Any Excuse Is Good For A Train Trip September 25th, 2009
Report and Photos by Noel T. Braymer
Recently I had a free Saturday afternoon. Since I like to go for rides and I always need more photos for the Newsletter it was a good time for a train ride. Metrolink has a weekend train that leaves at 2:10 PM out of Oceanside to Los Angeles and a train to get me back home by 10:45 PM.
(NOTE: PHOTOS have now been added to this report. Photo right shows a 9 PM Metrolink train to Lancaster at LAUS.)
NJ Transit “Comet” cars at Los Angeles Union Station.
My first surprise was seeing how dirty the outside of the train was. It looked like it had been in a dust storm. The inside was okay. After leaving Oceanside I noticed some other Metrolink trainsets in the yard had a Comet car painted in Utah Front Range colors. My train this day however didn’t. As I traveled as much as I enjoyed the trip I couldn’t help thinking it would be better if it could go a little faster.
Photo: San Diego Trolley and a Coaster at San Diego station
San Diego County is applying for 377 million dollars from the 8 billion dollar High Speed Rail Stimulus funding. San Diego wants the money for installing Positive Train Control signaling as well as double tracking more of the county while replacing old wooden single track bridges with double track concrete bridges which have lower maintenance costs. San Diego also wants money for 4 pedestrian tunnels in Encinitas and 6 million for a platform for events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. San Diego should get some money; the question is how much given the competition for this money from so many other states.
As I traveled I watch the many grade separations built on this route in the last 30 years or so. The California High Speed Rail Project plans to build a 4 track railroad (double track for passengers and double track for freight between Los Angeles and Fullerton. The first leg of HSR is to continue to Anaheim to a new transportation center built between Angels Stadium and the Honda Center where the Mighty Ducks play. For speeds of up to 110 miles per hours on this segment will be fully grade separated. Despite the progress made over the years, there are 9 grade crossings that will need to be grade separated just between Anaheim and Fullerton, Between Fullerton and Los Angeles there are 8 more grade crossing that will have to be grade separated. This doesn’t also include the need for a flyover that will be needed at Fullerton at the junction of the BNSF Mainline and the Surfline. There are also at least 4 diamonds at railroad crossing to be dwelt with. There is talk now of a 2011 ground breaking for High Speed Rail between Los Angeles and Anaheim. It is going to be a big job just for this segment.
Exposition Boulevard. looking toward USC from Exposition Park showing Expo Line construction Once I got to Los Angeles I planned to check out as much of the local rail transit as I could. First step was getting a 5 dollar day pass good on all transit trains and local buses of the LAMTA. The downtown subway was keeping busy and even on a Saturday had frequent trains. There were more video information displays in the stations. Good idea but finding the right train can still be confusing. Los Angeles is supposed to be putting in turnstiles soon at the rail transit stations. This is a bad idea which only benefits turnstile manufacturers who are said to have lobbied local politicians hard for this. At 7th and Flower I got on a DASH Bus which are shuttle buses run by the City of Los Angeles which serve local areas. I paid a quarter and traveled to the USC/Exposition Park area. Once there I took pictures of construction of the Expo-Line on Flower Street and Exposition Blvd. The Expo Line should be running by late next year. The DASH Buses stop running at 5 PM which is when I got to USC. But with my pass I got back to Union Station via local bus, Blue and Red Lines.
Gold Line train extension on the First Street bridge I decided to take my main trip on the Gold Line from Union Station to Pasadena. I must admit the Gold Line is something of a guilty pleasure of mine. If there was a contest for most scenic transit rail line in Los Angeles County then the Gold Line would come on top. Frankly for scenery the Red and Purple subway lines would be at the bottom. The Gold Line easily has variety for scenery. The Gold Line starts at the north end in the middle of the 210 Freeway in Pasadena on what was once part of the Santa Fe line between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. After going in a tunnel under the freeway you stop in downtown Pasadena at a station surrounded by new housing and commercial development built because of the Gold Line. After another tunnel under Colorado Blvd. there are more stations with new development. As you head for Los Angeles you travel through some of the older neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The area is quite hilly and has lots of landscaping. There are many older houses including Victorian Mansions along the route. Many of the houses look like those in old Silent Movies. And quite likely they were in the Silent Movies. There is an elevated station at Chinatown which leads to a spectacular aerial view as you descend into Union Station. When the Gold Line is extended later this year to East LA, the trains will become the first run through service out of LAUS going over the Freeway and then down to the side of Alameda Blvd., then over the First St. Bridge at street level before dropping into over a mile of subway with 2 subway stations in the heart of East LA. As the train heads back on to street level there is a roller coaster ride in the middle of 3rd Street to the end of the line.
Metrolink train at the Palmdale station on the Lancaster line. After taking some time for dinner and resting at the Waiting Room at Union Station, I went up to the platform for my 8:45 departure at about 8:15. I was not alone at the platform. At my train and at a train for Lancaster there were Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies at some of the doors of the Metrolink trains. They opened one half of the sliding doors and the checked the tickets of the passengers as they entered. As we waited to leave there was a late arrival for a train from San Bernardino due in at 8:40. Our train was held for passengers making connection for our train when it arrived around 8:45. Metrolink on-board crews do a good job of announcing connections and tracks numbers for connecting Metrolink trains. It is good advertising for potential trips for existing Metrolink riders. What is still lacking though are more connections with other Metrolink trains and other services such as Amtrak and Coaster trains.
Metrolink train at the San Clemente station. When we got to the Laguna Nigel/Mission Viejo station we stopped at the end of Orange County’s double tracking and waited, and waited. The conductor got on the intercom to announce that we were waiting for a northbound Surfliner and that “Amtrak was running late today”. Despite the late start at LAUS and the long meet, my train was less than 5 minutes late into Oceanside.