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New San Luis Obispo Central Coast Pacific Surfliner First Run 799/798 11/17/2004

by Chris Guenzler

As always one would hear rumors of future service to be added or a service to be restored. Las Vegas train service has been rumored ever since the last Desert Wind ran its last trip. A new Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo train was also said to be planned but not enough Surfliner Cars were bought to cover the new service. After years had passed, finally someone made a decision to use the Horizon Cars and the last full length dome car for a new train service, mornings north from Los Angeles and afternoons south from San Luis Obispo back only as far as Los Angeles. There a transfer would have to be made to get to Surfliner 590 back to Santa Ana. On weekdays I could use Metrolink to make the 7:30 AM departure and on weekends I would have to use the Thruway Bus Service from Santa Ana to Los Angeles. Amtrak finally announced that this new train service would begin on November 17th, 2004 and I bought my ticket to be on the first round trip.

Metrolink 601 11/17/2004

I drove to 7-11 for a 12 pack of Coca-Cola for my trip today before I drove to the Santa Ana Amtrak station where I found Winston Walker waiting for me. I purchased a Metrolink Ticket to Los Angeles for $7.50. The train came into Santa Ana on time with Winston and I enjoying the quick trip to Los Angeles Union Passenger Station. We detrained there and walked around the end of the train for a quick picture.

The New Central Coast Pacific Surfliner 799 First Run 11/17/2004

As I was taking that picture, here came the new low level Surfliner train for this new service. On the platform I found Ray Burns of Trainweb taking a picture of it coming in. I recorded the consist as I walked by it. Our train was led by P42DC 81, Baggage 1213, Great Dome 10031, Coach 54532, Club 58018, Coaches 54516, 54552, 54500 and 54509 and P42DC 42.

After a few minutes I ran into Dan Dalke, an Orange County Railroad Historical Society Member who told me there was a Sounder trainset on a San Bernardino train that had come in so I took my mother's camera and photographed it as well as our new train in the station. For the press and media there was a Central Coast Pacific Surfliner kicking off service ceremony.

Randy Iwasaki was the Master of Ceremonies.

Bill Alexander - SCCRA Board

Will Kempton - Caltrans Director

Art Brown - Lossan Board

Lynn Berberian - Amtrak

Dennis Zeine - LA City Council Member

After the Los Angeles Kick Off of the Central Coast Pacific Surfliner Ceremony was over, we all boarded the train. The VIP Party all went to the Great Dome while Winston and I went to the Business Class Section in the Horizon Club Car. Here we took two leather seats which were extremely comfortable and reclined nicely. This area of the Club Car has 14 seats in 2-1 arrangement. Behind us was the Cafe area of the car and the rest of the car were tables. Ken Ruben found us sitting here and would be in this section on the way back as the Business Class was sold out coming and going to San Luis Obispo on this first run.

Central Coast Pacific Surfliner left LAUPT on time with Winston and I enjoying our very comfortable seats in Business Class. The train ran by the Gold Line Shops and crossed the Los Angeles River. We ran by the Metrolink Shops where they were putting on the finishing touches on the 2004 Metrolink Holiday Train that tours their system with a program and over 50,000 lights on this train. What is left of the former SP Taylor Shops has many gray remote control sleds ready to be used in service on the Union Pacific. This train is replacing a Metrolink train's time slot and will make all the Metrolink stops to Chatsworth and Surfliner 768 would now make all the stops towards LA as part of the Rail to Rail Program. We stopped in Glendale as Winston and I made our way to the dome car. Old and new friends would be made here all day long. The train stopped next at the Downtown Burbank Metrolink stop before our route turned west to the Burbank Airport stop. We continued to cross the San Fernando Valley on this beautiful perfectly clear November morning to Van Nuys. Minutes later we stopped at the Metrolink Northridge Station and then ran on to Chatsworth. After our station stop there we waited for Surfliner 768 to go by in the long siding there.

Our train climbed to the Chatsworth Tunnels before we stopped at Simi Valley. We passed a UP freight in the siding at Strathern before making our stops at Moorpark, Camarillo and Oxnard where another Central Coast Pacific Surfliner kick off ceremony was held delaying the train a few minutes.

The train headed next to Ventura and reached the shore of the blue Pacific after crossing the Ventura River. On this absolutely beautiful clear sunny day we rolled along the California coastline. The train ran onto Carpinteria and later at East Santa Barbara we met a waiting Surfliner 774. At Santa Barbara there was another Central Coast Pacific Surfliner kick off ceremony to be held further delaying our train. After our Goleta stop I rode the Dome Car for the rest of the northbound trip along the beautiful shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. It was a great day for a train ride as we rounded Point Conception and headed across Vandenberg Air Force Base. We stopped at Surf and later at Narlon we had to realign a switch left open by a UP freight. With no cabooses on trains anymore this is a common occurrence on the Coast Line in TWC Territory.{Track Warrant Control} We climbed away from the shore to Casmalia and descended into the Santa Maria Valley at Guadalupe. From there I returned to my comfortable Business Class Seats as the train ran onto Grover Beach. We passed through the hills and at East San Luis Obispo found a UP eastbound freight waiting on the main.

We pulled into San Luis Obispo late at 1:10 PM {12:40 PM} While I was off to photograph the train from both ends, another welcoming Central Coast Pacific Surfliner Ceremony took place here at SLO. It was a beautiful day here but all to quick with a San Luis Obispo crew it was now time to be back onboard and ready to head back to Los Angeles.

Central Coast Pacific Surfliner 798 11/17/2004

The train departed SLO at 1:37 PM or 17 minutes late and passed that UP eastbound freight that was still waiting to leave town. I enjoyed some BBQ hot chicken wings while Ken bought a pizza which he proceeded to spilled onto the floor. Ken was now a Business Class Passenger and we all were enjoying those comfortable chairs. The train traveled through the green hills from the recent October rains to Grover Beach. Going by the Oceano Sand Dunes I wondered when Steve Grande of would be passing the Glamis Sand Dunes. Steve had been hoping to connect with this train this morning to be on this first run but the combined efforts of CSX and UP prevented this from happening. I returned to the dome for more views and great conversation. Dolphins were spotted as we headed towards Goleta. We all were wondering where we would pass the Coast Starlight.

If they were on time we would pass them at Narlon. As we approached Narlon we had nothing but green signals and no Starlight in the siding there. We went by Tangair, Surf and Honda all with no Coast Starlight. As we neared Sudden we saw a silver streak off in the distance and sure enough the Coast Starlight sat in the Sudden siding as we sped by. We left Goleta only three minutes late and made our way to Santa Barbara which we left on time at 4:05 PM. The train made its way to Carpinteria and onto Ventura. After doing our station stop there, we went into the Ventura siding to meet Surfliner 775. The sunset was really nice as the train traveled to Oxnard.

Off into the twilight east we went to Camarillo. At Stratheran we flew by Metrolink 113 tucked into the siding before we pulled into Simi Valley. We went into the siding at Hassan to wait for Metrolink 115. The schedule had padding in it for this meet. Through the Chatsworth Tunnels and out into the San Fernando Valley to the Chatsworth station stop. On the inbound trip we would not make any of the Metrolink stops. At CP Raymar we stopped to let Metrolink 117 head west before stopping at Van Nuys. Burbank Airport followed by Glendale were our next early evening station stops. We arrived into Los Angeles 18 minutes early at 6:52 PM {7:10 PM} ending a fantastic day to San Luis Obispo on the new Central Coast Pacific Surfliner service trains 799 and 798.

Surfliner 590 11/17/2004

Ray called Steve on the Sunset Limited and we learned he was twenty minutes away on this over thirteen hours late train having just passed the El Monte Metrolink Station. We were on Track 10 and a few minutes later Ray called Steve and learned he was coming in on Track 11. Winston watched our bags while Ray and I went to Track 11 to wait for Steve. The Sunset Limited pulled into LAUPT at 7:23 PM {6:40 AM} ending Steve's long rail adventure. Ray and I led Steve over to Track 10 and with Winston we all boarded Surfliner 590. We left LAUPT ten minutes late and headed south towards home. This was the first day of Amtrak trains making Metrolink stops like we did this morning. 590 was now scheduled to make the Metrolink stops of Norwalk and Laguna Niguel. As we headed through Santa Fe Springs the train sped by the switch leading to the Metrolink Norwalk Station located on a pocket track. The BNSF dispatcher must not have been aware of 590 now stopping there. We came to a stop beyond the east end of the Norwalk south pocket track and after getting a green signal to enter, we backed into Norwalk where four Metrolink riders detrained. The train then headed to Fullerton where Ray and Steve detrained. Our train then went to Anaheim and a few minutes later, Winston and I detrained at Santa Ana ending a new and exciting rail adventure on the new Central Coast Pacific Surfliner.

For photos taken by Ray Burns of click the links below.

Set 1, Set 2, Set 3 and Set 4