Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class Los Angeles to San Diego

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01. Introduction: Trading wings for rails
02. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class San Diego to Los Angeles
03. Sofitel Hotel Beverly Hills
04. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class Los Angeles to San Diego

Walking into Union Station to catch the train down to San Diego was kind of bittersweet for me. On one hand, thanks to the awesome ride up from San Diego yesterday, I was a seasoned train traveler now and I felt like a pro instead of a clumsy newb – and that felt great. On the other hand, I wasn’t feeling as half excited as I was yesterday, and I was almost seeing this train ride as a minor nuisance that stood between us and a relaxing afternoon at home. But hey – at least I didn’t have to drive.

Amtrak California Pacific Surfliner No 774
Los Angeles, CA (Union Station) – San Diego, CA (Santa Fe Depot)
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Locomotive: EMD F59PHI
Locomotive Number: 456
Duration: 3 hours 50 minutes
Seat: 57 (business class)

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner LA to san diego map

Route map of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner showing all stops between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Today’s route down to San Diego, as you might expect, will be the exact opposite of the trip north. We will be stopping at all the same stations, but this time in reverse:

  • Fullerton
  • Anaheim
  • Santa Ana
  • Irvine
  • San Juan Capistrano
  • San Clemente
  • Oceanside
  • Carlsbad (2 stations)
  • Encinitas
  • Solana Beach
  • Sorrento Valley
  • Old Town
 Union station exterior

Union Station. It’s good to be back!

Union station information

No information needed today, thanks. I’m a seasoned train traveler now and I’ve got this!

Union station entrance

It’s very refreshing how there isn’t a mad rush to make train stations modern and high-tech like most airports these days.

Union Station interior

Union Station interior.

SANspotter train station selfie

Not my typical GoPro self-timer kind of selfie, but it works. I feel like I should have worn a bow tie today.

Union station departures board

A quick look at the departures board. No need to head down to the platform yet – we’ve still got some time.

My wife and I took full advantage of the relaxed ways of train travel by taking our time and not worrying too much about being the first in line or any silly thing like that. We were simply enjoying the moment of a calm and relaxed morning in the train station, and I was thinking that it was a really nice change of pace from being in a busy airport.

We wandered down to the platform at exactly 20 minutes before departure time. Big mistake. Although we felt like seasoned pros, we unfortunately underestimated the volume of passengers that would be boarding the train for the trip south to San Diego this morning. We thought it was going to be a calm and casual boarding process just like it was at the SantaFe depot in San Diego yesterday, but we were in for a bit of a shock. No, there were no long lines or anything – as a matter of fact there were no lines at all. The shock came once we boarded the train and realized that nearly every business class seat was taken and that we may not be able to sit together. Oops.

Union station gate hallway

On our way to find 11B.

Union station track 11b

Alright, 11B. That’s us!

Union station stairs

Up the stairs to the platform. Keep these stairs in mind if you are bringing your luggage on the train like we are.

Union station train platform

Hmmm…which train is going to San Diego?

 Amtrak union station Los Angeles

kind of odd that there doesn’t seem to be a line of people waiting to board…

 Amtrak Pacific Surfliner livery

I quite like the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner livery. Silver and blue is a great combination!

Luckily we found two seats together on the left side of the upper deck in the second car (which is the overflow business class car). While it was nice to have a window seat on the side that faced the ocean, we were a bit bummed that we were in the overflow car. However, I didn’t really find this seating arrangement to be all that much different than the main business class car. There was still plenty of room, and the seats were just as comfortable.

Amtrak Pacific surfliner business class

We were in the overflow car this time, which is essentially a coach car but with business class service.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner seats

Mid 90’s-style first class airline seats is the best way to describe these things.

 Amtrak Pacific surfliner leg room

These seats have the same amount of legroom as the main business class car.

Amtrak Pacific surfliner foot rest

Same foot rest too.

amtrak pacific surfliner attendant call button

Detail shot of the overhead panel. Sorry, just being thorough again!

There was a problem, however. Although this was business class, there was no attendant attending our car. We could see him in the car ahead handing out snack boxes and offering drinks just as we experienced yesterday on the trip up from San Diego, but we weren’t getting any of that service today way back here. I actually had to ask one of the attendants who eventually walked by, and he was able to confirm that yes, this car was indeed business class. Ok then.

 Amtrak Pacific surfliner business class car

Interior of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class overflow car.

Amtrak Pacific surfliner overhead bin

The airline guy in me was highly amused that our full-size suitcase fit in the overhead bin.

 Amtrak Pacific surfliner seat number

Seats 57 and 58 were ours today.

Amtrak Los Angeles

Rolling out of Union Station and headed southbound!

The ride down to San Diego was pretty much an exact copy of what we experienced yesterday – although in reverse. We were never offered a snack box though, which was OK considering that I brought lunch with me. However (thankfully), free drinks were still provided so all was not lost.

 Eating on the train

Good thing I brought a lunch box today, because we didn’t get any snacks this time. Thanks Starbucks!

 Amtrak Pacific surfliner free wine

Free wine to wallow in our sorrows of a not-quite business class experience.

Rolling time (rail time? ride time?) was advertised as three hours, which was slightly longer than the trip north yesterday. At first I wasn’t sure exactly why this was considering that it was all the same train stations on the same track, but by the time we got to Anaheim it was obvious as to what was happening. We ended up sitting a lot, waiting for northbound trains to go by. I’m not sure if today was an exception or not, but it seemed to me that northbound trains have priority on this track. Can anyone confirm this? I’d love to know…

Fullerton train station

First stop of the day: Fullerton.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner inside

I wish there was a way to include sound with these pics. Sometimes it would be better than my stupid captions!

Anaheim train station

The only modern station along the way: Anaheim.

Santa Ana train station

Next stop: Santa Ana!

Industrial Santa Ana

The industrial side of Santa Ana.

Irvine station

Irvine station.

San Juan Capistrano

Finally out of the city, and rolling our way into San Juan Capistrano.

San Juan Capistrano train station

San Juan Capistrano station.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner bathroom area

I eventually peeled my nose from the window and wandered downstairs to the bathroom. It almost felt like I stepped into the lower galley of an L-1011!

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner lower level galley

I can’t remember exactly how many bathrooms were down here, but I remember thinking that there were so many that it was obnoxiously overkill. Had to be 5 at least.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner toilet

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner bathroom. Well, I guess “toilet” is a more accurate description.

Amtrak train tracks

While on the lower level, I spent a few minutes watching the rails whiz by at high speed.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner interior

Time to head back to the upper level – the coastline will be in sight soon and I don’t want to miss it!

Pacific Surfliner view

Finally! Time to do some proper Pacific surf-lining!

Pacific Surfliner ocean view

So close that I can almost feel the seaweed between my toes.

San Clemente California

Sights like this made me feel very thankful for the decision to take the train. I discovered so many new places that I eventually want to check out!

San Clemente beach

San Clemente is very cool. Why have I never taken the time to hang out here before?

San Clemente beach view from train

Dude. I’ve got to come back here when the weather is better.

The ride down through Oceanside and into San Diego was as beautiful as ever, and interestingly enough it seemed that the people sitting around us at that time were completely different than the group that started out with us in Los Angeles. A lot of people came and went at various train stations, and all we were left with by the time we hit Oceanside were a middle-age couple from Orange County who were getting drunk on cheap wine, and two young friends from Huntington Beach who were traveling down to San Diego to catch a theater performance that evening. We knew this because the drunk couple were starting to get loud and they began talking to the two friends.

Interstate 5 traffic into San Diego

Ooh, look at that traffic starting to build on the southbound 5! Glad we aren’t sitting in that today.

View of Oceanside from Pacific Surfliner

Welcome to Oceanside! Now officially out of Orange County and into San Diego.

Oceanside California

One last pic of Oceanside before it’s gone and we are on our way to the next town…

Carlsbad smoke stack

Those of you familiar with north county San Diego will know that this is unmistakably Carlsbad.

Carlsbad train view

From this point on there will be less beach and more city. Don’t worry though – San Diego is one of the nicer cites to gawk at!

Pannikin coffee San Diego

Mmm…Pannikin in Encinitas! It’s a really good coffee shop today, but it used to be a train station located across the street (yes, they actually moved the building).

Solana Beach train station

Solana Beach station and one lonely looking guy.

By the time we reached Del Mar, the noise from our neighbors was becoming intolerable. Our car was essentially empty, but these four people sitting behind us were talking so loud that it was hard to enjoy the experience of the beautiful scenery right outside our window. Combine that with the fact that our three-hour trip was already pushing four hours, and it started to become somewhat miserable considering the fact that we were dead tired and just wanted to be at home.

Del Mar view from train

Chugging our way through Del Mar, and I was ready to get off the train at this point. We are almost home though…

To be honest I don’t even know why we didn’t move. There were plenty of other seats available, but we just sat there and took it. The only bright side through all of this was rolling past our house once again shortly before arriving into downtown San Diego and arriving at Santa Fe Depot. Why is it so cool to see your own house from an airplane or train? I really have no idea, but it has always amused me.

pacific surfliner rose canyon san diego

This is what it looks like when the Pacific Surfliner goes by down in the canyon next to our house. No, this is not a shot of our train today – I actually had to take this pic separately (a few days ago) just for this trip report. How’s that for being thorough?

View of mission bay from train

That’s Mission Bay – and thankfully, the marine layer has started to burn off and the sun is shining!

Old Town station

Old Town station.

Spawar building San Diego

A close up look at the SPAWAR building – a sight very familiar to those driving down to the airport on I5. Lots of top-secret military stuff going on in there I’ll bet!

View of San Diego airport from train

A place I’m much more familiar with: the airport! We will meet again very soon old friend. Very soon.

Downtown San Diego train crossing

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding… On a side note, having traffic stop for you at every intersection so that you can pass is oddly satisfying. Lol!

Pacific Surfliner arriving Santa Fe depot

Getting closer now…just another minute or two.

Arriving into San Diego on train

Sweet home San Diego. God I love this city.

By the time we rolled into Santa Fe Depot, this train ride ended up being four hours long. I didn’t think we were sitting that long during our stops, but we must have, because we were horribly late. So late as a matter fact that the two friends missed the performance they were going to see, and had to change their plans to catch the later performance instead (and stay in San Diego for the night). As far as I can tell, the only happy people walking off the train that afternoon were the drunks. God knows what they got up to that evening.

Bringing luggage onboard Pacific Surfliner

The only problem with bringing full-sized luggage onboard is having to lug it up and down the stairs.

Santa Fe depot San Diego

Feels so good to be back in San Diego again!

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Santa Fe depot San Diego

So long Pacific Surfliner – it was fun, and I hope to be back soon.

Santa Fe depot sign San Diego

I really hope they never replace this train station with a modern glass and metal building – this place has so much character.

Santa Fe depot entrance

Walking into Santa Fe Depot. Feels like a proper travel terminal, don’t you think?

Santa Fe depot interior San Diego

That’s it folks. The end of the line.

Despite the slightly annoying passengers in the last part of this trip down to San Diego on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, I have to say that overall, our experience was really good. So good in fact that I’m already looking for excuses to take this train again sometime soon. Does anybody need anything from LA? Because I’d be more than happy to go and get it for you…

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    1. alexrh August 24, 2017
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