Private Cars to San Diego and San Pedro,
September 21, 2008

Don Winter


This trip is to ride on the 2008 AAPRCO (American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners) Annual Convention special train from Los Angeles to San Diego and back, continuing to the convention site at San Pedro via the Alameda Corridor. We're day trip passengers only, not attending the convention.

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

To make sure we have no issues with traffic on the way (such as a football game ending), we leave home (Tehachapi) at approximately 1 pm, and drive the usual way, in the wind, stopping in Acton and then taking I-210 (the Foothill Freeway), past the Rose Bowl (where UCLA is playing) and SR-110 (the Pasadena Freeway) to Los Angeles' Chinatown, where we take the city streets to the Metro Plaza Hotel, across from Union Station, getting there before 4 pm.

At 6-something pm, we head out to Olvera Street, where we eat in El Paseo (the usual restaurant), and then walk around for a few minutes before returning to the hotel and going to bed, mindful or our early departure in the morning.

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

I'm up at 5:45 am, in the dark, and we're over at the bus platforms at Union Station about 6:15 am, in time to take the second bus (6:30 am) over to the 8th Street coach yard, where the AAPRCO train awaits. On the way, I hear a car owner talking about the difficulties they had establishing a "train line" on the set of private cars and the Amtrak locomotives, even before the steam locomotive was coupled on. The train has been assembled here from cars arriving separately from all over the country, on different trains and at different times. For instance, Caritas (at least) came out from Chicago on the California Zephyr, and then Caritas, Birch Grove (SP Sleeper), The Observatory (NP dome), and Chapel Hill (Chessie Heavyweight Rear Observation) came down together on the Coast Starlight on Friday.

At the yard, we board at one boarding location, where Bob and Laura Drenk are doing the greeting and directing, and walk back to the car we've booked on, Burt Hermey's Silver Lariat, where we're seated at one of the downstairs tables for the breakfast service. (We'll be in the dome for diner.) The complete train is shoved backwards to clear a switch in the yard, before pulling forward onto the main line to head south.


4-8-4                        3751
P42                               63
P42                               87
P42                               99
Round End Obs    800362    City of Spokane
Sleeper/Lounge     800710    Northern Dreams
Dome                    800488    Northern Sky
Sleeper                  800736    Birch Grove
Dome                    800290    The Obervatory
Business                800043    Chapel Hill
Sleeper                  800xxx    Salisbury Beach
Lounge                  800633    Overland Trail
Sleeper/Lounge      800180    City of Angels
Coach                    800721    Tolani
Sleeper/Lounge      800061    Colonial Crafts
Dome Coach          800190    Silver Lariat
Concession             800326    Pony Express
Business                 800045    Caritas
Sleeper/Lounge       800110    Louis Sockalexis
Business                  800516    Pointe St. Charles
Sleeper/Lounge       800129    Hollywood Beach
Sleeper                   800563    Colorado Pines
Sleeper/Lounge       800032    Two Rivers
Business                  800591    Burrard
Business                 800313    Virginia City
Dome Business      800212     Bella Vista
Sleeper                 800237     Palm Leaf
Business                800636    Scottish Thistle






San Pedro (6th Street)     11:00 pm 1:20 am
Badger Bridge (reverse)       after midnight

Los Angeles (8th Street)

7:25 am 7:29 am


Hobart Yard       10:16-11:19 pm




San Juan Capistrano   8:55    
San Onofre       8:30-8:45
Stuart Mesa       7:43-8:10
Fallbrook Junction   9:30-10:25    
CP Pines   11:01-05    
San Diego Old Town 12:00 noon 11:37 am 4:00 pm 6:32 pm

Fullerton Line route description

As the train turns east on the Redondo Junction Flyover, we get a magnificent view of 3751 at the head of the train. Breakfast is blueberry French toast and chicken sausages, and is excellent (as expected). Paul Clements is the server, as he had been the last time we traveled on this car, back in 2002. We get to know our tablemates, Chuck Brandt from Las Vegas, and Bob Bucket from the LA area.

Orange County Line route description

San Clemente to San Diego route description

A watering stop is made just north of the erstwhile Fallbrook Junction, on a short stretch of Two Main Tracks where we're occupying one of them. During this stop, I chat with Dwight Hudson in Pony Express, the concession car. We take just a minute or two too long with the watering, and thus have to wait for a southbound and then a northbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to pass us (Train 566, 10:18 am), meet each other at Oceanside, and then the other one passes us (Train 569, 10:24 am), before we can proceed. Climbing from Del Mar to Miramar, there is a curvy section on a ledge that affords more clear views of the steam locomotive at the front of the train, as it strains to climb the hill. We meet another northbound Amtrak at CP Pines at 11:04 am. Chris brings Dave Abbott back to chat for awhile, and we catch up with how he's doing now. In San Diego, the passengers (mostly) leave the train at the Old Town station (which we use because this train won't fit at the main San Diego station), and many of us take the San Diego trolley in one direction or the other from that station. The train is taken to a siding, and the locomotives taken north to be turned on the Miramar wye.

We take the Green Line east, onto the segment of line through San Diego State University that we haven't been on before, and once that line meets the Orange Line, take an Orange Line train back into downtown, leaving the train next to the main San Diego  Amtrak station. We walk over to the harbor front, and stop at a cafe for some lunch, returning to the San Diego trolley stop on the west side of the Amtrak depot to take the trolley back to Old Town. Our trolley runs alongside the Pacific Surfliner that departs at 3 pm, and keeps pace with it until the next trolley stop, as we return to Old Town well before the requested 3:30 pm (for a 4 pm departure).

Once we have attained the correct platform, we stand (or sit) there for over two hours, with no form of official communication from anyone connected with the train, with two Amtrak trains stopping at that same platform, before the AAPRCO train finally reverses from its servicing siding, north of the station, to reboard the passengers. The lack of communication means that most passengers do not feel comfortable leaving the platforms to use the toilets or get something to drink. I take the opportunity to ask John Harmon if he had come out from New Jersey just to ride the line to the harbor, but he says that would be "a bit over the top" and he had come out as much for the ride out from Chicago on Caritas,  via the Rockies, Sierra, and Coast Line, as anything else. After loading the passengers, the train then sets back, at 5:55 pm, into a siding just south of Old Town for some more servicing of the cars that takes up another half hour.

Our tablemates in the dome for dinner are Peter, from Westchester (part of LA), and his young (16) relative, Winston (from Carlsbad, south of Oceanside). The dinner of prime rib is again excellent, as is the dessert, but the wine and cocktails flow a little too freely for some of our companions. Darkness falls somewhere around Del Mar, just after we've reached the ocean again, and the return watering stop is adjacent to the Coaster/Metrolink servicing facility at Stuart Mesa. We stop on the 2MT at San Onofre for a southbound Amtrak (Train 580) to pass, see the fireworks at Disneyland (which start at 9 pm), as we pass Anaheim Stadium, and then stop adjacent to Hobart Yard to remove 3751 and the first of the Amtrak locomotives, so that the other two Amtrak locomotives can take the train on to San Pedro. While we're at Hobart, Amtrak Trains 591 and 595 overtake us on the track heading for the flyover (we're stopped on the center track).

Harbor Lines route descriptions

After traversing the Alameda Corridor, our train reverses, just north of the Badger Bridge, to head backwards, around the West Basin, at 15 mph, to the storage tracks adjacent to Ports of Call in San Pedro, where we leave the train and take buses back to LA Union Station. After walking back to the hotel (about a dozen of us), Chris and I are in bed shortly after 3 am.

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

We get up in time to check out of the hotel before noon and have lunch at Olvera Street, before heading home, with our usual stops at Bristol Farms in South Pasadena and for coffee at Action, arriving home around 3:30 pm. There is less wind on the drive home than there had been on the way down on Saturday.