2022.[28]

Trains began running over the Point Defiance Bypass between Tacoma and DuPont, Washington starting on November 18, 2021.[29]

Future improvements[edit]

The 2018 California State Rail Plan, prepared by Caltrans, outlines a number of planned improvements to rail infrastructure in the state of California.[30] The plan was updated in 2023.[31] In 2022, the California Transportation Commission approved $7.5 million for the construction of a new station in King City to improve access to the region,[32] including nearby Fort Hunter Liggett and Pinnacles National Park.[33] There is also a proposal in the Capitol Corridor Vision plan to improve the right-of-way shared by the Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight between Oakland and Martinez.[34] The proposal would re-route the train from along the shores of San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait to a new tunnel through Franklin Canyon and a right-of-way next to California State Route 4 that would reduce the trip time by several minutes.


Coast Starlight route map

Except for two sections, most of the Coast Starlight route is on former Southern Pacific lines now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The Coast Starlight runs over the following lines:

The Coast Starlight is occasionally diverted between Oakland and Los Angeles via the Central Valley and Tehachapi Pass due to track work or service disruptions on the Coast Line. These rerouted trains are popular with railfans because they use the Tehachapi Loop, which has not had regularly-scheduled passenger trains since 1971.[36][37]


Amtrak Coast Starlight stations
State/Province City Station
Washington (state) Seattle Seattle King Street
Tacoma Tacoma Dome
Lacey Olympia–Lacey
Centralia Centralia
Kelso Kelso
Vancouver Vancouver
Oregon Portland Portland
Salem Salem
Albany Albany
Eugene Eugene–Springfield
Chemult Chemult
Klamath Falls Klamath Falls
California Dunsmuir Dunsmuir
Redding Redding
Chico Chico
Sacramento Sacramento
Davis Davis
Martinez Martinez
Emeryville Emeryville
Oakland Oakland–Jack London Square
San Jose San Jose Diridon
Salinas Salinas
Paso Robles Paso Robles
San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara
Oxnard Oxnard
Simi Valley Simi Valley
Van Nuys Van Nuys
Burbank Burbank Airport-South
Los Angeles Los Angeles Union


Traffic by Fiscal Year (October–September)
Ridership Change over previous year Ticket Revenue Change over previous year
2007[38] 343,542 - $29,171,278 -
2008[38] 353,657 Increase02.94% $28,117,404 Decrease03.61%
2009[38] 432,565 Increase022.31% $32,637,793 Increase016.07%
2010[39] 444,205 Increase02.69% $37,404,114 Increase014.6%
2011[39] 426,584 Decrease03.96% $39,997,952 Increase06.93%
2012[40] 454,443 Increase06.53% $40,826,562 Increase02.07%
2013[40] 479,522 Increase05.51% $42,786,995 Increase04.8%
2014[41] 459,450 Decrease04.18% $42,150,907 Decrease01.48%
2015[41] 455,845 Decrease00.78% $41,113,114 Decrease02.46%
2016[4] 453,131 Decrease00.59% $40,534,262 Decrease01.4%
2017[42] 439,000 Decrease03.11% - -
2018[3] 417,819 Decrease04.82% - -
2019[3] 426,029 Increase01.96% - -
2020[43] 258,200 Decrease037.2% - -
2021[44] 189,593 Decrease026.57% - -
2022[45] 352,725 Increase086.04% - -
2023[46] 338,017 Decrease04.2% - -


ALC-42 Charger locomotives on the Coast Starlight in May 2023

The Coast Starlight uses double-decker Superliner I & II equipment, including a Sightseer Lounge car that has floor-to-ceiling windows to view the passing scenery. 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 P42DC or Siemens ALC-42 locomotives.[47] 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.[48]

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. Sleeping car passengers could also make reservations to dine in the Parlour car, which offered a unique menu not offered in the standard dining car.[49] In February 2018, in a cost-cutting measure, Amtrak retired the Pacific Parlour Cars, citing the move as "part of Amtrak's ongoing work to modernize its fleet of equipment."[50]


  1. ^ "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2023 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. November 27, 2023. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Amtrak Timetable Results". Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "Amtrak FY19 Ridership" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "Amtrak FY16 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF). Amtrak. April 17, 2017.
  5. ^ Barr, Robert A. (March 22, 1971). "Seattle train service to be cut". The Seattle Times. p. A1.
  6. ^ Amtrak Nationwide Schedules of Intercity Passenger Service. National Railroad Passenger Corporation. May 1, 1971. p. 26 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  7. ^ Amtrak Nationwide Schedules of Intercity Passenger Service. National Railroad Passenger Corporation. November 14, 1971. p. 68 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  8. ^ a b Goldberg 1981, pp. 16–17
  9. ^ Amtrak All-America Schedules. National Railroad Passenger Corporation. June 10, 1973. p. 41 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  10. ^ a b Vurek, Matthew Gerald (2016). Images of Modern America: California’s Capitol Corridor. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 9781467124171.
  11. ^ Staff (January 1997). "Scanner". Trains: 25.
  12. ^ Amtrak National Timetable: Fall/Winter 1996/97. Amtrak. November 10, 1996. p. 42 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  13. ^ Amtrak National Timetable: Fall/Winter 1997/1998. Amtrak. October 26, 1997. p. 52 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  14. ^ "Amtrak National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. Amtrak. October 25, 1981. p. 50. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  15. ^ "The Coast Starlight". The Museum of Railway Timetables. Amtrak. April 25, 1982. p. 46. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  16. ^ Rail Passenger Development Plan: 1984-89 Fiscal Years. Sacramento, CA: Division of Mass Transportation, Caltrans. 1984. p. 29. OCLC 10983344.
  17. ^ Amtrak Timetable: National: Fall 1999/Winter 2000. Amtrak. October 31, 1999. p. 53 – via Museum of Railway Timetables.
  18. ^ Geiger, Kimberly (August 8, 2006). "Coast Starlight Losing Its Luster". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
  19. ^ Engle, Jane (June 11, 2008). "Amtrak's Coast Starlight Train Classes Up Its Act". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008. Retrieved July 4, 2008.
  20. ^ Sailor, Craig. "Amtrak resumes Coast Starlight service from Seattle to Los Angeles". Bend News Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  21. ^ Held, Amy (February 26, 2019). "183 Amtrak Passengers Rescued After 36 Hours Stranded In Oregon Amid Heavy Snow". NPR.
  22. ^ Lazo, Luz (June 16, 2020). "Amtrak is ending daily service to hundreds of stations. Blame the coronavirus pandemic, the railroad says". Washington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  23. ^ Jorgenson, Dawn (May 27, 2021). "Amtrak is resuming a dozen long-distance trips, all across the country". KSAT. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  24. ^ "With Increased Demand and Congressional Funding, Amtrak Restores 12 Long Distance Routes to Daily Service". Amtrak. March 10, 2021.
  25. ^ "UP service disrupted by fire, weather". Trains. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  26. ^ "SERVICE DISRUPTION: Coast Starlight Train 14 departing Los Angeles (LAX) on 7/1 will operate as a bus between Sacramento (SAC) & Klamath Falls (KFS) missing stops at CIC, RDD, & DUN due to wildfires in the area. For reservation assistance please call or text 1-800-USA-RAIL". Twitter. Archived from the original on July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  27. ^ "Coast Starlight to resume full-route operation Aug. 23 (corrected)". August 14, 2021.
  28. ^ "Amtrak to decrease service on most routes Jan. 24 to March 27". Trains. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  29. ^ a b Sailor, Craig (November 18, 2021). "Amtrak resumes service on Point Defiance Bypass route where 3 died in 2017". The News Tribune. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  30. ^ Caltrans (September 2018). 2018 California State Rail Plan: Connecting California (PDF) (Report). Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  31. ^ Caltrans (March 2023). 2023 California State Rail Plan (PDF) (Report). Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  32. ^ "Press Release: California Transportation Commission Reserves Funding for King City Multi-Modal Transit Center". City of King (Press Release). March 23, 2022. Retrieved June 2, 2023.
  33. ^ Cronk, Ryan (March 7, 2019). "King City train station becoming reality after state approves funds". The King City Rustler. Retrieved June 2, 2023.
  34. ^ CCJPA (November 2016). Capitol Corridor Vision Implementation Plan (PDF) (Report). Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i SMA Rail Consulting (April 2016). "California Passenger Rail Network Schematics" (PDF). California Department of Transportation.
  36. ^ "Amtrak to detour Coast Starlight over Tehachapi Loop". Trains News Wire. February 22, 2013.
  37. ^ Meyer, Steven (June 22, 2018). "Railroad buffs from far and wide ride the Loop". The Bakersfield Californian.
  38. ^ a b c "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2009, Oct. 2008-Sept. 2009" (PDF). Trains Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 30, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  39. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 8, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ a b "AMTRAK SETS RIDERSHIP RECORD AND MOVES THE NATION'S ECONOMY FORWARD" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 24, 2020.
  41. ^ a b "Amtrak FY15 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF).
  42. ^ "Amtrak FY17 Ridership" (PDF).
  43. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (November 23, 2020). "Amtrak Releases FY 2020 Data". Railway Age. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Inc. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  44. ^ "Amtrak Route Ridership FY21 vs. FY19" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  45. ^ "Amtrak Route Ridership: FY22 vs. FY21" (PDF). November 29, 2022. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  46. ^ "Copy-of-FY23-Year-End-Ridership.pdf" (PDF). Amtrak Mediacenter.
  47. ^ Franz, Justin (March 6, 2023). "Amtrak ALC-42s to Make Appearance on 'Coast Starlight' Next". Railfan & Railroad Magazine. Retrieved June 6, 2023.
  48. ^ Amtrak 2011, p. 42
  49. ^ Amtrak. "Pacific Parlour Car Northbound Menu" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 30, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  50. ^ "Amtrak Advisory | Coast Starlight Parlour Car Removed". Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved February 1, 2018.


  1. ^ Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1 of the prior year to September 30 of the named year.

Further reading[edit]

  • Veary, Bruce (July 1986). "After the Daylight: Today's Coast Line". Trains. Vol. 46, no. 9. pp. 26–46. ISSN 0041-0934.

External links[edit]

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