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A Trip Aboard the Last Amtrak Great Dome 1/2/2018

by Chris Guenzler

I wanted to ride the last Amtrak Great Dome in Pacific Surfliner service and it had run after Christmas so I had to find what train it was on. I went for a morning walk and after seeing a pair of southbound Metrolink trains, it was not on Pacific Surfliner 763. I had to go to the store and when I was stopped at Santa Clara and Grand Boulevard, I saw Pacific Surfliner 564 and it was not on the rear of that one. That left only one choice. During watching the start of "Perry Mason", I walked in front of my neighbor's home which has a long block view of the Surf Line and waited only a minute for Pacific Surfliner 565, which was the low-level trainset with Great Dome in its consist. I then knew it would run today on Pacific Surfliner 572.

I drove to the Santa Ana station and parked in the parking structure then checked with the Amtrak agent who gave me the good news that it was a low-level train, so I bought a Business Class ticket for my return trip on Pacific Surfliner 579. The train was announced as being fifteen minutes late so I knew that we would have good train meets with all of the other trains on this trip.

The rear side of the Santa Ana sign in the station courtyard.

Metrolink 635 in Orange County train service.

Pacific Surfliner 572 arrived in Santa Ana and I boarded the Great Dome for my trip to Solana Beach.

View of the top level of the Great Dome.

The train left Santa Ana and I was on my way to Solana Beach.

The front side of the Santa Ana sign at the statiom.

The train took the restricted curve south of Santa Ana then our engineer opened it up to 90 MPH.

One of the two remaining blimp hangars in Tustin.

We sped through the Tustin Metrolink station on our way to Irvine.

Another view of the top level of the Great Dome.

The Big Orange Balloon at the Great Park in Irvine.

At Irvine we met Pacific Surfliner 573 heading to Los Angeles.

Station view.

The train then departed Irvine.

Later the train passed the highest point in elevation between Los Angeles and San Diego, just south of Oso Creek.

Rolling south to Laguna Niguel.

Metrolink 804 leaves Laguna Niguel for downtown Riverside.

The manger scene on the hillside above the Rancho Capistrano Church complex.

The original bell tower of the San Juan Capistrano station building.

The train crossed San Juan Creek.

CP Capistrano.

The curve on the siding.

The big curve at CP Serra that takes the train to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Now for the best part of any trip, the run along the Pacific Ocean.

They are working on the pedestrian bridge, south of CP Serra.

Running below the cliffs.

My favorite American Flag was limp today.

Leaving that American Flag behind.

You can see the hiking trails on the hillside.

San Clemente Metrolink North Beach station. Now for the run along the Pacific surf.

Heading for the San Clemente Pier station.

The San Clemente Pier.

San Clemente Pier station. Now the trip to County Line.

The trip to County Line.

The train ran by the County Line signpost.

The trip to CP Songs.

Running through CP Songs.

The train ran by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station also known as Dolly Parton by old time railroaders.

Intermediate signals between CP Songs and CP Don.

The train ran under a tank bridge on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton.

The train ran through CP Don.

The train crossed Las Pulgas Road.

We next ran through CP Las Pulgas.

The train took the next big curve south of Las Pulgas.

The train ran under the second tank bridge on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton.

The train ran through CP Stuart.

The Coaster Facility at Stuart Mesa.

The train met Pacific Surfliner 777 at CP Puller.

The train ran through CP Puller.

The train had to cross the Santa Margarita River to reach CP West Brook.

Intermediate signals.

The train ran through CP East Brook.

The train crossed the San Luis Rey River.

The train ran through CP Shell to reach Oceanside.

The train stopped in Oceanside.

CP Escondido Junction.

Heading to CP Longboard.

CP Longboard.

The train crossed Buena Vista Lagoon.

The train ran through CP Carl.

The train crossed Agua Hediondo Creek.

The train ran through CP Farr.

The train ran through CP Ponto.

The train crossed Batiquitos Lagoon.

Taking a curve and proceeding through the Encinitas Coaster statiom.

The train ran through CP Swami.

The train took a curve south of Encinitas.

Looking back to Swami Point.

The train ran through the construction zone for the future double-tracking at CP Cardiff.

The train then crossed Escondido Creek where the double tracking is being taken.

"The train ran through CP Craven and continued on to Solana Beach where I detrained. It had been a fantastic train experience riding the Great Dome from Santa Ana to Solana Beach.

The Great Dome 10031 "Ocean View" built by Budd in 1955 at Solana Beach. I watched the train leave and wondered when I would be riding the Great Dome again. I walked over to the doughnut shop before returning to Track 2 to wait for Pacific Surfliner 579 to arrive. The train came into the station and I took a seat in the Superliner Business Class car for the quick trip back to Santa Ana. I detrained and went up and over then stopped for one last picture.

Pacific Surfliner 579 leaving Santa Ana, after which I returned home.