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A One-Way Trip Aboard the Tioga Pass to San Diego 10/23/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I saw this classified advertisement on Trainorders: "Well, it appears that the schedule changes on the Surfliner routes on October 25th will probably end private car trips to San Diego. Here's a last minute opportunity to ride a real business car on the rear of a Surfliner -- On Saturday, October 23, Tioga Pass will run from LA to San Diego leaving at 7:02 AM. The car will arrive in San Diego at 9:50AM and will lay over in the station until it leaves Sunday morning at 8:25am, arriving LA at 10:10am. On both trips, a light snack service of coffee, juices, pastries and fruit will be served. Other beverages will include beer and soft drinks. No, you can't ride on the open platform any longer, but the view from the lounge can't be beat. Perhaps in a few years, Amtrak will again welcome the extra revenue private cars provide, but for now... Reserve your space now....Fare is $100 per person, cash or check or pay pal is fine"

Tioga Pass History

Built in 1959 by the Canadian National Shops in Point St. Charles, Quebec, the car was part of an order for 12 similar cars designed for railroad executives. Originally number 23, and later number 93, Tioga Pass spent most of its life in Edmonton, Alberta. There it served the Vice President of the Mountain Region. Records show the car travelled all over Canada, providing some 30 years of faithful service. By the early 1990s, though, the car was largely redundant and seldom used. Like the passenger trains on which it used to hitch a ride, the automobile and airplane offered quicker and more convenient transportation in today’s fast-paced corporate world.

In 1992 Canadian National decided to sell the car, and a local businessman in Barstow, California named Rutherford P. "Rudy" Hayes bought it sight unseen because, as he put it, "I always just wanted one". In an epic trip, the car traveled from Edmonton to Barstow in January 1993. Through fierce cold and driving blizzards, the passengers stayed warm inside. Its new owner was like a proud father, pronouncing the car was all he ever thought it would be. Unfortunately, Rudy never got the chance to travel on his new car. He died of a heart attack only months after it was delivered. The car sat, forlorn and neglected in front of the Harvey House train station in Barstow for several years.

Aronco Leasing Company purchased the car in 1997 from the Hayes estate. A victim of benign neglect, numerous repairs and upgrades were needed before the car could be used again. Starting in 2002, the Tioga Pass has undergone the most extensive restoration since its construction. An exhaustive examination of all of the major mechanical components of the car was undertaken, including the wheels, suspension, couplers and airbrakes. This thorough examination allowed the car to be considered as good as new. At the same time, a number of upgrades were made to allow the car to operate behind Amtrak trains, such as installation of heavy-duty power cabling and signal and communications wiring.

During the off-season in winter 2005, Tioga Pass saw its first significant redecorating in more than 20 years. The living room was completely redone in oak paneling and new furniture was installed. New carpeting and flooring was accompanied by fresh paint and a host of other interior decor changes. A new high-capacity diesel generator was installed, along with miles of new wiring. Almost every trace of the original electrical system was removed in preparation for new equipment. A completely new air conditioning system, and upgrades to the heating, ventilation, lighting and plumbing rounded out the vast array of improvements.

We came up with a plan.

The first thing was to call Norm to set up the trip. Next was to get a hotel room. This proved to be a major problem since hotel rates in San Diego were either outlandish or sold out. The best we could do was in Santee but it was a twenty-minute walk as well as the full length of the Green Line Trolley, so we booked that one but later decided againist it. Next we found a hotel in Chula Vista but since we wanted to see some new things and would have to carry our luggage with us, this was now not an option. We called Norm and told him we would make a one-way trip from Santa Ana to San Diego aboard his car. We could sleep in our own bed and join the car enroute.

Elizabeth and I woke up and after breakfast, we did our usual Internet activities. Before we left, Elizabeth noticed it had been raining so I gave her my umbrella to use and we walked out to the car. I drove us through the drizzle to the Santa Ana train station and parked in the northeast parking lot. We then got undercover and Elizabeth bought our Metrolink tickets while I found out from the Amtrak agent how Pacific Surfliner 1764 was doing on this very wet morning. We went back undercover to about where the car would stop and we waited. The crossing gates went down and I got into photo position.

Pacific Surfliner 1764 arrived in Santa Ana with the Tioga Pass on the rear. Norm opened the platform gate and we boarded the car and sat down, making ourselves comfortable as the train started moving.

The train left Santa Ana and we were on our way to Irvine.

The train left a dry Irvine and headed to San Juan Capistrano.

The train left a damp San Juan Capistrano with a ghost in the bell tower. We went by Serra siding and headed to the surf of the Pacific Ocean.

The rains returned we passed Doheny Beach State Park.

Running below the bluffs on a wet morning.

The train went through the North Beach Metrolink station.

We continued on our route and past two crossing gates along the San Clemente trail.

Along the San Clemente trail we would travel.

The train went by the Santa Fe San Clemente station sign.

We ran through the San Clemente station.

The train went under the T Street bridge.

Views through the San Clemente state park.

Passing through the wave-damaged zone.

Entering San Diego County at County Line.

The train crossed San Mateo Creek across this bridge.

The life guard station perched high above the tracks.

San Onofre Creek was crossed next.

Metrolink 661, a train I used to ride from Oceanside.

The high rise tower north of the San Luis Rey River.

Crossing the San Luis Rey River.

Our Pacific Surfliner left Oceanside and headed to Solana Beach.

Pacific Surfliner 1567 at CP Swami.

The train crossed the Escondido Lagoon.

Departing a damp Solana Beach.

The train left CP Valley far behind.

Our crossing of the San Dieguito River.

Crossing the Del Mar Bluffs.

Norm Orfall and a new private car owner James Everson.

My beautiful wife and Ed Hodnet.

Climbing Miramar Hill.

Reaching the top of the grade at CP Cumbres.

The train ran through CP Rose.

We paralleled the future Blue Line extension which will have its official opening on November 21st but we will have the opportunity to ride it in two weeks.

The train ran through CP Moreno.

The train stopped in Old Town then ran by a trolley on the Green Line.

We made our way toward the Santa Fe Depot.

Coaster Train 681 left Santa Fe Depot as we arrived.

The rear of Coaster 681 departing San Diego.

Doug Spinn, owner of the Pacific Sands.

Doug's wife Tracy.

Pacific Surfliner, which became 774, on Track 4 after dropping us off on Track 3. Elizabeth and I left the private car and walked to Courthouse station and we waited for a Orange Line Trolley.

The Orange Line trolley we boarded, which was cleaned before departing. We took this trolley to 12th and Imperial.

At 12th and Imperial we waited for a Blue Line Trolley to take us one stop to Barrio Logan where we detrained.

The Barrio Logan Archway.

Our goal was to see the El Cerrito Restaurant which was apparently housed in a former cable car. It turned out to be a concrete trolley numbered 150.

We returned under the Barrio Logan Archway.

Information about the Barrio Logan Archway in two languages.

A southbound Blue Line trolley arrived at the Barrio Logan station.

The trolley then departed the station.

Our next ride took us back to 12th and Imperial where we boarded a Green Line Trolley back to the Santa Fe Depot. We bought our Coaster tickets then sat on the Tioga Pass until we saw Coaster 685 approaching the station.

The new Pronto Coaster tickets out of the Pronto machine.

Our last view of the Tioga Pass from Coaster 685.

Back in Oceanside, a picture of Coaster 685. We walked to Jersey Mike's for our linner.

Pacific Surfliner 774 leaving Oceanside bound for points south.

This train had the protection engine on its rear end.

Pacific Surfliner 579 came into Oceanside.

A seated view of Pacific Surfliner 579 before it left for Los Angeles.

Metrolink 858 arrived and we boarded this train then sat at CP Songs for about fifteen minutes waiting for a green signal.

The Irvine Great Park Orange Balloon is dressed up for Halloween.

Two views of Metrolink 858 leaving Santa Ana. We drove home and I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-1 without any of the superstar players such as Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter. I wrote this story while watching the game and afterwards. It had been a great day of train riding aboard the Tioga Pass and thank you to Norm as always for his hospitality and stories.