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Rail Travel in and Around California by Wizzle - San Diego Station
Fullerton Station (FUL)

I was having my car repainted and rented a replacement for the four weeks it was to be in the shop but ended up at home for most of the time due to in injured knee.  So, I put almost no miles on the car at all and decided I needed to drive Somewhere to get my money's worth.  Still being pretty gimpy, nothing strenuous was in order and an exploratory trip to Fullerton Station, which serves both Amtrak and Metrolink, seemed like a nice day trip.  It turned out to be an excellent choice and a lot of fun.

After a couple of wrong turns, I finally made it off the dreaded freeways and pulled into the Fullerton Station at 9:55 AM.  The 91 freeway is under heavy construction and looks like it should be avoided whenever possible. I had no problems on a Sunday morning.....but.....I had visions of being stranded on it for hours on the return trip.

I had timed my entry into the station just about perfectly.  The 1574, a San Diegan train added to meet summer season demand, was in the station and left about the time I hobbled into the station area. I felt like I was seeing an old friend, having ridden the 1574 for my very first trip.  I settled in to wait for the next arrival when.....maybe 5 minutes later......the Southwest Chief arrived!  This was a surprise as it's scheduled time is 7:15AM.  What a treat for me.
It was quite a long train with at least 6 MHC's for Amtrak's express service.  I did notice the Genesis engines (I'm learning), but couldn't quite manage to write down the full consist even though the train was at the stop for at least 15 minutes.  Like everything else, rail fanning seems to be an art. It seemed to me that at least 30-40 people got off at Fullerton. 
With the arrival of the Chief the station became very lively with folks greeting the travelers or travelers trying to get transportation from the station. There are two outdoor phones at the west end of the station under the covered portico at the left in the picture. 
 For the first time I was able to appreciate some of the differences in the cars other travelers have described.  Most notable.....because of my bad leg, I suppose......was how much lower the Superliner cars used on the Chief are compared to the older cars on the San Diegans. The train was nice and shiny too. 
The Chief's conductor is pictured here in front of the train looking toward the station. 

The ambiance of a train trip seems to pervade even a station.  I was studying the Chief when the gentleman in the blue shirt who disembarked asked me to watch his bags while he made a phone call.  Now I can't imagine that happening in an airport where the feeling for me is one of paranoia.......set by all that security, I'm sure. I never realized before how unpleasant air travel is these days.......cramped, distrustful, noisy, crowded, frenzied, boring......reduced to a necessity when no other means of transport are available. 

I chatted with several of the coach attendants after they had taken care of their passengers.  I am considering a week-end trip on the Chief in early October from Fullerton to Trinidad, Colorado.  Surprisingly, if the Chief is on time you can go over 2,000 miles starting Friday night and return in time for work on Monday morning! Can you tell I've been studying Amtrak schedules with great diligence?
From the platform or coming in on a west/north bound train you see this perspective of Fullerton station. It looked really nice from my vantage point on the San Diegan (trip of 7/25/98) and looked just as good up close and personal. 
From the same spot on the platform, but turning toward the west side of the parking lot, we see the white building that used to be a Union Station but which has been converted to the Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant. It's a nice spot for lunch even though you can't see the trains from inside. 
The Chief pulled out all too soon for me and I settled into a nice shady spot at the north end of the station platform.  After trains were due in for about a half hour and I could relax.  Boy was I wrong.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a train approaching not two minutes later from the east.....a BNSF freight.  It roared....and I mean roared through the station.  I had absolutely no idea freight trains could go that fast. Being a city person, I've only seen freights in town where they must be required to go slowly or do so because of all the curves and such. I truly thought they were only capable of poking along at 30 or so MPH.  This train must have been going about 60.....impressive........and kind of scary even from my vantage point a good 20 feet from the tracks. If one is in the wrong place at the wrong time, there is absolutely no time to get out of the way. So my experience at the station made me much more safety conscious. 
There was plenty of Amtrak traffic as well.  Here is a San Diegan heading up toward Los Angeles. With all the fast moving trains through this station, the pedestrian overpass you see in the distance is a "must." Next visit, I'll try to take some pictures from that vantage spot. 
By the time I was ready for lunch at one I'd seen 11 trains.....most satisfying. The station is delightful.  Most of my train watching was done from one of the 12 covered areas.  Each one has comfortable seating, is well lit and has a time/date display. A good thing, too as I'd forgotten my clock.....and a hat.....two essentials for the next time I decide to photograph trains. 
Here's my very favorite picture of the Fullerton station, taken from the pedestrian bridge.  You can click on the picture for a larger version. 

The landscaping at Fullerton station is exceptional.  The parking lot's divider strips are abundantly planted with trees and shrubs, giving this central space a park-like feel instead of the all-too common "hot griddle" of a plain lot. The trees make for a nice cool car too.  Surrounding the central parking area are, to the south, the station proper and the train tracks. To the west is the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant where I had lunch. On the north side are various eateries featuring bagels or cappuccino (plus others).  These little cafes are in charming and well restored old buildings.  At the east, across a small, quiet street, is the building for long term (72 hour) parking. In addition to parking, the center section also has a covered area for passengers waiting for Orange County Transportation Authority buses and taxi's are available.  I give this station an "A" and I would gladly return just to spend a day watching trains and strolling around.

Fullerton Station
120 Santa Fe Avenue

A stroll need not be limited to the station, either.  Right on the next block of Harbor Boulevard is Fullerton's Old Town area.  I decided to drive around a bit on my way home and saw lots of intriguing shops and restaurants. Fullerton could definitely make a good place to break a journey for a day or two.  Amtrak will provide transportation to Disneyland from the Fullerton station (call Amtrak for details).


The Fullerton Station is located at the red star on the map. Just at the top part of the star is Old Town.  The blue thingys are symbols for lodging.  I saw OCTA bus #47 picking up passengers at the station and I would guess buses run along Harbor Boulevard which is a main street. Try the OCTA website for detailed information. Disneyland is off the map to the south (bottom of map) some few miles. My AAA travel guide lists the Holiday Inn, Fullerton as $74 per night whereas the Holiday Inn Anaheim is $109 and the Holiday Inn Express, Anaheim is $95.  Holiday Inn City Center in Los Angeles is $89-109.  Amtrak's fare (as of 8/16/98) from Fullerton to LAX is $7.50 one way.  And I Like Fullerton whereas I can't say much for either downtown LA (except for the VERY expensive hotels) or the Disneyland part of Anaheim (at least from a lodging perspective). If I'd "done" LA previously and wanted something off the beaten track, I'd definetly consider Fullerton.

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Updated: Monday, August 17, 1998