New Metrolink Route
Note: This is a "historic" travelogue of my ride on the inaugural Metrolink Train #700 from Los Angeles to Riverside via Fullerton that took place way back on September 8, 1997! There were no celebrations, balloons, brass bands, or anything to mark the occassion. There wasn't even an official name for the route that this new train would travel! The schedule was added to the existing "San Bernardino & Riverside Lines Timetable" with a page title of "Via Fullerton" to indicate that the train took a different route than the normal trains between Riverside and Los Angeles. On May 6, 2002, this route was given the official name of "The 91 Line (Riverside - Fullerton - Downtown LA)" with frequency upgraded to 4 westbound trains and 5 eastbound trains each day. With the addition of the new frequencies, passengers can now commute from Riverside into Los Angeles or Orange County in the morning and then return in the evening. There is even a mid-day train for those that do not wish to remain at either end of the line all day. For more information on the service that was added on May 6, 2002, to this route click here.
Monday, September 8, 1997
Metrolink has had a route between Los Angeles and Riverside via Fullerton on the drawing board for a long time. You will see it displayed on most maps of the Metrolinks system, even though no train has ever run on that route until today!
Actually, the new train routes #700 & #701 are not really intended to attract passengers. They are really equipment moves to place equipment where it is needed at that hour of the day. The morning train leaves Los Angeles and heads for Riverside. The evening train leaves Riverside and heads for Los Angeles. Thus, these trains are running opposite to the direction that most people are attempting to travel during the rush hour. However, I think Metrolink is very smart in stopping at the stations along the way of these repositioning moves just to see what ridership does develop.
To ride the inaugural run of this train, I had to make my way to Los Angeles by 6:47 A.M. Rather than fight with the traffic heading into Los Angeles in the morning, I decided to drive out to Riverside and take the regular Riverside Metrolink train from there into Los Angeles. Once in Los Angeles, I could take the new Metrolink Train #700 back to Riverside where my car would be waiting for me.
I left my home at 3:30 A.M. to make sure that I would be on time for Metrolink Train #401 leaving Riverside at 4:54 A.M. The Riverside Metrolink station is 33 miles from my home straight east on the 91 "Riverside" Freeway. At that hour, there were very few cars on the freeway. I arrived in Riverside around 4:15 A.M. The parking lot at the train station was empty, but there were a lot of Metrolink trains parked in the station. Most, maybe all, had all their interior lights turned on. That Metrolink station is well lit all night. I think that might be true of all Metrolink stations.
Realizing I was quite early for the train, I decided to explore around Riverside a little. I went straight down Mission Boulevard through the center of town past the historic Mission Inn. The streets were pretty empty at that hour. There was a 24 hour grocery store at the other end of the downtown area. By the time I got back to the station at about 4:40 A.M., there were already quite a few cars in the parking lot.
I purchased my ticket from the automatic Metrolink ticket machine. It took me a couple of tries before the machine would spit out my ticket. Most people walked way down the other end of the station platform. I thought they were doing this because they wanted to be in the front passenger car on the train to be closest to the ramp once the train arrived into Los Angeles. However, the entire train pulled down to that end of the station before opening the doors to let passengers board. Now I know why they all went down that end! I thought I would be the only passenger to board the last car of the train but ended up being the last to board that car!
About 20 to 30 people boarded that Metrolink train in Riverside. I dozed from time to time on the journey into Los Angeles. I was awake as we pulled into most of the stations. A lot of people boarded that train along the entire route and the train was just about full by the time it arrived in Los Angeles. Most seats on the Metrolink trains are pairs of facing seats with some having a small table between them. Only a few seat pairs face the back of seats in front of them rather than another pair of facing seats. Those few seating configurations that could only seat two people mostly had only one person sitting in them. I was in one of those. Almost all the seating configurations for four people had four people in them.
Once we arrived into Los Angeles, many people rushed off the train immediately, probably trying to catch the next Metrorail red line subway train. The entire train emptied out pretty quickly. I was one of the last to leave since I had almost 40 minutes to kill.
I walked into the main lobby of the station and checked the schedule board to find out on what track the new Metrolink Train #700 would be boarding. Just as I feared, there was no information for the new train! I would have to look around the various boarding tracks and try to find out which track it would be on. The Metrolink information booth was not yet open. The sign did indciate that a 6:18 A.M. Metrolink train to San Bernardino would be boarding on Track #7, a 6:20 A.M. Amtrak train to San Diego would be boarding on Track #11, and a 6:30 A.M. Metrolink train to Princessa would be boarding on Track #3.
The news shop in the station was closed, but the baegel shop was open. Although it was dark during my ride all the way into Los Angeles, it was starting to get light out now.
I headed to the tracks at about 6:30 A.M. I went up the ramp to Tracks 3 & 4 to see if I could see what track Train #700 might be on. I saw two trains. One seemed to be on Track 8 and one on Track 9. I started to head back down the ramp. On the way down, I noticed another Metrolink pulling in. As I headed toward Tracks 5 & 6, I noticed that one of the overhead signs in the tunnel listed the 6:47 A.M. train to Riverside. The sign said that it would be boarding on Track 6. I headed up to Track 6 and found the train to Riverside.
I don't know the total number of people that boarded this train, but there is only one other person upstairs in this car. We left ontime at 6:47 A.M. Many announcements and warnings were made over the P.A. explaining the destination of this train. I set my scanner to Channel 47 which is the radio channel used in the Los Angeles Union Station area. I heard someone say on the radio: "We do not stop at Commerce," which is true. This train goes past the Commerce Metrolink Station but is not scheduled to stop there.
There are two other people up here now and one downstairs. The person downstairs is also taking this train just because it is the inaugural run.
The Conductor asked me how old I was. I immediately realized I must have pushed the wrong button on the ticket machine! Sure enough, I had a round-trip child ticket in my hand! However, the Conductor said it was O.K. because this was an "off-peak" train and I paid "peak" child fare which is the same as off-peak adult fare. I guess I must have been half-asleep while trying to select my ticket at the machine, which might also explain why I had so much trouble with it this time.
The two other people up here are also going to Riverside. One other person also had the wrong ticket. His was to "Oceanside" which the Conductor concluded must have been because the person punched the "Oceanside" button by mistake instead of the "Riverside" button. He let that go. I think the fares were a little different, but these "start-up" mistakes I guess are expected.
The Conductor noticed my "TrainWeb" business card as I was puting my ticket away. I gave him one of my business cards. He said his son was into model railroading. I explained about TrainWeb and our new office in the Fullerton Station. When I told him I was on the train just because it is the inaugural run, he told me that someone downstairs was on the train for the same reason. The Conductor mentioned to that person that I was upstairs. That person then came up and introduced himself. He mentioned that he had visited my web site before and that he got the schedule of this train off the Metrolink web site.
We flew past the Norwalk Metrolink Station and then backed into the station. I assume we were not on the tracks next to the platform as we went through at 7:11 A.M. and thus had to back-up and return to the station on the tracks next to the southbound platform. There were a lot of people on the northbound platform waiting for a Metrolink to Los Angeles. They looked awfully confused by the arrival of this train. Most probably were not aware of this new service starting today. The Conductor warned one lady who boarded the train in Norwalk, but it turned out that she really did want to go to Riverside!
We passed a double-decker passenger train going west just before we got to Fullerton. It wasn't a Metrolink. I didn't get a good look at it, but it was probably the Southwest Chief.
The train went through Fullerton close to the scheduled time of 7:27 A.M. Shortly after that, a young mother with two small children came up to me. She was the lady that had boarded in Norwalk. She asked me: "Are you the person we are suppose to see about this train?" I said: "That depends what you are looking for." She explained that she had boarded in Norwalk and was going to Riverside. She used to take different trains making connections to get to Riverside, but this new direct Metrolink is much more convenient. What she wanted to know was the schedule for the return train from Riverside to Norwalk. I told her that I could answer that since I had the schedules. The return train leaves Riverside at 5:36 P.M. and arrived back into Norwalk at 6:37 P.M. (and then into Los Angeles at 7:14 P.M.). I had to keep shifting between schedules since I did not have a schedule for just this train with me. I had the printout of the entire set of new Metrolink schedules (effective today, September 8, 1997). In that set, this train (#700) and its opposite (#701) are split among the listings for the "Orange County Line," the "Riverside Line," and the "Inland Empire -- Orange County Line." You have to look at all three schedules to get the complete schedule for this train!
The train arrived into West Corona at 7:48 A.M., 8 minutes ahead of schedule. According to the schedule, the train is allowed to leave as much as 5 minutes ahead of schedule. We left West Corona at 7:51 A.M., exactly 5 minutes ahead of schedule. We arrived at the Riverside - La Sierra Metrolink Station at 8:01 A.M. and left at 8:02 A.M., again 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
I just noticed that this train number is mislabeled in the schedule for the "Inland Empire - Orange County Line." The east and westbound trains are both labeled Train #701. The eastbound train should be labeled Train #700.
We arrived into Riverside at 8:16 A.M. on Track #1, about 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival of 8:21 A.M. I was riding in car #133. The entire consist was: Engine #881 and then car numbers 133, 121, 120 and then cab car 629. The Conductor's last name was Scott. The radio channel used during most of this trip was Channel 36. Channel 47 is used just around the Los Angeles Union Station area and Channel 27 is used a little just at the very end of the journey as the train pulls into Riverside.
The moment the train arrived into Riverside, it immediately started boarding passengers for a trip back to Los Angeles along the regular "Riverside Line" as Train #409.
I got in my car, but I guess was so tired that I headed 12 miles further east on the 91 Freeway instead of going west! I thought I was going the right way as I saw a freeway exit for another Metrolink Station. However, that must have been the San Bernardino Station, currently the furthest station east on any Metrolink route. I turned around and headed back for home. The mistake of driving in the wrong direction put me past the "rush hour," so I didn't expect much traffic. Unfortunately, there was a collision between two trucks not too far from my home which tied up traffic for quite a while. Too bad there wasn't a way for me to have returned home by the Metrolink!
Note: The below visit counter was placed on this page on May 7, 2002. When this page was originally posted to TrainWeb in 1997, it did not have a visit counter. Thus, we do not know how many people read this page from September 8, 1997 to May 7, 2002. Click here ifyou wish to read information about the "official" opening of this line on May 6, 2002, along with several added frequencies during convenient hours for commuters.