Sunday, July 6, 2008

Does Bend have Enough Trains?

Last night Mrs Elliott and I attended a birthday party for a couple who were celebrating their 60th (his) and 50th (her) birthdays together. I love trains and Mrs Elliott knows she can pretty much get me to go anywhere if there is a train ride involved; so after taking the MetroLink commuter train from Oceanside to Union Station in downtown L.A., then the Red Line, L.A.'s first modern heavy-rail subway, to Wilshire Boulevard, then a bus to Veteran Avenue, Mrs Elliott's sister and husband picked us up and provided transportation for the final leg of the trip.

The party was held on the outdoor patio of a restaurant on Olympic in Los Angeles -- a quintessential Los Angeles venue. The food was good, the atmosphere festive, and amateur slide shows of the birthday boy and girl were great fun. I've only known Mrs Elliott for ten years and these were friends on her side of the family, people with whom I don't have much history unlike Mrs Elliott: for decades they have been dear friends of hers, and they are indeed lovely people: even in the short time I've known them, I've grown quite fond of them.

Along with the usual catching up with each others lives -- and those of our children and grandchildren -- were questions about moving to Bend. I make no secret of my dissatisfaction with southern California's tackiness and shallowness, and how I'm looking forward to putting it behind me. During a lull in the conversation I looked up and saw palm trees silhouetted against the darkening sky -- a totally cliched Los Angeles image, one that could be used as an establishing shot in a film -- and one that is the only thing I'll miss about SoCal.

But Mrs Elliott is more conflicted: she does love Carlsbad, and has here a huge circle of supportive friends. She makes no secret that she's feeling some anxiety. The move will take me closer to my brother and sister-in-law who live in Spokane, whom I've not seen in many years, but for her the move will take her away from much that she holds dear, to a place where she will know no one.

To her credit, she is confident that she will be able to find new friends (she's outgoing and nice) and after taking some time while in Bend last weekend to visit used furniture stores, including Deja Vu,* she said "I feel much better now," realizing that once she starts to make the new house hers she will feel settled.

But back to trains. The route between Los Angeles and San Diego passes through Carlsbad. We live a mile from the right of way and more than 40 [Update: I originally wrote "30" but was mistaken] Amtrak and the San Diego Coaster heavy rail passenger trains pass through daily. The sound of their horns is a calming sound to me (though probably not so much to those living right along the tracks: something tells me that hearing 110dB** horns blasting a hundred feet away is not conducive to ones sense of tranquility). That's something I'll miss in Bend: no passenger trains. I don't know how many trains pass through Bend, or what they carry, but I doubt I'll be able to hear them from our new house.

* To help the economy we will buy locally, and for "green points" we'll endeavor to buy used).

** Amtrak's horns are required to sound at range of 96 to 110 decibels and they lean on the horn button when they blow through town. The San Diego Coasters travel more slowly so are allowed to sound their horns at a lower level. Coaster engineers driving the early morning trains often soften their horns to a tentative "hoot" out of respect for folk sleeping along the tracks.


  1. About 12 BNSF cargo trains pass through Bend daily. At your house, I would think you should be able to hear them at the Revere St crossing.

  2. Amtrak also goes through Bend, including the Coast Starlight. The station code is BED.

    When I lived on Baltimore the train horns were loud enough to be soothing, but not annoying. Same here above the Old Mill. The tracks roughly parallel 3rd St., between 5th and 9th East. They blow the horn at every crossing, about 20 or so of them.

  3. @Bruce: Thanks for the info about Amtrak and BED. Near as I can tell, there's no passenger service in Bend, though. How's a fellow catch a train ride?

    I know I heard the horns quite well when we were downtown, can't recall hearing them at our soon-to-be home on westside, but we were only there during the daytime, I reckon that overall traffic and town noises drop considerably at night. Unlike here, where we are only one mile from I-5 between Los Angeles and San Diego and lemme tell you that freeway is constantly busy. Once in a while the fog gets heavy enough to muffle the sound, but most of the time the roar of the freeway provides a constant background.

  4. You have to jump on the train in Chemult to get on the Coast Starlight. Literally.

    Well, they do stop the train a few minutes for you to get on, but you gotta walk up the cattle ramp with your luggage in order to board the train.

  5. @News Junkie: I hear tell that there's a shuttle to Chemult.

    How did Chemult manage to score an Amtrak stop but Bend didn't?

  6. Amtrak has never run through Bend; not enough population to support it east of the Cascades. So the route runs through the valley.

    I'm not certain if that shuttle is still running to Chemult or not. And last I heard, Amtrak service was temporarily suspended in Chemult because of a landslide across the tracks just north of there. Passengers on the Coast Starlight were being shuttled via bus between Eugene and Klamath Falls.


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