San Diego's two major attractions are its trolley and the Coaster commuter rail network. It also sees some Amtrak service in the form of the Pacific Surfliner, but no other long distance trains.
The San Diego Trolley (operating under the Metropolitan Transportation System brand), is widely held to be the first modern light rail transit system in North America using Siemens articulated LRV's. It also made extensive use of having freight trains run on its system before the FRA stopped giving out waivers for that sort of thing. The Trolley pioneered several innovations now common in North American light rail systems such as in-street reservations in the downtown, proof of payment and multiple unit operation.
The SDT consists of three lines, Orange, Blue and Green. The Blue Line was built first in 1981 and is the light rail line in the country that can take you to an international border crossing. This was followed in 1986 by the Orange Line, which used an old ATSF commuter RoW to travel inland. Both of these lines use classic style The new Green Line was opened in 2005 on the I-8 alignment serving the Chargers stadium and a UC San Diego.
Coaster is exactly what it says on the tin and runs up the coast almost to Camp Pendleton. The line is partly equipped with the Automatic Train Stop system which allows for speed of up to 90mph.
I had plenty of opportunity to take pictures around the old ATSF Union Station downtown where the Coaster and Surfliner terminate and Blue and Orange line trolleys also stop. I took a Blue/Green/Orange circle route on the Trolley and also took pictures around the combined Trolley/Coaster yard near the 12th and Imperial transportation center.
You can view all of the photos I took by clicking this link right here or just see the small fraction that I post below.
I will start with the old ATSF depot downtown which has kept most of its original detailing. (Specifically the ATSF tilework on the domes). Here we see the depot with a blue line trolley going past.
The inside was no different. I am sure there is some sort of interesting preservation story associated with this place.
The depot has a total of 6 tracks, 2 trolley and 4 for Amtrak/Coaster. There are two islands and two side platforms. Here we are at the north end of the platforms looking back as a Blue Line trolley departs at night.
Amtrak trainsets are based out of LA so when they arrive in San Diego they don't tend to stay very long. Here is Amtrak F59PHI #455 painted in Operation Lifesaver colors shortly before its departure northbound.
And here it is departing.
Of course the main tenant of the station are the Coaster trains. Coaster uses MPI/M-K built F40PH-2's and those Bombardier octagonal bi-level coaches that don't do so well in crashes. The Coaster trainsets hang out in large yard complex south of the downtown area and have to navigate a long single track segment with lots of grade crossings to get to the station. This track is also used by BNSF freight trains to reach the San Diego freight yards.
Here we have Coaster F40 #2103 waiting at the end of the lead track waiting to proceed across Broadway and platform at Union Station. The light rail tracks are on the left. Uh Oh, do I see bi-lingual warning signs? Someone better call Lou Dobbs!
The south end of the station is non-interlocked so Coaster employs a switchtender to line the routes by hand during the peak periods. Here the tender unlocks the hand throw points while Coaster cab car #2301 passes by.
Here that same trainset trailed by #2301 sits at the depot.
It is soon joined by a newly arrived southbound train led by #2306.
The Coaster crews stand around and gab before the next scheduled departure.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the platform Coaster F40's 2103 and 2105 sit side by side.
The lights were on in #2103, but nobody was home when I walked by. Note the ATS pickup shoe on the rear axle of the leading truck. If you look you'll notice that the cab cars have them too.
A short while earlier I caught cab car #2304 departing on the rear of a northbound train as it took an Advance Approach signal at CP-ASH.
Yes that's an Advance Approach because A) its flashing and B) while out west BNSF uses flashing yellow for approach medium the Coaster system uses its own signal rules and stayed with Advance Approach.
#2306 eventually pulled south out of the station to go to the layup yard. Here it is crossing Broadway, which is frequently interrupted by light rail trains on the tracks to the right.
After lining the switch the member of the train crew caught a ride on #2105. This should have been a video moment instead of a still. :-(
Coaster runs all day and into the night. Here #2304 has just arrived back again from LA and drops off its passengers.
On the other end was #2102.
Which was facing a clear signal at CP-ASH.
CP-ASH was the interlocked north end of the Union Station terminal where 2 main line tracks turned into 4 station tracks. The signals are approach lit so they only light up when trains are sitting in the station. Here the 2WA signal displays a Stop indication.
CP-ASH, along with most of the Coaster route was re-signaled with the start of Coaster service. The old flavour of ATSF searchlight signals was kept by installing the modern Safetran Unilens type signal, several of which we can see here on the 4WA and 4WB signals.
Alright, let's switch modes to the distinctive red San Diego Trolley. There is a wye track where the Blue and Orange lines split after leaving the combined downtown trackage. The Blue Line heads north along the railroad RoW to the Old Towne Transportation Center. The Orange heads south along the tracks in a loop back to the 12th and Imperial TC passing the Convention Centre and the hotel district. The third leg of the why is used by the special event service to either the Chargers stadium or Petco Park.
At the downtown end of the wye we have the America Plaza station. Here we see a 1000 series blue line train next to a 2000 series orange line train.
Just west of America Plaza is the wye and its related grade crossings which cause no shortage of traffic headaches for downtown drivers. In this video two 3-LRV Orange Line trains of 2000 series cars pass eachother on the wye. Note the "green" wrapped car in the second train.
Literally about 150 feet from the America Plaza station is the ATSF Depot station on the Blue Line. Here a 3 car train of 100 series cars makes the turn into America Plaza.
The ATSF depot station takes the place of the two railroad tracks closest to the station. Here #1005 makes a stop before heading downtown.
Alright, let's actually get on the trolley and take a little ride to the Old Towne Transportation center. For some reason the MTS feels its a good idea to have a break in service here although there is no reason Blue Line trains couldn't just continue on the Green Line route to re-join the Orange Line. If there is an issue with frequency just have some trains short turn.
Here #1011 lays over as a Blue Line train. Not the across the platform transfer for Amtrak and Coaster trains on the railroad line.
The newest line sports some of the newest rolling stock. Here is one of 6 new Siemens S70 LRV's of the 3000 series purchased for the new line. Here 3001 has just arrived as a Green Line train and will soon reverse back out on its crosstown route.
The S70's much be sucky lo-floor types, but they do have a railfan view that the SD-100s and U2's lack. Here we see the Clear signal given to my train to proceed north out of Old Towne.
The Green Line was built in 2005 and is fully grade seperated with lots of elevated sections like this one near the Charger's stadium. Here we see the turnback for the special event service trains.
Not wanting to outlive my PoP ticket I got off at the Grossmont Station to transfer to an Orange Line train back downtown. Here we see 2030 ariving at the front of an Orange Line train.
I rode the Orange Line to the nexus of trolley operations, the 12th & Imperial Transit Center which is notable for having the Orange Line stop there twice! The station has three gauntlet tracks and serves as a terminal for both the Orange and Blue lines with connections to the main SDT yard and shop complex.
Here 2031 makes a stop on the center track.
As it departs a blue line train waits to enter the station.
Trains on this section of the line were governed by converted traffic signals.
And the power operated trolley switch points were nerfed for your protection.
Although some of the hand operated switch stands along the other Orange Line platform were not.
The orange line tracks turned off of Commercial St into the station. Blue line trains continued straight in/out of the yard. The single through track to the other orange line platform crosses the yard leads with a pair of diamonds.
Normally it seems that the MTS is pretty strict about only allowing steel wheeled vehicles into its yard.
I mentioned that the Orange Line stops at 12th and Imperial twice. Here is the single track terminal that Orange Line trains use after looking through downtown. The terminal is also used by special service trains such as this one which is headed to Gillespie Field.
The San Diego Trolley yard complex is south of downtown and adjacent to the old ATSF freight yards. Here is a view of the trolley yard and control tower from my Hotel.
I believe the entire trolley operation is controlled from this white tower seen here through the car washer.
The Coaster service must actually share trackage with the SDT to reach its layover tracks. Here 2103 lays over ready to proceed north in the evening rush. Coaster trains are maintained at the other end of the line. In the foreground is one of the solar powered yard switches with LED point indicator.
Waiting to enter the yard was a "Green" wrapped 1000 series car, #1004.
While freight traffic did travel past downtown to the yard it mostly kept to the hours of darkness. However I did catch CORP geep #3820 hanging out in the freight yard, quite far away from its normal home in Oregon.
Well, this post has been going on a little long now. I think I got in all of the photos I wanted to, but I think I am going to just wrap things up here anyway with a photo from the plane as I left to fly back east. You can just make out the trolley and freight yards just south of Petco Park.
Turn in again next time.