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Holidays Aboard the Pacific Parlour Cars


December 19, 2012

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Holiday greenery decorates a Pacific Parlour Car.

In this photo from the 1990s, fresh evergreens bundled with red ribbons usher in the holiday season aboard one of the famous Pacific Parlour Cars that make up the regular Coast Starlight consist. Considered one of the most scenic Amtrak routes, the train runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.

The Pacific Parlour Cars have a rich railroad history going back to the mid-1950s when they were originally built by the Budd Company for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. They were configured as Lounges for use on El Capitan, an all coach train running between Los Angeles and Chicago. All cars used on the train were known as Hi-Levels, denoting that they had two levels. When Amtrak put out the bid to design and produce the bi-level Superliner equipment in the 1970s, the Santa Fe Hi-Levels were used as a model due to their popularity.

Amtrak refurbished the Pacific Parlour Cars in the mid-1990s to provide a casual, yet elegant, space for Sleeping car passengers to relax. Complimentary tea and coffee is available during service hours, and there is also a regional wine and artisanal cheese-tasting event in the afternoon. At meal time, guests enjoy an intimate dining option with tables draped in white linens and decorated with small bouquets of seasonal flowers.

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Passengers enjoy a movie in the onboard theater.

Gazing out the large windows, passengers might catch views of wildflower-blanketed meadows, the California coastline and the soaring mountains of the Cascade Range. One of the most popular landmarks along the route is Mt. Shasta, the second highest peak in the Cascades; often snow-capped, it appears as a backdrop for many photos of the Coast Starlight. If the scenery is too overwhelming, passengers can head downstairs to enjoy a film in the 20-seat theater.

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