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San Diego Coaster Motive Power Over the Years

by Chris Guenzler

Coaster History

The North San Diego County Transit Development Board was created in 1975 to consolidate and improve transit in northern San Diego County. Planning began for a San Diego-Oceanside commuter rail line, then called Coast Express Rail, in 1982. Funding for right-of-way acquisition and construction costs came from TransNet, a 1987 measure that imposed a 0.5% sales tax on San Diego County residents for transportation projects. The Board established the San Diego Northern Railway Corporation (SDNR) - a nonprofit operating subsidiary - in 1994. SDNR purchased the 41 miles of the Surf Line within San Diego County plus the 22-mile Escondido Branch (later used for the SPRINTER) from the Santa Fe Railway that year. NCTD originally contracted Amtrak to provide personnel for COASTER trains. In July 2006, TransitAmerica Services took over the day-to-day operation of the commuter train, based on a five-year, $45 million contract with NCTD. In 2016, Bombardier Transportation replaced TransitAmerica as COASTER's operator. In December of 2018, NCTD achieved full implementation of positive train control along the entire COASTER route, making it one of only four railroads in the United States to achieve full implementation of this technology without needing an extension beyond 2018.

The Story

When Coaster service began on February 27, 1995 I would take Metrolink down to Oceanside every Friday night then ride Coaster to San Diego and then Amtrak home. In 2020 it was announced that Coaster would be getting new motive power late that year so I decided to write a story up to the day that the new engines were placed in service. Now let's first look back at the orignal engines that Coaster used for their early years. It is operated by North County Transit District.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2105 seen at the old control point of Elvira.

Coaster 656 came into Oceanside.

Coaster 639 came through Del Mar.

Coaster 656 came into Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2101 at Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2102 at Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2103 at Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2104 at Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2105 at Oceanside.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2105 leads Train 645 at Old Town. These first five engines were retired February 5th, 2021.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2103 crossing the San Diego River.

Coaster F40PHM-2C 2103 at Oceanside.

Coaster 2104 at Oceanside on Coaster train 656.

Coaster 2104 at Del Mar on Coaster train 645.

Coaster 2104 at Del Mar on Coaster train 645.

Coaster received F59PHI 3001 and 3002 in 2001. These units will be back-up engines once all new locomotives are in service.

Coaster F59PH 3002 at Del Mar on Coaster 635.

Coaster 681 came below us at Genesee Ave in Rose Canyon.

Coaster F59PHI 3001 on Coaster 656 at Oceanside.

Coaster 684 passing the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Coaster F59PHI 3002 on Coaster 656 at Del Mar.

Coaster F59PHI 3002 on Coaster 685 at Old Town.

Coaster 3002 on Coaster 656 at Oceanside.

Coaster 656 with the 3002 pushing at Oceanside.

Coaster 3002 on Coaster 656 at Oceanside.

My first Siemens Charger 5002 at Stuart Mesa taken from Metrolink 665.

Siemens Charger 5001 at Stuart Mesa.

Coaster repainted Cab Car 2301 at Stuart Mesa. These cars will be replaced by the modern Bombardier cab cars when the order arrives and will then be retired.

Coaster Test Trains

Before any new motive power goes into service, testing of it must occur.

The first Coaster Test Train I saw was at Oceanside on 11/30/2020.

Elizabeth and I drove down to Del Mar to catch a Coaster Test Train there on 12/1/2020.

I caught the first Coaster Test Train in Oceanside on 1/21/2021.

I caught the Coaster second test train in Oceansise passing my Metrolink 609 train for home on 1/21/2021.

First Day Run of the Coaster Siemens Charger Units in Service 2/8/2021

It was Marty Smith's birthday and we decided to ride the first day trips of the Coaster new engine in regular service. Elizabeth and I picked Marty up and drove to Oceanside, then purchased tickets for our round trip from Oceanside to San Diego.

Coaster 631 arrived into Oceanside with SC-44 Charger 5003 on the point.

The train turns into Coaster 635 for San Diego. We boarded the cab car for our trip to San Diego.

Birthday Boy Marty Smith was really having a great birthday.

Marty and Elizabeth practicing safe train riding during these Covid 19 times in America.

Your author practicing safe train riding as well. We had a good ride to San Diego and we detrained for more pictures.

Birthday Boy Marty comng down to the front of the train.

SC-44 Charger 5003 in San Diego.

SC-44 Charger 5003 and Marty in San Diego.

SC-44 Charger 5003 in San Diego.

The rear of the SC-44 Charger 5003 in San Diego. We reboarded the first car and met Mitchell who reads my web site and was down here for the same reason as the three of us. We returned to Oceanside to a big surprise for all of us.

Coaster Press Train 2/4/2021

The repainted Coaster Cab Car 2301.

New leather seats in these rebuilt pasasenger cars.

The Coaster Press train in Oceanside.

Our train passing the Coaster Press train in Oceanside as it heads to the Stuart Mesa Coaster Yard.

Coaster SC-44 Charger 5001 in Oceanside.

Coaster Coach 2303. We returned to Santa Ana, had lunch at The Habit before Marty and I took Metrolink 815 to Oceanside. We then saw the Coaster Press Train running as Coaster 656 in regular service. We returned to Orange on Metrolink 609.