Metrolink Orange County Lines

Fullerton to San Clemente

This route covers the following subdivisions:

Mileposts are from Barstow via the erstwhile Santa Fe line through San Bernardino, Pasadena, and Los Angeles. This line (or, at least, the segment south of CP Maple) represents the Santa Fe’s second approach to San Diego, built to replace the Temecula Canyon line south from Highgrove after that line had been washed out once too often. The route from Los Angeles to Fullerton is part of the BNSF San Bernardino Subdivision (formerly Santa Fe second district) Fullerton line to San Bernardino.

At Fullerton Junction (MP 165.4), heading east/south from Los Angeles, the line to San Bernardino proceeds straight ahead, while that to San Diego turns sharply southward on a 3-degree (55 MPH) curve. The entire line south of Fullerton Jct. is run by Centralized Traffic Control from the Metrolink Dispatching offices in Pomona. In the early 1970s, this line was entirely single track with passing sidings. By 2000, much of it north of Laguna Niguel was two main tracks, while south of there it is still only single track. Visible to the west is the former UP Anaheim Branch right of way. There is a spur into industry to the east, and a grade crossing at Orangethorpe Avenue, after which the lines passes under Route 91. With lineside industry on adjacent spurs, the line crosses La Palma Avenue and passes  the crossovers and signals at CP La Palma (MP 167.3). At one time, there were many citrus packing plants along the line in this area, all rail-served at the time of their peak operations.

Since the Metrolink takeover in 1992, not only has the formerly single line been doubled for much of the way, but many streets that formerly crossed the track at grade are now closed off or have grade separations. One example of the former is right at CP La Palma, where North Street no longer crosses the tracks. (The original settlement at Anaheim is a square, tilted slightly from a true north-south east-west alignment, bounded by North Street, East Street, South Street and West Street, with its center defined by Anaheim Boulevard and Center Avenue. The railroad passes towards the eastern side of this square.) Heading south-southeast, the line crosses Sycamore Street at grade and then passes over Lincoln Avenue on a bridge. At Center Avenue and Atchison Street, the old Santa Fe Anaheim depot on the west side of the tracks is now a public day care center, separated from the tracks by a high sound-wall.

The line crosses Broadway, Santa Ana Street, South Street and Vermont Avenue at grade. There are signals at MP 168 just south of the latter. The line crosses Ball Road at grade and starts to angle more to the southeast. There is a bridge over Lewis Street followed by a grade crossing at Cerritos Avenue. At CP College (MP 169.8), there are signals and a diamond crossing with the UP Tustin Industrial Track (formerly SP Tustin Branch), followed by a west to south connector from that branch line (replacing the SP’s formerly independent passage through Santa Ana that was purchased by Caltrans to widen the I-5 “Orange Crush” freeway). The daily “Costa Mesa Switcher” operates on this segment most mornings, offering a chance to see UP or (rarely) SP power on this line. The line then crosses State College Boulevard at grade and bridges over Katella Avenue next to the ‘Anaheim Pond’ (where the Anaheim Ducks play ice hockey) into the parking lot for the Angel Stadium. The present-day Amtrak-Metrolink station (MP 170.5) for Anaheim is located in the stadium parking lot, and uses that lot (on the southwest side of the tracks) as its parking area. There is an Amtrak depot building between tracks and parking lot. The station is connected to the north track by a pedestrian underpass with stairs and ramps.

Beyond the station, the line passes under Route 57, over Douglas Road and then across the Santa Ana River on a multi-segment bridge. It crosses Eckhoff Street in Orange at grade, passes signals at MP 171, crosses Main Street and Batavia Street at grade, passes a spur into a scrapyard to the east, and then turns due south on a 7-degree (35 MPH) curve at CP Maple (MP 172.4), where the Olive subdivision trails in from the north (see below) and there are crossovers between the two main tracks. From Fullerton Jct. to CP Maple the line has only local freight service; south of CP Maple there are three to five daily BNSF tonnage trains to/from San Diego. Immediately south of the junction, the line crosses Walnut Avenue at grade, followed by Palm Avenue and then reaches the Orange Metrolink station (MP 172.6), where the parking lot is on the west side of the tracks and the old Santa Fe depot (now a Cask & Cleaver steak house) is on the east side. The environment has now changed from one of lineside industry to one of residential buildings, both older and relatively new.

On the south side of the station, the line crosses Chapman Avenue at grade.  Wrapped in tarps in an industrial lot just south of Chapman is the Carson & Colorado combination car “Esmeralda”, now being restored by a private party.  Next are Almond Avenue and Palmyra Avenue grade crossings. Until September 17, 2007, the two tracks reduced to one at the signals at CP La Veta, MP 173.2. Since that date, there have been Two Main Tracks continuing through this section, past Intermediate Signals at MP 173.x, There is a grade crossing at La Veta Avenue. The line passes beneath Route 22, crosses over Santiago Creek on an “S” curve and then crosses Fairhaven Avenue at grade. Running along the east side of Lincoln Avenue, Santa Ana, the single-track line crosses Santa Clara Avenue and Seventeenth Street at grade, South of the latter there are crossovers and signals at CP Lincoln, MP 174.7, where the single track ended until the second main track was made operational on September 17th, 2007. Community pressure has resulted in squeezing Lincoln Ave. into a narrow corridor, however no residential property has been taken.  Construction of a new Santiago Creek bridge was required as part of this effort.

Still alongside Lincoln Avenue, the line crosses over I-5 on a through girder (with center girder) bridge, passes Intermediate Signals at MP 175.x, and then crosses Santa Ana Boulevard at grade before entering the platforms of the Regional Transportation Center at Santa Ana (MP 175.2). This station houses several local agencies and serves as a station for Amtrak, Metrolink, and OCTA and regional bus services. The platform for the north track is a narrow island, only one train at a time can do station work here. As of mid-2004 Metrolink and OCTA are in final design for a second platform and pedestrian overpass for this station. Immediately south of the station, the former SP line diverges again, and the Metrolink line turns east-southeast, crossing 4th Street at grade and then bridging over 1st Street. After crossing Chestnut Avenue at grade, the line turns southeast and crosses Grand Avenue at grade, followed by Lyon Street. Track speed is 90 MPH from here to San Juan Capistrano, protected by intermittent Automatic Train Stop (ATS) at signals, as read by shoes on all passenger locomotives and cab cars. There are inductors, the silver-painted metal “lumps” on the right side of the tracks, approaching all signals form here to San Diego.  There are Intermediate Signals at MP 176.7 between Lyon Street and McFadden Avenue (adjacent to the latter), followed by the McFadden Avenue grade crossing, Richey Street grade crossing, and the Route 55 bridge over the tracks. There are detectors on both tracks at MP  177.44.

East of the Route 55 bridge, the line enters Tustin and runs along the north side of Edinger Avenue, crossing Red Hill Avenue at grade. There are signals and crossovers just east of Red Hill Avenue (CP Aliso, MP  178.9) In the early 1970s, the line left suburbia and entered agricultural and partly rural areas south of Santa Ana. Today, this is an area of light industry and recent residential development and construction. However, there are still vast open areas in places, such as the US Marine Corps Air Station at Tustin, across Edinger Avenue from the tracks, where the two huge hangars are a landmark, and at the former El Toro Air Station adjacent to Irvine. By the 1990s, the whole area along the line through Irvine to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente was covered in new suburban housing.

As Edinger Avenue curves away south, there is a Metrolink (only) station at Tustin (MP 179.5), followed by Jamboree Road bridging overhead. In Irvine, the line crosses Peters Canyon Wash and then Harvard Avenue at grade. There are signals at MP 179.5. Passing through recent residential development, the line passes over Culver Drive and beneath Yale Avenue. There are Intermediate Signals at MP 181.x, grade crossings at Jeffrey Road and, after a stretch of open country, Sand Canyon Road. and Intermediate Signals at MP 183.x. I-5 and the 133 Toll Road then cross over the tracks, followed by an area rapidly filling in with offices and light industry on the south of the tracks, and the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station to the north. There are crossovers at CP Tinkham (MP 184.5), a Metrolink/Amtrak station at Irvine (MP  185.0), where some services from San Bernardino and Riverside terminate (and services to those places originate), a spur on the east side, and more signals at CP El Toro (MP 185.3).

A CTC siding on the east side extends from CP El Toro to CP Bake; it is used to store freight trains that cannot be taken further due to passenger traffic. In another area of intensive residential development, there are bridges over the tracks at Alton Parkway and Bake Parkway. There are signals and crossovers at CP Bake (MP 186.7), after which the line crosses over Lake Forest Drive and Ridge Route on bridges. El Toro Road crosses over the tracks on a bridge, as do Los Alisos Boulevard, Alicia Parkway, and La Paz Road, with Intermediate Signals at MP 188.x. The line turns due south and passes under I-5 again, coming alongside Cabot Road, to the west of the line. There are bridges over the track at El Paseo and Oso Parkway, with Intermediate Signals at MP 190.x, south of which Cabot Road moves away from the track on the west, and Camino Capistrano comes alongside on the east.

There are Intermediate Signals at MP 192, and a bridge over Oso Creek, with a large detention basin to the west of the tracks. Crown Valley Parkway bridges overhead, after which the line reaches the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink (only)  station (MP 193.7), with platforms on both tracks (and a fence between the tracks preventing crossovers from one platform to the other. There is permit parking along Camino Capistrano north of the station, and a parking lot across that street to the east. South of the station, the line passes under the Paseo de Colinas bridge, after which the two main tracks reduce to one at CP Avery (MP 193.9). CP Avery is a No. 24 turnout with 61-foot switch points; it is operated at 90 MPH on the straight side and 60 MPH on the turnout side. Not quite TGV but about the best in California.  Also in this area, Route 73 bridges over the line on its way to join with I-5, which runs just a few yards to the east.

There is a private road crossing at Rancho Capistrano School, a small bridge over drainage and a 180-foot girder bridge over Trabuco Creek. Osos Road crosses at grade, followed by the signals at CP Oso, MP 196.2. There is another grade crossing at La Zanja Street in San Juan Capistrano, site of the famous mission and swallow habitat, The Amtrak-Metrolink San Juan Capistrano station (MP 197.2) is just southwest of the mission. The station has only a single platform on the east side of the tracks. The Amtrak depot is now housed in some converted silver boxcars, because the Santa Fe depot is now a restaurant. The erstwhile road crossing at Verdugo Street is now pedestrian only, and is halfway along the station platform.

South of the station, Del Obispo Street crosses at grade, and the line crosses San Juan creek on a multi-span girder bridge. At CP Capistrano, MP 198.0, there are the requisite signals for the north end of a 9,425 ft. siding; both tracks cross over Avenida Aeropuerte at grade and then pass under Stonehill Drive. The siding ends at CP Serra, MP 199.9, after which the line curves to the southeast and passes under Route 1 and over Pacific Coast Highway at the place where Route 1 diverges from I-5 (just to the east) and joins PCH. The line comes alongside the Pacific Ocean here at Dana Point, and follows it closely, and in many cases intimately, to south of Del Mar in San Diego County.

Pacific Coast Highway runs along the east side the line, at the foot of some rather fragile bluffs which regularly slide onto the road (and the line) in heavy rainstorms, with the beach just to the west, through Capistrano Beach, where a footbridge spans both street and railroad to reach the beach. There are Intermediate Signals at MP 201.x, adjacent to the Beach Road grade crossing into Poche County Beach Park. There are more Intermediate Signals at MP 203.7, adjacent to a private goad crossing into the San Clemente Shores development. San Clemente has Metrolink and Amtrak stations at different locations. The Metrolink station is here, at San Clemente North Beach (MP 203.7). At this point the road, which has become El Camino Real, turns away from the coast.

The track is literally in the surf zone for the next four miles. The ATSF and now Metrolink have placed revetments of armor stone to prevent (most years) the waves from washing out the track. It is not unusual for the peaks of waves to splash onto trains during storms and/or neap tides. There has been a serious erosion of beach sand for the last few decades (caused by flood control dam capture of silt and better erosion control in urban areas) that has left only a narrow strip of beach sand for recreation use at some locations. The community and Metrolink have negotiated a discrete limit line for how much rock can be placed on the beach. This area experiences a high incidence of trespassing by beach visitors; the City of San Clemente, OCTA, and Metrolink are working on improvements to the trails and pedestrian track crossings in order to improve safety.

The town is mostly on the land at the top of the bluffs, with only two or three locations where roads come down to the beach. The first of these is at the San Clemente Pier, where Amtrak has its station (MP 204.8). The next is at The Esplanade (at the top of the bluffs, which are rather low at this point), where there is a footbridge at “T” Street crossing over the track and descending to the beach below. The third is at Calafia Beach, where there is a pedestrian grade crossing between parking lot (at the base of the bluffs) and beach. There are Intermediate Signals here, at MP 206.x. To the south, the line running below the bluffs disappears from sight around San Mateo Point, which is right at the southern edge of San Clemente and Orange County-San Diego County border, where Metrolink ownership ends (MP 207.4). The property here was the “Western White House’ during the Nixon administration and is now a housing complex for the Marine Corps.

Placentia to Orange

This route covers the following subdivisions:

Mileposts are from zero at Atwood to 5.5 at CP Maple. The line is single track, CTC. This whole line runs through an area in which older industries (such as packing houses) have been replaced by modern offices and light industrial buildings. There is a residential area on both sides of the line between the river and Fletcher Street, continuing on the east side as far as Taft Avenue. This line is also part of the Santa Fe’s second approach to San Diego, built to replace the Temecula Canyon line. It carries Metrolink’s Inland Empire Orange County line trains plus BNSF through freights to San Diego and local switchers that serve the numerous industries along this line. Metrolink/OCTA are replacing the old (1944) 112-lb rail with 136-lb rail in a multi-year program that should be complete in late 2004. This will permit an increase of speed.

Departing the BNSF (former Santa Fe) San Bernardino subdivision at Atwood, heading west, the line makes a three-degree curve to the south-southwest, crossing Jefferson Street at grade in the process. As of mid 2004 the BNSF and Metrolink are beginning design of signals that will increase the speed around this curve and through the junction. There is a detector at MP 0.7. The line crosses Miraloma Avenue, Tustin Avenue and La Palma Avenue at grade before reaching the Metrolink station at Anaheim Canyon (MP 1.2), where both platform and parking lot are east of the track. There are signals north of La Palma Avenue and south of the station. The line then crosses over Route 91 and the Santa Ana River on multi-segment through girder steel bridges. Just south of the 91 freeway west of the track is a large industrial complex that handles scrap and finished steel and plastic pellet (covered hopper) transloading and storage. There are often used locomotives on the property that will be “parted out” and scrapped.

South of the Riverdale Avenue grade crossing, the line runs along the west side of Orange-Olive Road, crossing Lincoln Avenue, Fletcher Street and Meats Avenue at grade. There are signals at CP Meats ( (MP 3.4). The line crosses Glassell Street and the adjacent Taft Avenue, Katella Avenue and Collins Avenue at grade, angling due south between Katella and Collins. In this area the tracks of the former Pacific Electric Anaheim spur can be seen to the east of the main line, this area is now switched by the BNSF. South of Collins, the line joins the Orange subdivision at CP Maple (MP 5.5), with the main line heading south and a north to west wye track curving around to join the line coming from the west-northwest. This wye track is used to park baseball specials that unload at the Anaheim station.