The Surf Line is a railroad line that runs from San Diego north to Los Angeles along California's Pacific Coast. It is so named because much of the line is near the Pacific Ocean, within less than 100 feet (30 m) in places. The line is owned by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority and San Diego Northern Railway, and hosts Metrolink's Orange County Line and Inland Empire–Orange County Line, the San Diego Coaster, and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner passenger trains. The BNSF Railway operates freight over the line using trackage rights.
The line started out as the California Southern Railroad, a connection between National City (just south of San Diego) and the growing rail network, specifically the Southern Pacific Railroad at Colton (south of San Bernardino). Construction started from the south end in 1881, and the section along the coast from National City to Oceanside opened in 1882. From Oceanside the line turned northeast for a winding route through the Temecula Canyon, and was finished later that year.
The line became part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad's transcontinental rail line in 1885 via an extension of the California Southern from Colton north over Cajon Pass to Barstow. From 1886 to 1888, the Riverside, Santa Ana and Los Angeles Railway built a branch from Highgrove southwest via Riverside to Santa Ana and from Orange (just north of Santa Ana) northwest to Los Angeles. Also in 1888 the San Bernardino and San Diego Railway completed its line from Oceanside north to Santa Ana, completing what was originally called the Los Angeles-San Diego Short Line. The now-downgraded old route was destroyed by floods in 1891 and the new line, later named the Surf Line, was now the only line to San Diego from the north.
In 1910, the Fullerton and Richfield Railway built a short cutoff of the San Bernardino-Los Angeles route from Atwood west to Fullerton, giving the Surf Line its northern terminus of Fullerton. The Surf Line (officially, the Fourth District of the Los Angeles Division) was to the Santa Fe as the New York–Philadelphia corridor was to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Daily traffic could reach a density of ten trains (each way) during the summer months. The route hosted AT&SF San Diegan passenger trains, renamed the Pacific Surfliner by Amtrak in 2000. In the 1990s the SCRRA (Southern California Regional Rail Authority, also known as Metrolink) and the San Diego Northern Railway (Coaster) bought the sections of the line in Orange and San Diego Counties and began operating commuter trains.
Route and station stops
Santa Fe Los Angeles Division: Fourth District
- Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal
- Santa Fe Springs
- Santa Ana
- San Juan Capistrano
- San Clemente
- Del Mar
- Linda Vista
- Union Station (San Diego)
- The Coast Line, continuing north from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It is owned by the SCRRA between Los Angeles and Moorpark, CA, and Union Pacific from Moorpark onwards.
- Duke, Donald (1995). Santa Fe: The Railroad Gateway to the American West, Volume One. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. ISBN 0-87095-110-6.
- Jordan, Keith (2004). "Santa Fe's Surf Line, 1940". Trains 64 (8): 64–69.
- Jordan, Keith (1996). "The Surf Line 1940–1950". The Warbonnet 2 (2): 4–24.
- Jordan, Keith (1996). "The Surf Line Part II: 1950–1965". The Warbonnet 2 (4): 11–24.
- California Southern Railway History