The line is largely double track, with sections of triple track. The line is operated by Centralized Traffic Control (CTC). Prior to the 1990s, much of the line between Fullerton and San Bernardino was single track with passing sidings. This line was expanded from single track to double and triple track in the 1990s, as part of the agreements between Santa Fe and SCRRA (Metrolink) on the provision of commuter service over this route.
From Los Angeles Union Station, the line passes Terminal Tower, turns east past Mission Tower, then heads south along the west bank of the Los Angeles River. This stretch of line is now part of the West Bank Line of the Metrolink River Subdivision, described elsewhere.
The route is divided into the following subdivisions:
· BNSF San Bernardino Subdivision from Los Angeles to San Bernardino via Fullerton
Mileposts between Los Angeles and Fullerton are from Barstow via the former Pasadena line; mileposts between Fullerton and San Bernardino are from San Bernardino. Dispatching in Southern California is carried out from a joint UP/BNSF Dispatching Center in San Bernardino, CA. This entire stretch of two and three track line runs through the urban fabric of Greater Los Angeles, with the line bordered by many old-line industries that were once rail-served, even if they are no longer.
The former Santa Fe (now BNSF) line to San Bernardino via Fullerton now starts at West Redondo (MP 143.1), where the ex-Santa Fe line to the LA/LB Harbor (now superseded by the Alameda Corridor route) diverges to the south (Harbor Junction, MP 143.4) while the connection to the Alameda Corridor line to the Harbor heads directly west and an ex-SP line to the harbor crosses the former route from Union Station. Today’s line from Union Station crosses overhead on a flyover that turns from the southbound heading of the River sub to the eastbound heading of the San Bernardino sub, crossing the former SP line, the Los Angeles River and the San Bernardino sub in the process, completely avoiding Redondo Junction.
The flyover line descends on its easterly heading to join the San Bernardino subdivision’s freight-only trackage from the south side at Soto (MP 144.4) to form a four main track formation. Both lines cross Soto Street on separate bridges before their junction is reached. There are detectors on all tracks at MP 144.45) just east of the junction at Soto. The line now angles east-southeast.
Crossing over Downey Road on a bridge, the line passes UP’s former Hobart Tower at the crossing of the UP line to LA/LB Harbor (now also superseded by the Alameda Corridor route), at a location now known as San Pedro Junction, MP 144.5. (There is a connecting track between the Santa Fe and UP lines at this location. This is the principal connection to the very busy Los Angeles Junction Railway, the joint BNSF-UP terminal railroad serving the Vernon-Commerce area.) Immediately east of this location, Santa Fe’s Hobart Yard occupies the north side of the line, while 26th Street in Vernon runs along the south side of the line. Much of Hobart yard’s activity, in 2004, is devoted to loading and unloading containers and trailers from intermodal cars. There are staging areas for containers and trailers on the south side of 26th Street, with constant activity shuttling them back and forth between yard and staging areas.
On the main tracks alongside the yard there are three separate sets of crossovers between/among the tracks, at West Hobart (MP 144.7), Hobart (MP 145.1), and East Hobart (MP 146.0), each of which is provided with signals on a signal bridge east and west. At the middle location, Hobart, the four main tracks reduce to three. Near the east end of the yard, I-710 crosses over the tracks and the yard on a long bridge. East of the end of the yard, the line crosses over Atlantic Boulevard on a bridge, then over Eastern Avenue on another bridge. East of the latter, the BNSF Commerce Intermodal Facility occupies the south side of the tracks, followed by the Amtrak/Metrolink Commerce station with a platform only on the south side of the main tracks, but a switching lead for the Commerce Intermodal facility between platform and parking lot, also on the south side.
Across the tracks from the Commerce station, on the north side of the tracks is the 1990s-vintage Commerce Locomotive Facility that replaced facilities located in Hobart Yard, as well as some siding used for freight car storage (including oil tank cars for the locomotive fuel supply). There are more signals (on signal bridges) and crossovers in this vicinity, including those permitting passenger trains from the more northerly main tracks to use the single platform at the Commerce station, at Eastern Avenue, MP 147.3) and the connection to the Los Angeles Junction Railway at Commerce (MP 148.5).
The line then crosses over I-5, Telegraph Road and Garfield Avenue on closely spaced bridges. There are more signals (on signal bridges) and crossovers east of Garfield Avenue (Vail, MP 148.8),, the line crosses Greenwood Avenue, Montebello, on a bridge, and there are yet more signals and crossovers at Bandini (MP 149.8) where the three main tracks reduce to two. The line crosses over the Rio Hondo on a girder bridge (where a third track and new bridge on the south side are being built in April, 2006), and then over Paramount Boulevard on a bridge. Pico Rivera Yard, on the north side of the tracks, handles general merchandise. There is a tower at the east end of the yard (MP 150.9) where the line crosses Rosemead Boulevard on a bridge, after which the line passes CP Serapis.
The first grade crossing on the line east from downtown Los Angeles is at Serapis Avenue, followed by another at Passons Boulevard. Another signal bridge precedes the bridge over the San Gabriel River, whose east end is under the bridge taking Slauson Avenue from one side of the tracks to the other (as well as crossing the river itself). Immediately east of the river is DT Junction (MP 152.1), where the ex-SP Puente branch south from Bartolo crosses the BNSF at grade (with a diamond), followed by crossovers between the two main tracks, with signals at the east end. signs of additional track construction (6/07), I-605 passes overhead on a bridge and Pioneer Boulevard crosses at grade.
The line turns southeast and crosses another ex-SP branch (La Habra) at the Los Nietos diamond (MP 153.0), with associated signals. Grade crossings with Norwalk Boulevard and Los Nietos Road follow immediately after the diamond. There arespurs and extra track on the northeast side, detectors at MP 154.7 and crossovers at Santa Fe Springs (MP 155.0). In an area with many new lineside office, warehouse and light-industry buildings (all built since 1990, with some still being built in March, 2004) the line crosses Santa Fe Springs Road on a bridge (where the road is depressed to run underneath, as it is on so many of these underbridges), then turns south past a spur into industry to the east, and the signals and crossovers at Stephens (MP 155.5), running between office, warehouse and light-industry buildings on both sides of the line (one of which has its own covered bridge across the tracks between buildings on either side of the track), passes Intermediate Signals at West Norwalk, and crosses Telegraph Road, Florence Avenue, Lakeland Road and Imperial Highway on similar bridges.
Immediately south of the latter is the Norwalk Metrolink station (MP 156.1), with platforms and parking lots on both sides of the lines, crossed by an elevator-served footbridge. At Norwalk, there are sidings of 4,150 ft. and 3,432 ft. as well. Except at crossing, and through stations, the line speeds all along this route are 79 mph for passenger trains and 50 mph for freights. In April, 2011, there are new pole signals turned sideways alongside the signal bridges eitehr side mof the Norwalk Metrolink station, installed by June 2013.
The line turns southeast again, through an area of somewhat older lineside industry (now in Santa Fe Springs rather than Norwalk). There is a bridge over Carmenita Avenue, signals (on a signal bridge) at Wilshire (MP 156.8) and crossovers at La Mirada (MP 157.7), and adjacent road crossings of Rosecrans and Valley View Avenues. Now in Orange County, the track descends into a trench with Stage Road running alongside to the northeast, passes Valley View (MP 158.7), where Three Main Tracks resume, and the signals and crossovers at Buena Park (MP 160.3), and under Alondra Boulevard. Emerging from the trench, there is a section with a small 'yard' of four extra tracks on the south side, with the usual fan-out and fan-in. The line turns east passing over Beach Boulevard, Dale Street and Gilbert Avenue on bridges, with yet more (continuous) third track on the south side, extending through the area with the small yard. At Milepost 161.5 on the south side, west of Gilbert Avenue, is the Fullerton Airport, one of the few remaining general aviation fields in Southern California. East of the turn is the Buena Park Metrolink station (MP 161.2, opened September 4th, 2007), and Intermediate Signals at MP 162.1, with the third main track on the south side past the Basta crossovers (MP 163.0), where three main tracks resumed until some time in 2007, after which the line crosses over Commonwealth Avenue on a skew bridge (made of concrete), and then over Euclid Street (where the third track has its own newly-built bridge). There are Intermediate Signals at MP 164.1 two extra tracks on the north side of the line east of the Basta crossovers.
There are signals at Fullerton (MP 164.7), as the line crosses Highland Avenue on another bridge. After crossing Harbor Boulevard on a bridge, the line enters the Fullerton Amtrak-Metrolink station (MP 165.0), where there are again platforms on both sides of the tracks, with an elevator-served footbridge. The parking lot is on the north side of the station, where the former Santa Fe depot is still in operational use by Amtrak. In the parking lot, west of the depot, is the former UP Fullerton depot, which has been moved across the tracks from its former location on the UP Anaheim branch to the immediate south of the Santa Fe tracks, and turned 90-degrees to the east. It is now in use as a restaurant.
At Fullerton Junction (MP 165.5/45.5—the milepost concordance is at the junction’s west edge), immediately east of the station, after the line has crossed Lemon Avenue on a bridge the line to San Bernardino proceeds straight ahead, while that to San Diego (Metrolink’s Orange subdivision) turns sharply southward. There are several sets of signals at the junction. The two main tracks San Bernardino line now enter Placentia, where this is considerable contention over the road traffic buildup at the grade crossings and over the noise entering many adjacent apartment complexes, some of which is being alleviated by an active grade separation project.
The line crosses Raymond Avenue, Acacia Avenue, State College Boulevard and Placentia Avenue (road overbridge being constructed in June, 2013) at grade, and then passes under route 57. There are signals at Placentia (MP 43.1/.2/.3/.4), and the line crosses over Melrose Avenue on a bridge that was being built in March, 2004 and is completely open in April, 2006. There are grade crossings at Bradford Avenue (road overbridge being constructed in June, 2013), Kraemer Boulevard, Orangethorpe Avenue (at an acute angle, after which Orangethorpe parallels the tracks on the north side), Tustin Avenue and Jefferson Street. East of the latter is Atwood, MP 40.6, junction with the single track Metrolink Olive subdivision coming north from Orange, where there are also crossovers, after which Van Buren Street and Richfield Road are crossed at grade. There are grade crossings at Lakeview Drive and Kellogg Drive, signals at Lambert (MP 39.3), and a grade crossing at Imperial Highway. Orangethorpe Avenue has now become Esperanza Boulevard, Yorba Linda, and the overhead bridges at Fairmont and Yorba Linda boulevards pass over it, also, with Intermediate Signals at MP 38.1/.2/.3/.4. All along this stretch with the road on the north side of the tracks, the south side is occupied by business and light industry, mostly less than twenty years old
There are crossovers at Esperanza (MP 35.8), where the three main tracks begin again, and then two successive crossings of Via Lomas de Yorba, the westerly one a bridge over that street, and the easterly one where that street crosses the BNSF on a bridge. Following a bridge over Bryant Avenue, the line enters the Green River Golf Course in the famed Santa Ana Canyon. (The whole area from Yorba Linda Boulevard east is in the canyon, which was once just a single track line through wooded hillsides, but is now largely built over with upscale housing.) There are Intermediate Signals at MP 33.4/.5, a detector at MP 32.0 on all three tracks, Intermediate Signals at MP 31.4/.5, an occupation crossing within the golf course, the line crosses the Santa Ana River, passes under the Prado Road bridge, past the signals and crossovers at Prado Dam (MP 29.4), where the three main tracks revert to two, under Route 91 and past Prado Dam itself, to the north of the tracks.
The single track between Esperanza and Prado Dam was to be double track per the original traffic vs. capacity studies that Metrolink and ATSF developed; the third track would not be needed for another decade or more. However the environmental permitting process led to the decision only to disrupt the Santa Ana River wetlands once; therefore the three tracks required for year 2015 or so were built at once, in 1996. The new tracks were built with concrete ties and new rail, and when they were operational the original main line was likewise upgraded to concrete ties. One aesthetic loss was the steel bridge over the river in the Green River golf course. It was the classic black painted with white "Santa Fe" spelled out. It is still there but between two new concrete bridges. As the third track is not yet needed to move trains it is common to see trains staged for delivery to Hobart Yard or to see stored empty intermodal cars on one of the tracks.
The line passes under Route 91 again and enters Corona. Crossing Auto Center drive at grade, the line enters the West Corona Metrolink station (MP 27.2), another one that has platforms on both tracks and an elevator-served footbridge crossing between them. The parking lot is on the south side of the tracks. East of the station, there are signals before reaching the Smith Avenue grade crossing. Passing through an area of light industry, including a spur with both east-facing and west-facing entry points on the south side of the line as it turns from east-northeast to southeast, the line crosses Railroad Street at grade, Lincoln Avenue crosses overhead on a bridge, there are signals and a lineside spur at the Cota Street grade crossing, the line passes Sheridan Street grade crossing and turns east-southeast, the old Santa Fe Corona depot is on the south side of the line, North Main Street passes overhead on a bridge and the line enters the North Main Street, Corona, Metrolink station (MP 24.1), which also has platforms on both tracks, an elevator-served footbridge and a parking lot north of the tracks.
East of the station, the line crosses Joy Street at grade, passes under route 91 again, and passes the remaining yard tracks at Corona. The line and yard tracks pass under I-15 and turn just north of east, then cross Radio Road at grade at the east end of the yard. There is a spur to lineside industry (that uses covered hoppers) on the south side of the tracks, signals at Porphyry (MP 22.8), Promenade Avenue passes overhead, there are signals and crossovers at May (MP 21.4), and the line crosses McKinley Street at grade. Curving now to the north-northeast, the line crosses Magnolia Avenue, Buchanan Street and Pierce Avenue at grade. There are signals east of Pierce Avenue (MP 19.3), the line passes under La Sierra Avenue and enters Riverside La Sierra Metrolink station (MP 18.5). Another station with two platforms and footbridge, this one has its parking lot on the south side of the tracks.
The urban fabric surrounding the tracks now changes from light industry to largely residential for the vast majority of the nine miles remaining to downtown Riverside. The line crosses Tyler Street and Harrison Street at grade, there are Intermediate Signals (MP 16.2) east of Harrison Street and the line turns to the northeast. The line passes over Van Buren Street on a bridge, there is lineside industry just east of that bridge, the line curves north-northeast and there are grade crossings at Gibson Street and Jackson Street. At Arlington, MP 15.1, there are signals and crossovers and the line turns east. The line passes over Monroe Street on a bridge, crosses Auto Center Drive at grade, turns north-northeast and then crosses Jefferson Street at grade. The named location of Casa Blanca (MP 14.0) has no obvious remaining railroad artifacts except a spur on the east side of the tracks, connected at both ends.
The line crosses Madison Street at grade, passes signals at Pachappa (MP 12.1/.2/.3/.4), crosses Washington Avenue, May Street and Jane Street at grade, turns northwest and crosses over Arlington Avenue on a bridge. Central Avenue is crossed with another bridge, Ivy Street crosses over the tracks on a bridge, the line turns north-northeast and reaches West Riverside Junction (MP 10.6). Here the UP Los Angeles subdivision joins from the west and the number of main tracks expands to three. There is a grade crossing at Cridge Street (MP 10.69).
There are connections at MP 9.9 into platform and storage tracks from tracks one (“Tenth Street”) and three (“CP99”), the line crosses 14th Street on a bridge, and the Metrolink Riverside Downtown station is reached at MP 9.8. This station has island platforms between the outer tracks and those platform lines, with the center track having no platform. The platforms on the east side of the station are used by Metrolink trains on the LA via Fullerton and the Irvine routes; those on the west side of the station are used by Metrolink trains on the LA via Pedley route and the Saturday trains to LA via San Bernardino (in the opposite direction from the trains via Pedley.) There is an elevator-served footbridge, and the parking lot is on the west side of the station.
The line crosses University Avenue on a bridge at the east end of the station, and then passes the former Santa Fe Riverside depot on the west side of the tracks before reaching the Mission Inn Street grade crossing. Third Street is crossed at grade, followed by the old UP Main Line trailing in on the east side, at the former Riverside Junction, which serves three yard tracks straddling Third Street, two spurs on the east side of the line, and the adjacent Kansas Street and Spruce Street grade crossings. The line passes under I-215 (also Route 60 on the same piece of freeway); there are spurs on the east side, signals on a signal bridge and then the line crosses Chicago Street and Columbia Street at grade, passes a spur on the west side, a spur on the east side, and spurs for Alumax on the east side, crosses Palmyrita Street, Iowa Street and Center Street, Highgrove at grade.
There are two more spurs on the east side for Alumax, and the branch from Perris and San Jacinto (the original California Southern main line to San Diego via Temecula Canyon) trails in on the east side of the line at Highgrove, MP 6.1, where the three main tracks again reduce to two and the line now heads due north, with spurs for Georgia pacific and Johnson Tractor on the east side. The line crosses Main Street at grade, passes detectors on both tracks at MP 6.0, crosses over I-215 on a bridge and under the Barton Road bridge, crosses Vivienda Street on a bridge and the Santa Ana River on a multi-span girder bridge (to the east is the UP, former SP, Santa Ana River bridge for their Riverside Branch; it has sections of concrete/steel that have replaced timber sections that burned in the early 1990s).
The BNSF line passes the West Colton crossovers (MP 4.3), where an additional track starts on the east side, connecting to four vacant spurs, the C Street Pocket, and the south-to-east connector, crosses over Fogg Street, La Cadena Avenue, and N Street, Colton, and reaches the Colton Crossing (MP 3.2), where the UP (former SP) Sunset Route crosses east-west and there are south-to-east and west-to-north connectors, all with appropriate signals. This crossing has some old west gunslinger history: the ATSF hired Wyatt Earp to assert their rights to cross the original SP line; although the matter was settled in the courts it reminds us of the rough history of the pioneer days.
The line passes under I-10, with the north-side signals for the crossing under the freeway bridge, crosses Valley Boulevard and H Street at grade, passes the original ATSF Colton depot (now used as an office for the ADM tank car unloading facility), passes the crossovers at CP 29 (MP 2.9) where three main tracks start again, crosses E Street at grade, passes over C Street on a bridge, passes through the crossovers at Rana (MP 2.2), where four main tracks start, crosses Hanna Street, Olive Street and Laurel Street at grade, then passes two Weyerhaeuser spurs on the west side, under the Mill Street Viaduct that crosses over the south end of the B Yard as well as the main tracks and the “short way” which diverges here on the east side of the line, with a Metrolink yard alongside it.
The “short way” crosses “old” Mill Street and Rialto Avenue at grade before reaching the San Bernardino Metrolink station at a big curve to the east under the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge, whereas the main tracks pass on the west side of the B yard, under the Rialto Avenue overbridge at East B (MP 1.1x), the north end of the B Yard, around a big curve to the east adjacent to the San Bernardino locomotive facilities, under the flyover from the Metrolink San Gabriel line and east into San Bernardino (MP 0.0) with the intermodal yard to the north of the tracks. The latter city is at an altitude of 1,077 ft., 800 ft. higher than downtown Los Angeles. The BNSF intermodal yard is on the site of the former ATSF “A” Yard and the locomotive and car shops. To mitigate the cultural impact of removing the shop buildings in the 1990s, the BNSF agreed to keep the smokestack; mounted on the smokestack is the original shop whistle; it sounds each weekday at exactly 8:00 AM, thus keeping alive some of the old “company town” atmosphere.