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Date: 01/22/22 13:04
SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: RDC1

Did anyone ever have a chance to ride the
overnight Spirit of California train between 
Sacramento/Oakland and Los Angeles?

Is there any possibility of this service ever being 

Date: 01/22/22 13:27
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: Carex

I rode it a few times.  All I can remember is that the coach cars were very uncomfortable.  Will see pigs fly before this train returns.

Date: 01/22/22 14:18
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: joemvcnj

There were 60-seat Amfleet-1, what are now Business Class cars on NEC Regionals. The seats had legrests back then, before Amfleet-2 and Superliners took their palce on LD. They had cascaded over from Desert Wind service. 

Date: 01/22/22 14:21
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: northridgeswitcher


While I did not have a chance to ride it, I saw it and quite a few times on it evening run from LAUPS up the coast.   At the time I lived backing the Coast Line in the SFV and would walk out to see Amtrak #11 and the Spirit of California.

Consist was typically 1 F40, a baggage car, 1 heritage sleeper, a Amfleet cafe car and a couple of Amfleet 1 coach cars.  A handful of times it has a 2nd F40 and additional coaches.

I think a overnight run in both directions is still a good idea but as Carex states, more than likely the odds are not good.  With the number of other Amtrak trains running around what would be the most likely departure time out of Los Angeles (such as Amtrak #11 and Surfliner trains in both directions) where does another train get squeezed in.   Equipment would be another issue unless Amtrak used some of the Viewliner equipment.

Take care, be safe.

Northridge Switcher

Date: 01/22/22 14:25
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: GenePoon

I rode it several times including the last northbound, but usually had a Roomette (a real one, not the current ersatz Amtrak type), once a Double Bedroom...but never in Coach. 

I walked the Coaches...and would have flown if that were the only choice. 

As it was, breakfast out of Oxnard was a great way to start off a business day in Los Angeles.

I don't think we will ever see an overnight Los Angeles-San Francisco train again.

Date: 01/22/22 14:42
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: Mudrock

 I rode the last northbound trip and there is a story on my web site about it. Click on Mudrock and then go to my 1980 to 2000 to get to the story.


Date: 01/22/22 14:48
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: ronald321

It could happen -- if Calif. politicians decide to State support it.

Amtrak has tons of money now -- but first,  current Amtrak management has to be
replace with people who really want to run trains.

Date: 01/22/22 14:57
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: dan

bring it back!

Date: 01/22/22 15:32
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: jeffgeldner

The first time I rode it was as a round-trip out of Merced on the standard train to Bakersfield and bus to LA- then overnight to Oakland on the Spirit of California, continuing to Merced on the San Joaquin. As the SP advertised, go one way return another. My second trip was overnight from Sacramento to Santa Barbara for a walk along the beach and an early lunch for taking the Coast Starlight back to Sacramento. On both occasions I rode in a roomette, which made the trip worth it. If only the Sate of California would partner with Amtrak and bring the Spirit back by refurbishing Viewliner 1 sleepers and coaches with long distance train legroom plus a full length lounge car featuring regional food items ala the Cascades and Downeasters. More bang for the buck than the current high speed rail project (just my opinion on the matter).

Date: 01/22/22 15:49
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: jp1822

Overnight sleeper service in Europe is again back on the rise. It would take markets like this San Fran to LA and likely run overnight trains on them. What's also popular is If the train travels a "spine" of sorts out of a given terminal, but then "splits" into say three or four branches or smaller trains before arriving in three or four different terminals in the early morning hours. That type of service seem to be more effective in service and utility. Sleeper cars equate to long distance service which equates to COSTLY train to run. So Amtrak is going to steer clear of running something like this unless pigs start flying or there is a MAJOR shift in thought at Amtrak Corp Headquarters etc. etc. It's too bad, as I think the sleeper service could be popular, but the economics and finances of it day in day out - risky!

Date: 01/22/22 16:03
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: amtrakbill

Believe some people thought that before Amtrak re-introduced overnight service from Boston to Washington / New port News

Posted from iPhone

Date: 01/22/22 16:19
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: GettingShort

I checked the consist regularly and in it's last year of operation it was up to 2 10&6 sleepers, an Amdinette 2 or three Amfleet coaches and 2-3 mail express cars. I believe Tony Mastreangelo <sp> was manager of the train and he tried to get Amtrak to provide Heritage coaches and slumbercoachs but Washington had little interest in the service. If the train was unable to operate it was always a big scramble to rent trucks and drive the mail to Oakland. 

Date: 01/22/22 16:23
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: 2-10-2

Rode the Spirit of CA once between LA and SLO as a college student. Amfleet cars were adequate for the hours I was on it, but still pretty spartan.
Given the existing San Diego-SLO schedules, I would think that lengthening them to at least San Jose and do a very early turn south could be possible.
But I will say that the times I've ridden the current Pacific Surfliner departing late afternoon from LA and coming to SLO, the ridership is pretty sparce after Santa Barbara.

Date: 01/22/22 16:45
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: ATKCentralCoast

Yes , i worked Glendale station,and rode it a few times. It had a baggage car,10-6 sleeper,csfecar,and coaches

Date: 01/22/22 16:51
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: usmc1401

Saw the train many mornings in Davis CA.  One time saw hertage, amfleet, high level cars on one train.

Date: 01/22/22 16:55
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: clem

Rode it once, San Diego to San Jose in a 10/6 Pacific-series roomette. Made a stop at Surf to turn a drunk over to the Santa Barbara Sheriff.

Unofficial nicknames included The Medfly Special and The Nightcrawler. 

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/22 17:00 by clem.

Date: 01/22/22 16:55
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: ccn511

Made a couple of roomette trips each way LAX-RIC and RIC-LAX. Very convenient.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/22 16:56 by ccn511.

Date: 01/22/22 17:07
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: bridge22-0196

My daughter and I rode the Spirit of California from Davis (it did stop in Davis?)  to LA in the summer of 1983.  We must have had a double bedroom.  The only thing I remember about the trip was that I had the lower and my daughter the upper and the berths were perpendicular to the sides of the car.   I don't even remember eating breakfast on board.  I assume we ate dinner before boarding.   I've made dozens of trips to and from SoCal since 2001.  They would have been so much easier if there had still been a night train like this.

Date: 01/22/22 17:16
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: PHall

I'm sure that if Amtrak California provided the equipment they could probably run it. It's not like the UP Coast Line is buried in traffic.

Date: 01/22/22 17:56
Re: SF-LA Overnight Train
Author: RL_Cabin

Overnight trains between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles mostly carried through passengers while day trains had the advantage of handling a great deal of local traffic.  That made night trains particularly susceptible to air competition.  As perspective, Southern Pacific's overnight "Lark" carried 15 sleeping cars in the early 1950s but was down to one car by 1968.

As some have pointed out, overnight trains are making a comeback in Europe and that might be possible here as well. I suppose it would be up to the State of California to provide the subsidy for both operating and capital costs for an overnight train. They might be willing, but I'd point out they have been trying to start a day train on the route for over 20 years and have been unsuccessful getting an agreement from Union Pacific to run the train.

Ah well.  Here's a photo of the inaugural northbound "Spirit" at Oakland 16th Street station in 1981.  I'd love to see it again.

Rich Tower

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