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Foamin' In Fullerton.



You often hear the term "Foamer" applied to railfans, meaning that they are so into their hobby that they "foam at the mouth" at the mere sight of a train..

Well, so be it. I'm a foamer. I admit it. I enjoy my trains and any opportunity to watch them.


And few locations in the U.S. are better placed for the "foamer", old or new, than Fullerton, Calif. When I first visited southern California in November 2005, I was staying just five miles away in Anaheim, so it was a simple decision to head up Harbor Boulevard to the Amtrak/Metrolink depot in the heart of downtown Fullerton. I was impressed then by the large number of trains, both passenger and freight, and no less so in January 2010 when I returned.

Here were two of the 28 weekday Metrolink trains that add to that total. F59PHI #885 was leading an outbound Orange County Line train on Track 3, while an inbound Orange County Line train was stopped on Track 1 enroute to Los Angeles Union Station.

The then shaky economy had reduced the overall number of trains, with less freight heading into and out of the L.A. Basin over the former ATSF "Transcon". Even with the numbers down, there were still nearly 80 trains -- Amtrak, BNSF and Metrolink -- along this busy route.


  Metrolink began with 26 trains on just three routes in 1992. Eighteen years later, there were more than that just passing through the Fullerton depot. Seven regional rail routes connect every part of the L.A Basin, including one of the few suburb-to-suburb lines in the U.S.

F59PH #864 was outbound with an Orange County Line train and a new look. The EMD was wearing the then newest Metrolink color scheme with its bold blue and green striping.

Behind the locomotive was a "visiting fireman", a single-level Front Runner coach from the Utah Transit Authority. UTA, which operates Salt Lake City's light rail system and regional rail between Salt Lake City and Ogden, leased several of these cars to Metrolink pending the delivery of new Metrolink bilevels.

The car is a former New Jersey Transit "Comet I" Pullman-Standard coach of 1970s vintage. UTA purchased a number of the cars after their retirement by NJT and rehabilitated them for its own regional services.



Amtrak contributes 24 trains to the Fullerton mix -- 11 Pacific Surfliner round trips connecting San Diego with Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and the Chicago to Los Angeles Southwest Chief. Overall, more than 50 trains stop at Fullerton each weekday.

Pacific Surfliner trains are a mix of state-owned bilevels and Superliner coaches from the national fleet. The standard consist includes a cab-coach-baggage, two full coaches, a cafe-coach and a business class coach. Extra coaches are routinely added to increase capacity.

This was #564 enroute to San Diego with F59PHI #464 leading a sister unit on a six-car train; a Superliner coach is added to the normal consist. The train would turn off the "Transcon" at Fullerton Junction, just around the curve east of the depot, and head south along the former ATSF "Surf Line" through Anaheim, San Juan Capistrano and Oceanside.


  Amtrak Superliner #34951 is in its latest color scheme as part of #763 heading from San Diego to Los Angeles, from where it continued north to Santa Barbara on the former SP Coast Line. The coach was part of Amtrak's original Pullman-Standard order in the late 1970s.

It has worn several variations of Amtrak striping before taking on Pacific Surfliner colors. These indicate that it was one of several Superliner coaches rehabilitated at Amtrak's Beech Grove shops with funding from the California Department of Transportation.


  The third player in the Fullerton railroad scene is, of course, BNSF with its numerous intermodal runs to and from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, as well as its own Hobart Yard intermodal facility just east of downtown L.A.

ES44DC #7565, with BNSF's most recent "swoosh" logo and lettering, was leading three sisters and a train of doublestacked containers in tow as it highballed down Track 2.

This train had come off the Alameda Corridor about 30 minutes previously, taking the connection to the "Transcon" to head out through Commerce, Norwalk and Buena Park behind a preceding Metrolink train. At Fullerton Junction, it would continue east through Santa Ana Canyon enroute to Cajon Pass and the Mojave Desert on its way east.

Although the economy had reduced the overall number of BNSf trains through Fullerton, those that remained were still impressive, with some intermodals as long as two miles between their lead power and DPUs. Local trains out of a small yard in nearby Buena Park use a mix of four-axle power and include former ATSF and BN cabooses as "shoving platforms".



Staying at Fullerton just wasn't enough this trip, so I caught an inbound Metrolink train for my first ever visit to Los Angeles Union Station. The then 70-year-old depot is busier than ever with its mix of Amtrak intercity trains, Metrolink regional runs and L.A. Metro subway and light rail.


Amtrak F59PHI #463 was waiting to depart on a San Diego-bound Pacific Surfliner, while Metrolink F59PH #864 had just arrived with an inbound Orange County Line train.

At the time, the depot had 10 remaining platform tracks from its original 16-track 1939 configuration that are used for train service. Tracks 3-12 served six Metrolink routes (the San Bernardino, Antelope Valley, Ventura County, Orange County, Riverside and 91 Lines) and Amtrak for its Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited and Pacific Surfliner routes.

The platform that once served tracks 1 and and 2 now serves L.A. Metro Gold Line light rail trains between East Los Angeles and the Pasadena area. The Metro Gateway Transit Center, on the east side of the complex, was built in the area once occupied by tracks 13-16.

A major project at the depot will see the extension of several tracks from the south end of the complex, tieing in to the mainline north of Redondo Junction and creating a run-through pattern for trains instead of the current stub-end configuration. Tracks 13-15 were restored to balance station capacity while the construction takes several of the run-through tracks out of service.


  LAUS, in its heyday, once had L.A. Railway streetcars and Pacific Electric interurbans connecting with its trains. It has become a true intermodal depot again with the addition of L.A. Metro Red Line and Purple Line subway trains and Gold Line light rail.

Metrolink cab coach #624 was on the rear of a consist waiting on Track 3 as a northbound Gold Line train passed with two new Ansaldo-Breda P2550 light rail cars. The Metrorail train would pass above L.A.'s Chinatown neighborhood on an elevated structure before crossing the Los Angeles River on the former Santa Fe bridge.

The Gold Line follows the former ATSF 2nd Subdivision route through Pasadena to the current end of the line at Sierra Madre Villa, northeast of the city. The 2nd Sub was Santa Fe's historic passenger route to and from Los Angeles, and saw the regular passage of the railroad's famed Chief, Super Chief and El Capitan. The route is currently being extended east to Azusa and Montclair.

West from LAUS, Metrorail subway trains pass under downtown enroute to Wilshire and North Hollywood. At the downtown Metro Center, they connect with the Blue Line light rail route to and from downtown Long Beach, and the Expo Line light rail to and from Exposition Park, the University of Southern California, and Culver City. The second phase of the Expo Line, from Culver City to Santa Monica, is currently under construction.


  Metrorail uses rolling stock from three different builders. The Italian company Ansaldo-Breda built the system's subway cars, as well as the P2550 cars on the Gold Line. The Japanese company Nippon Sharyu built the light rail cars for the Blue Line and the Green Line.

Siemens Transportation Systems built the fleet of P2000 cars for the opening of the Gold Line. Two of these are shown here on the overpass above Vignes Street as an East L.A.-bound train approaches Union Station.

With the addition of the newer Ansaldo-Breda LRCs, some of the Siemens P2000s now operate on the Green Line, which connects Norwalk and Redondo south of downtown L.A. MTA also plans to move some of the P2000s to its L.A.-Long Beach Blue Line to replace older Nippon Sharyu rolling stock.



These Metrolink locomotives at LAUS were two of the agency's latest. SCAX #896 and sister #892 are MP36PHs from Motive Power Industries of Boise, Idaho. MPI, with its MPXpress line, has become a major builder of regional rail locomotives in the U.S. and Canada.


MPI-built MP36PH or MP40PH locomotives also operate on GO Transit in Toronto, Ontario; Maryland Rail Commuter in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area; New Mexico Rail Runner in Albuquerque; Front Runner in Salt Lake City, Utah; Caltrain in the Bay Area; Metra in the Chicago area; Northstar in Minneapolis, Minn.; Virginia Rail Express in northern Virginia; MBTA in the Boston area; Sound Transit in the Puget Sound area of Washington State; and West Coast Express in Vancouver, B.C. MPI-built MP32PHs operate in the Sunrail system in the Orlando, Fla. area.

For more information about these L.A.-area rail systems and railfan "hot spots", you can visit these web sites: (Amtrak) (Metrolink) (L.A. Metro) (Railfanning in Fullerton) (Southern California Railway Plaza Association)


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