Amtrak’s Singing Cafe Car Attendant

Filed Under: Travel, Videos

I travel between Los Angeles and San Diego a fair bit, and it’s a trip I always struggle with. In theory you have a good number of options — you can take a plane, train, or automobile. But in practice it’s just a crappy trip no matter which choice you go with.

I almost exclusively take Amtrak, assuming I’m not flying out of either airport that day. Why?

  • I’d rather not rent a car in general, and beyond that traffic can be highly variable on the ride up and down the coast
  • If I fly then it would be a ~45 minute drive to LAX, then I’d have to take the commuter bus to the American Eagle terminal, then it would be a quick flight, and I’d be there
  • Otherwise I can make the ~25 minute drive to Union Station and take Amtrak down the coast for the three hour ride, which at least features reasonably comfortable seats, power ports, and wifi; it’s also the cheapest option


So I usually end up taking Amtrak. As far as US train journeys go, I’d say it’s actually one of the better ones. The route tends to run pretty close to on-time, and the scenery enroute is gorgeous, as you hug the coast almost the entire way.


Of course the best part of Amtrak can be the people. I witnessed my first Amtrak arrest on my journey down the coast last week, which the conductor handled with a great sense of humor. It can also get pretty political, like the below suitcase a lady had above her seat (in case you can’t read it, it says “Circumcision? His body, his choice”). She might be anti-circumcision, but she sure “cuts” right to the point!


But coming back from San Diego to Los Angeles yesterday I experienced something new, after having taken this journey well over a dozen times — a singing cafe car attendant.

Now, I’ve never actually been to the cafe car on Amtrak. I bring a bottle of water on Amtrak and work, as the last thing I want to do is buy food on a train. So how did I know that the cafe car attendant was singing? Because he decided to do so over the PA… for several minutes.

He was announcing in a sad voice that there wasn’t much time left to buy food, and decided to end his announcement with a song. I started listening and the first thing I thought was “crap, I wish I had known about this before so I could record — I’m sure he’ll stop any second.” Well, he didn’t. So after about two minutes I started recording:

Does he sound eerily similar to Homer Simpson, or what?

On one hand I couldn’t help but giggle and sort of roll my eyes. I was trying to get some work done, and someone wanting to hear themselves sing over the PA for a couple of minutes hardly helped with that. But at the same time I loved it. I mean, the guy works on a train and was singing about how much he loves trains. Where do you find people that passionate?!

So I guess I give the Amtrak cafe car attendant a big thumbs up… what say you?

  1. This guy’s a local legend, the subject of a few news stories over the years. Amtrak’s workforce has many, many passionate front-line employees, a crate of bad apples, and most who fall somewhere in between.

    Hope you’re accruing AGR points for your trips! =D

  2. Ben, I vote you publish a full trip report on Amtrak. We middle class readers need something to counterbalance the caviar-and-champagne jaunts!

  3. I’m shocked that you don’t use Avios and fly. Does AA not make awards available on this route?

  4. You forgot to mention the best part, from San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, San Diego. ONLY 1500 UR points Coach or 2000 UR points Business one way.

  5. I just got back from an Amtrak trip from Ohio to Denver with my family of 8

    4 reasons my Amtrak trip was a blast… –

    … but I’ll probably never take another Amtrak trip –

    The delays just killed it for me as anything but a novelty. Our outbound train was delayed THIRTEEN hours!!! Just totally unacceptable.

  6. @legoboyvdlp:

    Yeah, depending on where in LA you’re starting from, with traffic, LAX can easily be a 45 minute drive. The section of 405 it is on can be one of the worst stretches for traffic. 5 lanes in each direction and no one moving.

  7. This is the greatest thing I’ve seen all day. Every time I take the Acela to NYC, I’m going to be hoping for a similar experience 🙂

  8. @legoboy…I live in LA and the default time for all distances (close or far) is 45 mins.

  9. As a former daily commuter on the Pacific Surfliner, I can attest that this gentlemen has been working the route for a decade at least. In general I found his announcements amusing, although it could be quite distracting when trying to work.

    And yes, the Surfliner is definitely the way to to the LAX-SAN commute, although the connection to the airport is pretty rough on both sides.

  10. Right towards the end of the recording I was waiting to hear Do’h! He sounds a lot like Homer.

  11. @ legoboyvdlp — Sorry, should have been clearer. Not from LA “proper,” but rather with traffic from West Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

  12. @ Gene — They do. Ultimately my decision to take the train over flying isn’t driven by price, but rather by convenience/pleasantness of the experience.

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