Home Travel USA The MOST Relaxing Way to San Diego – By Train

The MOST Relaxing Way to San Diego – By Train

There were two reasons I wanted to take this trip.

First, why would anyone living in Los Angeles take the train to San Diego, I mean you can get there in about 2 hours on the Freeway, and second, was San Diego’s airport runway, and was it long enough for the long distance flight to London? A few years ago I was invited on a trip to London by way of San Diego, with the purpose of the journey being to experience (and write about)  British Airways service to London from that city.  More on THAT airport, in a moment or two.

Amtrak Surfliner's business class
Business Class on the Amtrak Surfliner. Photo by John Clayton

As I live in Los Angeles, what is the most interesting way to get to San Diego? Well, I reasoned, THIS would be the ideal time to do something I’d THOUGHT about forever, but never made time to actually do. Take the train. My goodness, what a relaxing and enjoyable trip it was. I even wished it lasted much longer. I boarded in LA’s Union Station where, in its heyday, it was THE place for movie stars of the day, yes movie stars, to go back and forth across the country by train in luxury. Indeed, Union Station is a glorious reminder of the Golden Age of US railroad travel.

Amtrak Surfliner tracks near the beach
Any closer, and train would BE on the beach. Photo by John Clayton

I rode in Amtrak’s Double Decker Business Class with large panoramic windows, making it a real joy to enjoy the scenery as we went on our way. On the First level there’s a special area to get coffee and cookies and other sweet pastries to tempt your palette. If work is your thing, there are electrical outlets for laptop computers, and lots of stretch out legroom.  I’d long since given up my Surfboard (!) but I could easily have taken it along, unboxed, as well as my bicycle, because Amtrak allows you to take both on the SURFLINER as carry-on luggage! Try THAT with an airline, and you’ll be on the receiving end of laughter and the word “No.” Amtrak obviously loves southern California lifestyles!

Amtrak Surfliner tracks to San Diego
San Diego around the next corner. Photo by John Clayton

Some of the stations en route were so quaint and romantic, making me think of yesteryear when times were more peaceful and tranquil. A fact stunningly illustrated as the train lazily glided along the extensive beach part of the trip. Any closer and we’d have actually been on the beach!

I asked a fellow passenger – a lady on the other side of the car – the obvious question – why take the train? Part of the answer was in front of me, as she had her lap top out on the tray table and was busily typing away. She said “I take the train because it’s relaxing. It’s all peace and quiet. No worries about traffic.” Like me, she said she also loved the fact that much of the trip is right by the Pacific Ocean. In fact, when we arrived in San Diego, I wanted to instantly do the whole trip over again, as it’s so enjoyable.

OK, now to that amazing San Diego airport. The airport’s original name was San Diego Municipal Airport – Lindbergh Field, located on 661 acres, 3 miles northwest of downtown San Diego. The runway though, has a unique place in American aviation history. It is the busiest single-runway airport in the nation, at 9,401-feet long and 200-feet wide.

Amtrak Surfliner train
Yeah, the Surfliner is a pretty long train! Photo by John Clayton

As an ex-airline employee (I was Manager of PR for Continental Airlines) I was mesmerized by the fact that San Diego’s Lindbergh Field has a shorter runway than many other airports in the US who have long distance flights to Europe. So, I wanted to experience it firsthand. As we waited to take off it seemed to me that the aircraft revved up its engines to an extraordinarily high RPM degree that I’d never known before. Indeed, when the pilot released the aircraft’s brakes, I felt as if I was on a “thrill ride” at Disneyland: it was if we’d been shot out of a canon because the acceleration was so intense and instant, as the aircraft thundered down the runway. It was, I thought, just like a thoroughbred racing car at peak performance. Yes, of course we made it, but it was – at least for me – a huge thrill as we lifted off the runway almost within its final few feet.

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One Comment

  1. Peggy

    April 13, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I LOVE the train to and from San Diego. It’s easy to catch at Union Station, comfortable, quiet, and has great views and a snack bar. Last time we stayed in a hotel across the street from the Santa Fe Station in San Diego – what convenience! Thanks for the nice article.


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