It was 47˚ and sunny when I arrived at the Fullerton, California,
Santa Fe Station, not bad for December 6! I boarded the southbound
Surfliner with 78 others, joining 18 who boarded in LA, making this, the
second FRPA/SCSRA outing, a total of 97 on this tour. Douglas Stephens,
Tour Coordinator, (DougDPS@ yahoo.com) informed me, as we rode together
on the second level of our reserved Surfliner car along the sunny California
coast, that the earlier trip in October had been attended in greater
numbers. There were 172 passengers on that excursion which went to
Santa Barbara with a bus on up to Solvang.
Doug introduced me to his boss, Gary Herod of Archer Travel in Melrose
(GaryH@archertravel.com). Gary filled me in on future FRPA/SCSRA
trips including a Surfliner trip to San Luis Obispo which will include
visits to Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, either SLO Mission or Santa Barbara
Mission, and a bus back to Santa Barbara and the train home to Los Angeles
or Fullerton. Lunch will possibly be in Los Olivos at the Vineyard
Inn. Another future rail excursion will be a trip to The Grand Canyon
including the Grand Canyon Railway to the rim of the canyon. Finally,
they are planning a rail trip to Las Vegas, staying a couple of days.
Doug Stephens Gary Herod
The Onboard Cafe is called Sea View Cafe & Lounge, lower level.
Lewis Columbus stopped by, seeing my TrainWeb hat, and said he loved
the information on TrainWeb.com. He had recently traveled to Chicago
and was unable to fly because of a varicose vein operation. He
was able to reserve the handicapped room on the SouthWest Chief so he
would not have to climb the stairs. He said TrainWeb.com was the
best train related site out there. Nice to hear from satisfied users,
Lewis! He was on this excursion with his extended family.
Lewis Columbus and family boarding the bus at San Diego
.Seated near me on the upper level of the Superliner were E. Diane
Rodriguez and Brian Armstrong. We traded passenger train stories.
They had recently traveled to Chicago, returning via Glacier Park
(the only National Park where Amtrak detrains) to Portland and back to
Fullerton. They mentioned how they enjoyed the Deluxe Bedrooms
on Amtrak. They had also been to the rim of the Grand Canyon on
Amtrak/Grand Canyon Railway, and were very happy with accommodations, right
down to the extra free hotel room in Williams because the returning train
was extremely late picking them up. I mentioned my recent trip to
Mexico's Copper Canyon and how happy I was with S & S Tours who lead
that trip. I directed them to my Trainweb.com report on the same:
Diane and Brian
In San Diego, our group boarded two busses and were given a city
tour before arriving at 11 a.m. opening time at the San Diego Model Railroad
Museum in Balboa Park. During our city tour, our bus driver, Don,
took us through Gaslamp Square and pointed out Croce's, a night club owned
by the late Jim (Time in a Bottle) Croce's wife. Jim's son was performing
We passed the new Padres baseball park near the convention center.
It is Petco Park, after the pet food manufacturer, and Don related
that the Padres had been playing like a bunch of dogs the last few years.
Wyatt Earp spent some time in San Diego with his wife and two girl
friends, Big-nose Kate and Edith. As legend would have it, the
two girlfriends got in a big fight and at the end decided they didn't
want anything to so with Wyatt. Guess this goes to show you, "You
can't have your Kate and Edith too."
We soon came to Balboa Park. Originally started by Kate Sessions,
a retired school teacher from San Francisco. She got 1400 acres
for the park and the stipulation was that she plant 300 trees a year.
She got ship's captains to help by bring in exotic plants from around
the world and school children helped as well. We passed the first
tree she planted there as well as her statue nearby.
Balboa Park has 17 museums and originally the buildings were built
as temporary buildings for a World Exposition which celebrated the opening
of the Panama Canal.
They were celebrating "December Nights" formerly "Christmas Nights,"
in the park.
We passed Spreckles outdoor organ where there are free concerts on
Sundays on this largest outdoor organ.
Also, we passed the Open Air Theater which is under the San Diego
Airport flyway. Since it is open air, the landing planes are very
close so when one arrives a red light goes on and the actors freeze until
the green light comes on for them to continue when they can be heard.
At the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the tour members enjoyed
the excellent displays and running trains. A special display was
in session by Lego.
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
A work crane pulls a box car from the pond.
Models look like ariel views of California.
A 'Merry Christmas' Train
At noon we boarded the bus to Coronado. The
Coronado Bridge is 2 and 1/4 miles long and the highest point is 240
feet above the water. This allows all but the flat top carriers
to exit and enter. If the bridge would ever collapse, the middle
section is built to float so the channel would not be blocked. If
you have been here before, you will be glad to know that the toll has
been lifted on the bridge.
Our destination, in Coronado was the Del Coronado Hotel in all its
Christmas finery. Don said the hotel is one of the biggest wooden
buildings in the US. When approaching the hotel along the beach from the
north, there are ice plant covered dunes. Upon closer observation
you will see they spell out Coronado! We were dropped at the hotel
about 12:30 pm, and I proceeded to photograph the beautiful old
An 80 ft. tree adorned the lobby.
A beautiful placque explained the
decorations. (Click the picture above
for a larger, more-readable image)
Old 'Trainers' like me even found interesting ornaments!
Once out on the beach, shooting back at the hotel, I noted
reflective photography umbrellas. As I approached, I noted an advertising
shoot was taking place with the hotel in the background. The subject
of the shoot was women's beachwear.
I would have gotten a closer shot for you, but I
didn't want you to see the goose bumps!
It takes more than models to pull off a photo shoot,
a pretty lady (Hotel Del) in the background
doesn't hurt! Let me know if you see this ad.
For lunch, I found a Wendy's Hamburgers a half-block north of the
hotel on the west (beach) side of Orange Avenue. There I had lunch
with Bob Gordon, an Auto Tech Instructor at Fullerton College, who was
also on our rail excursion. We had a delightful lunch together talking
about our mutual interest, community college teaching in California.
Back to the bus at 2:15 pm, we drove back over the bridge to the
Harbor Cruise pier. Our harbor tour left at 3:00 pm. First
we looped north of the pier and saw a large cruise ship from London, who
spent about 45 minutes in port before leaving. Don, the announcer
on the tour boat pointed out the 140 yr. old Star of India with large
sails. Don mentioned that port holes on these old ships were round
for cannons to protrude through and fire. Don also mentioned
that the often seen patch over one eye of a sailor didn't mean many had
lost one eye, instead a patch over one eye eliminates dept. of field vision
and thus sea sickness?!
Weather front moving in to San Diego.
Captain Dave whistling Dixie.
Sea Lions who can't read.
Chilly onboard, but Brian and Diane were ready!.
The ship from London was leaving after only
about 45 minutes in port.
The second hour was a sunset/moonlight cruise.
We passed the carrier #68, the Nimitz, painted the traditional haze
gray like other navy ships because a ship of this color can't be seen on
After one hour we changed ships for the southern harbor tour for
the 2nd hour. This is the second largest naval harbor to Norfolk,
We observed missile ships with no right angles so radar can't bounce
back, making them more stealth-like.
We passed the Harrier Carrier, #3 and the hospital ship, Mercy, with
it's white paint and red crosses. Mercy has 1,000 beds, 12 operating
rooms, and 60 Intensive Care Units.
In answer to why are ships are always referred to as females, Dave
replied they are always launched by females.
We walked the 2 short blocks from the Harbor cruise to the train station
and returned to Fullerton or Los Angeles.