San Diego's Santa Fe Depot is the southern terminus of Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner Corridor and has received passenger train service continuously since the historic depot was first constructed in 1914 to 1915. It is one of the few only spoke terminuses on the Amtrak system where all trains terminate coming in from the same direction, Los Angeles. Most other major Amtrak terminal cities (the other similar example would be Miami, the Silver Meteor/Star all run north to New York only, or the ends of state-supported branch line short-distance trains) see service coming in from different routes from different directions. Amtrak service to the station has not been continuously decent but has always existed. In 1971 with the invention of Amtrak it was extremely low with just three round-trips per day to Los Angeles of the namesake San Diegan trains. One of these trips was provided by the Coast Daylight/Starlight to Oakland daily, extended to Seattle triweekly, with the May 1974 timetable this was replaced as a train connection with the Coast Starlight terminating in Los Angeles where it does today. A few through cars were last attached to the last San Diegan of the day in the 1990s but if the southbound Coast Starlight is late enough (only an hour and ten minutes is the present, May 2012 timetable, scheduled connection time) connecting passengers will be bused down to San Diego. Amtrak service has slowly increased over the years, was renamed the Pacific Surfliner in 2000 (for its more regional nature), and today there are 11 daily trains running north to Los Angeles, with five continuing to Santa Barbara and two all the way to San Luis Obispo (One fewer extended trips northbound, the first train of the day north of Los Angeles originates there)
Local train service to the depot was restored as the northern terminus of the opening day route of the San Diego Trolley on July 19, 1981. Modern-day Commuter Rail service north to Oceanside via the Coaster began on February 27, 1995 and today it runs daily including a few trains with connections to Metrolink in Oceanside allowing passengers to take Commuter Trains all the way to Los Angeles (as of July 2012 fares) costing $5.50 plus $15, $20.50 instead of the standard $36.00 for Amtrak.
On September 2, 2012 Trolley service was completely reconfigured with the Green Line extended south form Old Town Transit Center to 12th/Imperial via the Waterfront route replacing the northern portion of the Blue Line and end of the Orange Line. Now Orange Line trains terminate at Santa Fe Depot on the southbound track (shared with Southbound Green Line trains) only while Blue Line service terminates a block away (and accross Kettner Blvd from the depot) at America Plaza.
The tour of the station begins inside the mission-revival style depot which rests between Kettner Blvd and train tracks. The Station is one of the few where Amtrak passengers are led across light rail tracks at a grade to board their trains from the station's depot. The only other stations are San Diego-Old Town and Dallas's Union Station, although both of these also have usable underpasses. Inside the depot are arched ceilings along with historic benches and light fixtures and mosaics of the Santa Fe's iconic cross logo. There are wooden benches for waiting passengers along with an Amtrak ticket window (beneath 1970s Helvetica-text reading tickets), an information kiosk and a small cafe/newsstand called the Silver Streak Cafe. There is still a blue Santa Fe sign on the top of the depot, and the southern end leads to an outdoor area with a fountain and there are two taller towers with domes at this main entrance. The white walls above the doors still read Waiting Room and Ticket Office above Green and glass doors.
Going out platform side, first are the two light rail tracks used by the Blue Line (soon to switch to the Orange and Green Lines). These have side platforms. The northbound platform has no canopies of its own but just large exterior arched porches that radiate from the station abut this track. It is in a central area beneath these arches that Amtrak does its line-ups for the kindergarden walks across the trolley tracks to its trains The southbound platform is shared with the first mainline train track normally used by the Coaster, there are four tracks for Amtrak and Coaster in total. This platform has TVMs facing different directions for the two different systems and even different Compass Card Readers. A fence with gaps runs down the middle of it separating the two sides and it has a line of iconic palm trees. At the northern and southern ends of this long platform, beyond the length for trolley cars, the fence runs directly alongside the trolley tracks as it extends all the way from Broadway to Ash street, almost a third of a mile long, running alongside switches from the middle two train tracks. There three simple grey canopy structures for waiting passengers. The middle mainline platform is significantly shorter and its only legal access is from the three pedestrian grade crossings that connect all the platforms. This platform has 4 small canopies along it. The final track is served by its own side platform which also reaches the full length from Broadway to Ash Street. It though has an unusual canopy structure of a colonnade holding up a wooden truss roof (that does nothing for protection from the elements), designed for ivy to grow up over it. The ivy has already made some progress up the columns. All main line platforms have mini-high platform at its southern end for Coaster trains, have tactile warning strip on their edges, and allow for level boarding to the doors of all Double-decker Amtrak Surfliner Cars and Bombardier Bi-Level Cars used by the Coaster.
Photos 1-25 taken on 15 March, 2011, 26-63 on 20 March, 2011, 64-69 on 21 March, 2011, and 70 on 23 March, 2011, 71-96 on 22 June, 2013; 97-120 on 23 June, 2013