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New First Of Its Kind Overnight Hotel Train Will Connect These Two Popular U.S. Cities

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Los Angeles to San Francisco is one of the top ten busiest flight routes in the U.S. so far this year. 

It’s no mystery that many travelers prefer a 90-minute flight over a six-hour drive in infamous California traffic. But what if there was another way?

woman on luxury train

Reinventing An Old Hollywood Favorite

A luxury overnight train between L.A. and S.F. is a one-of-a-kind reinvention of a vintage favorite. 

In the 1940’s and early ‘50s, South Pacific’s overnight luxury all-Pullman express, The Lark, was the sold-out first choice of businessmen and movie stars. It featured a three-car legendary social club and was favored by big Hollywood names like Judy Garland. 

By the late ‘50s, many businessmen had switched over to first-class air travel, so The Lark was downsized and combined with a chair sleeper before ending service in 1968. Air travel remains the primary means of travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco today.

While this innovative start-up is bringing back a glamorous tradition of deluxe overnight trains up the California coast, Dreamstar’s new liner is definitely not your grandmother’s overnight train. 

old fashioned first class train

What Makes Dreamstar First Of Its Kind?

Dreamstar is offering the first luxury U.S. hotel on rails. 

Dreamstar sets its service apart from other high-speed rail options by reversing the typical balance of transportation and hospitality on overnight trains. Founder Tom Eastman considers it a moving hotel rather than a sleeper train.

With the exception of a few deluxe standouts, most overnight trains focus on transporting passengers from point A to point B, with stiff, scratchy berths appearing almost as an afterthought. 

This is especially true in the United States, where Amtrak is so notoriously awful that making fun of it almost feels like a national sport. 

Dreamstar is turning train travel on its head: hospitality first, transportation second.

Dreamstar advisory board member and former Caltrain/SamTrans CEO Mike Scanlon recently commented on their concept: “You’ll have a moving hotel room, for a niche audience. It could be practical, economical and a lot of fun.”

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luxury train Johanessburg

Dreamstar Details

The train’s proposed schedule would have it departing around 10pm and arriving by 9am. 

Eastman told SFGate that a ride on the new Dreamstar would cost about $300 for a single room, $600 for a double room, and $1,000 for a premium suite. 

Technology upgrades include electronic ticket sales and a centralized app where Dreamstar passengers can pre-order food, arrange services, and view information. 

The first routes had originally been scheduled for summer 2024. However, Dreamstar’s website now indicates that trips on this moving hotel could be available as soon as this winter.

train tracks in california

Alternative to Amtrak

Amtrak made a failed attempt at reviving California sleepers in the 1980s with Spirit of California, dropping it after three short years of service. So what makes Dreamstar think their concept will work?

For one, unlike Amtrak, this private company doesn't have to rely on Congress to muster the political will or efficacy to make this rail revolution happen.

For another, Dreamstar promises to be a reliable, enjoyable private alternative to the unreliable and often miserable public option.

Just earlier this year, Amtrak was publicly shamed by Congress for a 37-hour “train ride from hell” from Virginia to Florida, drawing attention to Amtrak’s frequent extended delays. 

Travelers are ready for some healthy competition to drive improved industry standards for U.S. rail.

Passengers Boarding Amtrak Train

The Green Option

Overnight train travel is a low-emissions alternative to short-haul flights.

From celebrities to business travelers to average families, passengers today care more than ever before about the climate cost of their travel.

Two-thirds of Americans want to see the carbon footprint of their flights before booking, while one-third are willing to pay extra to offset the carbon emissions from their flights. (Unfortunately, most airline carbon offset options are simply greenwashing programs that do more harm than good.)

If travelers are given a convenient way to truly bring down their carbon footprint, the data suggests that many will. 

family admiring san francisco california

The primary considerations holding travelers back from choosing greener options are price, time, and convenience. 

With an estimated price of $300 per passenger, Dreamstar is actually the better deal. 

While economy-class flights between LAX and SFO can cost as little as $45, first-class tickets that offer comparable amenities to the Dreamstar liner can cost anywhere between $318 and $1,225. 

Given that Dreamstar offers an overnight hotel stay, travelers should add to their calculus the $211 average hotel price in San Francisco last year. 

first class passenger on phone

Yes, the Dreamstar has a longer transit time than its airborne counterpart. But when travelers consider the time it takes to get to the airport, check-in, clear security, board, deplane, and pass through baggage claim, a short flight would likely end up costing only three or four hours less than this high-speed train – and a lot less hassle. 

The convenience of central train station locations in L.A. and S.F. also put travelers right in the center of downtown upon arrival, skipping chaotic airport taxis and long highway journeys into the city in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

All things considered, Dreamstar’s deluxe overnight train is a more affordable, better value, and more convenient way to enjoy Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Monday 15th of May 2023

I fly often and it's become crowded, cramped and not very customer service oriented. This is an interesting alternative that might work for a lot of people if it's reliable and the overnight ride is not too intrusive when trying to sleep.


Sunday 14th of May 2023

Isn’t part of rail travel the scenery? Not much scenery at night.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

It is not clear to me how Dreamstar would be more reliable than Amtrak or Sprit of California when using the same infrastructure which is in total disrepair. I think that air travel in the US is a horrible experience, but at least you won’t have to suffer an entire day. I could imagine that there might be a market niche for luxury buses between those two cities, as the highway connecting them is in a good state. If Japan’s high end night buses are successful, despite the tough competition of its amazing bullet train, I have a hard time to imagine why California could not copy something like that. Actually “The Jet” between New York and DC is a luxurious bus.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Wait wait wait. So we were taxed a gazillion dollars for that God damn train and then they figured out that they couldn't actually build it cuz they didn't know how and it was expensive. And instead we're getting a slower overnight train that cost hundreds of dollars for I hope a round trip?

John R

Friday 12th of May 2023

I love the trains. I travel a lot in Amtrak sleepers and ome in coach. I look forward to this Dreamliner service and will probably be one of the early riders.

But this was a poorly thought-out article in some ways. It bashes Amtrak inappropriately, in my opinion. Granted Dreamliner will be much more comfortable and service oriented. But unless they lay their own track, they'll be subject to exactly the same delays as Amtrak.

You see, there is no actual American passenger rail. There are passenger trains in America, but they have to beg space and time on the freight rail system. Most of the delays are due to freight train comflicts.