16.7.06

THE OTHER CORRIDOR. After the Western Economic Association conference adjourned, I made time to explore Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner service, which offers frequent trains San Diego-Los Angeles and a respectable schedule north to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, the end of water-level running on the Coast Line.

San Diego's Santa Fe station is receiving yet another makeover. Most of the Santa Fe-era tilework is in pretty good shape, but there are some rearrangements being made to the baggage and office space. The towers behind the station are relatively new.


The Surf Line ends two blocks from the harbor. This cruise ship, which docked overnight, is much larger than Midway, moored at the next pier north.


If anybody at Kalmbach is reading, this trolley is for you!


For many years, the San Diego Gas & Electric generating station got into pictures of San Diegans, trolleys, and the freight trains that still work the neighborhood. The shell of the building is being saved, but the innards are gone in favor of a condo tower.


Although the Santa Fe referred to this as the "Surf Line" and Amtrak's service is now Pacific Surfliners, there are some operational impedimenta to this line matching either the speed or the precision of the Hiawatha line or the Northeast Corridor. The San Diego station is at water's edge, and there is beach access from Solana Beach to San Clemente. But there's no easy way out of San Diego. The train has to come to grips with Soledad Canyon.



Some stretches of the line are posted for 90 mph running, but the canyons, some tight curves along the beaches, and a number of junctions in the Los Angeles area, where the Surf Line was stitched together out of several smaller railroads, impede our progress. Amtrak at one time offered a Metroliner on this line, but gave up on the idea as impractical.

It's the Fourth of July in California. A beach party was shaping up near San Juan Capistrano.


The Burlington line passes several municipal parks between Westmont and Western Springs. Locals headed for the pools and tennis courts tend to leave a bit more to the imagination, and they're less likely to display tattoos they'll regret later. Different noncognitive skills, again?

Some kind of pre-firework festivities were in progress in San Clemente. As is the case on the Great Western's sea-wall stretch through Dawlish, the train has to proceed at restricted speed thanks to tight curves. There's little point in opening up to 90 only to have to back off for the curves or the grades.


Trackside at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (to use the old name), where the train will pause for a few minutes before reversing direction to San Luis Obispo.

Inside the station, the old ticketing positions are preserved as if the nave of a church. This portion of the station is closed off to public access. The waiting room has comfy lounge chairs. There are few station services compared to Chicago's Union Station, although Los Angeles's Chinatown is a few blocks walk away.

The train was full most of the way north. The high-level coaches load and unload reasonably quickly. Passages to adjacent coaches and the cafe car are on the upper level. I saw one rake running with a Superliner coach as strengthening.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner 775, San Diego to Los Angeles, 4 July 2006: cab car 6951 Point Loma, coaches 6411 and 6452 Mission Beach, cafe 6301, Pacific Business Class 6851 Balboa Park, F59 458 pushing. Temperature in the low 80s, clear skies and dry rail. Most seats taken out of San Diego, full out of Oceanside. I did not have occasion to synchronize my watch with a standard clock. Leave San Diego 12:01:19, Solana Beach 12:33:03-12:34:36, Oceanside 12:48:11-12:50:09, San Juan Capistrano 1:23:50-1:25:54, Short stop between San Juan Capistrano and Irvine to meet 774, Irvine 1:38:30-1:39:47, Santa Ana 1:48:43-1:50:10, Anaheim 1:57:45-2:02:50 (heavy traffic off and on) Fullerton 2:10:00-2:12:10, Los Angeles 2:42:39, on time within the margin of error of my watch.

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