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Amtrak Surfliner and Coaster Trains at Del Mar, California

Trains at Del Mar, California

Amtrak Surfliner and San Diego County Coaster

April, 2010, on the Del Mar Bluffs

Photos by Carl Morrison,   E-mail:

Gallery Quality prints of these photos are available at

These photos are from above and along the BNSF tracks between Solana Beach Station, and the Junction of Carmel Valley Road and Historic Highway 101, in Del Mar, California.  Hwy. 101 runs parallel to the tracks and provides easy access to viewing spots along the way.  The tracks pass under Hwy. 101 at Jimmy Durante Dr. in north Del Mar, and again at Carmel Valley Road in south Del Mar.  These photos were taken over a one-week time span while I stayed at Wave Crest Resort, just above the tracks and beach in Del Mar.  Many Surfliners and Coasters travel this route between San Diego and Oceanside.  Coasters run as far as Oceanside, while Surfliners run to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, or San Luis Obispo. 

The only freights traveling this coastal route run at night, usually 2 or 3 a night.  Northbound you will see auto haulers and mixed freights.


My favorite spot for train photography in Del Mar is the Hwy. 101 bridge over the tracks on the south side of Del Mar at the Carmel Valley Road/Hwy. 101 traffic light.  This spot on the bluff allows for a background of the bridge, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, and the Pacific Ocean Beach.  To get the sun on the shore side of the trains, be at this spot before noon.

For best viewing of this webpage, widen your screen until the black borders show on both sides of the following photos.


Amtrak Surfliner


Coaster - North County Transit District

Walking north, behind my camera position for the photos above, on the bluff, you can see the tracks as they stretch up the coast almost to downtown Del Mar.  Between the tracks and the edge of the bluff, you will see bikers, runners, and walkers along a sandy trail.




View from the trail, mentioned above, between the track and the beach.


There is a trail, not on railroad property, on the bluff side of the tracks, with easy access from Del Mar Streets (above and below).


There is one small cut on the bluff where the passengers do not have a view of the surf, but there is a trail on both sides for an "Above Amtrak" view.


North of the cut, passengers have a clear view of the surf.


At 15th Street is Seagrove Park.  The sidewalk on the bluff extends south of the park, past Wave Crest Resort.


Trains headed both directions will sound the horn for the crossing 1/2 block away, so you'll know when to start shooting.  


I suggest setting your camera on burst since trains pass so fast.




A new train photo spot for me in Del Mar is the San Dieguito River Bridge, next to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  From Hwy. 101's bridge over the same river, there is a trail that runs on the south side of the River from which these shots were taken.


At sunset, you can get some interesting reflections of the train off the river.



The bridge is immediately west of the Del Mar Racetrack/Fairgrounds made famous by Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, and others of that Holywood Era.  Of course, steam locomotives would have brought them to the Del Mar Station.

A shot from the walkway along the Hwy. 101 bridge including wild Purple Statice in the foreground.


The Solana Beach Station is considered the closest station for the Del Mar Racetrack/Fairgrounds since the Del Mar station is no longer used.


South of Del Mar, the track turns inland, around Torrey Pines and La Jolla, and does not see the surf again.  This canyon route is single track and slow.


It is fun to ride the Coaster as well as photograph it from the outside.  Shown here at the Old Town San Diego Transit Center, you can detrain for a visit to Old Town, or board a red Trolley to get all over town.  I took the Coaster, round trip, from Solana Beach to Old Town for the Sr. price of only $6, a half-hour ride each way.

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