Facebook Page

Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Metro Gold Line Extension and Shop Tours 2/27/2016

by Chris Guenzler

At the January Train Travel Meetup Group get-together, Chris Parker asked Robin Bowers and I if we would like to go on the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Gold Line Extension and Shop Tours. Robin and I had tickets for Paul Stanley's Soul Station with Tom Griesgraber as the opening act at the Coach House the night before and then Saturday, the day of this trip, we also had tickets for the three of us for the Young Dubliners with Kelly Bowlin Band and Michael Vanags as opening acts at the Coach House.

To say I was not busy would be the biggest understatement of the year! A few day later I called Chris and told him I was a go! He sent for the tickets then Robin decided he wanted to go so he would give them cash the morning of the trip. I worked the days until the trip with the first show and got up that Saturday morning ready to go.

Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Summary

Mission Statement

The Foundation's mission is to diligently preserve and dynamically present the history of railroading in Los Angeles through its three core programs: public outreach, archival preservation, and multiple-media publishing. Each of these programs is interdependent and together they will enable the Foundation to achieve its mission.

This is my first tour with this group.

Metro Gold Line

The Gold Line is a 19.7-mile light rail line running from Pasadena to East Los Angeles via Downtown Los Angeles serving several attractions including Little Tokyo, Union Station, the Southwest Museum, Chinatown and the shops of Old Town Pasadena. The line, which is one of six in the Metro Rail system, entered service in 2003 and is operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The Gold Line serves 21 stations (including two subway stations).


Beginning in East Los Angeles, the Gold Line initially runs west toward Downtown Los Angeles. From its southern terminus at Atlantic, the line travels west along Third Street to Indiana Street, where it turns north for two blocks to First Street. From here, the line continues west to Little Tokyo, partly through a tunnel under Boyle Heights with two underground stations. At Alameda Street in Little Tokyo, the line turns north and crosses over the Hollywood Freeway, and stops at Union Station on tracks 1 and 2. At Union Station, riders can connect with the Metro Red and Metro Purple Lines, the Metro Silver Line bus rapid transit line as well as the Metrolink regional system.

From Union Station, the Gold Line proceeds north on elevated rail to Chinatown, and then crosses the Los Angeles River adjacent to the Golden State Freeway (Interstate 5). From here, the route continues north/northeast, serving the hillside communities north of downtown, including Lincoln Heights, Mount Washington, and Highland Park. Through this stretch, the Gold Line operates primarily at grade, except for a short underpass below Figueroa Street.

North of Highland Park, the route crosses over the Arroyo Seco Parkway (State Route 110). The route continues through South Pasadena and then downtown Pasadena, primarily at-grade. In Old Town Pasadena, the line travels underground for almost half a mile long, passing under Pasadena's main thoroughfare, Colorado Boulevard. (Memorial Park station, just north of Colorado Boulevard, is below grade.) Finally, the Gold Line enters the median of the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) and continues east to Sierra Madre Villa station, in Pasadena just west of the Arcadia city limit.

Hours of operation

Metro Gold Line trains run between approximately 4:30 AM and 12:45 AM. daily. Service on Friday and Saturday nights continues until approximately 2:00 AM.


Trains on the Gold Line operate every six minutes during peak hours Monday through Friday. Middays consist of 12 minute headways, while weekends all day have a frequency of seven to eight minutes. Night-time service operates every 15 minutes, with 20 minute headways during late night weekend service.

Speed The Gold Line trains travel at a maximum speed of 55 mph. It takes 54 minutes to travel its 19.7-mile length, at an average speed of 21.9 mph over its length. The Gold Line is particularly slow through the Highland Park area, where trains reach speeds of only 20 mph due to several street crossings, and through the curves, where trains travel at about 25 mph.


Following the extension to East Los Angeles in 2009, the line's ridership increased to almost 30,000 daily boardings. As of October 2012, the average weekday daily boardings for the Gold Line stood at 42,417, and as of December 2014 the average daily weekday boardings had increased to 44,707.

Current History

The Gold Line's initial route was formerly the right-of-way of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, (the Pasadena Subdivision) where passenger trains like the Southwest Chief and the Desert Wind operated until Amtrak service was re-routed along the Southern Transcon to San Bernardino via Fullerton in the early 1990s. (This is likely because the 1994 Northridge earthquake weakened the bridge in Arcadia. The bridge has recently been rebuilt for the Gold Line Foothill Extension.) Although this route was better suited for and already built to long-distance commuter standards which would have allowed Metrolink to begin service almost immediately at minimal cost, the City of Pasadena was adamantly opposed to continued running of conventional diesel locomotives through the city and lobbied hard for light rail because of the latter's aesthetic visual appeal that would highlight Pasadena as a modern, "progressive", transit-oriented city, even if it meant several times the cost and wait time of nearly a decade. This is evidenced by the rehabilitation and subsequent development along the route including at and around the site of the former Santa Fe depot.

A line through Pasadena was proposed in the early 1980s as a part of a more extensive regional urban rail network, however it would not come to fruition until almost two decades later. Initial planning and construction was done by Metro. After the project was halted due to a lack of funding the "Los Angeles Pasadena Blue Line Construction Authority" was established by State legislation to reactivate and complete the then 11% completed project.

The Gold Line was originally planned as a part of the Metro Blue Line. Making that connection as originally planned would require a new "Regional Connector" to connect Metro Center with Union Station. Because this light rail line does not connect to the Blue Line, to avoid confusion the line was named after a different color. The Rose Line was a strong contender because of Pasadena's Rose Bowl and Rose Parade. Because planned extensions would go beyond Pasadena, the Metro Board voted to name the line the "Gold Line".


The right-of-way through the San Gabriel Valley was originally built by the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad in 1885. Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad was sold and consolidated on May 20, 1887 into the California Central Railway. In 1889 this was consolidated into Southern California Railway Company. On January 17, 1906 Southern California Railway was sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, as part of the Pasadena Subdivision. The Pasadena and Los Angeles Electric Railway built a light rail line from Los Angeles to Pasadena that opened in May 6, 1895, this later became a Pacific Electric Railway Red Car line in 1906.

Operations Original Gold Line to Pasadena

The original Gold Line, between Union Station and Sierra Madre Villa, opened July 26, 2003.

Between February 13, 2006 and December 16, 2007, the Gold Line was the first in the Metro Rail system to implement both local and express limited stop service during rush hours in both direction calling at Union Station, Highland Park, Mission, Del Mar and Sierra Madre Villa, eliminating five minutes of travel time from end-to-end.

Since October 29, 2006, end-to-end travel time was reduced by five minutes, resulting in 30 percent less waiting time at stations. Ridership hit an all-time high of 21,000 boardings in September 2006.

A noise barrier was constructed along the route in South Pasadena between the Mission and Fillmore stations to address noise complaints from South Pasadena residents between April and July 2007 during track construction.

In December 2007, Express Service was discontinued and (local) trains began to run more frequently at eight minute intervals. Service was increased to every six minutes in June 2011 as a result of increased ridership.

Gold Line Extension to Eastside

On November 15, 2009, Metro opened the first phase of the Gold Line Eastside Extension. The project extended the Gold Line from Union Station to Atlantic Boulevard near Monterey Park. The extended route serves Little Tokyo, Arts District, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. The project added eight stations, two of which (Mariachi Plaza and Soto) are underground stations, only the second set of subway stations in the light rail portion of the Metro Rail system (after the 7th Street/Metro Center station).

Foothill Extension

Metro and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority are extending the Gold Line beyond Pasadena into the northeastern part of Los Angeles county. The Gold Line Foothill Extension project will also extend the Gold Line through the foothill region just across the county line to Montclair in San Bernardino County. The Gold Line Construction Authority wanted the authority to extend the line even further to the Ontario Airport but San Bernardino Associated Governments is looking at other options for airport access that would be of greater benefit to San Bernardino County residents whose funding will pay for the project. This project was renamed "The Foothill Gold Line" in late 2014. This line is an 11.4 rail mileage extension.

Rolling stock

Gold Line trains are typically two-car trains, except in evenings and weekend mornings when they consist of single cars. On New Year's Day, the Gold Line uses three-car trains for service to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. Service operates from approximately 4:00 AM to 1:00 AM, with service approximately every six minutes during peak hours, 12 minutes middays, every six minutes on weekends, and 20 minutes until the close of service.

Trains are composed of articulated light rail vehicles which are compatible with Metro's light rail systems. As of April 2012, the Gold Line uses 50 AnsaldoBreda P2550 LRVs. The Metro Gold Line has 50 active cars (701-750) which have been featured in many television ads by Metro. Metro transferred the last of the Gold Line's Siemens P2000 trains to the Blue Line in April 2012 to transfer some overhauled Nippon Sharyo P850 (100-153) cars to Expo Phase 1, while the Ansaldobreda P2550 cars replaced the Siemens P2000 trains on the Gold Line.

This Morning

So after getting home from the excellent Paul Stanley Soul Station show, I made the mistake of taking some Mucinex Fast Max Severe Congestion and Cough over-the-counter cold medicine for what I had been fighting the previous day and had only about three good hours of sleep this night. I got up, took a hot shower and fixed a good breakfast for myself then had a Coca-Cola after that so I would be ready to go. Robin picked me up at 7:15 AM and we were heading north up Interstate 5. Just before the 605 Freeway, the freeway sign stated "Interstate 5 Closed at Washington Blvd". We hit bumper-to-bumper traffic about three-quarters of a mile from Slauson Avenue so I advised Robin to get off at Slauson Boulevard and we could take this to the 710 and get around it, so we did. But there was no entrance to the 710 Freeway at Slauson Avenue. I called Chris Parker to let him know what happened and asked him where he was going to park. We took Slauson Avenue to Downey Road and headed north to Olympic Boulevard, went west to Santa Fe Ave which we took north to Ramirez Street then left onto Keller and parked. Chris Parker was already there and we walked to below track 1 and 2 where we met the group and checked in for a very unique tour.

Our Tour

The Tour started by going upstairs to the Gold Line platform on track four. We all boarded the first car and once everyone was aboard, we departed for Azusa APU Citrus College station at the end of the extension from Sierra Madre. Our lunch and drink choice sheet was passed out and we filled them in. Our Metro Rail Guide and Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation head man, Josef K. Lesser, gave plenty of information as we made our way east. They gave a history of the line and told us things to look out for. I said "I took the Southwest Chief and Desert Wind through here!" I then told them about the AT&SF 100 Year train I shot on this line.

Santa Fe ran a 100 Years of the 2nd District Special on 10/17/1987 seen crossing the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena. Now this bridge was rebuilt with the two tracks needed for the Metro Gold Line. We headed east through South Pasadena as the train made its regular stops. We went through Pasadena and Chris Parker talked abut the Sizzler in Pasadena we used to eat at. We also learned that when a train rolls through Pasadena, the signals on Del Mar Blvd are always green. We also learned that the electricity the Gold Line uses comes from three sources: Los Angeles City and Power, Pasadena Water and Power and Southern California Edison. Soon we were travelling down the middle of the CA 210 Freeway. I had passed out my business cars to those sitting near me. When we reached Sierra Madre, all the regular passengers detrained and after a sweep of the train by security people, it was time to take off on the extension.

I walked to the driver's window and asked if the others there would mind if I took one picture. Once that was done we started east on the new extension. We were a test train so would stop for 30 seconds at all the new stations along the line. These stations are Arcadia station, Monrovia station (which still has a Santa Fe station that will become a restaurant in the near future), Duarte/City of Hope station, Irwindale station, Azusa Downtown station (with a Santa Fe station) and Azusa APU Citrus College station. We learned that the grade crossing signals are triggered by the cars and the gates will go down before the cars move. There are safe zones in areas for pedestrians where the BNSF tracks are off to the south on the grade of the Metro Rail tracks. A few minutes later, we arrived at the Azusa APU Citrus College station and our group detrained to look around and take pictures.

Our train at the Azusa APU Citrus College station.

APU/Citrus College sign at the station.

Views at the Azusa APU Citrus College station.

The view of future trackage of the next extension of the Foothill Gold Line.

Our tour group.

Chris Parker at the Azusa APU Citrus College station.

Our tour group here. We all reboarded to go back one station to the west, Azusa Downtown, so we could catch the bus to the brand new R22 Metro Rail Shop.

Two trains at the Azusa Downtown station.

Our train departed.

Another train was at the Azusa Downtown station.

The Azusa Santa Fe station built in 1888.

Two views of the station.

Chris Parker here. We then took the bus from the Azusa Downtown station to the Metro Rail R22 Shop in Duarte, pulled through the gate and entered the brand new Metro Rail R22 Shop Complex.

Views from the bus. We were given safety instructions for our shop tour before we debussed.

Brand new light rail cars that have not yet been accepted for service by Metro Rail.

New and old light rail cars intermixed with each other.

CW stands for the Car Wash building on the property.

New trolleys ready to start service once accepted.

Solar panels are above the outdoor cleaning platforms.

We would soon enter the Metro Rail R22 Shop and Yard Center building which we did after a washroom break.

A line of trolley trucks.

One of the rebuilt trolley trucks was placed on display for our group today.

Views inside the Metro Rail R22 Shop.

This truck is on one of the Armstrong Turntables in the shop building.

Another truck waits to be installed.

This forklift can move the trucks to different work stations here.

A storage room in the new shop building.

A line of rebuilt trolley trucks.

At the end of every shift please
1. Roll up
2. Clean Up
3. Sweep Up
Thank You

Our group at the Metro Rail R22 Shop.

The area to work on the roofs of the light rail cars.

Car 718 at the inspection pit.

The inspection pit.

Car 718 at the inspection pit.

How the shop workers enter the cars inside the shop.

The side of one of the brand new light rail cars.

A view inside of one of the brand new light rail cars.

A brand new light rail car in the Metro Rail R22 Shop.

Another view of the inspection pit.

Workers in the brand new light rail cars.

Our group at the brand new light rail cars.

Metro Rail Car 1005.

Metro Rail Car 750 entered the shop during our visit here.

You can compare the cars in this view.

Metro Rail Car 750.

The A end of Metro Rail Car 750.

Metro Rail Car 748.

Views of Metro Rail Car 1008.

Views of the trolley wheel truing machine at R22 Shop.

A rebuilt wheel set for our tour today. Next we went into the steam cleaning room.

Metro Rail Car 719.

A look back at the Metro Rail Car 748.

Metro Rail Car 719 in the steam cleaning. Next we will go upstairs and I will show the roof of Metro Rail Car 719.

The trolley pantograph on Metro Rail Car 719.

The roof of Metro Rail Car 719.

The trolley pantograph on Metro Rail Car 719.

Chris Parker heads to the stairs to come up to see the roof of Metro Rail Car 719.

Two views of Metro Rail Car 719.

Another view of the trolley wheel truing machine at R22 Shop.

The Machine Shop.

The Tool Shop.

Views inside of the Metro Rail R22 Body Shop.

A demonstration of this device was given.

Next we went into the Paint Shop at the Metro Rail R22 Shop.

One of the things the painters use to get elevation for painting.

We also received a demonstration of this device.

Next stop was the Welder's Shop. From here we went back to the break area and got into groups of 15 to take the elevator up to Yard Center Control.

The track layout chart at the Metro Rail R22 shop.

The control board in Yard Central.

The views from the Yard Central. We went back down the stairs so the next group could come up.

Artwork above the break area. Once everyone had returned, we headed over to the Car Wash building, our last stop at this shop.

The inside of the Car Wash.

The new car mock-up. After this, we walked back to the bus and once everyone was back aboard, we left the Metro Rail R22 Shop and headed back to Azusa to the Canyon City Barbeque for lunch.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!