San Diegan

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ATSF San Diegan combined.png
San Diegan
ATSF San Diegan San Clemente CA April 19 1973.jpg
The southbound San Diegan passes through Capistrano Beach, California in April 1973.
First service March 27, 1938
Last service June 1, 2000
Successor Pacific Surfliner
Former operator(s) Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway

The San Diegan was one of the named passenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and a "workhorse" of the railroad. Its 126-mile (203-kilometer) route ran from Los Angeles, California south to San Diego. It was assigned train Nos. 70–79 (Nos. 80–83 were added in 1952 when RDCs began operating on the line).

The Los Angeles-San Diego corridor (popularly known as the "Surf Line" — officially, the Fourth District of the Los Angeles Division) was to the Santa Fe as the New YorkPhiladelphia corridor was to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Daily traffic could reach a density of ten trains (each way) during the summer months. The first San Diegan ran on March 27, 1938 as one set of equipment making two round trips a day.

A second trainset delivered in 1941 made possible four streamlined trains each way. A set of heavyweight equipment made a fifth trip in each direction. During and after the Second World War, furlough business from San Diego's military bases necessitated extra (albeit heavyweight) sections of San Diegans, and racetrack specials during horseracing season at Del Mar added to passenger train miles.

Amtrak continued to operate the San Diegan when it took over operation of the nation's passenger service on May 1, 1971, and it retired the name on June 1, 2000. Today, the route of the San Diegan (the second busiest passenger rail line in the United States) is served by Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner.



Main article: Surf Line

Construction of the Surf Line between Los Angeles and San Diego began on October 12, 1880, with the organization of the California Southern Railroad Company. On January 2, 1882, the California Southern commenced passenger and freight service between National City and Fallbrook Junction, just north of Oceanside.[1] The Santa Fe assumed control of the California Southern and on August 12, 1888, completed the line between Los Angeles and San Diego. Initially known as the "Short Line", the route replaced the Santa Fe's existing circuitous route via Temecula Canyon.[2] In the 1930s the Surf Line hosted four round-trips per day, with an average trip time of 3 12 hours.[3]

San Diegan[edit]

In the late 1930s streamlined trains were in transition. While fixed consists such as the Union Pacific Railroad's M-10000 were out (the last, the Illinois Central 121, had been built in 1936),[4] railroads still ordered sets of equipment with the intention that those sets stay with a particular train. In 1937–1938 the Santa Fe embarked on a massive program to upgrade its passenger fleet, introducing new sets on the Super Chief, Chief, and El Capitan; and three new trains: the Chicagoan, Kansas Cityan, and the San Diegan.[5][6]

On March 27, 1938, the Santa Fe inaugurated the San Diegan, operating on a schedule of 2 12 hours. The single equipment set could make two round-trips per day. A second San Diegan consist entered service on June 8, 1941, doubling the schedule to four daily round trips.[7] The San Diegan was supplemented by two conventional heavyweight trains.[8]

  • December 31, 1940: No. 1676, a 2-10-2 type locomotive with a 40-car freight train in tow, jumps the rails while cruising north via the Sorrento Grade and lands in the Pacific Ocean, with much of the rolling stock following suit. No one is killed in the accident, and it is many days before all of the wreckage can be pulled out of the sea.
  • June 8, 1941: A second lightweight train consisting of six coaches, a baggage-mail car, a tavern lunch-counter car, and a round-end observation car is added to the line. Service is increased to four daily round trips with streamliners and one round trip using conventional equipment.
  • October 27, 1941: A fifth, steam-powered train is added to the schedule, due in part to the need to transport military personnel to and from San Diego's bases. This semi-streamlined train carries a full buffet car, a diner, and three coaches that had all previously run as the Valley Flyer between Oakland and Bakersfield. The number of daily trains servicing the route increases to 16, on average.
  • 1942: The average number of trains per day increases to 42. Consist size expands to 13 cars, and each logs 512 daily miles. Trains consisting of 10-12 former Southern Pacific interurban trailer cars, owned by the U.S. Maritime Commission but bearing ATSF markings, are fitted with conventional knuckle couplers at each end of the trainset and pressed into service to handle the additional passenger loads.
  • April 18, 1942: A packed, northbound San Diegan collides with a local, steam-powered (Atlantic 1468) freight train at the Orange Junction, located in the City of Orange. Several passengers receive minor injuries, and rail traffic must be rerouted via Atwood and the Olive District until the wreckage is cleared and the tracks repaired. Locomotives #3 and #3A are badly damaged in the incident.
  • May 13, 1942: Locomotives #2L and #2A with the first section of train No. 73 strike a gasoline tanker at a grade crossing in Hobart. Both units are damaged by fire.
  • April 1943: The schedule is lengthened to three hours due to ever-increasing military movements.
  • May 10, 1943: Santa Fe adds a second mainline track along the San Diego line between La Mirada and Fullerton to accommodate increased wartime traffic. Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) is installed on the line.
  • December 14, 1943: Train No. 77 is struck by a tractor-trailer rig in Santa Ana; "chair" car #3094 is damaged.
  • May 1952: Two Budd-built RDCs, #DC191 and #DC192, are put into express service. The two cars, coupled together, make two daily round trips on a two hour and 15 minute schedule.
  • August 25, 1953: Santa Fe 3751 pulls the last steam-powered trains (Nos. 72 and 73) on the "Surf Line."
  • January 10, 1954: The use of round-end observation cars is discontinued in order to eliminate the need to "turn" the trains in San Diego before heading northward.
  • January 25, 1954: The two RDCs (running as train No. 80) strike a truck in Cardiff.
  • February 11, 1954: The two RDCs (making up train No. 81) collide with an automobile in Encinitas.
  • October 14, 1954: RDC #DC191 strikes and automobile in Morena and sustains damage in the collision. RDC #DC192 operates solo as train Nos. 80 and 81 until repairs to its companion unit are completed at San Bernardino.
  • January 22, 1956: Redondo Junction train wreck. Bound for San Diego, the two RDCs (making up train No. 82) derail at 69 mph in an evening high-speed accident at Redondo Junction, California, just south of the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT), killing 30 and seriously injuring 117. This accident ended the units' run on the "Surf Line."[9] The radio reports of the accident were one of the first major uses of the Sigalert (known at the time as a "Sigmon Traffic Alert").
  • March 1956: General Motors' Aerotrain makes a series of experimental runs as a San Diegan consist. Thoughts of placing it in permanent service are quickly abandoned as the entire trainset has to be turned at each end of the line, and requires helper locomotives on the Sorrento Grade.
  • April 28, 1956: Heavyweight local trains Nos. 70 and 75 are discontinued due to losses.
  • Summer 1956: Santa Fe's El Capitan makes three demonstration runs to San Diego to promote its new "Hi-Level" cars. The railroad begins placing illuminated drumheads (formerly mounted on round-end observation cars) on the vestibule gate of the trailing cars of the San Diegan. Service on the line is reduced to six daily round trips.
  • Summer 1958: Service is further reduced to five daily round trips and weekend extra trains.
  • September 3, 1958: Train No. 70 strikes a motor truck at a grade crossing in San Juan Capistrano; locomotive #340L sustains moderate damage.
  • November 19, 1958: An F4D Skyray fighter jet overshoots the runway at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and is struck by southbound train No. 74 at 75 miles (121 km)-per-hour. All three locomotives and cars #3430, #3165, #3144, #1399, #3100, #3094, #3082 derail. No fatalities and only a few injuries result.
  • January 14, 1959: Locomotive #20C, leading train No. 75, collides with a gravel truck at a grade crossing in Irvine: the unit sustains considerable damage and is "set out."
  • August 2, 1961: Train No. 76 strikes a gravel truck in Anaheim. Locomotives #339L-A-B and cars #3076, #3119, #3179, #3145, #3100, and #3158 are derailed.
  • October 29, 1962: Train No. 76 is struck by a gravel truck in Anaheim, derailing "chair" cars #3082, #3147, and #3146 on the Santa Ana River Bridge.
  • July 31, 1964: Mail trains Nos. 70 and 81 are dropped as all mail between Los Angeles and San Diego is now transported via truck (Santa Fe's mail contract expired on July 1 and was not renewed).
  • 1965: Service is further reduced to three daily round trips (train Nos. 73–78) on a two hour and 55 minute schedule.[10]
  • December 22, 1965: Train No. 76 collides with a dump truck hauling sand in Anaheim at the State College Blvd. grade crossing. Locomotives #61L and #51C, and cars #3084, #3156, #3152, #3179, and #3076 all derail. The conductor was credited by the Santa Ana Register newspaper of saving the life of a small boy who was thrown to the floor as glass from the windows flew about the car.


An EMD F40PH leads a San Diegan into Union Station in Los Angeles in 1978.

Amtrak assumed control of most intercity passenger trains in the United States of May 1, 1971. It retained two of the San Diegan's three round-trips.[11] Between November 1971–April 1972 the long-distance Coast Daylight/Coast Starlight operated between Los Angeles and San Diego; in April this practice ended, replaced by a third San Diegan. The number of round-trips increased to four on October 31, 1976 and then five on April 24, 1977. Two more trains were added on October 26, 1980, increasing daily service to seven round-trips.[12]

Equipment used[edit]

The San Diegan, led by a pair of EMC E1 locomotives, rolls south along the Pacific Coast through San Clemente.

The original San Diegan consist included a baggage car, two coaches (60 seats each), a lunch counter-tavern car, and a parlor-observation car.[13] Motive power consisted of a single 1,800 hp (1,300 kW) EMC E1A locomotive sporting the familiar Warbonnet paint scheme.[8] These units would, in time, be replaced by ALCO PA and PB power and EMD F3 and F7 locomotives. Santa Fe's lone trio of Fairbanks-Morse (FM) "Erie-built" locomotives and the odd GE U28CG could also be seen occasionally running the line.

A lone pair of Budd-built 90-seat, self-powered Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) were acquired for express service. They operated "back-to-back" as a single train unit from May, 1952 until the Redondo Junction derailment in January 1956.

Three additional coach units were added for weekend traffic. The San Diegan also enjoyed almost exclusive use of Santa Fe's Pullman-built (PPS) "pendulum-suspension" chair car, #1100.

In June 1941, the railroad added a second eight-car trainset, also built by Budd, to handle the high demand. Its original consist was similar to the above save for an additional coach. Subsequent consists varied according to traffic levels.

A representative, all-lightweight consist from the Summer of 1955:

  • Baggage-Mail car
  • RPO-Baggage car
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • Bar-Lounge-"Chair" car (#1398-#1399 assigned)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)
  • "Chair" car / Coach (52 seats)

Under Amtrak ex-Santa Fe Hi-Level coaches were used in the early 1970s.[14] Modern Amfleet coaches arrived in 1976.[15]

Route and station stops[edit]

Santa Fe Los Angeles Division: Fourth District[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duke 1995, p. 50
  2. ^ Duke 1995, p. 242
  3. ^ Jordan 2004, p. 64
  4. ^ Murray 2006, p. 80
  5. ^ Glischinski 1997, p. 40
  6. ^ "Advertisement". Lincoln Evening Journal. February 17, 1938. p. 3. Retrieved August 17, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read
  7. ^ Duke 1995, p. 247
  8. ^ a b Jordan 2004, p. 66
  9. ^ Joplin (2000), pp. 8-10
  10. ^ Duke (Volume Two), p. 359
  11. ^ "Santa Fe Joining Amtrack". Brownsville Herald. April 21, 1971. p. 2. Retrieved August 12, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read
  12. ^ Goldberg 1981, p. 28
  13. ^ Wayner 1972, p. 190
  14. ^ Yetzer, Carl (April 8, 1973). "Ride the Amtrak down to San Diego". San Bernardino County Sun. p. 51. Retrieved August 12, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read
  15. ^ Yetzer, Carl (September 26, 1976). "Try train-tripping through California". San Bernardino County Sun. p. 9. Retrieved August 12, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read


External links[edit]