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The Entire San Diego Trolley System 2/4/2006

by Chris Guenzler

I realized that I had not written a story about riding the entire San Diego Trolley system. Sometimes I take people for a tour of the San Diego Trolley system. My next tour was on February 4th, 2006 and I suggested it to several people. Winston Walker and Chris Parker came back with an answer of "Yes!" so we would all meet on Surfliner 564. Chris decided to board at Santa Ana with Winston to board it at Irvine. I had a group, now all that was left to do was wait for that morning to dawn.

Surfliner 564 2/4/2006

I pulled into the parking lot at the Santa Ana Amtrak Station right next to Chris, who was sitting in his truck. Chris went to get his ticket while I looked at the progress of the east platform construction.

The new east platform is coming along well.

The east tower is slowly progressing.

The new west tower has been put up.

I found Chris and he went to get his stuff for the trip just as Surfliner 763 pulled in for Goleta. It departed on time and I then gave Chris information for several future trips. Just as we were getting done, the crossing gates at Santa Ana Blvd went down and we walked out to the platform. We boarded three very crowded cars being used for Surfliner 564.

The last two cars were being held for a group of 150 YMCA Indian Princess Fathers and Daughters getting on in San Juan Capistrano. It was a very foggy morning, so this would not be the normal scenic coastal trip. At Irvine as the train got even more crowded; the fourth car was opened and after we met Winston, we took the downstairs four seater. The group arrived at San Juan with not 150 but 200 members of their group. If they would have called Amtrak with a 200 number, an extra car would have been put on this train. Now a packed train, we ran south through the fog along the bluffs with barely even seeing the surf. The train ran on-time and we stopped at Oceanside and Solana Beach. The train climbed Miramar Hill before descending Rose Canyon and then a view of Mission Bay came below the deck of clouds. Chris and Winston gave me their five dollars for their All Day Trolley Pass. We pulled into Old Town where we detrained with me making a beeline to the vending machine while they followed me to the trolley. This time of morning the Trolley is on 30 minute headway so if we missed the 10 AM we would have to wait for the 10:30 AM Trolley. If you take Surfliner 566 to old Town, you get the 15 minutes headway all day long.

The Green Line Old Town to Santee 2/4/2006

We boarded the trolley, a SD 100, but would have liked the ride a new S 70 car instead. I passed out the All Day Trolley passes and a moment later we were off, crossing the San Diego River and curving east to the Moreno/Linda Vista Station. We made an "S" curve that took us over the San Diego River and along a golf course to the Fashion Valley Transit Center then to our stop at the Hazard Center. We crossed up and over the San Diego River to the Mission Valley Center. Crossing the San Diego River again, we ran to the Rio Vista and Fenton Parkway stations. Our route then became elevated, taking us to Qualcomm Stadium before we reached the Mission San Diego Station. From here we continued elevated over the San Diego River to the Grantville Station, which is located 40 feet above the ground. We crossed over Interstate 8 then started up the 4.4 % grade along the cliff gaining elevation away from the Interstate 8.

Our route then turned into a small canyon and crossed a bridge before we entered the 4,000 foot tunnel under San Diego State University. This was the first tunnel to be built for the San Diego Trolley. In the middle of the tunnel is the SDSU Transit Center Station. We left the station and in a few minutes we had exited the tunnel back into the now bright light of the morning. Our trolley continued to climb along the canyon wall in order to reach the valley floor were we stopped at Alvarado Medical Center which has a riddle along the top of north embankment wall reading from west to east.

Next we ran to the 70th Street Station. We climbed up and over Interstate 8 before we rejoined the Orange Line at Baltimore Junction and then rolled to a stop at Grossmount Center. Our trolley continued rolling to the Amaya Drive Station and then onto the El Cajon Transit Center. We went under Interstate 8 to Amele Drive before we climbed up and over the last of the freight line and the Fetcher Parkway.

The line then made a series of curves to the former Weld Blvd Station now know as the Gillespie Field Station. We turned onto North Cuyamaca Street, where the tracks ran down the middle of the street, until Mission Gorge Road, where we turned into Santee Town Center, ending this morning trip on the Green Line.

After a picture, we reboarded the now westbound trolley for the one-stop trip to the Gillespie Field Station where the three of us detrained to wait for an Orange Line Trolley.

With us still in the 30 minute headway window, we had to wait until the 11:22 AM Orange Line Trolley. At least the airplanes and helicopter taking off from Gillespie Field provided us with entertainment while we waited.

The Orange Line Gillespie Field Station to 12th and Imperial via Bayside 2/4/2006

The Orange Line shares the trackage with the Green Line as far as Baltimore Junction so for that segment, I will say we just picked up passengers. At Baltimore Junction, our route curved south crossing over Interstate 8 to our stop at La Mesa Blvd. Just south of this stop is the nicely restored 1894 original La Mesa station which, when constructed, was called Allison Station. Also there is a small train consisting of Mojave Northern 3, an 0-6-0T saddle tank engine, along with Pacific Fruit Express Company 11207, a Refrigerator Car and Southern Pacific Railroad caboose 1058. We curved along a hillside to reach Spring Street where fencing is being put in between the tracks.

A few minutes later, we came to the busy Lemon Grove station, in the heart of that suburb. We followed the valley down to the station stops at Massachusetts Ave, Encanto/62nd Street, Euclid Street and 47th Street. I was surprised that we had not seen any fare inspectors so far. Now this line became interesting as it passed through the Greenwood Cemetery and later made a big horseshoe curve to cross Chollas Creek in the valley. The train climbed out of this valley to the 32nd and Commercial Station. Now our route ran due west down the middle of Commercial Street with a stop at 25th and Commercial. We finished our street running as we reached the junction with the Blue Line at the 12th & Imperial Transit Center. This would be our passing stop at this station. We now started more street running in the middle of 12th Street. To our left was Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and we passed all the new downtown housing being built that has improved this area. We stopped at the Park and Market Station before we turned the corner onto C Street to the temporary City College Station. We paused at Fifth Avenue, Civic Center and then curved into the unique covered American Plaza Station. I was amazed how we had hit every signal green during our street running. Next we passed in front of the Santa Fe Station, but at the junction, we turned south and left the Blue Line. Now we ran along the BNSF Line to the stop at Seaport Village. Our next stop was the Convention Center, which is across the street from the sailed building of the same name. The next stop was Gaslamp Quarter, which is the stop for both the San Diego Gaslamp District and Petco Park. We turned east leaving the BNSF line and passed the west trolley maintenance yard before we arrived at the end of this route at the 12th & Imperial Transit Center.

After a quick picture of the trolley we just left, we walked over to the covered station where we waited for our next trolley. It was really chilly waiting for our Blue Line Trolley to arrive.

Blue Line South to the Border 2/4/2006

The Blue Line trolley arrived and we boarded with me feeling great to be out of that cold wind. We passed through the middle of the San Diego Trolley Maintenance Facility and at the south end, saw engines of the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad. We made our stop at Barrio Logan after getting a good look at the BNSF yard. Now we would be able to see the activities along San Diego Bay. We stopped at Harborside, then Pacific Fleet, where the activities of the United States Navy could be seen. Old landing craft could be seen on the way to our next stop at 8th Street. The route next passed under the maze of highway bridges before our next stop of 24th Street. We crossed the Sweetwater River before we arrived at Bayfront/E Street. Continuing south, we crossed the old railroad diamond that once led to the old Rohr Plant which made Amtrak's American built Turbo Trains.

Here is the first Rohr built Turbo Train coming into Summit on Cajon Pass in June of 1976. South of there, we crossed the Otay River on a high fill, then pulled into the Palm Avenue Station in Imperial Beach. Our next two stops were at Iris Avenue and Byer Blvd. The freight line then climbed up away from our route to the San Ysidro Yard and shop building. We passed the border parking lots before we pulled into the San Ysidro Transit Center. Here we left this train to board a waiting northbound trolley.

Blue Line north to Old Town 2/4/2006.

With us all hungry, it was time to return north to Bayfront/E Street. This trip was quick, and in no time, we arrived at our lunch stop.

We walked over to the Black Angus for lunch, which is right across from the Best Western where I stay when I do Lets Talk Trains, the Internet Radio Program every Saturday morning from 10:00 to 12:00 Pacific Time or 24/7 in the archives. I enjoyed a Sirloin Steak, Coca-Cola and a chocolate brownie for lunch.

We returned to another northbound Blue Line Trolley for Old Town. Heading through downtown this time, we hit every red traffic signal. At 12th and Imperial, the Fare Inspectors boarded to check that everyone had a valid ticket. Back at the Santa Fe station, we turned north at the junction and passed in front of the Amtrak Station where our train home, Surfliner 785, was waiting for us. We made our depot stop before we headed to the County Center/Little Italy Station. We next passed under a street then up and over another with a great view of the San Diego Airport before we arrived at Middletown Station. After leaving Middletown, our next stop was Washington Street and then Old Town where, once again, I had completed riding the entire San Diego Trolley System.

The trolley which brought us here.

One of the new S 70's arrived on a Green Line Train and we boarded our trolley. After a few minutes, we were back at the Santa Fe Depot ready to board Surfliner 785.

Surfliner 785 2/4/2006

We departed San Diego on time and stayed that way the whole trip. It was a dark and dreary afternoon the entire trip back north. We met Surfliner 578 at CP Cumbres, Surfliner 580 at Oceanside and a great meet with Surfliner 785 at Serra. We dropped Winston off at Irvine, with Chris and I detraining at Santa Ana, ending a great day of San Diego Trolley riding.