Report and Pictures by Noel T. Braymer
I amazed myself by getting up and out the door before 9 AM on my day off to catch the 644 Coaster out of Oceanside at 9:22 AM. This gave me almost 4 hours in San Diego so I could still get home early enough to take care of some chores. I wanted to go to San Diego to check out the reconstruction of much of the older parts of the Trolley. Rebuilt stations will allow the use of new low level cars which will be faster to load and easier to use for people with disabilities. Everything went smoothly at Oceanside with the Coaster train waiting at the station when I got there. The equipment was clean and in good shape. It wasn’t a rush hour crowd but the train had a decent load. No wonder, the San Diego Fair runs for most of June until July 4th and the Coaster has special fares for the Fair. On the weekends for $15 you get admission to the County Fair and round trip tickets on the Coaster with transfers which you can order online and you don’t have to pick up tickets at a station. The rest of the week with your bus or train ticket you get a $3.50 discount on admission to the Fair.
With the completion of new double tracking in Carlsbad additional Coaster trains are expected sometime this year. So far no word when or what to expect.We are suppose to see some joint Coaster/Metrolink trains between Los Angels and San Diego this year. The first week of July Metrolink will be adding more trains on both the work week and weekends to Oceanside. We shall see if this includes improved connections to the Coaster. Last year Metrolink ran trains as far as Solana Beach to serve the Del Mar Track Horse Racing season. Still no word if Metrolink will be back this year for Del Mar.The first sign of construction was south of the Encinitas Station where the first of 4 pedestrian tunnels in Encinitas is being built. Not much to see from the train since much of the work is underground. But a good excuse for another train ride. North County Transit which operate the Coaster also provides bus service from Oceanside to Del Mar. North County Transit lowered their fares for the Coaster between Oceanside and Solana Beach to encourage more local travel. So close ups of the tunnels at Encinitas will a good excuse for quick trips to Encinitas.
I was most interested in seeing what construction there was for the new double tracking south of Sorrento Valley. For now there is single track from Del Mar to Miramar Road in San Diego except for a siding that starts at the Sorrento Valley Station which is near the I-5. Construction is in the early stages but will extend the Sorrento Valley siding a mile roughly past where the tracks go under the I-15. Between where the tracks go under the I-15 to Miramar Road is where the tracks are the slowest and the curves the tightest.
After waiting over 25 years for this day it is good to see work started. The ride continued nice and boring. Coming into the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego construction was on going at the Trolley Station. The Trolley Station was opened during construction
with flagmen on duty to protect passengers from Trolleys and construction equipment. At the older stations for the Trolley the at top of rail platforms are being replaced and raised to closely match low level equipment being bought to replace the original cars that are now over 30 years old. When this is done the Green Line which is the newest line serving Mission Valley will be extended to downtown as far as Petco Baseball Stadium. For now the Green Line which has low level cars can’t be used past Old Town so passengers have to transfer to the Blue Line with the older equipment. Besides new
platforms, many of the old shelters are being replaced at the older stations.
After checking around the Depot I decided to ride the Trolley. I caught the Orange Line which I got at the Trolley Station across the street from the Depot. Trolleys run every 15 minutes and downtown you have both Blue Line Trolleys between Old Town and the Boarder while the Orange Line runs from downtown and goes inland. The Orange Line is never boring with over a mile of it as street running in an old neighborhood with auto junkyards and small factories. This gives way to greenery while traveling through a cemetery. The further east you go the area becomes more suburban. From the Grossmont Shopping Center Station the Orange Line shares tracks with the Green Line. I got off at the El Cajon Station to transfer to the Green Line to get to the end of the line at Santee. One of the improvements which soon will be system wide are electronic signs giving the times for when the next 3 Trolleys will be arriving at that Platform. Parts of the Orange and all of the Green Lines have this now. So I was please to see that the next Green Line Trolley to Santee was only 6 minutes away when I got off the Orange Line Trolley. A nice thing about the San Diego Trolley is their connections between Trolley Lines are usually very good. The Orange Line still has the older equipment but the Green Line equipment is new and low level. One reason I like to travel to Santee is the last mile is mostly single track in the median of a busy road. This made for an economical way to extend light rail.The second and more important reason is the end of the line is a station in the middle of a new shopping center right in the middle of the food area of the shopping center.
After lunch I caught the Green Line Trolley for Old Town. The equipment was new but the operator seemed to be having problems with it. It arrived and left a little late from Santee. When we got to the first stop at Gillespie Field the operator got out after stopping and went to the back car for a while. Once we left there seemed to be no other problems. The Green Line is the newest line and has the fewest grade crossings and most viaducts. It has the only tunnel for the Trolley to get into and out of San Diego State University. It serves the most shopping centers of any of the Trolley Lines and several of the stations were built to serve large and new apartment complexes. When we got to Old Town a Blue Line Trolley was waiting and I quickly got in. Then I waited and waited. I don’t know if we missed our intended connecting Trolley or not but the wait seemed long. But we finally got off and when I got back to downtown I had at least 45 minutes to kill before Coaster 651 was leaving at 2:18 PM. I often take the later Coaster in the Morning at 11:05 AM and then find myself needing to catch a later Coaster Train home if I go on the Trolley. Getting up earlier gave me more time to sightsee and still had time to catch an early train to avoid rush hour. The Coaster was at the station almost a half hour before departure. The doors where opened and I settled in.
Getting back to Oceanside by train was no problem. Getting home after leaving the station around 3:30PM with beach traffic and the start of local rush hour traffic was something else.