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The Pacific Surfliner is a 350-mile (563 km) Amtrak passenger train route serving communities on the coast of Southern California between San Diegomarker and San Luis Obispomarker. With 2.59 million passengers in fiscal year 2009, this is Amtrak's most heavily-travelled service outside of the Northeast Corridor, and recovers 63% of its operating expenses through ticket sales.


On the northernmost part there are four 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 Barbaramarker 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 Santa Fe Railroad's (now owned by Southern California Regional Rail Authority) Surf Line. 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, San Luis Obispo, nor Goleta is equipped with a usable wye 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 Stationmarker is a stub off the mainline which means trains leave Los Angeles facing the opposite direction that they enter. The locomotive is at the rear of the train, "pushing" the train from Goleta/San Luis Obispo or San Diego to Los Angeles. At Los Angeles, the train "backs into" the station, and, upon departing the locomotive "pulls" the train to San Diego or Goleta/San Luis Obispo, respectively. Currently a project is being prepared for run-through tracks at Union Station.

The 350-mile (563-kilometer) trip from San Luis Obispo to San Diego usually takes eight and a half hours, for an average speed of 43 miles per hour. The maximum track speed is typically 60 to 79 miles per hour in and north of Los Angeles County; in portions of Orange County and San Diego County, higher track speeds of 90 miles per hour are afforded due to the usage of ATS. is the current maximum speed for the route but future track improvements will raise the train's speed to .

Much of the Pacific Surfliner's scenic route follows the Pacific coast although trains travel inland through industrial backlots and expansive farmlands to traverse the Los Angeles Basin and San Fernando Valleymarker. The Pacific Surfliner operates 11 daily trains each way between Los Angeles and San Diego on weekdays and 12 trains each way on weekends.

The Pacific Surfliner is usually on time; however, the last train south (Train 796) may be held up to one hour if Train 11 (the Coast Starlight) from Seattlemarker is delayed.

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

Beginning in March 1938, under the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, and later under Amtrak until the late 1990s, this same service was called the San Diegan.

Rolling stock

Pacific Surfliner trainsets usually consist of an EMD F59PHI locomotive, a business class car, a cafe car with coach seating, two coach cars, and a Cab Control Car equipped with coach seating, a checked baggage space, and engineer controls. During holiday seasons or days of heavy ridership extra cars may be added. As of late, at least one Superliner Coach or Coach/Baggage car will often be added to the Surfliner trainsets just before the Surfliner's Cab Car. All but one of the Pacific Surfliner trains consist of double-decker California Cars which are similar to, but not the same as, Superliner cars; the remaining train uses four of Amtrak's older single-level Horizon Fleet or Amfleet cars. Amtrak's own page at on this route, as well as its timetables, suggest that all trains use a Surfliner trainset; as a result, passengers occasionally become upset due to the fact that the Horizon Fleet cars lack many of the services typically found on Surfliner Bi level trains, not to mention a decent sized window to view the passing scenery. These cars are hopeless for aisle seat passengers that wish to view the passing countryside. This trainset very occasionally also includes Amtrak's last remaining full-dome car, #10031. Most cars are equipped with 120v power outlets for laptops or other electronic devices. Pacific Surfliner trains use cars whose design is very similar, but not identical, to those on the other Amtrak California trains, the San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor. The Pacific Surfliner trains are painted in a blue and silver livery that is unique to this line.A typical Pacific Surfliner consist is as follows:
  • F59PHI (locomotive) (end pointed towards San Diego)
  • Pacific Business Class Car
  • Coach-Cafe Car
  • 2-3 Coach Cars
  • Coach/Baggage (Cab) Car (end pointed towards San Luis Obispo)

However, during some holiday seasons, the number of cars is increased.In addition, more recently, the strong increase in ridership has led to an increase in the number of trains using six total passenger cars; some trains will have as many as nine. The resulting shortage of Surfliner equipment has forced Amtrak to assemble a second trainset of as many as eight Horizon Fleet and/or Amfleet cars, in addition to that mentioned above.

Timetable and route notes

Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach connects passengers from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to Solvangmarker, Buelltonmarker, Atascaderomarker and Paso Robles.

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. Some 700-series trains have numbers which echo their ancestor's numbers. For instance, trains 798 and 799 are so numbered in memory of Southern Pacific Railroad trains 98 and 99, the Coast Daylight. 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.

Track hosts

  • San Diego Northern Railroad, San Diego-Oceanside
  • Metrolink: Orange County Line, Oceanside-Fullerton
  • Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Fullerton- Los Angeles
  • Metrolink: Ventura County Line, Los Angeles-Moorpark
  • Union Pacific Railroad, Moorpark-San Luis Obispo


  • On February 14, 2005, a northbound train hit a semi truck at the Fifth Street and Rose Avenue crossing in Oxnard, Ventura County, California. The impact of the crash caused the locomotive to separate from the six passenger cars it was pulling. No one was killed but two people on board the train were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Oxnard, California train-truck collision
  • On September 7, 2006, a southbound train hit a light truck that was stuck on the tracks in Encinitas. The occupant was thrown out of the vehicle and was critically injured. The vehicle was split in two.
  • On October 23, 2007, a northbound train hit a semi truck parked on the tracks in Moorpark. According to the conductor, there were no lights on the truck to alert the crew (it was dark at the time of the accident). No one was hurt and the passengers said the impact of the crash was slight aside from the train braking quickly.
  • On April 21, 2008, a southbound train struck and killed a male pedestrian who was standing on the tracks in Carlsbad. The crash stopped rail traffic in both directions and passengers were released from the train an hour after the accident.
  • On July 3, 2008, a southbound train struck a car that was crossing the tracks in Ventura. There were two people in the car. One was killed and the other injured critically. None of the 196 passengers on board was hurt but the train was stopped at the scene of the crash for hours.
  • On January 11, 2009, a train struck and killed a woman inside a Chatsworth Tunnel.

See also


  2. [1]

External links

Image:Surfliner Cab Car.jpg|Northbound Pacific Surfliner Cab Car crosses Carlsbad Village Dr. in Carlsbadmarker.Image:Surfliner.jpg|Southbound Pacific Surfliner crosses Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad.Image:Surfliner Solana.jpg|Northbound Pacific Surfliner in Solana Beachmarker.Image:Surfliner view.jpg|View from the Pacific Surfliner near Oceanside.

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