Good Luck and a Horseshoe Needed to Catch Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

As a youngster, I always tried to catch a glimpse of the locomotive during train rides. As soon as I felt the train starting to lean into a curve, I’d press my cheek up against the window to see as far as I could up ahead. The longer and sharper the curve, of course, the better the view, meaning the best possible locations for seeing the locomotives are on so-called “horseshoe curves”.
There are several horseshoe curves on Amtrak routes throughout the U.S. Probably the best known is near Altoona, Pennsylvania. But there’s another just north of San Luis Obispo in California and this time, on my recent trip aboard the Coast Starlight from Emeryville to Los Angeles, I was ready for it. As Amtrak train #11 was winding its way down through the mountains, probably ten minutes out of the San Luis Obispo station, I headed for the last coach, clambered down the stairs and stood by the vestibule window at the ready.

 Sure enough, just a few minutes later, there were the two locomotives heading in the opposite direction that I was traveling. Ready … and … gotcha!