I’m coming to you this morning (at least, that’s what it is here) from aboard Amtrak 513, the southbound Amtrak Cascades service from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, Oregon. My meeting in Vancouver was a great success – but of course totally exhausting – and now I’m enjoying a couple of days of (well-deserved!) vacation exploring the Pacific Northwest before flying home on Wednesday.
The Amtrak Cascades service is the busiest in the US outside of the Northeast Corridor and California; it is significantly supported locally by the state of Washington (and Oregon, to a lesser extent). The primary service is between Seattle and Portland, which is 187 miles and has four trains in each direction every day – the trip takes exactly 3 and a half hours. While that is admittedly not breaking any records, it is pretty reasonable for the US. There are also two daily trains south of Portland to the state capital of Salem and on to Eugene (123 miles south of Portland), and two daily trains to/from Vancouver BC 157 track miles north of Seattle.
Unfortunately, the trains south from Vancouver leave at either 6:40am or 5:45pm, and only the early morning one goes through to Portland, so I had a painful 5am wakeup call and check-out of the hotel before catching one of the first bus trips of the day over to the train station on the edge of Downtown Vancouver – it is conveniently located on the SkyTrain line, but that doesn’t start running until 7:30 or so on Sunday mornings.
The trains themselves are pretty decent; definitely more of a European feel than the rest of the Amcrap you find around the country, with short articulated cars that share bogies and can tilt – quite helpful on the curvy track that follows the Puget Sound much of the way. Importantly for this post, they have recently been equipped with free wifi, which is quite a nice and important amenity, I think (I wonder if Amtrak is finally taking action on that in response to the Megabus competition that also offers it on buses?).
While I’m very much looking forward to going home this week, I am hoping to enjoy a little low-key sightseeing, transit and otherwise, in Portland and Seattle beforehand – and more on that in the future! Happy Sunday!