Jacj May's visit to San Diego

6 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Jacj May's visit to San Diego
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, January 21, 2018 1:47 PM
Saturday, April 15.  One of the principal objectives of this visit to Southern California was to ride San Diego's heritage PCC line. Called the Silver line, it is operated by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) as part of the San Diego Trolley, the area's light rail system.  A PCC car runs over a 2.7-mile clockwise loop around the downtown section of the city four days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  I had made two previous attempts to ride it, but on both occasions after arriving there I found that the line was not operating due to "mechanical problems."  I hoped that the saying, "third time's a charm," would hold for this attempt.

Originally I had a choice of either Thursday or Saturday, but as it turned out there were a number of reasons to choose the latter.  First, my plan for Wednesday had been disrupted because of Gold line trackwork and I thought I might need an extra day on the rails in LA; second, that the weather forecast for Thursday was cloudy; and third, the most important, is that when I checked Google maps for the route I found that the 130-mile journey would take as much as 180 minutes (3 hours) during a weekday rush hour but only 105 on Saturday morning, all because of traffic congestion on the I-5.  Why was I going to drive?  In order to take Amtrak I would have to get a lift to the Expo line station, ride to Metro Center, and then change to the Red/Purple line to get to Union Station, which would take about an hour (with a built in cushion for possible delays).  After that it would be a three hours more on the train.  So, with 105 much better than 240, unfortunately this rail advocate had to choose rubber for the day.

I got into the rental car at 8:10 (Cathy had offered me her car if I would have gone on Thursday) and found relatively little traffic on my route, which was west for a short distance on Culver Boulevard to I-405 (Sig and Cathy's house is a block away the boulevard), followed by a straight run via the 405 (San Diego Freeway) and I-5 to Exit 20 at Old Town.  There was hardly any congestion on the freeways, except for a few minutes between Carlsbad and Encinitas.  I turned left onto Rosecranz from the Pacific Coast Highway and found a free parking place along the curb on Calhoun Street near Taylor (Rosecranz becomes Taylor) just a block from the San Diego Trolley station.  It was now 10 o'clock and as I walked on Taylor toward the car stop, bells began ringing and the crossing gates came down, so I hurried to get my first photograph of the day, an inbound 3-car train on the Green line just north of its Old Town stop.  The gates went back up, but before I walked the next 10 steps, the bells began to clang again.  Just west of the San Diego Trolley tracks, a single parallel track carries Amtrak and Coaster trains across the same street and the 7:25 a.m. train from Los Angeles was slowing to make its scheduled Old Town stop at 10:10.  So now, my second shot was exposed.

Above and below:  Taylor Avenue just north of the Old Town stations of the San Diego Trolley and Amtrak/Coaster.  The three-car Green line train shown in the upper view is en route to the 12th & Imperial Transit Center and made up of a 2000-series high-floor car (SD100) sandwiched between two 4000-series low-floor units (S70s).  Amtrak Pacific Surfliner 564, with an EMD F59-PHI at the point, crosses just west of the Trolley tracks.  The 5-car train left Los Angeles at 7:25 and is about to arrive on time at Old Town, at 10:10, with an expected arrival at the Santa Fe Depot at 10:21.

I soon bought a Day Ticket for $5.00 plus a $2.00 one-time surcharge for the magnetic card itself (the Compass card) from a vending machine using a credit card.  The regular one-way fare is $2.50, but seniors can play only $1.25; however there is no senior rate for day passes.  I preferred the flexibility of the pass and
at the time I did not know how many rides I would be taking.  (The Metropolitan Transit System website indicates a senior rate for day passes will come soon, but users will have to apply for the Senior Compass Card, and that will take a photograph and proof of eligibility.)

I rode the next Green line car to the Santa Fe Depot, so I could walk across the street to America Plaza and wait for the PCC (I hoped).  But upon arrival I could not resist taking more photos at the venerable station, which is outfitted (inside) with an Amtrak ticket office and an MTS information center--plus parallel tracks for the railroad and the trolley line.

Above and below:  San Diego's Santa Fe Depot at the edge of downtown San Diego.  In the top view a two-car Orange line train prepares to begin its journey to El Cajon in front of a three-car revenue Green line train that is entering the station.  Both the Orange and Blue lines terminate in the area, with the Blue line reversing across the street at America Plaza while the Orange use this pair of tracks to change direction.  Because of the congestion brought about by this arrangement, in July the Orange Line was cut back to share the Blue line terminal across the street.  This was planned as a temporary fix, as it would just relocate the bottleneck.  The long-term solution is a new single-platform terminal for the Orange line on the south side of C Street between State and Union, about three blocks away.  It is currently under construction with a planned opening in early 2018.  The lower photo shows the position of the Amtrak/Coaster and Trolley tracks.  The Amtrak train I photographed just a few minutes earlier at Old Town has discharged its passengers, loaded new ones, and will start its 3-hour return trip to Los Angeles at 10:41 (20-minute turnaround time).  I was lucky I didn't choose to come two weeks later, as the sign indicates I would have missed seeing any railroad activity.
  To its right the machine prominently displays the target for tapping Compass cards before taking a ride on the trolley.

Wish I took a photo from the angle shown below, but I just received this digitized postcard from Skip Gatermann of the good old days, not that this day wasn't good.

Does a photograph appear for you below?  dave klepper asking to see if there is a practical way of posting photos from Jack May without wideband and Imgur  -  and without the edit button.

A Blue line train has just terminated at the futuristic looking America Plaza station.  It will soon leave for its return trip to San Ysidro, a few steps from the border of Mexico.

I got to the America Plaza platform just in time to board a PCC at 11 a.m., the first of the day, which actually sneaked up on me. 
I was very pleased and quickly tapped my Compass card before boarding.  Only a few passengers were on the streamliner.  The ride was soon interrupted, at the Civic Center station, as police held up all traffic on C Street for a demonstration passing along Third Avenue.  I asked the operator to let me out for a photo, and he complied;  I'm sure he would have shut the PCCs center door if I'd have thought of asking him.  Today was April 15, tax return day, and there were marches in many cities demanding that the President release his tax returns.  Lots of luck.

No. 530, in all its glory at the Civic Center station, between Second and Third Avenue.  The ex-Minneapolis, ex-Newark PCC is operating clockwise around a loop that circumscribes San Diego's city center.

A view of the peaceful march urging the new President to release his income taxes.

We moved forward about five minutes later.  (To be continued in segment 06.)


7 attachmentsScan and download all attachments View all images
   San Diego Inbound Green Line approaching Old Town.jpg
224K View Scan and download
   San Diego Inbound Amtrak Surfliner approaching Old Town.jpg
237K View Scan and download
   San Diego Orange Line at Santa Fe Depot.jpg
346K View Scan and download
   San Diego Amtrak and LRVs Santa Fe Depot.jpg
336K View Scan and download
   San Diego Blue Line at America Plaza.jpg
274K View Scan and download
   San Diego PCC 530 Civic Center.jpg
316K View Scan and downl
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, January 22, 2018 2:13 PM

Let me know if the photos came through for you, 

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, January 22, 2018 2:28 PM

Let me know if the photos work for you.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 7:57 AM

Photos posted individually after the text with captions

Saturday, April 15 continued from Part 05.

San Diego's Silver line was opened on August 27, 2011 with beautifully restored St. Louis Public Service PCC 1716 built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1946.  SLPS sold the streamliner to San Francisco's Municipal Railway in 1957, and it became car 1123, where it operated on Market Street for 37 years.  With the conversion of Muni's five streetcar lines to the Muni Metro, operating with a new fleet of Boeing Vertol LRVs, it was among many cars sold to Gunnar Henrioulle in South Lake Tahoe.  It finally came to San Diego in 2005, and was totally reconstructed and repainted into the colors of San Diego's original 25 PCC cars, which had been purchased in 1936/37 and operated until 1949.  It received the number 529, one above the highest numbered original San Diego PCC.  The 529 is among three such cars acquired from Henrioulle. 

The second car restored for the Silver line is No. 530 (ex-Minneapolis 329, Newark 10), which was built in 1946 and was the one operating on this date.  It hit the streets in March, 2015, leaving 6 additional PCCs to be restored:  Two more ex-SLPS cars (1728 and 1777--Muni 1123 and 1170), two PTC/SEPTA cars (2186 and 2785) and two ex-Newark cars (16 and 24, which are stored elsewhere).  Ex-PTC 2186 from 1948 is currently undergoing restoration and will become car 531.*

The Silver line operates every half hour between traditional rush hour periods over a clockwise loop and uses track shared with San Diego Trolley's three light rail lines.  Starting at the shops at 12th & Imperial, it first runs northwestward with the Green Line on ballasted rails parallel to Harbor Drive and Kettner Street (alongside the pedestrian Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade) to an intersection between the Santa Fe Depot and America Plaza.  Then after turning sharply right onto C Street, it follows the route used by Orange and Blue line LRVs, via C Street and Park Boulevard (formerly named 12th Avenue) to return to the Transit Center at 12th & Imperial, the location of SDT's shop, yards and headquarters.  Running time for the 2.7-mile, 9-station line is 20 minutes, which leaves 10 minutes for cars to lay over at the 3-track station.  See http://www.urbanrail.net/am/sdie/san-diego.htm for map of the light rail lines and https://www.sdmts.com/schedules-real-time/vintage-trolley for further information about the Silver line trolley. 

* A good part of the work in restoring these cars was undertaken by the San Diego Electric Railway Association, both via funds it raised and the efforts of its railfan volunteers.  SLPS 1177/Muni 1170 was given to the SDERA and is now at its site in National City.  It will be renumbered 539.  (The SDERA also owns three ex-Vienna Stadtbahn cars, obtained by the Metropolitan Transit System in 1992 through the efforts of Senator Jim Mills, the "father" of the San Diego Trolley, for its first attempt at building a heritage streetcar line.)

Many of the 25 original air-electric San Diego PCCs have been saved.  Seventeen of them were sold to El Paso in 1949, where they began operating a year later, mostly on an international streetcar line to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  A group of these cars were held in storage after they were retired in favor of buses in 1974, and now, miracles of miracles, Sun Metro will return 6 of them to the streets of El Paso in 2018 or 2019, on a 5-mile long loop route.  I hope at least one of the others finds its way to San Diego.

I spent some of the waiting time at Civic Center and at the layover point getting acquainted with the friendly operator, a Mexican-American born in 1971 in Mexico City.  With my new smartphone I showed Adolfo a photo of Mexico City's PCCs, but he indicated he was probably too young to have seen them in operation (the last PCC line, Xochimilco, was converted to LRV operation in 1984).  He appreciated my interest, especially after I told him I traveled all the way from the New York City area to ride with him and that I was sure I had ridden the car he was operating on the Newark City Subway.  I continued aboard the car for another journey around the downtown loop, noting that its 11:30 a.m. trip had become very popular.  I counted a total of 37 riders aboard at various times; there were plenty of ons and offs along the circular route.  During his layover just before 12 noon, Adolfo took me into the shop so I could take photos of No. 529, which also looked like it was in perfect condition.

Shooting into the sun, a head-on view of San Diego Vintage Trolley 529.  Formerly St. Louis Public Service 716 and then Muni No. 1123, the PCC is resting in a small section of the shops near 12th & Imperial Transit Center.

After I thanked him and we said our goodbyes, I walked portions of the line for additional photos. 

PCC 530 pauses at City College station, on a diagonal that runs from C Street and 11th Avenue to Broadway and Park Boulevard.  One of the busiest stops along the loop, it is surrounded by new high-rise development, showing how the San Diego Trolley has transformed the city center into a vibrant location for both habitation and commerce.  Among the other new developments along the line are San Diego's new central library and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.  Interestingly, the numbered north-south roads in the city are called "Avenues" from 1st to 12th and "Streets" from 13th and up (to at least 73rd Street).  Part of the city's redevelopment plan was changing the name of Twelfth Avenue to Park Boulevard.

Above and below:  Two views from the new pedestrian bridge, connecting Petco Park with the Bay front.  It crosses over Harbor Drive, the tracks of the San Diego Trolley and the leads to both a yard used by Coaster trains and the Trolley's shops.  The upper photo looks northeastward, and shows both Silver Line PCC 530 and a low-floor car in the shop area.  Underneath, looking toward the northwest, a three-car Green Line train from Santee is shown approaching its 12th and Imperial terminal alongside the non-revenue track used by Coaster trains between rush hours for access to its layup yard.  That trackage is also used by an occasional Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train, serving the harbor and connecting with the San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad.

PCC 530 is shown just south of the Park and Market station.  In addition to the trackage being traversed by the Silver Line (only southbound), it is used by both Orange Line and Blue Line trains.

An inbound Orange Line train on Commercial Street has just left the 25th Street stop and is heading for the 12th & Imperial Transit Center station.  A great deal of residential development is underway along this street, which has resulted in the removal of many freight sidings leading from the "mainline" tracks.  San Diego & Imperial Valley freight service, on its line between Tijuana, Mexico and El Cajon, operates along this street during the midnight hours.

With plenty of time left before I had to drive back to Culver City I then headed to the car at Old Town via the long way around.  I first rode a two-car train of short S70s on the Orange Line to its terminal station at to El Cajon, and then continued outbound on a three-car train (short S70, SD100, short S70) on the Green Line to Santee Town Center.  Ridership was moderate; Sunday service on the Orange (and Blue) lines runs on a 15-minute headway.  Although it also operates every 15 minutes during weekdays and Saturdays, the Green Line's outer end to Santee sees service only every half hour on Sundays.  Thus I had to wait at El Cajon for quite awhile for a train to the end of the line. 

I have to say I always enjoy riding the San Diego Trolley, with each of the three lines having certain particular portions that I find especially interesting.  For the Orange Line it is the street running on Commercial Street (with fewer and fewer freight sidings), then the ride through Mt. Hope cemetery, and finally climbing the long curving grade along Imperial Avenue to Lemon Grove (which basks in the glory of its iconic "world's largest" lemon statue).  Beyond El Cajon I enjoy observing the line's freight trackage (San Diego & Arizona Eastern--operated by the San Diego & Imperial Valley/Genesee & Wyoming) as it leaves the light rail line just beyond the Arnele Avenue station and then parallels it on the surface.  I also like the single track in the center of Cuyamaca Street in Santee, leading into the line's terminal, in the center of Santee Trolley Square, a large outdoor mall.  I recall riding the line right after it first opened and the grounds surrounding the isolated "Town Center" terminal was just a large expanse of barren scrub and dirt. 

My favorite parts of the inner portion of the Green Line (west of its junction with the Orange Line near the Grossmont station in La Mesa) are the elevated Mission San Diego station, just east of Qualcomm Stadium (Jack Murphy Field) and especially the way it's positioned along the side of a tall wooded plateau just west of San Diego State University (where the Green line's station is in a subway).  I'll skip the highlights of the Blue Line here, as I did not ride it this time.

Since I mentioned some of the different types of San Diego LRVs, I should mention that there are now three types of equipment on the roster.  The first group, 71 high-floor Duewag U-2 1000s from 1981, have been replaced by the newest arrivals.  Eleven were sold to Mendoza, Argentina and are operating there, while at least five more were saved, No. 1001 on the San Diego Trolley property, and the others at various trolley musuems (I've already ridden No. 1019 at Orbisonia).  Another group of high-floor cars began appearing in 1993, the Siemens SD100s, of which there are 52 numbered in the 2000 series.  The 3000s, San Diego's first low floor cars, were next to arrive.  These 11 70-percent low-floor Siemens S70s were added to the roster in 2004.  They were quite a bit longer than the previous units (at about 90 feet) and it soon became obvious that they could not be operated in three-car trains, as they would block intersections when stopping at downtown stations.  Thus the next S70s that came in, starting in 2012, are only 81 feet long.  There are 65 such units, numbered in the 4000-series.

From Santee Town Center I rode back on the same 3-car (4xxx-2xxx-4xxx) train in which I had arrived.  The entire trip from 12th & Imperial to Old Town took just under two and a half hours, and with shadows getting long, I did not stop for photos.  I was a bit hungry by this time (5:30) and grabbed a hamburger and iced tea at a fast food outlet before setting off on my return trip.  The drive turned out to be as easy as the going portion (including some slight congestion in the same area), and I arrived in Culver City a little bit before 8:00 p.m.  It was a great day.

Another couple of remarks about San Diego.  I've heard a great deal of talk about extending the PCC operation to Balboa Park, which seems like an excellent destination in terms of ridership generation, and is also where the city's first streamliners operated.  I don't know the status of that project.  But I do know about the 11-mile long Mid-Coast light rail extension, from Old Town to the La Jolla area, which will probably be operated as a northern extension of the Blue Line.*  It will follow the Amtrak/Coaster line in the I-5 corridor northward to a point slightly short of La Jolla Village, where it will continue along I-5 (the railroad turns inland) to serve the University of California-San Diego campus, operating on an alignment that looks like an inverted 'U'.  It will terminate at a large mall in University City, with the final portion located in the median of a street.  Construction began over a year ago, and the line is scheduled to open in 2021.

* Running the Blue Line through as a long north-south interurban service probably explains the reason for the construction of a separate terminal for the Orange Line.  When the Green Line first opened, its western terminal was Old Town, and since the Blue line also operated to Old Town, both lines turned there.  At that time the Orange Line circumscribed the loop now used by the Silver Line, but in both directions (inbound trains operating counter-clockwise through 12th & Imperial and then terminating there as well).   

To complete displaying the San Diego Trolley roster, I've added a photo showing the 2000- and 3000-series plus two photos of San Diego's original Duwag cars operating in new homes.

The Santee Town Center Green Line terminal in 2013, with a "long" 70-percent low-floor S70 to the left of a high-floor SD100.

Above and below:  San Diego's original U-2 Duewag cars operating in new locations.  No. 1019 at the Rockhill Trolley museum in 2015 (although its trolley pole is not clearly evident) and an internet view of No. 1005 in Mendoza, Argentina.  The 7½ -mile long tramway in the Andean mountain city was built over a railroad right-of-way and opened in 2012.
San Diego PCC 530 City College.jpg
288K View Scan and download
San Diego PCC 530 from Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge.jpg
265K View Scan and download
San Diego Green Line from Harbor Drive pedestrian bridge.jpg
354K View Scan and download
San Diego PCC 530 12th Street Park & Market station.jpg
332K View Scan and download
  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • 1,441 posts
Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:48 PM

Dave, I keep getting this response when I try to open any of the pictures.

Gmail by Google
  Temporary Error (404)  


We’re sorry, but your Gmail account is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest trying again in a few minutes. You can view the G Suite Status Dashboard for the current status of the service.

If the issue persists, please visit the Gmail Help Center »

Try Again Sign Out


  ©2018 Google - Gmail Home - Privacy Policy - Program Policies - Terms of Use - Google Home  
  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 7:37 AM

Thought I posted the photos themselves.  Guess I must wait until next at wideband at HU.  If the edit button had been available I could have inserted the photos in the right spots in the text and there would not be a problem.

Used to be able to more easily take my laptop to HU for widebsnd, but the route 48 buses between 8:15 and 5:00 have been replaced by a route requiring a longer walk, and so I go to the University only when there are more than one reason to do so.

And it is clear there are times when I have been told a posting has been posted and it just did not show up.  Perhaps this is the case.  I should be back at HU for wideband on Sunday and will attempt again if necessary.  Or the photos may be posted in the meantime by the moderator.

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,433 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, January 28, 2018 4:37 AM

Very time consuming processs, this, and hope you can correlate with the required captions.   I'll do what I can while I can.   The edit button would help enourmously.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy