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Sprinter Grand Opening Page 2

Sprinter Grand Opening Celebration

Oceanside to Escondido, California

December 28, 2007

Story and most photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

The train left the Oceanside station approximately 12:05 PM.  We thought the train left late, but it was scheduled to arrive at Escondido at 1 PM, which it did.  Being up front in the inaugural train, I had a great spot from which to view the line.  To check out the Sprinter line between Oceanside and Escondido, CLICK HERE.  The train made two stops, at Vista and San Marcos Civic Center, to pick up more invited guests.  Once I spotted the Sprinter maintenance yard, I figured the end was near.  The train approached the Escondido Station and stopped.  Once everyone was in place, Sprinter train number 1, moved forward again and broke through the banner.


Once the Sprinter was in her berth, we detrained and moved around to the tented celebration area.


Below four photographs, surveying the Escondido celebration area from left to right.



Along with the check-in tables, other tables held programs and Sprinter gourmet truffle pop candies.  Those who were at Escondido before the inaugural train arrived were treated to entertainment.


As promised, the NCTD had food to be enjoyed.  As I was working on my plate, I noticed the
inaugural train operator, Tino.  I asked him how he was selected to drive the inaugural train?  He had several interesting replies.  I kept asking him if I could quote him and finally he said he just viewed the list and "was honored to be selected."  He seemed to be a humble man who was doing his job.  Thanks Tino.


Finally, we found seats and NCTD Executive Director Karen King began the program of presentations and comments.  She started with an overview of the system, a thank you to local, Federal and State who made contributions, and a promise that Among her key points, she stated that before the Sprinter entered revenue service, a few loose ends had to be tied up, and that the budget and schedule had to be revised a few times over the years.  The Sprinter is the largest project that their community has seen at $21 million per mile. The Sprinter is the longest public works project at 22 miles in length.  The project was conceived 30 years ago as an alternate to east-west State Highway 78.  They knew that the Sprinter was necessary as the congestion by 2015 would force mass transit into reality.  Ms. King further stated that the project was "not about the train...we move people."  The Sprinter serves 3 school institutions, 2 hospitals, one major mall, and commercial and residential.  King and the NCTD take pride about the future and the boost  to the local economy for which the Sprinter created jobs on various levels including construction, operation and auxilary.  Many local companies were involved and national companies with local offices took part.  King asked "Isn't that train gorgeous?"  She made points that it is the first non-FRA DMU to be started in service in California.  "The trains are clean and green, built to Euro III standards.  The body and shell are aluminum and fiberglass.  They are powered by 2 turbo, intercooled diesels with 5 speed transmissions."  They have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and will run 53 minutes form end to end.   While there were many challenges, we are here to celebrate th vision of people involved over the decades.

Next up on the poduim, lower left, was Former U.S. Congressman Ron Packard, the grandfather of the Sprinter.  His speech began with an anecdote whereby the local community leaders had an idea to buy the Santa Fe rail corridor from Oceanside to Escondid.  The railroad refused to sell.  At a later date, with Packard a U.S. Congressman and the railroads in a troubled business period, the Santa Fe Railroad president testified as part of Congressional hearings.  Packard approached the railroad president again with the idea of selling the rail corridor.  This set up the chain for the sale to proceed.  Packard, while on the Transportation committee, and Norman Mineta committee chairman, procured a "full funding agreement."  He admitted that there were some "naysayers here today" and that they should check back 20 years into the future.  He thanked the NorthCounty citizens for passing a one-half cent sales tax for the Sprinter.  Packard doesn't mind raising taxes "if the citizens get the benefit of that tax." 

Bob Frazee, lower right, another retired legislator, recalled late 19th century San Diego whereby his grandfather wrote a book beckoning immigration to San Diego County.  At the time, Oceanside was a railroad town at the confluence of four railroads.  There was a possibility of "another electric railroad" for the 18 miles from Oceanside to Escondido.  Carlsbad had all of 350 citizens, which got a few laughs from the guests.  Mr.
Frazee also thanks local Senator Mills as the father of modern mass transportation.  He recalled making an overnight drive to Sacramento to testify against a legislative bill that was unfavorable to his constituents.  This set into motion the eventual formation of the North County Transit District.


Lower left, Ed Gallo, NCTD Board Chairman representing the City of Escondido.  On the NCTD Board since 2002, Gallo spoke of the challenging issues bringing the Sprinter to this day.  He thanked the people "at the turn of the century to put in that railroad."  Of course he meant the ones in the late 1800's with the plan for the first east west rail line.  On December 1, 1887 the first trip was a "picnic trip" and now the trips in our century are to be "beach trips."  He invited the listeners to imagine what the Interstate would be like without the Coaster and thanked Ron Packard for the "full funding agreement."

Lower right, Mayor, Escondido, Lori Pfeiler.  Her remarks were very brief and joked that she "had saved her outfit" for this day.  She stressed that "the two corridors give us a choice" for transportation.  In describing the trials and tribulations of  getting the Sprinter to completion she called it "the little train that could."  Believers pushed the train over the hill and even though other people were on top of the train, they eventually got off and started pushing too.


Lower left, Jerome Stocks, NCTD Board Member, representing the City of Encinitas.  Mr. Stocks mentioned how the train is not so much designed for today's needs, but "for ten, twenty, and fifty years into the future".  He thanked the promoters for "the audacity to stick with it."  Another comment explored the seeming geometrical skyrocketing of the projects cost with home real estate price rises.  He mentioned the new smooth rail and Euro design of clean engines.

Lower right, Jack Feller, Councilman, City of Oceanside, recalled gworing up in a different area of the country and "hopping trains South Dakota to go hunting."  He stressed the idea of getting on the Sprinter for many reasons excluding hunting.  His mention of highway 76 brought a few boos.  He is, however, "glad to have played a part in this" and thanked "Karen (King) and all her staff.  They have been wonderful people to work with." 


Lower left, Judy Ritter, Councilwoman, City of Vista.  "I am truely honored to be here today and to see this actually running.  It is truely a milestone for North County."  She spoke of "the vision to getting high speed rail running down the Escondido Freeway, the 15, all the way to San Diego, so we can have a whole loop.  She quoted someone who had said that "when the Sprinter ran, they thought hell would freeze over" and gave the good news "the Sprinter's running!"

Lower right, David Drucker, Mayor and Councilman, City of Del Mar.  It has taken "walking the halls of Congress" to persuade support of the Sprinter project since 1996.  He also met with Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta who gave the "green light" to the Sprinter.  He called the Sprinter "an important piece of the mosaic of mass transit in San Diego County."  He predicted that "ultimately people will choose to get out of their cars and use mass transit" to save their personal time.  He "thanked all those who made this (the Sprinter) possible."


Sprinter continued