San Diego, Santee and Campo
April, 1996

Don Winter

PRS is running a visit to the San Diego Railroad Museum at Campo. Because this cannot be accomplished as a single day trip, we travel down on Saturday, spend a night at a hotel near the gaslight district, travel on a new (to us) segment of the San Diego light rail system on the Saturday afternoon, go out to Campo on Sunday afternoon, and travel back on Sunday evening.

Saturday, April 20th, 1996

On Saturday morning, we arise early (for us) and drive to Los Angeles Union Station for our train. On arrival, we check in with Barbara Sibert, the PRS Tour Director. As a group, we walk out to the platform and board the Amfleet coach operating the Custom Class service on todayís train. Custom Class not only provides a guaranteed seat (important on the busiest San Diegan services), but also provides coffee and juice available throughout the trip. Among those riding near us today are David Cameron, Dick Finley, and Tom Nelson.

Los Angeles to San Diego Route Description

†[consist]

F40
Amfleet Custom Class
Amfleet Food service Car
Amfleet Coaches
ex-Metroliner Cab Car

Train 572, 4-20-1996

Schedule

Actual

Los Angeles

8:35am

8:35am

Fullerfton

9:14

9:14

Anaheim

9:24

9:24

Santa Ana

9:34

9:34

Irvine

9:46

9:46

San Juan Capistrano

10:03

10:05

San Clemente Pier

10:15

10:18

Oceanside

10:35

10:39

Solano Beach

10:49

10:52

San Diego

11:30

11:30

On arrival in San Diego, we have a chartered bus to take us to the hotel, where the group checks in (but we donít yet get our room keys), leave our luggage with the bell captain, and eat lunch.

Those who will be riding the light rail system to Santee† (the new segment of line extends beyond El Cajon, where we had been previously, to Santee Ďtown centerí) walk over to the light rail station on the other side of the parking lot across from the hotel, and buy daily passes or more specific ride tickets from the machines on the platform. Not everyone has completed this process by the time the first train comes by, so we end up traveling in different groups. The hotel is on the harbor-side segment of the east line, adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center, so the train we board will take us through to Santee. The train proceeds north to the Amtrak Station, where it jogs east on block, joins with the line coming south past the platform side of the Amtrak and then curves eastward inside a massive arcade. It then runs east several blocks, all of it in traditional street running fashion. Adjacent to San Diego City College, the line turns south and runs down to the intersection adjacent to the light rail yards. Here, the east line turns east, and the south line continues south along the route of the San Diego & Arizona Eastern to the Mexican Border at San Ysidro.

Following the turn to the east, the line runs in several miles of city streets, then climbs around and through a cemetery, before crossing and then joining the route of the Santee branch of the former SD&AE. Light rail shares the right of way (but not the track) with the freight branch for several miles, curving gently from east to north, past a location with a restored SD&AE depot and a few freight cars, through the transit center at El Cajon (which we had reached on our previous trip in 1993), past the end of the freight branch and across an area of scrub (soon to be developed, no doubt) to a terminus in the middle of the central parking lot of the Santee Town Center shopping center. Thereís nothing ot interest any of us here, so we all return on the same train on which we arrived. The rest of the group is on the first train we pass on the way back.

Chris and I alight at the light rail yards (at the big junction), and walk the half mile back to the hotel (much shorter than traveling around on the trolley), taking the opportunity to photograph trolleys in the yards. (Weíve been on this segment of line before, so arenít missing any mileage.) Although we have all-day passes that would permit us to ride down to San Ysidro (and cross into Tijuana) this evening, we elect to return to the hotel, get our room key and luggage, and watch trolleys and trains on the former Santa Fe line to National City and in the National City yard, from the balcony of our room.

For dinner, we walk over to a restaurant in the Gaslight District, along a street adjacent to the hotel, then go to bed relatively early (for us).

Sunday, April 21st, 1996

This morning, we eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, take our luggage to the bus waiting outside, stow it in the baggage hold under the bus, and board the bus for the trip out to Campo, in the mountains east of San Diego, near the border. Russ Davies joins us for the trip out to Campo. He has been staying with his daughter, who lives in the San Diego area. We head out of town to the east, along Interstate 8, then take a side road that runs through the scenic mountains alongside the Mexican border (since we have plenty of time to spare).

Arriving in Campo, we find that the museum is not yet open. However, thereís an old-time store/museum at the side of the road, near the gate, so the busload of people spends about 45 minutes looking around this store/museum. Some of what they have is very interesting to examine, particularly the artifacts from the old ways of retailing groceries, produce, etc., that are a bit different from those I remember from the early 1950s in England. Here, we are supplied with box lunches and eat them at the picnic tables outside the museumís store. In the store itself, I buy the last remaining copy of a history of the SD&AE. We take the time to look at the breakdown crane parked adjacent to the store, and then board our assigned car on the train when it is opened for boarding. The train leaves eastward, hauled by ex-US Army Transportation Corps diesel 1820, shortly afterwards.

After threading our way through the trackage adjacent to the museum itself, we have a bit of excitement further east, when sparks from the locomotive set fire to brush alongside the track. Members of the train crew fight the blaze until the Forestry Service (who are out along the track every time there are excursion runs) can arrive and put out the flames. We then head to the end of track at Millerís Creek, about 10 miles east of Campo, where the locomotive runs around the train for the return journey. During the trip, members of our group are escorted, a few at a time, through the heavyweight Pullman Observation car Robert Peary at the rear of the train. This is one of the Explorer class, identical to Ferdinand Magellan used by FDR on his trip to Warm Springs, GA in the 1930s and 1940s. This car was used as the backup when the usual car was not available. The interior of Robert Peary is not original, but dates from private ownership in the San Diego area in the early 1960s.

On the way back, most members of our group alight at the east end of the mueseum, for a walking tour of the rolling stock in the museumís collection, stored in the many tracks in the yard, and through the workshops where some cars are being restored, and where the restoration of the museumís ex-SP 4-6-0 2353 has just been completed. The 4-6-0 is in steam, today, running up and down museum trackage in final running tests before taking out her fist excursion.

The museumís collection includes steam locomotives (several others beyond 2353), diesels (many of them once owned by the various armed services, beyond 1820, as well as some from Class 1 railroads), passenger cars, both heavyweight and lightweight in various stages of repair or disrepair, freight cars, of both wood and steel construction in various stages of repair or disrepair, cabooses, and the aforementioned breakdown equipment. In addition to Robert Peary, the museum also has on hand the private business car Carriso Gorge, once owned by SD&AE founder John Spreckels, the sugar magnate. .

At the end of the walking tour and a biology break, we reboard the buses which take us back to San Diego over the quickest route (using Interstate 8). On arrival at the San Diego Amtrak station, thereís just enough time to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant before we have to walk over to the station near train time..

[consist]

F40
Amfleet Custom Class
Amfleet Food service Car
Amfleet Coaches
ex-Metroliner Cab Car

Train 585, 4-21-1996

Schedule

Actual

San Diego

7:00pm

7:00pm

Solano Beach

7:34

7:34

Oceanside

7:52

7:57

San Juan Capistrano

8:30

8:30

Irvine

8:44

8:44

Santa Ana

8:56

8:56

Anaheim

9:05

9:05

Fullerton

9:16

9:16

Los Angeles

9:55

9:43

In a few minutes, our train is ready to board, so we walk up to the Custom Class car and take seats on the ocean side for the views between Del Mar and San Clemente The run along the Pacific is spectacular as usual, with golden light from the setting sun. The trip is otherwise uneventful. In Los Angeles, we leave the train and drive home, ready for bed.