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A ride: Santa Ana to the Irvine Spur then onto Kathryn 1973


by Chris Guenzler

It was an S-4 1536, caboose and box car that gave me my first unexpected train ride in my life. Back in my early days of Railfanning I would ride my bicycle down to Santa Ana to see what was going on. One day after a good rain storm the local crew saw me and asked if I would like to go for a ride that would take a couple of hours. Since I had nothing better to do I said yes and the conductor lifted my bicycle into the caboose with me following. He told me to sit up in the cupola as he had some paper work to do before we left. I saw the brakeman out throwing the switch to the siding and a moment later our train started moving. The conductor told me we would run south down the siding to Irvine where we would wait for San Diegan 75 to blow by us at 90 MPH. We rolled down the siding with me in heaven enjoy the view from the cupola. We crossed Red Hill Avenue and then the twin blimp hangers came into view. We slowly approached a red signal and came to a stop at Tustin. Way down the track I could see a headlight and it approached rapidly. It was a thrill to be standing still when 75 blew by us and the caboose shook. The crew went a threw the switch and we pulled out onto the mainline and the crew rethrew the switch and we rolled west a short distance before coming to a stop. A few minutes later the brakeman threw a switch and with the caboose leading we entered the Irvine Spur. We slowly rolled north through the Orange Groves and minutes later was crossing over the Santa Ana Freeway on a bridge that I had always travelled under until today. We made our way north to Browning where we turned east through more Orange Groves by Myford before rolling through Frances. It was really an enjoyable experience to be doing this trip as even then I knew that this branch line wouldn't be here forever as houses were beginning to be built and the groves torn out. We reached Kathryn and the crew pulled up and cut off the caboose in order to spot the box car. I watched this whole event and it was a thrill to see that Alco chug by with the engine's unique sound. All to quickly the car was spotted and the Alco chugged by before backing up to collect the caboose. The crew then got off the engine and had a short meeting. We returned the way we came to Browning where we came to a stop. The conductor then informed me we would make a side trip into Tustin to for the heck of it. The switch was thrown and again with the caboose leading we headed west into Tustin. Once we arrived there the crew walked over to a store with me just enjoying my caboose experience. With the crew return we returned to the Fourth District and after the switch was thrown we went east back to Irvine where we waited for the switch to be thrown before we headed back top Santa Ana. We arrived back into the house track and the conductor unloaded my bicycle with me all smiles. I said thank you to the entire crew and then I rode home one happy young Railfan with an incredible story to tell.