Portland to Eugene on the Train!! – Amtrak

So I’ve traveled a few times on the train, not nearly as much or as often as I’d like (it’s an amazing means to travel) but I have gone back and forth to Eugene a few times.  Ultimately I’d like to have a long train journey – maybe to Florida, or even the ultimate – the Siberian Express, but I digress.  This time I thought I’d detail my journey from the Amtrak Station in Portland – called “Union Station” to the station in Eugene.  It’s a fantastic means to discover the Willamette Valley and also provides some very interesting perspectives.

Where Does the Train Leave From in Portland?

Union Station is the name of the Amtrak location in Portland.  It’s a fantastic old building that has a very impressive interior – it’s actually one of my favorite buildings anywhere.  Just so you know, if you take the MAX line to reach Union Station, it’s a rather sketchy neighborhood near the train station unfortunately, the train station is just near the Greyhound station and at night the area can be a little scary – just so you know.

The doors outside Union Station are very rugged and constructed - seemingly out of brass
The doors seem like they are solid brass or some other kind of exotic metal.  They are heavy and beautiful

Inside Portland’s Union Station

Inside is a completely different world.  This looks like the kind of place where elite passengers would embark on a world-tour on an airship or something.  All of the interior walls are constructed of marble and it also has fantastically intricate ceilings.  Neon signs point out the important places where folks need to: get tickets, where the bookstore is, where the baggage pickup is and other services.  The ticketing counter and boarding areas are staffed by very official looking personal who are superbly outfitted for their duties.  While waiting for the train – after making sure the proper process has taken place to get boarding pass there is opportunity to sit and enjoy the ambiance from the supremely comfortable benches in the waiting area.

The ticketing counter, information kiosk, and wonderful intricate ceiling
The ticket counter can be skipped if yo’ve purchased your ticket online, but I always seem to forget that.  Still, it’s good to get confirmation with the agents and also grab some pamphlets to peruse while waiting for the boarding time
The waiting area for train boarding has super nice benches
The boarding area has amazingly comfortable wooden benches.  Great place to pass some time while waiting for your train to board

Outside the Train

I’m always surprised at the sheer size of the engines that pull all of the cars.  I’ve been around some semi-sized trucks and things like that, but the typical Amtrak train engine (at least on the Starlight Express – my train today) are enormous.  According to my very brief research the engine is sixty-nine feet long, fourteen feet high, and ten feet wide with four thousand two hundred fifty horse power and has a maximum speed of one hundred three miles per hour.  Thankfully the train I was on never got anywhere near that speed, but it did seem like it was going slightly faster than some of the cars that were driving alongside it at times.

The engine pulling the starlight express was enormous
This thing is just enormous – fourteen feet high and ten feet wide and sixty-nine feet long!!!  I’m pretty sure I walked several hundred yards to the car I started in – which was the second to last (thank you cheap tickets!!)
The cars themselves are about the same height as the engine, so around fourteen feet high.  On the bottom are the sleeper cars (for longer journeys or other things) and the top level is for regular seats and business class passengers

Inside the passenger car

Inside the passenger car the seating should feel pretty familiar to anyone who has traveled anywhere on a plane before.  There is no assigned seating before arriving at the car, the agent there has a sheet that he marks off everyone’s seat on and then you board.  In my case I was located on the second level and on the left side near the window.  There is ample storage above the seats, but you’ll do good to remember to put your ticket above your seat so the conductors know you are a ticketed passenger – everyone remembers Indy throwing the guy off the airship when he didn’t have his ticket, right?

The passenger seating area is comfortable and roomy, but very similar to an airliner seating area
The regular passenger area is similar in many ways to an airliner with assigned seating and overhead storage

Leaving Portland

The views from the regular passenger car were pretty nice, and since the “Passengers can remove their seatbelts” announcement hadn’t been made yet, I made sure to take the opportunity to look at some of the places most folks who aren’t traveling on the train get to see.

On the train traveling under regular car traffic on one of Portland's bridges
The view from my seat as the train went under one of the Portland bridges – how many folks get to see it from this point of view???

The Socializing Car

Unlike airplane travel getting out of your seat is encouraged and recommended.  Since I’ve traveled on Amtrak before I know the best places to visit – one of them (fort the best view) is the car I call the socializing car.  I’m not sure if it has an official designation, and I think it’s actually above either the roomettes or the real dining car, either way I didn’t see anyone getting served any food (aside from what they brought with them) and there were many calls for dinner orders and requests.  There are two sections to this car – the first is one where the passengers are seated sideways and have a full (nearly) one hundred eighty degree view of the passing country-side.  I didn’t particularly like this spot as my legs felt a little cramped.  Still, it’s a great way to view the passing scenery.

The socializing car - not sure if that’s the correct name or not, but it works has some great viewing spots
Folks relaxing and watching the scenery go past – this was still pretty early in the trip so there wasn’t much to look at anyway, but the overhead windows provide very nice lighting and the lights in the car are dimmed for comfort in this car
The tables in the socializing car are my preferred spot
I prefer the tables, where I can use the tabletop to surf the web or do any one of innumerable tasks on my super MacBook Pro
The view from the table I stationed myself at for the ride south
My view form the table, not exactly as glamorous as one might hope, but I really like it and I can always look out the window easily

Views Along the Ride South

I was fortunate enough to be on the train during a particularly exciting time – weather wise, and was able to get quite a few just gorgeous pictures of the clouds and areas I was passing through.  Rather than boring you all too much with endless descriptions here, I’ll save them for below the pictures.  Hope you enjoy them:

The view looking up through the overhead curved windows – The only issue was the bright sun there shining on me – it got a little toasty in the sun there
Grasslands seen from the train
Much of the Willamette Valley is just like this – especially when seen from the train – one of the primary agriculture export is grass seed, so the view, while lovely isn’t that exciting
The clouds made for a beautiful day with the sun alternatively appearing and disappearing
The weather along the route was spectacular – It’s nice to be going through a storm and not be driving – for once
There were lots of breaks in the rain, just enough time to appreciate the beautiful clouds
The rainclouds seemed to follow me all the way to Eugene
Going under a giant rain cloud – it was pretty dark but luckily the rain didn’t ruin the ride, at all

A Couple of Interesting Points

One of the things I also appreciate about riding the train is the v news – not necessarily the views I’ve already gone over, those views can be seen from a car why where – the views I”m talking about are the ones that only can be seen from the train – I’m talking about the side of the building that is in the back.  Homeowners back yards, those kinds of things.  I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think folks realize that anyone in the train can see their property (and with an elevated view) from the trains that pass by, or maybe they just don’t care.

Building materials stacked against the train’s fence
Whenever I thought about getting a good picture of a backyard I always felt a bit guilty, pointing out someone else’s… well… backyard, so I took a picture of a construction yard, which is another good example of how things just seem to get stacked up again the fence near the tracks

Something else to consider is the ever-present possibility of another train passing the one you’re on.  It’s a startling event and the speed that the other train is moving creates a blur of motion while passing.  There is often no warning and the closeness to the other tracks (and therefore the other train) is a bit disconcerting.  There was about a thirty minute pause while work on the track was halted – one can imagine that any workers near the tracks need to button everything up before a train passes, so travel coming from both ends needed to stop briefly.  As soon as the work was sufficiently paused another train screamed past.

The passing train and it’s blur of color
It’s tough to even tell what is being moved when another train passes.  The motion of the train creates a blur of color
The stop in Albany features a nice clock tower - not as magnificent as the one at Union Station in Portland, but impressive nevertheless
There are a couple of stops along the route – one being Albany.  The stops are very quick – only to load passengers and their luggage off and on

Arrival at Eugene

As the train made it’s way to my final stop in Eugene, I returned to my regular seat and marveled at how lucky I was to be able to enjoy this ride and write about it.  The sun was just getting ready to set as I looked out the window across the isle.

The two-thirty train from Portland is a fantastic way to appreciate the Willamette Valley Sun shining through the window looking south west
The sun was just setting as I arrived in Eugene.
The train has arrived in Eugene
As you can see the train is just huge and the station isn’t quite as impressive in Eugene as it was in Portland in fact….
The Lane Country Jail as seen when disembarking form the train
The first thing you’ll see when disembarking is the Lane County Jail – not quite the first thing I’d want to see when arriving, but that’s what it is I suppose

Summary and Rating

The Journey from Portland to Eugene via the Amtrak train is just fantastic.  It’s a bargain at twenty-eight dollars and there are only a few luggage size restrictions.  The cars are very comfortable and luxurious without being ostentatious.  The journey is similar to an airline flight but has the safety and low security of a car drive.  I definitely recommend that folks give the Amtrak line along the coast a try it’s a perfectly relaxing time and one that I hope to redo very shortly – in fact I’m looking forward to taking a trip to Florida or New Orleans or somewhere else very soon.  Five Heywillamettes for the Amtrak journey through our Willamette Valley.



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