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IC3 Flexliner in San Diegan Service 7/31/1996

by Chris Guenzler

During its two weeks in San Diegan Service, I rode the IC3 Flexliner at least one round trip per day. I will use 585 as an example of a trip on the IC3. I had ridden down to San Diego aboard it and was now ready to come home to Santa Ana aboard this unique train set built by Adtranz. The train is owned by the Israel Railway system and was in their paint scheme of red, white and blue. The Train consisted of two sets of three articulated cars. The first control car had 16 first class seats, a kitchen compartment and 20 second class seats. The middle car of each set had 64 second class seats and the rear control unit had 44 second class seats as built. For its North American Tour, the seating was changed to 32 first class seats and 109 second class seats. Power for the cars was provided by an Auxiliary Power Unit located under each car. The cars had large windows centered between the seats which reclined slightly. Since this run was in the height of the Del Mar Race Season, a second section of 585 would follow our train to pick up the racing crowd.

The Flexliner has all four trucks under each car in the three car set powered by a 535 kW KHD/Deutz eight cylinder air cooled diesel engine with two engines mounted under each cab vehicle. Basically, each train car is its own powered engine so if you have four power cars you have the power of eight engines. This gave the train the fastest acceleration of any train that I have ever ridden and caused as to dwell, waiting on departure time at all stations. It climbed the grades on the Surfline extremely well and braked extremely well. A feature of the IC3 is that these trains can separate on the fly. At the end of each set is a unique rubber front system which stores a complete cab end including the windscreen and the driver's desk at a 90 degree angle which allows passengers to pass from car to car. When you would want to separate from the other set for example, you would swing the control stand and windscreen into place with the same being done on the other set and when you are complete the trains can separate to go on different routes on the fly. For example two IC3 sets could come up from San Diego and at Orange, the front set goes to Los Angeles and the second set could go to San Bernardino. When they came back to Orange the sets would be coupled standing still. It is a fabulous train set.

We left San Diego on time and I walked up to where Jim Hatton was running the IC3 to watch him operate this train set. The train after the running air test quickly got up to speed and we were at Old Town faster than I had ever been before. We crossed the San Diego River before heading to Rose Canyon where the IC3 had no trouble running up the grade. Descending Miramar Hill was an easy chore for this train and at Sorrento we were quickly up to 90 MPH faster than I had ever been before. We slowed for the bluff running along the Pacific Ocean in the twilight of the day before running through Del Mar, passing the emptying Del Mar Racetrack to our first stop of Solana Beach where we arrived six minutes early. The IC3 had really showed its stuff on the toughest part of the Surf Line.

We took on only a few passengers since we had a second section behind us leaving all the drunken race track goers for the other train. We left on time and off we went like a bullet racing in ten minutes verses the usual twelve minutes to Oceanside where we picked up all of the passengers who waited.

We left Oceanside on time and flew across Camp Pendleton to San Onofre where we descended off the bluff for some beach running through San Clemente. Did our train get some looks even in the dark as we passed the evening beach bonfires? We pulled into San Juan Capistrano and were greeted by the border patrol who did not know what to make of our train. They had never seen anything like this train before and just took a quick walk through it more to see it than to catch any illegal aliens who might have been aboard. The IC3 made quick work of the grade out of San Juan and eleven minutes later we were stopped at Irvine and sat for four minutes waiting on the schedule. The timetable gave nine minutes to go the 9.8 miles to Santa Ana and the IC3 did it in six minutes. I detrained and talked with our conductor Larry Wheeler until departure time when I watched the train speed off into the night. I walked away after the IC3 left my sight thinking just what a fantastic train the IC3 truly was and just how lucky I was to get one of the many chances in that two week period to ride a most unique train, the IC3.