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Trip Report

OTOL Southern California RailFest 2009

July 13-25, 2009


Photos by Piotr Dzwonek, Patrick Galligan, Lynn Hammond, Eric Minton,
Jishnu Mukerji, Chris Stephens, and Jack Suslak.

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Chapter 8.9: Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line, Marina/22nd Street to Cruise Center

The OTOL group provided much business for the streetcar today! We departed from the Marina station at 1:58 PM, headed in the other direction for our only end-to-end ride. When we left the stop at Downtown Station, we were now on "new trackage". We arrived at the other end of the line, Cruise Center, at 2:07 PM. This station sits almost directly under the Vincent Thomas Bridge and it sees most of its use when a cruise ship is in port. In fact, the streetcar, which only runs its regular schedule on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, does operate on some selected weekdays when a cruise ship is present.

There was another six-minute layover while our car was turned. During this time we shot some photos on the platform, including a couple with our cordial conductor.

Chapter 8.10: Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line, Cruise Center to Downtown Station

It was only a two minute trip back from the Cruise Center station to Downtown Station. We left at 2:13 PM and were back at our origin and ultimate destination at 2:15. As we alighted, we saw one of the LADOT buses just passing the area, but it would have been difficult to quickly get everyone off the streetcar platform and onto the bus, which wasn't even at a bus stop at the time. So we walked past the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and found a shady place to wait adjacent to a restaurant and marked bus stop, and relaxed for the next half hour.

Chapter 8.11: Los Angeles DOT Bus Route #142, Maritime Museum, San Pedro to Long Beach Transit Mall

Our bus, scheduled to depart from this location at about 2:48 PM, did not show up until 2:58, ten minutes late. It wasn't a bad trip back to Long Beach, as the total trip time was just 17 minutes. We got back to the same shelter along the Transit Mall at 3:15, just four minutes late. John and Carol left the group here, reducing us to 16 people.

The streetcar and bus portions of our day now over, we headed back to the Metro Blue Line, to resume and complete our exploration of its light rail lines. This time, knowing that the Long Beach Transit Mall station was further away than First Street, we walked to the latter and boarded there. Since the Blue Line runs in a clockwise, one way loop, we would just ride around the loop a little further.

Chapter 8.12: Metro Blue Line, Long Beach-1st Street to Imperial/Wilmington

Doing what we did actually put us one train behind the intended one, since we missed the one that would have been laying over at the Transit Mall station. We got on at First Street at 3:20 PM, sat at the Transit Mall for a few minutes, and then departed at 3:28 PM, 12 minutes after the time called for in the itinerary. We travelled up to Imperial/Wilmington, transfer point for the Metro Green Line, getting there at 3:56. HaRRy decided to opt out of the evening activities, so he remained on the Blue Line back to Los Angeles.

Chapter 8.13: Metro Green Line, Imperial/Wilmington to Norwalk

The 15 remaining people in our group went upstairs to the Green Line platform, and for the first time the gang got to experience the freeway noise pollution that those of us staying in El Segundo had unfortunately been experiencing since Friday. The noise is something one can never get used to. As always the connection between the two lines was poor, so we were at this station for 15 minutes, most likely having just missed the previous trip. At 4:11 we were finally aboard a Green Line vehicle headed east towards Norwalk.

We got to Norwalk at 4:23 PM, still 15 minutes behind out itinerary. Little did we know that we were about to lose two more people. Piotr and Rick had to detrain and go down into the station to re-"tap" their TAP cards. Because there were a lot of people headed down with them, they did not even make it downstairs before our train's operator had changed ends and we departed in the other direction. They caught the next westbound train 15 minutes later, and then Rick went right back to his hotel in Pasadena by taking a four seat ride, while Piotr remained on the Green Line to return to the HGI.

Chapter 8.14: Metro Green Line, Norwalk to Redondo Beach

On the Green Line platform in Redondo Beach, under the turquoise tint of the canopy. Now down to 13 participants, we left Norwalk at 4:26 PM and rode all the way to the other end of the line at Redondo Beach, arriving there at 4:58 PM. At that point, we had covered all of the rail lines we were supposed to cover for the day, and only dinner and returning to our respective hotels lay ahead of us. Waiting on the Redondo Beach platform was Patrick, who had returned from Colorado and would ride some trains with us for the next few days.

Chapter 8.15: End of Sunday's activities

You may well notice that there is no chapter here regarding our dinner together. The last time that Patrick had been at this Redondo Beach station, as well as some of the stations just to the north in El Segundo, was when he graciously did some advance scouting for me. Since I knew we would be visiting this area last, I thought it might be best to have dinner somewhere near one of these Green Line stations. He had found a non-chain fast food restaurant near the Redondo Beach station (which I knew we would be a bit early for), but also that some possibilities that looked to be close to the El Segundo and Mariposa stations were actually quite a walk. While I am grateful for the footwork he did, the lesson learned was that no, there aren't any decent places that close to the stations to suit our hungry group.

Furthermore, Jishnu, Piotr, Michael, and I had noticed that morning that our hotel was offering extra Hilton Honors points for those who purchased dinner at the hotel's lobby restaurant. We decided that since it was to be an early night for us anyhow, we would have dinner at the hotel. So although it appeared that I might have cancelled the dinner outing for the group, I merely made everyone fend for themselves!

After one more short trip together on the Metro Green Line, Jishnu, Michael and I left the group by getting off at Mariposa just steps from our HGI hotel. Once in the lobby, Piotr joined us, having come in on the next Redondo Beach-bound train. We had a nice dinner there, and then did our laundry and other tasks. Piotr later went out and got the last segment of the Green Line between Mariposa and Redondo Beach that he had missed.

Some from our split group have dinner in Hollywood at Mel‘s Drive-In. The rest of the group who remained aboard the Green Line after we got off numbered eleven people. For those not keeping score, remaining were Steve, Patrick, Lynn, Mike, Alan, Grace, Eric, Christine, Evan, Ken, and Chris. They returned to downtown Los Angeles on the Metro Blue Line. Then some of this group took the Metro Red Line to Hollywood to have dinner at Mel's Drive-In before returning to their hotels. Patrick, who didn't want to go all the way home to Ventura, stayed in Los Angeles near Union Station at the Metro Plaza Hotel. A very busy Day Seven was over as we looked forward to different activities on Day Eight!

Chapter 9: Monday, July 20, 2009

Day Eight of our SoCal Fest started with the heavy rail portion of the Metro system. After lunch, we moved to commuter rail, taking a circle tour of the Inland Empire and Orange County. Our group peaked at 15 today.

Thirteen people initially convened at Union Station: Rick, Steve, Lynn, Mike, Alan, Grace, Ken, Patrick, Evan, Eric, Jishnu, Michael, and me. Piotr remained behind at the HGI and would join us for our afternoon activities. Christine had to go back to work so she would not be able to accompany her father and daughter and the rest of us on our weekday trips. HaRRy had also decided to meet us later in the day. Before we left on our first subway segment, we were joined by a photographer and reporter from the L.A. Downtown News. They had been tipped off that our group was in town and they desired to do a story documenting why we railfans came all that way to ride trains.

Chapter 9.1: Metro Purple Line, Union Station to Wilshire & Western

Aboard the outbound Purple Line train as newspaper photog does his thing. Our first trip was on the Purple Line, which for now is the shorter of the two heavy rail branches. We left Union Station on time at 10:17 AM, and arrived at the current terminus of the line at Wilshire & Western at 10:30. During our trip, the reporter was chatting with some of us individually, and the photographer was shooting many pictures of our group as we enjoyed the subterranean trip. We had a seven minute layover at Wilshire & Western, during which some more photos were taken of us. The resulting article on our visit, which includes only one of the many pictures taken, can be seen here.

Chapter 9.2: Metro Purple Line, Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & Vermont

At 10:37 AM we were headed back in the eastbound direction, for only three minutes and two stops until we got to Wilshire & Vermont, the point where the two heavy rail lines converge. The Wilshire & Vermont station is very much like the Porter Square and Harvard stations on the MBTA Red Line in Cambridge, or the Rosslyn station on the WMATA Orange/Blue Lines in Virginia, in that the tracks and platforms for the two directions are on different levels. We therefore had to go down one level to get to the outbound platform and our next train.

Chapter 9.3: Metro Red Line, Wilshire & Vermont to North Hollywood

At North Hollywood Red Line station we await our inbound trip. Just as our previous trip on the Purple Line had taken three minutes, so was our layover. By 10:43 AM we were headed outbound on a Red Line train to North Hollywood. Much of this had already been ridden by members of our group over the course of our time in Los Angeles, including Friday and Sunday nights going to and from dinner. We got to North Hollywood at 11:04, and detrained to stretch our legs on the platform for a while, before heading back inbound on the same equipment.

Chapter 9.4: Metro Red Line, North Hollywood to 7th Street/Metro Center

Our next segment saw us returning inbound from North Hollywood to our lunch stop near the 7th Street/Metro Center station. Still right on schedule according to the itinerary, we departed from North Hollywood at 11:13 AM. Somewhere during this trip, our news crew left us and went back to compile their story on us. The thirteen of us got to Metro Center at 11:37 and went upstairs. Ken left us for now, but we would run into him again later. Meeting us at the street level was Mina Nichols of Los Angeles, who would be with us for the remainder of the day. Also joining us there was HaRRy.

Chapter 9.5: Lunch in Los Angeles

Group arrives at 7+Fig shopping complex for our Monday lunch. Now up to 14 people, we headed for lunch at the 7+Fig shopping complex, caddy cornered from the Metro station. The main food court is two stories below ground level, although some opted for some eateries on the street level. We ate and talked for almost one hour, before getting back to the Metro station to continue our day's activities. At the station we were met by Piotr, topping off our traveling contingent at 15 people.

Chapter 9.6: Metro Purple Line, 7th Street/Metro Center to Union Station

The group left Metro Center at 12:45 PM for the now very familiar six-minute trip to Union Station. Upon arrival, we had 24 minutes to purchase our tickets for the Metrolink trip to Riverside. Unlike our previous trips, we had to purchase one way tickets for each segment.

Chapter 9.7: Metrolink Riverside Line, Train #402, Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside

The Metrolink portion of our day began with an on-time departure on the Riverside Line train at 1:15 PM. We had a very enjoyable eastbound run as we once again visited the Inland Empire. During our trip, Evan got the idea to play hostess and offer cups of drinking water to Fest participants. She realized how lucrative her hospitality would be when she began to receive quarters from some of us. With us having dealt with hot temperatures in Los Angeles and knowing we had to hydrate for even hotter weather in Riverside, the quarters she collected added up quickly!

  Quick group pose in Riverside out in the sun.   We caused a little queue at the vending machines as we bought our Irvine tickets.    Under the shelter of the Riverside canopy as we await our next train.    The train we arrived on from L.A. as seen from the bridge.    Entertainment in Riverside as a BNSF freight and high railer pass thru the station.

Because of schedule padding, our 2:32 PM Riverside arrival was eleven minutes early. That gave us 55 minutes downtime in Riverside. As the temperature hovered around 100 degrees, we tried to remain indoors and in the shade when possible. Our first action was to purchase tickets for our next segment to Irvine. Then we split up and milled about both platforms. The large pedestrian bridge, necessary for us to use because we were arriving and departing on different lines, provided some relief from the heat. During our wait we also saw a freight train come through the station, as well as a high rail work vehicle.

Chapter 9.8: Metrolink Inland Empire-Orange County Line, Train #813, Riverside to Irvine

Our next trip from Riverside to Irvine traversed Metrolink's Inland Empire-Orange County Line (IEOC), much of which is shared with the 91 Line and later the Orange County Line. We departed from Riverside on time at 3:27 PM for a very scenic ride. Once again our water waitress went right to work keeping us from getting parched!

The IEOC is the only line that does not begin or end at Los Angeles Union Station, essentially providing a suburb-to-suburb service. Just before Orange, we joined the tracks that carry the Orange County Line as well as Amtrak's Pacific Surfliners. We got to Irvine at 4:32 PM, thirteen minutes early.

Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink action at the Irvine station. Irvine proved to be a very modern and well laid out transportation center. Our early arrival gave us 38 minutes here, during which we sat at tables, used the facilities, and of course purchased our last Metrolink tickets for the upcoming trip back to Los Angeles. Around 5 PM we began moving to the pedestrian bridge since we had to cross over to the other side to board our next train.

Chapter 9.9: Metrolink Orange County Line, Train #689, Irvine to Los Angeles Union Station

The last official trip of today's Fest and the Los Angeles part of our SoCal visit was aboard Metrolink's Orange County Line Train #689. Fifteen of us piled on and took our seats. Most sat on the left side on the train in order to try and get glimpses of Disneyland. We left promptly at 5:10 PM. Because this train passed through Fullerton, it made sense for Eric and Evan to leave us there, and they did just that. The remaining 13 people continued onward to Los Angeles. Once again our arrival was early at 6:14 PM.

Mike and Steve went ahead of the group to return to their hotel area and handle laundry. Rick left us here to return to Pasadena. After a brief rest stop in the station, the other ten of us went down into the subway once more to head for Universal City and our dinner.

Chapter 9.10: Metro Red Line, Union Station to Universal City

We were now ahead of schedule, thanks to our early Metrolink arrival. We left Union Station at 6:27 PM, and arrived at Universal City at 6:52. We then joined a rather large pedestrian crowd who had to cross a major intersection in two directions to get to a parking lot tram that would take us up the hill to Universal Studios City Walk. Luckily a tram was waiting for us and we got right on.

Chapter 9.11: Dinner at Universal Studios CityWalk, and End of Monday's activities

I had chosen Universal Studios CityWalk as our dinner location since it offered a nice food court area where we could get some decent meals. However, getting to the food area took longer than we had expected thanks to the crowds, so we decided to split up and get quicker meals. We also ate at different tables since available seating was sparse. As soon as a few of us had finished eating, we left the food court area to start making our return to downtown Los Angeles. Naturally, Piotr, Jishnu, Michael, and I were part of this group as we knew we had a long way to go back to El Segundo. We left others behind who would have a shorter trip to their hotels.

Steve and Mike meanwhile had taken a taxi from Hollywood to Universal, but we totally missed them as they arrived after we had left. We said goodbye to Mina, who had been excellent company throughout the afternoon. Ironically, some of us saw her again, since we took the tram down the hill and she had walked. With her just outside of the Metro station was Ken, who had missed our trip to Universal and dinner with us because we had left Union Station early. They rode with our small group as far as Metro Center, at which time we all split up.

Everyone eventually returned either home or to their respective hotels after another long, exhausting day, our last full day in Los Angeles.

Continued in next section

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