The Photographic Journal

Coast Starlight

Essay 243 • Jan 17th 2018

A recently-cultivated aversion to airports, born out of burnout from incessant touring and air travel, had me looking for ways I could get to places which didn’t involve the sky.

I discovered the Coast Starlight train as a means of trekking between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it’s become a favorite way to travel.

Setting up camp in the viewing car is the best way to navigate California on rails. Here you can observe the ever-changing light and terrain in an all-window carriage. Listen to National Park Service volunteers through the green and gold farmland of the Central Valley and the mother-of-pearl abalone farms along the Pacific coastline (which the train hugs for most of the route). Watch passengers begin the journey as strangers and end it as friends.

I’ve never known the Coast Starlight to run on time, but it doesn’t matter. I use it as an opportunity to slow down. We all need to slow down.


Rachael Wright is an editorial and commercial photographer specializing in environmental portraits, lifestyle and music for clients including Apple, Converse, Barclaycard, The Guardian, NME and Q Magazine.

In her own time and on her own dime, she enjoys photographically pursuing the myth of the American Dream, as well as ice-cold root beer and the works of Steve Martin.

Originally from a bucolic pocket of England, Rachael spent seven increasingly anxious years living in New York City. She is now based in the relative suburban calm of Los Angeles.

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