Pacific Surfliner

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere


Northbound Pacific Surfliner Cab Car crosses Carlsbad Village Dr. in Carlsbad, Ca.

The Pacific Surfliner is a 350-mile (563 km) Amtrak passenger train route serving communities on the coast of Southern California between San Diego and San Luis Obispo. It is the second-busiest rail route in the Amtrak system after the Northeast Corridor. [1][2]

On the northernmost part there are two trains per day in each direction; on the stretch from Los Angeles to San Diego, a little less than one per hour. Thruway Motorcoach connections are available between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles during hours when that part of the Coast Line track is in use by freight trains. The route is named after the Surf Line railroad. Over the years, the number of trains and passengers on the route has increased greatly; in the late 1970s there were only three round trips daily between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Because neither San Diego nor Goleta is equipped with a roundhouse or a turntable, trains running on the Pacific Surfliner are arranged so that the last car (the cab car) is one equipped with engineer controls, so that the train can be operated in either direction, allowing for a quick turnaround. This is known as a "Push-pull" configuration. Before the cab cars were used on the line, the trains were wyed in San Diego for their return trip. Los Angeles Union Station is a stub off the mainline which means trains leave Los Angeles facing the opposite direction that it entered. The locomotive is at the rear of the train, "pushing" the train from Goleta to Los Angeles. At Los Angeles, the train "backs into" the station, and, upon departing the locomotive "pulls" the train to San Diego. Currently a project is being prepared for run-through tracks at Union Station.

The entire trip from San Luis Obispo to San Diego is 371 miles (597 kilometers), and takes eight and a half hours. Much of the Pacific Surfliner's scenic route follows the Pacific coast.

Pacific Surfliner trainsets usually consist of an EMD F59PHI locomotive, a business class car, a cafe car, two coach cars, and a baggage car equipped with engineer controls. During holiday seasons or days of heavy usage extra cars may be added. All but one of the Pacific Surfliner trains consist of double-decker cars that are similar to, but not the same as, Superliner cars; the remaining train uses Amtrak's older single-level Horizon Fleet cars. Amtrak has led many passengers to believe that all routes are operated by the Surfliner trainset, passengers have become upset due to the fact that the Horizon Fleet cars lack many of the services typicaly found on Surfliner Bi level trains. Most cars are equipped with 120v power outlets for laptops or other electronic devices. All Amtrak California trains, including the Pacific Surfliner, use the same design of cars. The Pacific Surfliner trains are painted in a blue and silver livery that is unique to this line.

The Pacific Surfliner is usually on time. The last train south (Train 596) may be held up to one hour if Train 11 (the Coast Starlight) from Seattle is delayed.

Though operated by Amtrak, the Pacific Surfliner is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California Department of Transportation and is operated under the Amtrak California brand.

Under the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, and later under Amtrak until the late 1990s, this same service was called the San Diegan.

Stations and cities served

Southbound Pacific Surfliner crosses Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad.
Northbound Pacific Surfliner in Solana Beach.

The Pacific Surfliner runs southbound as even-numbered trains and northbound with odd numbers. Trains with numbers beginning in 5 run only between San Diego and Los Angeles; numbers beginning in 7 are assigned to trains that run north to Goleta or San Luis Obispo (most continuing through Los Angeles to San Diego) and are known as Central Coast Pacific Surfliners. The Pacific Surfliner makes the following station stops; stops served by all trains along that section are bolded.


Amtrak routes

Amtrak California: Capitol Corridor - Pacific Surfliner - San Joaquins
long-distance: California Zephyr - Coast Starlight - Southwest Chief - Sunset Limited - Texas Eagle


In the early 2000s the Chatsworth stop initially was only served by a few trips. It proved popular and now all trains that go north of Los Angeles serve it.


See Also

External links

Template:Navigation Template