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                                                              A Renaissance in
                         by Ruby Elbogen                         Railroading
  There is a plaintive quality to the        - calling folks to get on board and       from private collections.
sound of a faraway train whistle             travel in the luxury of a bygone era.       Walls of exotic woods, chandeliers,
beckoning the adventurous to leave           To venture out with AOE guarantees        vintage furniture and a parlour car
all that is familiar and ride the rails. A   a taming of the wanderlust while          replete with baby grand piano and
haunting shrill in the night that tempts     riding in railroad cars that have been    a restored bar greet AOE guests, and
the restless to abandon home, hearth         meticulously restored to their original   while most pullman compartments are
and family to traverse the country with      splendor. Each of the cars in the         small they are well equipped and one
great abandon- -more than a hint of          quarter mile long train brings back the   soon gets over the shock of sleeping in
romance exists in the notion of getting      understated opulence of an era when       tight quarters. With so much going on
away from responsibility to see what         the wealthy rode in privately owned       in the public areas very little waking
lies around the next bend.                   pullman, dining and lounge cars           time, with the exception of changing
  The American Orient Express is             pulled by commercial locomotives,         clothes, is spent in compartments
equipped with an alluring whistle -          and many of AOE’s cars have come          and being on board can, indeed, be

22    California Tour and Travel Magazine
                                             Walls of exotic woods, chandeliers, vintage
                                              furniture and a parlour car replete with
                                             baby grand piano and a restored bar greet
                                                           the AOE guest

described as a sophisticated cruise
riding on the rails instead of on the
  Stops along the way are pleasant and
informative and colorful train cars
emblazoned with the words American
Orient Express and the AOE logo
attract a great deal of attention at each
station and along the way. Dining is
imaginative and on-board programs
and entertainment are remarkable.
A geographer conducts seminars in
the lounge for all who are interested
in the lay of the land and the train
staff is pampering. AOE passengers
tend to be extremely well traveled,
many had been on several previous
trips and regaled all with tales of their
rail adventures to Copper Canyon, the
Canadian Rockies, the Ante-bellum
South and the National Parks, as well
as trips to far flung places most of us
can barely find on a globe.
  Passengers like Sarah and Joe, who in
their mid-eighties, have been on safari
many times, had visited every corner of
the world and once took a harrowing
plane ride landing at the North Pole        so many globe trotters of this stature,   before departure with check in and
where they jumped out on the ice and        experience and sophistication.            a welcome dinner reception at the
ran around the earth three times; and        The recurring theme on each of           extraordinary Marina Del Rey Ritz
the still dashing WWII hero,Texas           the trips offered by AOE include          Carlton in the West Los Angeles area.
oilman cousin of Al Gore who had            breathtaking scenery enhanced by          Guests got acquainted and became
been to so many exotic places it would      guided tours in comfortable motor         familiar with the many amenities at
be difficult to chronicle all of them.      coaches as well as an unforgettable on-   the hotel including the health club and
A humbling experience, indeed, for a        board experience. Our trip, the Pacific   spa, walks along the water and nearby
travel writer to be in the presence of      Coast Explorer, began the afternoon       Venice Beach.          continued on next page

                                                                                        California Tour and Travel Magazine      23
                                                                                           trip to,
                                                                                         once again,
                                                                                          back to a
                                                                                         and gentler

  Day two began with breakfast at the        leisurely private candlelight luncheon
hotel followed by a tour of the area         in the Merryvale Cask Room cellars
and a visit to the Disney Music Hall in      where we were served elegant gourmet
downtown LA. We boarded the train            cuisine, wine with each course and a
on a distant track at the farthest end       sumptuous dessert.
of historic Union Station to begin             We remained on the tracks
the journey along the spectacular            at McClellan Air Force Base in
California coast, much of it not visible     Sacramento, until the wee hours of
from the highway. The train does             the morning when the train pulled
not travel at night in order to give         out for the gorgeous ride through the
passengers a good night’s sleep and a        magnificent forests and small towns
full day on the rails. Overnights are        of northernmost California, and into
spent on private sidings.                    Oregon on the way to the Portland
  Our third day brought us to the            Train Station.
splendor of magnificent Hearst Castle          Our arrival in the wonderfully green,
conceived, designed and painstakingly        clean, forward thinking beautiful city
built but never completed by the             of Portland was eventful and included
infamous William Randolph Hearst             tours of the city, culminating in a
and legendary architect Julia Morgan.        bittersweet farewell reception and
  Our next stop was Jack London              dinner on the train that evening.
Square Station in Oakland. We                  The next and last day of the Pacific
motored to the San Francisco Ritz            Coast adventure ended in Seattle--with
Carlton and after lunch spent the            fond good-byes to and from passengers
late afternoon and evening on our            and staff and solemn vows that all on
own. After breakfast at the hotel the        board would meet again on yet another
next morning we embarked on a tour           remarkable American Orient Express
of Napa Valley. The highlight of the         trip to, once again, hearken back to a
American Orient Express adventure            gracious and gentler time when travel
for many was the visit to historic           on the rails in beautifully crafted train
Merryvale Winery in Napa Valley for          cars with impeccable service reigned
wine tasting and a truly magnificent         supreme.

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