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Southern California, a train lover’s paradise

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Southern California is a train lover’s paradise, especially if one loves riding trains and not just watching them pass by.

For riding pleasure, we have the San Diego Trolley with its ubiquitous red cars. The Trolley system has 53 stations, 54 miles of tracks, and three routes (Orange Line, Red Line, Blue Line). It will take one down to the Mexican border, out east to Santee, to downtown San Diego, and all around downtown. Its average of 122,400 riders on week days makes it the nation’s fourth most-ridden light rail system.

San Diego Trolley at the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego

Santa Fe Depot in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There also is a historic streetcar that runs circular routes downtown on the Silver Line. Looks like this:

San Diego Trolley vintage streetcar

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is the Coaster, which travels between downtown San Diego’s historic Santa Fe Depot and Oceanside, 38 miles north.

Coaster at the San Diego County Fair

Once you get to Oceanside, you can hitch a ride on Metrolink all the way to the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

Metrolink

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Or you can choose to ride Amtrak from downtown San Diego all the way to downtown Los Angeles, one of the most beautiful routes on the entire Amtrak system.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once in Oceanside, you can take the Sprinter east to Escondido, about twenty miles and just a few miles from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Sprinter

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If your preference is for freight trains, BNSF serves the San Diego area.

BNSF locomotive in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

BNSF doesn’t make it easy to watch their trains, though. Their tracks are in heavy industrial areas and usually behind high walls and fences.

To watch freight trains, I highly suggest taking a day trip to Los Angeles or Palm Springs and watching the Union Pacific trains build America.

Union Pacific Railroad, Building America

Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific 6190, a former Southern Pacific engine

Lonely boxcar in the desert faa framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

You can often catch the historic ATSF 3751 steam engine making its way around California since it’s based in Los Angeles.

ATSF 3751 at Los Angeles at National Train Day in May 2012

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Every few years, the Union Pacific’s own historic steam engine, #844, cruises through Southern California pulling historic passenger cars.

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Union Pacific 844 steam engine in Southern California, November 2011

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If you’re in Los Angeles, where traffic is a horrible mess at all hours of the day, park the car somewhere and take Metrolink or Metro Rail. The trains are fast and clean, and the stations, especially those of the newer Metro Rail, are public works of art in and of themselves.

Metro Rail of Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Red Line on the Metro subway in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (4-14-14) – Taking it easy

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Since I will be a vendor at the Cat House on the Kings fundraiser the weekend of May 3, I pretty much decided that I won’t be going to Los Angeles for National Train Day (May 10) this year. I’ll miss it because ATSF 3751, a steam engine built in 1927, is always there since it is housed just a mile south of Union Station.

ATSF 3751 at Los Angeles at National Train Day in May 2012

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fortunately, ATSF 3751 always shows up a month earlier at San Bernardino Railroad Days. That’s where I went yesterday, taking the
San Diego Trolley from La Mesa to the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego,
then Amtrak from San Diego to the historic Union Station in Los Angeles,
then Metrolink from Los Angeles to the historic Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino.

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I left the driving to them, which allowed me to take it easy. Ah that peaceful, easy feeling as the train left here yesterday morning. Sadly, none of the trains went by the Hotel California.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Union Station in Los Angeles

Leave the parking to them!

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Not that it would ever happen to me, but if you live in San Diego and get bored after a few years, we’re fortunate to have Los Angeles just ninety miles up the road. Put San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs together — all within 100 miles of each other — and you couldn’t possibly be bored in Southern California!

I didn’t have a great appreciation for Los Angeles until recently, mainly because if I’m driving, I want to be driving! Not stuck on a freeway doing 10 mph, something that’s quite common on freeways like Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101 going through the heart of Los Angeles. Both freeways need a serious case of widening or, as San Antonio did, building an upper deck.

Last month, though, on National Train Day (May 11), I took Amtrak to Los Angeles and then hopped on the Los Angeles Metro subway to go over to Hollywood. Until then I had not realized that Los Angeles, in 1994, had started building a subway system. And it’s a nice one! In some future posts, I’ll show you just how nice. I might go to Los Angeles more often now that I know I can use the Metro to go to 90% of the places in Los Angeles that interest me.

My first stop on National Train Day was, of course, the historic Union Station:

Los Angeles Union Station

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Los Angeles Union Station

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station opened on May 3, 1939, to serve passenger trains from Union Pacific Railroad; Southern Pacific Railroad; and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad; and commuter trains of the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it currently serves 60,000 passengers a day.

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Union Station in Los Angeles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Along with passenger trains from Amtrak and Metrolink, Union Station has a separate platform for the Los Angeles Metro subway, and another area for buses, taxis, and bicyclists.

A day pass on the Metro is only $5. That allows you to ride Metro trains all day long, get on and off as you like, and really have some fun. I can highly recommend it as a way to get around the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Sightseeing is so much more fun when you don’t have to try to find a parking place!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner northbound from downtown San Diego to Camp Pendleton

Railroads & Trains logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When Jim and I went to Los Angeles on Sunday, May 11, for National Train Day, our purpose was to ride the trains everywhere we wanted to go. Down the hill from us we caught the San Diego Trolley:

Westbound at the 70th Street Station
5:50 a.m. on National Train Day

The Trolley took us to the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. There we caught Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to points north, ultimately to the even more historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The three videos below show some of the more interesting areas the trains go through. In the first one, we’re heading into Miramar Marine Corps Air Base. There are some neat landscapes but usually the front of the train is not accessible (I had a cool engineer!), the side views are horrible because of the steep canyons, and walking the tracks on the Marine Corps base is not something one wants to do. So the first video is a real rarity.

Train through Miramar Marine Corps Air Base in San Diego County

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This second video is another one that I’ve always wanted to get as the train goes through the marsh that is the eastern side of Torrey Pines State Park. The video shows us cruising down the track at 92 mph, the top speed I caught us going. At the end of the video we have slowed down to 55 mph to go around the curve under the historic Del Mar bridge, currently undergoing much-needed renovation and seismic retrofitting.

Train tracks through Torrey Pines State Park in San Diego County

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This last video is the final place in San Diego County that I’ve tried so many times to get to. It’s the rail yard for Metrolink and Coaster, where the trains are stored during hours of non-operation. Unfortunately, it’s on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and inaccessible to mere mortals like me. We also meet a southbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.

Metrolink rail yard north of Oceanside, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, at over 125,000 acres, is what separates San Diego from the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In other words, it’s probably the only thing that keeps L.A. from annexing San Diego — that we wouldn’t like!

Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Following are three pictures of Camp Pendleton, all taken from a speeding (85 mph) train with a Canon 550D and a Tamron 28-300mm lens at 300mm.

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Camp Pendleton in San Diego County

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos