Oops! Amtrak San Diegan On Wrong Track
Amtrak San Diegans boarding on Track #3 in Fullerton? Oops! That has never happened before in
the 18 months that TrainWeb has been at the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot.
There are 3 tracks through the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot. Track #1 is next to the platform that
is closest to the depot building and is normally used for northbound and westbound trains.
Track #2 is the furthest track from the station and has its own platform on that side of the
station. Southbound and eastbound trains normally use Track #2. The Amtrak Southwest Chief
almost always uses Track #1 regardless of which way it is going.
Track #3 is the center track between the other two tracks and is NEVER used by passenger trains.
There is no platform for Track #3. Freight trains pass through the station all day long on all
three tracks in any direction. Thus, it is very unsafe to board passengers on Track #3 and that
is why it is not used for passengers and why there is no platform for Track #3.
Something must have gone wrong today and it immediately caught my eye as I saw the Amtrak
Central Coast San Diegan slowly pulling into the station on Track #3 ! The Conductor only
opened one half of one door and stepped out. He had to make it clear to the passengers that
they were not to step off the train yet.
For safety, they made several stops and did all the boarding through just one door in the
entire train. I guess they figured that would give them a lot more control if anything
unexpected happened. The Dispatcher was aware of the situation and would probably hold any
train before it headed down Track #1. But, just in case there was a problem, it would be
a lot easier for the Conductor to look after the safety of the passengers boarding at one
door across than having passengers boarding all up and down the station across a live track!
From listening to the radio communication, it was obvious that the Engineer and Conductor
were just as surprised as anyone else that the train ended up on the center track! It is
the Dispatcher, and not any of the crew on the train, that controls which way the switches are
set. Usually the Engineer and Conductor know which track they are going to end up on before
they cross a switch. Northbound passenger trains will normally end up on Track #1, the closest
track to the station, when they cross the switch just before the station. So you can imagine
the surprise to the crew when they ended up on the center track!
As a side note, the BNSF has recently changed the numbering of the tracks through the
Fullerton Santa Fe Depot. The track closest to the station will be called Track #1, same
as it is now. The track in the middle will be called Track #2 and the track furthest from
the station will be called Track #3. Thus, the BNSF is calling Tracks #2 and #3 the reverse
of what Amtrak has been calling them and the reverse of the way they have been labeled at
the station. My comments above are based on the old track numbering system. Hopefully,
someone in charge of the numbering of the tracks for Amtrak and Metrolink can get the
track numbers and signs changed to match the nationwide system being instituted by the
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