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Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, Fullerton and Pasadena ~ May 28th and 29th, 2012

by Elizabeth Guenzler

With the memories of the fantastic time at Orange Empire Railway Museum and me seeing the musical "Follies" for the second day in a row still very much in mind, the penultimate day of this trip started with breakfast at Philippe's, a Los Angeles landmark.

The sign for Philippe's Restaurant. After taking the Red Line to Pershing Square and riding Angels flight some more, Bob and I explored Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT), since at that time, I was not very familiar with the station.

Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal Overview

Union Station, as it is also known, served to consolidate rail services from the Union Pacific, Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads into one terminal station. Conceived on a grand scale, Union Station became known as the "Last of the Great Railway Stations" built in the country. The structure combines Art Deco, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne style. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Today, the station is a major transportation hub for Southern California, serving almost 110,000 passengers a day. It is by far the busiest train station in the Western United States; it is Amtrak's fifth-busiest station, and is the twelfth-busiest train station in the entire country. Four of Amtrak's long-distance trains originate and terminate here: the Coast Starlight to Seattle, the Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle to Chicago and the Sunset Limited to New Orleans. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner regional trains run frequently to San Diego and also to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The station is the hub of the Metrolink commuter rail system and is a major transfer point for several Metro Rail subway and light rail lines. The Patsaouras Transit Plaza, on the east side of the station, serves dozens of bus lines operated by Metro and several other municipal carriers.


Opened in May 1939, the glamorous new $11 million station (in 1939 dollars) took over from La Grande Station which had suffered major damage in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and Central Station, which had itself replaced the Arcade Depot in 1914. Passenger service was provided by the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, as well as local lines of the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway. The famed Super Chief luxury train carried Hollywood stars and others to Chicago and thence the East Coast. Union Station saw heavy use during World War II, but later saw declining patronage due to the growing popularity of air travel and automobiles.

The first commuter rail service to Union Station was the short-lived CalTrain that began operating on October 18th, 1982 between Los Angeles and Oxnard. The service faced economic and political problems from the start and was suspended in March 1983. The next attempt at commuter rail came in 1990 with the launch of the Amtrak-operated Orange County Commuter. The once-daily round-trip served stations between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano. Metrolink commuter rail service began on October 26th, 1992, with Union Station as the terminus for the San Bernardino Line, the Santa Clarita Line (later renamed the Antelope Valley Line) and the Ventura County Line. In January 1993, Metro's Red Line subway began service to the station, followed by Metrolink's Riverside Line in June. The Orange County Commuter train was discontinued on March 28th 1994, and replaced by Metrolink's Orange County Line. In May 2002, Metrolink added additional service to stations in Orange and Riverside counties with the opening of the 91 Line.

Light Rail service arrived at Union Station on July 26, 2003, when Metro's Gold Line began operating to Pasadena from tracks 1 and 2. The line was expanded south over US 101 in November 2009 with the opening of the Gold Line Eastside Extension. Amtrak opened a Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station on September 23rd,' 2013. The lounge is open to Amtrak passengers traveling in sleeping car accommodations or business class as well as some Amtrak Guest Rewards members (Select Plus and Select Executive levels only. The lounge features a staffed ticket counter, complimentary refreshments, complimentary Wi-Fi and a conference room. Passengers using the Metropolitan Lounge receive priority boarding.

Metrolink cab car 642. These had been introduced a couple of years beforehand and were built by Hyundai-Rotem in Korea. They are not the most comfortable of coaches to ride in because there is not much leg room, the seats are rather close together and the cushioning is not as good as the Bombardier cars.

The fiftieth anniversary plaque in the courtyard of LAUPT.

The history of LAUPT plaque to commemorate fifty years of operation.

The Unfinished Journeys plaque dedicated in September 2009 by Metrolink.

The entrance and waiting room of the station.

This was originally the parcel check room and has served many establishments over the years.

The waiting room.

Tiling on the walls.

Walking through the tunnel to the east side, I was amazed to see a domed glass ceiling.

Directional signs at the East Portal.

Views inside the former Harvey House and the cocktail lounge area.

The south patio/garden.

It was a very pleasant surprise to see fountains in the garden. We then took Pacific Surfliner 580 to Fullerton for the Train Travel Meetup Group gathering that used to occur on the fourth Monday of the month; it now occurs on Tuesdays.

A southbound BNSF freight passes through Fullerton in the late afternoon.

Surfliner 579 then came through.

The former Santa Fe, now Amtrak, station.

The main entrance to the station.

The National Register of Historic Places plaque on the Santa Fe station here.

The City of Fullerton is a Preserve America community. This is one of forty California locations, amongst the 900 communities in the country, that have been awarded this designation, which is intended to encourage and support community efforts to preserve and enjoy the country's cultural and natural heritage. This federal program was started in 2003.

The former Union Pacific station in Fullerton is now an Old Spaghetti Factory. Chris Guenzler, Chris Parker, Winston Walker and his daughter Christy and others joined us and we all walked over to Knowlwoods (a restaurant where the Meetup Group used to gather; it is now the Santa Fe Express Café).

After a good meal and meeting other Trainweb contributors, we all watched the eastbound Southwest Chief arrive, pick up passengers and depart on its way to Chicago.

A northbound BNSF freight flew through Fullerton as we were waiting for our train to return to Los Angeles.

We were all surprised when Pacific Surfliner 1790 arrived with Amtrak Cascades F40PH 90230 in the consist after sunset. Surfliner 591 arrived at 20:25 and we walked back to the hotel.

May 29th

The flight back to Seattle did not leave until the early evening so a morning ride on the Gold Line to Pasadena was in order.

The former Santa Fe station in Pasadena, now La Grade Orange Café). It is close to the Gold Line station Delmar.

Rear views of this station, built in 1935. We took the next Gold Line train a station to the east and walked a couple of blocks to the very impressive City Hall.

Now this is a City Hall! Built in 1927, it has elements of both Mediterranean Revival Style and Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture and rises six stories. There are over 235 rooms and passageways that cover over 170,000 square feet. The defining dome, is 26 feet tall and 54 feet in diameter.

The architecture above the entrance.

The dome. Of course, the reason for visiting here was to accquire a municipal pin and the City had various souvenirs for sale including a Christmas tree ornament.

I was delighted to find a large courtyard with a fountain.

If I worked here, I would move my office outside to be amongst the fountain and gardens! After a couple of other stops, we returned to Fullerton, had lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory then picked up our luggage and took the Flyaway Bus to Los Angeles International Airport and flew home on Alaska Airlines.

Railways and musicals had occupied Memorial Day weekend and it was a very memorable four days.