The Spirit of California at Glendale station in 1982.

(Hikki Nagasaki, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak's classic logo.


The Spirit of California was a passenger train operated by Amtrak between Los Angeles and Sacramento, California. It operated from 1981 to 1983 with financial support from the State of California. It was the first overnight service between the two cities since the Southern Pacific Railroad discontinued the Lark in 1968 and one of few state-supported Amtrak trains with sleeper service. The train used the Southern Pacific's Coast Line, complementing the Coast Starlight which served the route on a daytime schedule.



See also: Lark

The last overnight service on the Southern Pacific's Coast Line was the Lark, which ended on April 8, 1968. During the 1970s Amtrak operated the Coast Starlight, which departed Los Angeles every morning for Seattle, Washington. The southbound Coast Starlight arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the morning and in Los Angeles by dinnertime, and at the time did not serve Sacramento, the state capital.

The new train departed Los Angeles at 8:25 pm, arriving in Sacramento at 9:30 am the next morning. The southbound train departed at 7:55 pm and arrived at 9:00 am the next day. The California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, budgeted $1.7 million towards the train's first year of operation and expected 160,000 passengers the first year, rising to 300,000 in five years. The train carried coaches, a café, and two sleeping cars. Service began on October 25, 1981. Caltrans held a naming contest, with the winner "Spirit of California" announced on December 24.

Governor George Deukmejian cut funding for the train after taking office in January 1983. The train's supporters scrambled to find additional funding. A proposal to get funding from the state of Nevada in return for extending the train to Reno did not pass the Nevada legislature. The Spirit of California was discontinued in 1983, running for the final time on the night of September 30–October 1, 1983.



The Spirit of California's usual consist was as follows:

  • EMD F40PH diesel locomotive
  • Heritage baggage car
  • Heritage sleeper
  • Heritage sleeper
  • Amfleet I café
  • Amfleet I coach (60-seat)
  • Amfleet I coach (60-seat)


Spirit of California Route.

(Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0.via Wikimedia Commons)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: California, United States
First service: October 25, 1981
Last service: September 30, 1983
Former operator: Amtrak
Route Termini: Los Angeles, California / Sacramento, California
Stops: 11
Distance traveled: 552 miles (888 km)
Average journey time: 12 hours, 50 minutes
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 15, 18
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reserved coach
Sleeping arrangements: Bedrooms and roomettes
Catering facilities: Café
Rolling stock: Heritage sleepers, Amfleet coaches
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Track owner: SP