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On March 27, 1938, Santa Fe ushered in a new level of passenger travel - and a new name - on the Southern California coast route. Gleaming new diesel-powered, modern streamlined trains made two roundtrips between Los Angeles and San Diego each day. And they were called the San Diegans. Prior to that, the route was known as the Surf Line since much of rail was just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean coast line.

In 1941 another streamlined train set was added allowing four of the five daily San Diegan roundtrips to feature the popular modern trains. Steam locomotives continued to power some San Diegan trains into the 1940's. World War II saw troop trains added to the usual mix of freight and passenger movements along the surf line route. All this activity required the installation of Centralized Train Control for more efficient use of the rail line.

In the early 1950s the postwar era ushered in a period of unparalleled urban growth in Southern California, and with it came a growing demand for leisure travel. The San Diegans met the challenge with new equipment - the Budd Cars - and more roundtrips, as well as longer train sets. Steam saw its last hurrah in 1953.

By the early 1960s mighty diesel locomotives continued to power the trains offering Southern Californians ready access to many popular beach destinations. As the postwar population grew, station stops were added to serve new communities.

In 1971 Amtrak assumed operation of the San Diegans as part of the national passenger train network. In the following years, Amtrak introduced new equipment and added more train to the schedule. In 1976, Amtrak partnered with the California Department of Transportation to grown the service from two trains to 11 daily roundtrips. Service was extended to Santa Barbara in 1988 and to San Luis Obispo in 1995. State- purchased locomotives and passenger cars also joined the San Diegan fleet in 1995.

Today, the Southern California and Central Coast route continues to enjoy increasing popularity, due in large part to a philosophy of "putting the customer first." By providing amenities such as Pacific Business Class service and modern equipment, and aggressively marketing special discounts and unique features of the service, ridership has grown to 1.5 million passengers annually.

In spring 2000, Pacific Surfliner will debut with new more comfortable trains, refurbished stations and even better customer service that will take success to a new level. Catch the next wave in rail history.

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