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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Birthday Trip
Fullerton, California, round trip to Santa Barbara

January 16, 2023
Photos by Carl Morrison,, and Matthew Morrison

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My rail travel buddy, Don Roe with Amtrak hat, deserved a train-riding birthday present in 2023, so we went to Santa Barbara for lunch.
Our ticket for 2 of us above.  All the Conductor needs to scan is that code/box in the upper left corner on a paper printout or smart phone.  At the time that we made the reservations, the only return, direct Surfliner was 794 leaving Santa Barbara at 6:50 pm (after dark) and a 9:46 arrival back in Fullerton.  However, some quick iPhone work by Matt found an earlier return direct train that left about 1:20 and got us back to LA about sunset.

Don and I qualified for the Senior Discount (10% Senior discount which is applicable to travelers aged 60 and over), but there are also discounts through Santa Barbara Carfree (link below)

Make Your SoCal Trip Extra Special. Travel on the Pacific Surfliner™ to Santa Barbara County

Cruise along tracks that parallel the Pacific Coast, taking in iconic scenery, from sparkling beaches and coastal bluffs to lush farmland and rolling hills. Santa Barbara is served by two Amtrak train routes, the Pacific Surfliner™ (San Diego to San Luis Obispo) and the Coast Starlight™ (Los Angeles to Seattle). The Santa Barbara Amtrak station is conveniently located in downtown Santa Barbara just two blocks from the beach, Stearns wharf and many attractions. Visit the popular Funk Zone and Urban Wine Trail beginning right across the street from the station. Many hotels, shops and restaurants are located within a few blocks walk from the station.
Pacific Surfliner™

Traveling 351 miles and serving 27 stations, the Pacific Surfliner offers four round-trip trains daily to Santa Barbara route/schedules. Santa Barbara county train stations include Lompoc-Surf,Guadalupe, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria. Connecting Thruway bus service is offered from the train station to the UCSB Campus, Solvang-Santa Ynez Valley, Buellton and Santa Maria.  Hotels may offer complimentary pick-up and drop-off service, please ask when making hotel reservations.

Onboard amenities on the Pacific Surfliner include complimentary Wi-Fi, power outlets, spacious, reclining seats and overhead luggage/surfboard racks. Visit the Sea View Cafe featuring fresh salads and sandwiches, snacks, local craft beer, cocktails, and wine or simply settle into your seat to unwind and enjoy the views.

Save 20% on Amtrak™ Pacific Surfliner™

Save 20% on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner™ to and from all nine Santa Barbara County stations!

    Save 20% on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner™ (plus associated thruway buses, except not valid on the 7000-8999 thruway series).
    Good for travel to or from the following Santa Barbara County Stations: Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, University of California Santa Barbara, Goleta, Guadalupe, Lompoc-Surf, Solvang, Santa Maria and Buellton.
    Valid for purchase through November 16, 2021 and December 22, 2023 and for travel between November 19, 2021 and December 25, 2023
    Tickets must be purchased three days in advance after registering and via the special link provided on this website
    Not valid for travel on the Coast Starlight and certain holiday periods (click for blackout dates) and fares are subject to availability
    Up to one (1) child age (2-12) may accompany each adult at half the regular full adult rail fare
    Click here for full offer terms and conditions


Our local Amtrak Station is Fullerton, California, with the Santa Fe Express Cafe, right above.

This adventure started with an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner departure at 8:18 a.m. which automatically included breakfast and coffee at the Santa Fe Express Cafe where we always see proprietors Jose and Anna cooking and serving with a smile, and a "Have a good trip." 

We had experienced excessive rain, for California, the previous month or so, but this morning was predicted to be the end of it. 


We learned from the ticket agent in the Amtrak Station that the Pacific Surfliner No. 765 would be arriving at 8:18 or so on Track No. 3 so we proceeded across the pedestrian bridge, "an excellent place to watch trains."

The rain had stopped and the Fullerton Station with the Santa Fe Express Cafe on the right still looked inviting.


The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway opened its first Fullerton station in 1888.

The station has two historic depots on site: one built in 1923 by the Union Pacific Railroad, (Now Old Spaghetti Factory-white building with tile room on left above.) and the other built in 1930 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (Above). Both depots are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1930 Santa Fe depot serves as an Amtrak ticket office and passenger waiting area and has a cafe. It features Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture, as evidenced by the stuccoed walls, red tile roof, and decorative wrought ironwork.

The Union Pacific Railroad was the third railway to lay tracks through Fullerton and to build a depot. This helped firmly establish Fullerton as the regional rail center for northern Orange County. The 1923 Mission Revival style building was designed by John and Donald Parkinson. Fullerton's redevelopment agency moved the station next to the Santa Fe depot in 1980 to preserve it] Now it is occupied by an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.

Pacific Electric constructed an interurban railway to Fullerton in 1917, located just north of the Santa Fe station and providing a transfer point to their system.

In September 1983, the Orange County Transit District (now the Orange County Transportation Authority) opened the Fullerton Transportation Center bus depot which is located across the street from the station which is served by OCTA routes 26, 43, 47, 143, 213 and 543.

This station became one of the original 9 stations on the Metrolink Orange County Line when it opened on March 28, 1994 and also one of the original 7 stations when the 91 Line (now the 91/Perris Valley Line) opened on May 6, 2002.

In the late 1990s, the Fullerton Railway Plaza Association (FRPA) began fundraising and lobbying for the creation of an interactive railroad attraction or museum at the site, while continuing preservation efforts. Starting in 1999 the Amtrak station and the FRPA were hosts for the annual "Fullerton Railroad Days" event at the Santa Fe depot, an event that attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 participants.[citation needed] Due to the city not supporting the FRPA museum,[citation needed] Railroad Days was not held in 2009, and FRPA looked elsewhere, choosing to hold its 2010 event in neighboring Brea. The organization subsequently changed its name to the Southern California Railway Plaza Association (SCRPA). However, Railroad Days for 2020 was canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The station is served by the Metrolink 91 Line and Orange County Line commuter rail services, plus Amtrak intercity Pacific Surfliner and long-distance Southwest Chief services however, all Southwest Chief trains going to Los Angeles stops only to discharge passengers while trains going to Chicago stops only to pick up passengers.

The BNSF San Bernardino Subdivision has three tracks through the station. Westbound passenger trains use the north track and its side platform; eastbound trains use the south track and side platform. The center track is for freight use only. An additional siding track with a side platform south of the mainline tracks is used for short turn trains that run between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel or Oceanside.
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Our Surfliner No. 765 arrived at 8:39 a.m. in push mode.  At LA, a stub in station, it would reverse and be in pull mode north to Santa Barbara.

On the upper level of some Superliner coaches, in the center of the car are 4 facing seats with a table reserved for groups of 3 or more.  We walked through and found a coach with such seating (above).  Don wanted to be on the engineer's left side so he could see the Amtrak yard before we arrived at the station.  Since the train reversed in the LA Station, we moved to the opposite side on the way to Santa Barbara to be on the ocean side.


From the flyover we could see the LA River bank to bank with runoff water from weeks of recent rain when usually the bottom of the concrete channel can be seen with only a small center lower channel of water.  Earlier rain for the day had cleared and the clouds were clearing.


 We passed the Amtrak turntable as seen from the flyover with the restored Santa Fe 3751 under tarps on the right. 


Nearby was a Genesis locomotive and long-distance coaches and a Superliner Siemens locomotive.

We went under the 6th Street Viaduct over the LA River that also crosses over the railroad tracks and yards.

More than a bridge: Michael Maltzan’s 6th Street Viaduct addresses mistakes of L.A.'s past

Michael Maltzan’s design for the 6th Street Viaduct replaces a 1932-era design by city engineer Merrill Butler that had succumbed to structural problems. That bridge — a beloved lowriding thoroughfare and international cinematic icon — consisted of a flat deck that traveled over an industrial spaghetti of railways, freeways and the channelized Los Angeles River. Its most notable flourish was a pair of steel arches that marked the point at which the bridge traveled over the water.

Maltzan’s design tips its hat to Butler — while also creating something daringly new. Spanning 3,500 feet from end to end are 10 pairs of arches whose forms echo Butler’s design, with the tallest arches framing the river crossing. Imagine the ebullient pattern left by a bouncing ball or a rock skipping across water.


From the Surfliner coming in from the south, one can only see the tops of the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles.

Many earlier generation Metrolink locomotives and coaches align out tracks into Los Angeles Station.

We took on more passengers as we were stationary below the Metro Headquarters Building.

The Metro Headquarters Building (or One Gateway Plaza) is a 398 ft  high rise office tower in Los Angeles, California. It is located in Northeastern Downtown Los Angeles, east across the tracks from Union Station . Completed in 1995, it serves as the main headquarters for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority


This Red Cap had decorated his electric cart in red/white and blue.

Leaving LA Union Passenger Station, an original bridge near Dodger Stadium

Metro Rail (lightrail) yards

If video past Metrolink Yard does not play, go here:

We saw the Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge

The Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge, an aesthetically distinctive steel structure, is ushering in a new generation of bridge crossings over the LA River. Now open, the bridge is designed exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists, connecting the Elysian Valley neighborhood with the active, residential Cypress Park community. While providing a safe and memorable path to travel on, the bridge offers two cantilevered lookouts with expansive north and south views of the adjacent communities and natural surroundings of the Glendale Narrows section of the river.

Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge is one of three pedestrian crossings recently erected along the LA River as part of the Los Angeles’ River Revitalization Master Plan. This crossing will eventually connect to the Taylor Yard G2 River Park, a new, sustainable recreational greenspace to be built on the 42-acre site adjacent to the river known as the G2 parcel.

We passed the Van Nuys Airport, above, as well as the Burbank Bob Hope Airport.

The Burbank Bob Hope Airport is the closest LA regional airport which many people, hoping to avoid the congestion of LAX, take then take the Pacific Surfliner to downtown LA or points south.

This family was enjoying their first family train ride.

The Ventura Pier and distant Channel Islands.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel between the tracks and the pier.

This is the first time I have seen an Amtrak Station sign with the red sign.  It is actually just covered benches with no services.

The Ventura River's muddy waters emptying into the ocean thus replenishing the beaches with sand.

If the video above does not play, go to this link: .
The surf was muddy with weeks of runoff as we skirted bays riding from Ventura to Santa Barbara.

We were getting close to our destination station when we passed the lagoon next to the SB Zoo.

A beautiful sunny, cool day as we arrived at Santa Barbara Station.



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Ticket windows and Lobby in the Santa Barbara Amtrak Station.

Santa Barbara station

Santa Barbara, CA

Location    209 State Street, Santa Barbara, California

Owned by    Redevelopment Agency of the City of Santa Barbara
Line(s)    UP Coast Line
Platforms    1 side platform, 1 island platform
Tracks    2

    Bus transport Amtrak Thruway: 4, 17, 21
    Bus transport FlixBus
    Bus transport Greyhound Lines
    Bus transport MTD: Downtown Shuttle

Parking    Yes
Disabled access    Yes
Other information
Status    Staffed, station building with waiting room
Station code    Amtrak: SBA


Opened    1902

Rebuilt    2000
Original company    Southern Pacific
FY 2021    123,317[1] (Amtrak)
Preceding station     Amtrak    
Following station
San Luis Obispo toward Seattle
     Coast Starlight        
toward Los Angeles
    Goleta toward San Luis Obispo
      Pacific Surfliner        
toward Los Angeles or San Diego
Former services
Southern Pacific Train Depot
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Area    4 acres (1.6 ha)
Built    1905
Architect    Francis W. Wilson
Architectural style    Mission/Spanish Revival
NRHP reference No.    06000658
Added to NRHP    August 2, 2006

Santa Barbara station is a passenger rail station in Santa Barbara, California, served by two Amtrak lines, the Coast Starlight and the Pacific Surfliner. The Coast Starlight runs once daily in each direction between Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington. The Pacific Surfliner trains serving this station run ten times daily (five in each direction) between San Diego and the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta, with two of those running in each direction to/from San Luis Obispo further to the north. The station is fully staffed with ticketing and checked-baggage services.


Santa Barbara station in a 1910 postcard

The station was built in 1902 by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the Spanish Mission Revival Style. Design work was by Santa Barbara architect Francis W. Wilson.[3] It is located within walking distance of Santa Barbara Harbor, Stearns Wharf and State Street, Santa Barbara's main thoroughfare. The historic depot was renovated in 2000; the project included the restoration of the ticket office and upgrades to the plumbing, electrical and heating and cooling systems.

For most of the first decade of the Amtrak era, the station was only served by the Coast Starlight, which ran southbound during the evening rush and northbound at lunchtime. In 1988, Amtrak and Caltrans extended the San Diegan, previously a Los Angeles-San Diego service, to Santa Barbara, providing an additional round trip between the Central Coast and Los Angeles. Eventually, service was extended to nearby Goleta and later all the way to San Luis Obispo, resulting in the route being rebranded as the Pacific Surfliner in 2000.

Due to the length of the platform, when Amtrak's Coast Starlight train is stopped, it blocks the two streets to the north and south of the depot.

Of the 74 California stations served by Amtrak, Santa Barbara was the 15th-busiest in FY2012, boarding or detraining an average of approximately 834 passengers daily, and serving a total of 304,382 passengers in FY2012.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 2, 2006.[2]


We had planned to eat at the Monterey Bay Fish Company (under the flag above), but it was no longer there.  The Ronald Reagan Ranch Foundation is between the Fish Company and the Amtrak Station.

We had lunch at The FisHouse,101 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101


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I had Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi.


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We walked west on Cabrillo past the Blue Water Grill with faux lighthouse then up State St. to the station.

Ceramic tile bench at the station with image of former coastal passenger train.

The train we had taken to Santa Barbara had laid over at Goleta and was the same train we took south back to LA and Fullerton.

Our view from the upper level of the Superliner of State Street south and the Sterns Wharf.

IMG_2057.jpgThe tracks run along the bluffs south of Santa Barbara.

The tracks and 101 are squeezed between the bluffs and the surf near La Conchita, California, Ventura County.

Arriving back in LA about sunset.

Bridges of LA County

As you leave Los Angeles Union Passenger Station heading south along the Los Angeles River, you pass under several vintage bridges.






Don reflecting on the day as a Surfliner passes heading for LA.

From the flyover, lower tracks cross the Los Angeles River looking east.

South Soto Street from the flyover looking north.  5:20 pm 1/16/23

Back in Fullerton on Track 3.

Our Surfliner heads on south toward San Diego as we head for the Pedestrian Bridge and home.

Yours Truly
Cheers to Don's birthday and another Pacific Surfliner Rail Adventure to Santa Barbara. --Author



The Cafe Car Attendant announced his menu and this coupon which could be downloaded on passenger's smart phone or other connected device.  We 3 used the coupons for $3 off any $5 purchase in the cafe even though it said it was expired.  The attendant explained that they originally planned to offer it for 3 weeks, but were still using it.

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