Coast Line (UP)

The Coast Line is a railroad line between Burbank, California[lower-alpha 1] and the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly along the Pacific Coast. It is the shortest rail route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.



The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad built the first segment of the line from San Francisco to San Jose between 1860 and 1864. The founders of the SF&SJ incorporated as the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was authorized by Congress in 1866 to connect the line from San Jose south to Needles, where it would meet the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. However, SP had built to Tres Pinos by 1873 and abandoned efforts to continue the line to Coalinga, instead choosing a route from Lathrop.[2]

By 1871, SP had completed a line south from San Jose through Gilroy and Pajaro, arriving at Salinas in 1872 and Soledad in 1873. SP halted southward work at Soledad for thirteen years and started building north from Los Angeles in 1873, completing a line to Burbank. In 1886, SP had pushed south from Soledad to King City, Paso Robles, and Templeton; by 1887, the southern portion of the line had been extended through Newhall, Saugus, and Santa Paula to Santa Barbara.[2]

By 1894, SP had extended the line south from Templeton to San Luis Obispo.[3] The work continued south to Guadalupe in 1895 and Surf in 1896.[2] The 80-mile (130 km) gap between Surf and Santa Barbara was closed with the last spike driven on December 28, 1900.[4]

The first version of the Coast line, via Saugus and Santa Paula through the Santa Clara River Valley, was completed by the Southern Pacific Railroad on December 31, 1900.[5][6]

The work between Ventura and Carpenteria eventually allowed the construction of the Rincon sea-level road for automobile traffic to travel this formerly impassible section of coastline.

Work on the Montalvo Cutoff, which crossed the Santa Clara River to serve the farmers in the Oxnard Plain and was extended to Santa Susana in Simi Valley, began in 1898.[2] The Santa Susana Tunnel opened in 1904 connecting with the Chatsworth cutoff from Burbank[lower-alpha 2] and thereafter was the main line.[7][8] In 1907, the Bayshore Cutoff opened from San Bruno[lower-alpha 3] to San Francisco; in 1935 the new line around San Jose opened[lower-alpha 4] and thereafter was the main line.

In the golden era of passenger service SP trains on the San Francisco leg of this route ran from the Third and Townsend Depot in San Francisco to the Union Station in Los Angeles. The Oakland-Los Angeles trains originated from the 16th Street Station in Oakland.

Current lines

The line has several subdivisions.[1]:6

Ownership is currently split into three segments:

In 1992, Southern Pacific granted the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission an option to purchase the entire Coast Line for passenger train operations at 110 mi/h (180 km/h). Upgrades to signals and tracks to enable higher-speed operations were estimated to cost $360 million at the time.[9]


Union Pacific freight trains run on the route, although the Fresno Subdivision through the San Joaquin Valley is the preferred north–south California route due to having easier grades and curves.[10]

The Coast Line is an important link for one of the busiest passenger routes in the nation. The route hosts passenger trains for Amtrak and Metrolink trains: Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner from San Luis Obispo to San Diego and Metrolink's Ventura County Line from Los Angeles Union Station to east Ventura, as well as Amtrak's Coast Starlight which connects Los Angeles to San Jose Diridon Station, Oakland Jack London Square station, and points north.

Local agencies along with the host railroads formed the Los Angeles–San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) in 1989 to work together on upgrading the route that extends from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Millions in enhancements to improve the reliability and safety of this 351-mile-long (565 km) railroad corridor have been proposed by Caltrans and federal railroad officials. Ventura County would get rail curve realignments near Seacliff, the Santa Clara River and Montalvo in the near term for an estimated $300 million. Future rail service could include a Ventura–Santa Barbara commuter train.[11] Long-range plans also including commuter service between Ventura and Santa Clarita along the original route through the Santa Clara River Valley. The Ventura County Transportation Commission purchased the Santa Paula Branch Line within Ventura County from Southern Pacific. While a portion of the line was abandoned after being washed out in Los Angeles County, the proposed Newhall Ranch development will provide for a route through the community.[12]

Passenger trains

See also


  1. SMA Rail Consulting (April 2016). "California Passenger Rail NETWORK SCHEMATICS" (PDF). California Department of Transportation.
  2. "Coast Line History" (PDF). The Ferroequinologist. June 1984. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  3. Middlecamp, David (August 31, 2019). "From stagecoach robberies to railroads, SLO's new train tracks signaled end of an era". The Tribune. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  4. "New Bonds Unite Los Angeles with the Northern Metropolis". Los Angeles Herald. 29 December 1900. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  5. Institute For American Research. "Chronology of Goleta Depot" South Coast Railroad Museum website. Accessed 30 October 2013
  6. Ryan, MaryEllen and Breschini, Ph.D., Gary S. "Railroads of the Central Coast—An Overview" Monterey County Historical Society Website Accessed 23 March 2014
  7. "Southern Pacific Company, 20th Annual Report" (December 10, 1904) The Economist
  8. "CHATSWORTH PARK CUTOFF LINE OPENS TODAY" Los Angeles Herald 20 March 1904. Volume XXXI, Number 173, page 2
  9. Kaufman, Lawrence H (30 September 1992). "LA transit agency gets option to buy SP's Coast Line route proposed for high-speed use". The Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  10. Norbom, Mary Ann (30 August 2016). "Ride historic railcars along the coast". Santa Ynez Valley News. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  11. Clerici, Kevin (January 9, 2011) "Camarillo meeting to address train projects" Ventura County Star
  12. Lozano, Carlos V. (April 29, 1992) "SANTA CLARITA : Panel Says Rail Line to Cost $45 Million" Los Angeles Times
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