Todd's Railfan Guide to

the San Diego Trolley
San Diego CA

In General
Getting Here


In General

San Diego probably boosts more transit service than it does hardcore train stuff for the railfan.  It actually boosts a pretty good variety of steel wheeled things for the railfan if you're into transit:  The San Diego Trolley, Coaster, and a vintage trolley system.....

The most well known of the rail services in San Diego is probably the San Diego Trolley - well known for their bright red trolley cars.  The system is operated by the Metropolitan Transportation System, or simply, MTS.

A comprehensive PDF map of the NCTD (North County Transit District) can be found at: http://www.gonctd.com/system_map and
http://www.gonctd.com/web_files/nctd-schematic-system-map.jpg .  Their homepage is at: http://www.gonctd.com/

A new S70 trolley #3007 at Old Town, photo by Brett Shoaf, photo from the MTS website

The San Diego system currently (2011) operates three lines, Blue, Green, and Orange.  The Blue line was the first of these to open July 26th, 1981, making it one of the older light rail lines to be put into service.  The system has 53 stations.

The Orange line was opened in 1986, and the Green line opened in 2005. 

The three lines are supplemented by the Silver line, which runs on Holidays and Weekends, and the Special Event line, which operates when they are having something going on at Qualcomm Stadium.  Service to the stadium was initiated in 2005 and has 15 stops.  Silver line service was started in 2011, and includes 9 stops on it's route.

The original section was known as the South Line, and went from the Santa Fe Depot down to the border.  It is now the Blue line. 

The Blue Line operates over track owned by the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad Company, which connects with BNSF in San Diego, the UP to the east in Plaster City (off I-8), and Ferromex in San Ysidro/Tijuana.

The original cars of the Trolley were Siemens' U-2's, which are now 30 years old.  Eleven of them have already been sold to a startup system in Argentina.  In 1995, they took delivery of 52 SD-100's from Siemens.  Starting in September of 2011, the UTA started receiving new Siemens' S70 LRV's.  They also have one PCC car on the property.

Amtrak and the Coaster can be caught at the Santa Fe Depot station on the Blue Line, also one stop away from the Orange (and Blue's) line's America Plaza station, AND, the Old Town Transit Center (TC) station, end terminus' of the Blue and Green lines.

BTW, the font MTS uses for the line names is


MTS has a comprehensive historical timeline at: http://www.sdmts.com/MTS/timeline.asp

MTS also has a great library of photos at: http://www.sdmts.com/MTS/photolibrary.asp


Above: The Convention Center station.

Above: The Gaslamp Quarter station... cool pool too!
Notice the crossovers in preparation for the L/R yard, and the interchange to the railroad.

The north end of the yard area for both the Coater and the San Diego Trolley.

L/R shops and storage area for the Coaster.

San Ysidro and Tijuana.  The Last light rail station on the Blue line, at the border with Mexico, is pointed to by the yellow arrow.  Through rail service into Mexico is at the green arrow.  And if you don't have to drive into Mexico, don't, as I would not want to wait for all those cars at the border crossing in the red box.  When my wife and I did the tourist thing into Tijuana, we took one of the "dollar" busses from the light rail station in and avoided the rush.



The following four pictures are courtesy Tim Vermande, and are from the early 90's.



New 10/28/2011
last Modified: 16 Sep 2016