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Trains of San Diego County, California. By Carl Morrison,, April, 2012

Trains of San Diego County, California

Text and Photos by Carl Morrison,

April, 2012

We live in Orange County, California, near one of the best places to watch trains that I know of, Fullerton, California, Santa Fe Station. 

Being a flatlander from Southern Indiana originally, I also always had a desire to live by the ocean.  In California, that is not an attainable dream for a high school teacher, so we settled for one week a year on the beach in San Diego County at the Wave Crest Resort in Del Mar.  One of the features I saw when we looked at this timeshare was the railroad tracks down the bluff between our timeshare and the beach.  Needless to say, this is the best place I've found to watch trains 24/7 and be on the ocean.  I can sit in our unit and see every train that passes between us and the Pacific whether it be the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, the Coaster out of San Diego, or freights. 

Even on a bluff or beach walk, trains can still be seen.  In fact, since there are 24 Surfliners and 24 Coasters that travel between Oceanside and San Diego each day between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., you are very likely to see 3 per hour!  After dark, some freights pass before midnight.  Some freights are auto racks carrying Hondas unloaded from ships in San Diego.

Click to see an online video of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner southbound
on the Del Mar Bluffs near Carmel Valley Road and Camino Del Mar, titled,

"Why they call it The Pacific Surfliner"

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner No. 461
viewed from the public walk south of Del Mar's Seagrove Park with Wave Crest Resort on the right.

No. 461 continues south on the Del Mar Bluffs
past visitors seated on a public bench south of  Seagrove Park.

A Surfliner bi-level car with the ocean view.

Kids and mallards all enjoy watching trains pass by.

Aptly named Coaster No. 2105 slips into Del Mar below Seagrove  Park.

Coaster No. 3001 runs along the coast below Wave Crest Resort.

Northbound Coaster along the Del Mar Bluffs

Del Mar Bluffs near Carmel Valley Road and Camino Del Mar, South Del Mar, California.

Amtrak Surfliner  No. 457 at Cardiff by the Sea, with "Be Track Smart - Tragedies Touch All of Us" wrap.

The last station before reaching San Diego, or the first northbound out of San Diego, is Solana Beach Station.  The tracks have been recessed here in the past few years so traffic on surface streets does not have to stop for the many trains.  This is the destination station for activities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack.  A Breeze bus is available from the Station to the Fairgrounds during the Fair and Horse Races.

Surfliner No. 464 at Solana Beach Station for the 35 minute run to San Diego.

Surfliner No. 464 after arriving at San Diego's former Santa Fe Station, downtown.  Good track speed between Del Mar and Sorrento Valley Coaster Station, but much slower going over the summit east of Torrey Pines State Park before descending to San Diego.  Only 26 miles, it takes 35 minutes.

In sight of San Diego Bay cruise ships and tour boats,  Surfliner No. 464 awaits her return trip north with No. 460 on standdy.

High platforms at San Diego Station allow the manual ADA ramps to provide a convenient angle departure.

The popular Red Trolley boards steps away from the Amtrak arrival tracks.  ADA have to use a mechanical lift in these old-style Trolleys which are still in service.

The Red Trolley makes a very sharp turn and enters America Plaza Trolley Station just steps from the Santa Fe Amtrak/Coaster Station.

Columnar artwork on the building north along the San Diego Station platform honors the city's railroad history.

The newest version of the Red Trolley has low-floor entries.

This shot
, with a 432 mm lens, is of the Santa Fe Station from the 40th floor "Top of the Hyatt" Lounge.  The station was the largest building in San Diego when built, but look how it is dwarfed by  nearby residential towers nowadays.

Childrens Park, which cannot be seen from street level, has the Martin Luther King Promenade and both light rail and  Coaster tracks running through the water feature.  A 2-unit Red Trolley crosses in this photo reminding me of a railroad roundtable.

Past Childrens Park and Petco Park adjacent to Harbor Drive is the rail yard for the Red Trolley and Coasters.

While at Petco Stadium I spotted the authentically restored Vintage Trolley Car #529 at the nearby 12th and Imperial Transit Center.  She runs the Downtown Loop so seldom, I felt fortunate to have seen a glimpse of her: 
Normal hours of operation for Vintage Trolley Silver Line Service are:
• Tuesdays & Thursdays - 10 am to 2 pm
• Saturdays & Sundays - 11 am to 3:30 pm

Another "Trains of San Diego County" Photo Essay

For some statistics about the trains shown above, check these sites:

San Diego Trolley | San Diego Coaster | Amtrak Pacific Surfliner

Over 100 other rail reports by Carl | Silver Rails Country