Saturday, May 28 , 2016, 2:01 pm | Overcast 63º

South Coast Railroad Museum’s ‘Sweetheart Special’ Excursion on Track for Feb. 15-16

By Gary Coombs for the South Coast Railroad Museum |

The South Coast Railroad Museum is reprising its popular “Sweetheart Special” rail excursion on Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16.

Those taking the Valentine’s-themed train trip may select to ride on either of two historic railcars. They may also choose to travel on either Feb. 15 or Feb. 16.

The museum has booked two special railcars for the exclusive use of the Sweetheart Special and the event’s attendees — the Vista Dome car, Silver Splendor and Acoma, a restored Santa Fe Super Chief club-lounge. Learn more about each of these car and their histories in the “About the Cars” section, below.

Regardless of the travel day or accommodation chosen, all Sweetheart Special passengers will enjoy a boxed lunch from the legendary Far Western Tavern, sweet treats and optional Valentine’s-themed fun activities, and unparalleled travel along the beautiful Central Coast to San Luis Obispo.

The luncheon menu includes a variety of selections. Beverages and a light snack are also included with the ticket price.

Passengers on both days may board the “Sweetheart Special” at either the Santa Barbara or Goleta Amtrak stations. The train is scheduled to depart Santa Barbara at 10:22 a.m. (10:34 a.m. for Goleta), arriving in San Luis Obispo at 1 p.m. The return trip, aboard the same vintage railcar, will begin at 1:55 p.m., arriving in Goleta at 4:17 p.m. and Santa Barbara at 4:32 p.m.

The Sweetheart Special is a great opportunity to see enjoy the spectacular views and sites along the spectacular oceanside route to San Luis Obispo, including the majestic Gaviota Coast, Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Hollister Ranch, Point Conception, Vandenberg AFB, Pismo Beach, the Edna Valley wine country, a number of state and county beach parks — including El Capitan, Refugio, Gaviota, Ocean Park and Jalama — and more.

Tickets for the “Sweetheart Special” rail trip are $129 for Acoma and $139 for Silver Splendor. A discount is available for purchases made through the museum’s online store by clicking here. Additional trip information, including menu selections, can also be found on the online store. Reservations may also be made by calling the museum at 805.964.3540.

Trip seating is limited. Early reservations are recommended.

About the Cars

Overland Trail is a 39-seat club lounge, built by the Pullman company for the Southern Pacific Railroad and delivered in 1949. Originally designated SP 2981, the car served on the San Francisco Overland, a train jointly operated by the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Chicago & North Western railroads between San Francisco and Chicago.

Overland Trail was featured in the Travel Channel’s “Tricked Out Trains” (2013) television show and the car's interior was the setting for a key scene in Clint Eastwood’s award-winning film, “Flags of Our Fathers” (2006). Today, elements of the original Flags set decoration, including two large railroad murals, still furnish part of Overland Trail’s interior. Overland Trail was also an invited participant in the 100th anniversary celebration for New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

Silver Splendor was built for the Zephyr fleet of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad by the Budd Co. in 1956. This stainless-steel Vista Dome car raced between Chicago and Denver on a daily basis until 1980, including the final nine years under Amtrak ownership. Originally named Silver Buckle, she was part of the last two complete conventional train sets to be ordered new in the pre-Amtrak era, traveling more than 4.5 million miles.

Vista Dome cars are celebrated for their graceful glass-enclosed rooftop observation rooms, which provide unparalleled views in all directions. This makes Silver Splendor the perfect venue for enjoying the spectacular views and sites along the beautiful coastal route between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

— Gary Coombs is director of the South Coast Railroad Museum.

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