Finishing CA to an AGR Roomette

Stowaways on the Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink from San Diego to L.A. (with 2 stops) and doing the Expo Line

After two days attending the wedding up at Lake Arrowhead and then driving down to San Diego to attend a Padres Game. On Sunday in San Diego I am off to resume my major Amtrak adventure who’s main attraction would be four nights in sleepers on my AGR points from Phoenix, Arizona to St. Paul, Minnesota. To begin the trip I had booked the Sunset Limited overnight in coach to Tucson. First I have to get up to Los Angeles from San Diego with enough time to do the Expo Line that I postponed because of my Yosemite Detour.

Along the Surfliner Corridor there are a few stations I want to revisit including San Juan Capistrano especially because I didn’t photograph its ticket office in a boxcar the last time I was there. I find a Metrolink Train that works perfectly and decide I might as well spend an hour at Solana Beach for an extra 100 AGR points.
I walk from our hotel to the train station, say goodbye to my family and get to the train station about 20 minutes early.
At about 10:20 I see the next southbound train arriving and a boarding line forming by the station. I go for a walk, get some more photos and end up entering the platform opposite the main entrance, joining the line and no one saying a word. I guess you don’t really need to wait in line in San Diego. California’s are just line abiding. I walk up and board the third coach before walking through and going to the front coach. If I was going all the way to Los Angeles I would have taken the Superliner but don’t bother for my first stopover of the day at Solana Beach.

  • 10:38 – Final call “We accept Amtrak tickets only and not other tickets or Tap Cards of any kind.”
  • 10:40 – Last call, we leave on time at 10:41 and I see the airport off in the distance. If the passenger terminal were on the opposite side of the airport it would be even closer to downtown.
  • 10:46 – stop at Old Town San Diego where the train gets more crowded.
  • 10:47 – “Last call, no visitors, no helpers, doors are closing.” Old town must not have QuickTrack machines yet because the conductor announces if your paying cash have ID and money out, for credit or debit to call USA-RAIL and reserve over the phone. I think I might have to find the conductor!

We slowly enter the Sorrento Valley with hills on each side of the line. I look back for the conductor but don’t see him anywhere. There is a dirt road along the line with danger signs. The conductor comes and I say going to Solana Beach. He asks just making a pit stop? I say yes. We go through the shrubbery north of the station. We go very slowly.

  • 11:04 – Stop at a red signal and I hear the conductor kicking people out of lower level seats to come upstairs.
  • 11:07 – A southbound Surfliner passes with what looks like a strange car in the back. I’m sitting on the wrong side of the train for a clear view. Private Varnish I wonder.
  • 11:08 – We leave the Miamar siding and rejoin the single track through rock cuts. The line that is cut out from the rock looks really impressive.
  • 11:14 – Under a highway
  • 11:16 – Bypass Sorrento Valley Coaster station
  • 11:18 – Reach the Pacific Ocean, where I’m planning a walk during my stopover.
  • 11:21 – Del Mar that used to be the stop.

We arrive in Solana Beach at 11:23, 3 minutes late. I get photos of my train leaving and the next arriving Coaster train in about 5 minutes before going for a beach walk. I walk south to the next public beach exit and get the next southbound Surfliner train running about 11 minutes late from a footbridge. I head back to the station for some more photos of the nice, modern building and find my northbound train is 15 minutes late. I finish my photo essays down at the platforms.
At 12:52 I board Train 777. The train is crowded, is going all the way to SLO and comes in nearly 20 minutes late. I board the front car with a cyclist whom the conductor confirms has a new, free reservation ($5 fee was originally planned until uproar) before boarding. I end up in a seat in the Lower Level of the Superliner that the conductor recommends. There is a family sitting together and the conductor recommends doubling up since we’re a sold out train. She also has a stowaway (clearly a homeless guy) to deal with in the lower level seats, who she sends upstairs.
1:05 – We have the blur of a few Coaster Stations and arrive in Oceanside with some people confused about the lack of an exit, eventually an Amtrak employee scares the conductor by opening the door to the Superliner to board. I see the fare beating bum coming down to hide. Where are the police? I see the Metrolink train still in the station receiving passengers that I’m catching at San Juan Capistrano. We leave at 1:07 ahead of the Metrolink Train I’m catching and continue up the coast.

  • 1:12 – Leave civilization behind to go around Camp Pendleton.
  • 1:13 – CP Mesa and pass the next southbound train using the single-level set of Amfleets and Horizons. Then the yard with Metrolink and Coaster trainsets. The only issue with these seats is hearing the bathrooms since the door to the lower level compartment is latched open.
  • 1:22 – We continue along the shore on the other side of I-5. The conductor comes down, I tell her I saw her stowaway again. She describes him to the deadheading employee
  • 1:27 – We follow the ocean. There a few pictures taken of the train.
  • 1:33 – Stop at San Clemente Pier, the conductor announces its a stop all trains make in the summer months. A few people get off.
  • 1:39 – Curve away from the ocean, I head upstairs and get ready to detrain. We then start heading by the strip malls of Orange County. I chat with the conductor who says she still can’t find the homeless man and if he manages to allude the crew until Union Station, more power to him.

Arrive in San Juan Capostrano at 1:43. I immediately get the main goal of this stop, a photo inside the boxcar ticket office. I then head down and get a photo of our train leaving. I find the Metrolink ticket machine and get a few more photos.
1:57 – A southbound Amtrak stops running 15 minutes late comes in.
My northbound Metrolink, also 15 minutes late, comes in 2:06 and I board at 2:08. The consist is 2 guardian cars where they usually are as the cab car and behind the locomotive . There are four Bombardier bilevels bike cars (I assume put on for Ciclavia in between them). The train is crowded. We go up through the little bit of a canyon following a highway. This train has the automated announcements on with the usual “All station stops are brief and to use hand holds when moving about the train to the door” that Metrolink repeats every time.

  • 2:13 – Laguna Niguel
  • 2:23 – Irvine
  • 2:29 – Tustin
  • 2:37 – Santa Ana
  • 2:41 – Orange. We curve away from the Orange County line.
  • 2:45 – Stop in Anaheim to a full stadium and parking lot. I thought about getting a game in on this trip north but one baseball game a weekend is enough.
  • 2:47 – Pass a southbound Metrolink train and over another set of tracks.
  • 2:52 – come to a brief stop and curve onto the 3 track BNSF line (with the Metrolink 91 Line) that will take us all the way into Los Angeles.
  • 2:55 – arrive Fullerton
  • 3:00 – Buena Park. I notice two LA County Sheriffs on this platform that is the last stop in Orange County. Someone with a guitar, ticket and a dog is thrown off the train. I think for a dog, not the lack of ticket. We leave at 3:03. The Sheriffs come through as we go back into LA County to check tickets. They have one person who his Hispanic and claims she lacks ID and a ticket.
  • 3:09 – Arrive Norwalk. The women without a ticket is kicked off, it doesn’t look like she has a summons in her hand. LA is next. Strangely the sherrif says nothing to someone playing music without headphones.
  • 3:13 – Pass oil wells and Santa Fe siding. We go solidly along a new track under construction.
  • 3:16 – Come to a stop. The reason given is signal issues. We soon continue north as a southbound Surfliner Passes.
  • 3:19 – Cross and join two other train lines.
  • 3:21 – Rivera and pass a large empty train yard
  • 3:22 – Over a concrete trickle of a diverted river
  • 3:25 – See the BNSF Business train and a bunch of their locomotives. We regain speed. Then pass the huge intermodal yard. There are two transcon trains, one BNSF along us and a UP on the route I will take this evening as I leave LA on the sunset limited.

We rise up and cross the LA River Wash. Then we pass the LA coach shops with a surprising number of single-level cars plus two Superliner consists, one has private varnish. We then pass the LA Metro shops. I’m on the wrong side for photos but will try for some Wednesday arriving on the Chief. We then pass Metrolink and an LA bus depot.

I get to Union Station at 3:40. First it’s asking at the information booth about a Lounge and I’m told its a bar only used for one morning train. I then have to head over to the baggage area and wait for a man to come back. I flash both my ticket and Select+ Card that does nothing, handing over the storage fee that is up to $4. The man says LA will get a lounge by the end of the year. He tells me boarding is at 9:20 this evening. I head down to the Metro and my Metrolink Weekend pass with its microchip and tap logo opens the fare gates and says Metrolink Weekend Pass.

At 4:06 approaching Westlake/MacArthur park the driver asks people to transfer here and not a Wilshire/Western due to bikes.

I head up to the surface and take a walk down Wilshire Blvd as the cops reopen the street to cars telling bikes to ride in the right lane and obey all traffic laws since CicLAvia is over. I walk down the Wilshire/Vermont and find a 7/11 to buy my Greyhound ticket with cash at from Tucson to Phoenix tomorrow.

I then head back to 7th/Metro Center and a blue line is boarding. I take it to Pico to get some photos of the new signage there. A re-tap my Weekend Pass and get a message saying “All Ready Tapped for One Passenger.” A sheriff gets out of his car and starts checking tickets of those on the platform. I flash my Weekend Pass. I don’t get the tap reader treatment. He does ask me where I’m going and I reply that I got on the Blue Line by mistake and am going to Culver City.

I begin the Expo Line by heading out to Expo Park/USC, I then realize just how close Expo/Vermont is and walk down there. Next I take a train out to La Cienga/Jefferson, have a photo stop at the island platform and head out to Culver City. At each station I TAP my Metrolink Weekend Pass, something that I don’t think is fully necessary. I get Culver City including the beginnings of construction for the Expo Line extension. Then its time to get the rest of the Expo Line. I head to Farmdale and double-back to Expo/La Brea. From there I continue back to downtown to Expo/Western and double-back to Expo/Crenshaw. The Expo Line has such frequent service (10-12 minutes) for a Sunday evening that I am only doubling back to get both haves of the station’s side platforms most of which are staggered on opposite sides of intersections. At Expo/Crenshaw I manage to miss a train I want waiting for the light to change between the two platforms. Luckily the next train is just a short 10-12 minutes away. I finish with 23rd Street and doubling back to Jefferson/USC to make the L.A. Metro Rail section of my website complete again! (once I actually write the section).

I head back to Metro Center, quite hungry and end up at a Qdoba for a quick dinner, not my favorite but I’m not in the mood to wander. Some Metro Red and Purple Line stations I want to revisit but the line is about to begin a track maintenance project and information about frequency is terrible. I only now about the 20 minute and single tracking from checking the Metro Website.

I do get off at Pershing Square and take a look at the Angels’ Flight (an old funicular) at night. There is a car waiting and a sign just to board and pay at the top. Soon the car leaves and doesn’t go to the top but just slightly uphill, not all the way. I guess a 50¢ ride on the Angels Flight will have to wait for next time!