This page was set up mainly because of the historical significance of the Pasadena Santa Fe Depot & Amtrak Station. This station was abandoned along with the Santa Fe rail line that was once the main artery between San Bernardino and Los Angeles. The fabled Second District was opened in 1887. The famous traditionally-styled station in Pasadena was opened in 1925 and served passenger trains until January of 1994, when the line was abandoned and all through traffic was routed over the Third District via Fullerton.
Originally, the Second District was an immensely valuable line, serving manufacturing and agricultural facilities through the San Gabriel Valley. However, longer trains always had difficulty climbing and descending the steep 2.2% grade at Arroyo Seco, between Pasadena and Los Angeles. Helper locomotives were often needed, making for inefficient operation. The still-used Third District opened in 1888, just a year after the Second District, and quickly took most long-distance freight traffic along its rails.
The Second District and the Pasadena Depot became famous by the numerous transcontinental passenger trains that served it. At one point, up to 26 passenger trains went through Pasadena daily. To avoid the press in Los Angeles, many actors and other celebrities opted to make Pasadena their home train station, bringing to it an atmosphere and legacy of glitz and glamour.
This atmosphere waned along with the popularity of passenger trains, and by the time Amtrak took over passenger rail operations in 1971 there were only 4 trains serving Pasadena. At the time before the abandonment of the Pasadena Station and Second District, the only train to still serve Pasadena was the Southwest Chief, which now goes through Fullerton.
As part of a sweeping deal with Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) purchased the Second District and Harbor Line (to Long Beach) in 1993. The Harbor Line is still alive and well for the time being, used by BNSF intermodal stack trains to and from the cargo ships at the Port of Los Angeles. However, that will be abandoned and saved for an unspecified future use once the Alameda Corridor opens. The Second District got the ax almost immediately, being completely abandoned west of Arcadia. The portion of the line from Arcadia eastward, however, is in very good condition, being maintained by Metrolink and still used by local BNSF and SP freights. The portion between Montclair and San Berdardino is part of Metrolink's popular San Berndardino Line.
The abandoned portion of the line is slated to be rehabilitated and used as an extension of the most popluar light rail line in America, MTA's Blue Line. The initial route will start at Los Angeles Union Station, and make its way to Pasadena via Chinatown, Highland Park, and South Pasadena. Signs of the project are already apparent, with a new rail bridge across the LA River having been built. The Pasadena Depot will be refurbished and used as a stop along the line under the name of "Del Mar Boulevard - Santa Fe Station." Though it will not be the eastern terminus of the Blue Line, $70 million will be spent to make the Pasadena station a true intermodal hub, with new bus and parking facilities and expanded business & residential development. Longer term plans may call for the Blue Line to be extended east to Arcadia to meet with Metrolink trains from San Bernardino over a line which is already able to facilitate passenger train traffic.
Today, the Pasadena Santa Fe Depot hardly looks like a future intermodal transportation hub. The station facilities are bleak and desolate, with all windows boarded up and several "Property of MTA - No Trespassing" signs posted. The train platform is still there, complete will all of the original wrought iron lamp posts and semaphore signal tower still standing! The station building itself is still in excellent condition, with the original trackside "PASADENA" sign still posted. While the right-of-way is still intact, any sign of tracks is nonexistent except through the former grade crossings in the area. One puzzling thing about the rail infrastructure is that, while the Second District was always a single-track railroad, the Blue Line will surely be double tracked. How this can be accomplished through downtown Pasadena seems to be a mystery, as the existing right-of-way is narrow, surrounded on either side by buildings, and could not accommodate two sets of tracks at ground level. It is unclear if elevated track structures will be used. In any case, though, the new Blue Line will be a very good opportunity to see why the rail line to Pasadena was legendary, for those who missed it the first time around! The Pasadena Santa Fe Depot is located at 222 So. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101.
Photos of the Pasadena Station: