Until 1993, the Amtrak Southwest Chief and its predecessors traveled between Los Angeles and San Bernardino via the Pasadena subdivision (formerly the 2nd district). Until 1994, Santa Fe westbound freight trains also used this route. This all changed following the 1993 sale of this line to the Los Angeles and San Bernardino county transportation agencies following the passage of Propositions 108 and 116. In 2004, the portion of this route from Los Angeles to (east) Pasadena is used by the Los Angeles MTA’s Gold Line, from Pasadena to Arcadia the line is abandoned (with plans for a Gold Line extension along the route), while Metrolink maintains the line from Arcadia east. From CP Cambridge (between Pomona and Claremont) to San Bernardino the route is part of the Metrolink San Gabriel subdivision.
The former ATSF Pasadena line is now divided into the following subdivisions:
The segment of the route now operated by the Gold Line includes a 600 ft. climb in the ten miles between Los Angeles and Pasadena (an average grade of greater than 1%, with a ruling grade of over 2%). In the days when it was operated by the Santa Fe, the line east of the Los Angeles River bridge headed northeast and crossed Avenue 19, San Fernando Road and I-5 on bridges, followed by Avenue 26 and Avenue 33 at grade. It crosses the Pasadena Freeway on a bridge into the Highland Park are of Los Angeles, crossing Avenue 37, Figueroa Street, Avenues 43, 44, 45, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, Figueroa Street again and the adjacent Avenue 61 at grade. It then turned east and crossed the Pasadena freeway on a magnificent high steel trestle into South Pasadena.
(In 1994, when the LAMTA wanted to clean up the right of way upon abandonment of train service through Highland Park and South Pasadena, they considered selling the rail for scrap. Upon discovery that it was only installed in 1978 the Metrolink engineering department transported it to the Claremont-Upland segment of the line to replace jointed rail where it continues in 79 MPH service.)
The line then crossed Arroyo Verde Road, the intersection of Pasadena Avenue and Monterey Road, Indiana Avenue and Orange Grove Avenue at grade, turns northeast and crosses El Centro Street at grade. The South Pasadena station was at the intersection of Meridian Avenue and Mission Street (location of the South Pasadena Gold Line Station), crossed at grade, followed by grade crossing at Hope Street, Fairview Avenue, Magnolia Street, and the intersection of Fremont Avenue and Grevela Street. Many of these grade crossings have been closed as part of the transformation of the line into the Gold Line.
The line then crossed the Pasadena freeway on a bridge and turned north into Pasadena, then passing beneath the intersection of Columbia Street and Fair Oaks Ave. Through this area the embankment of the former UP Pasadena Branch is visible (where it is not used by the Gold Line). Passing through the area of the Pasadena Power & Light generating station along Railroad Street, and then crossing Glenarm Street, Fillmore Street, Pico Street, California Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard at grade. The Pasadena depot was located (and has been rebuilt) on the east side of Raymond Avenue, across from Central Park, just south of the Gold Line platforms. In contrast to the tunnel taken by the Gold line, the Santa Fe line crossed Green Street, Colorado Boulevard and Holly Street at grade before descending alongside memorial Park into the tunnel under the eastbound lanes of I-210 and coming to the surface again in the median of that freeway.
(The line ran in the median of the freeway only after the opening of the latter in 1972. Previously it had run along the north side of Walnut Street, crossing every north-south street at grade across the entire city of Pasadena except for a bridge over Rosemead Boulevard. Today’s freeway runs along the former Santa Fe right-of-way from Kinneloa Avenue east into Arcadia, so the post 1972 line approximately resumed its old location east of that spot. A spur descending from the freeway median existed along the old right-of-way as far west as Allen Avenue, serving inter alia the Avon factory near the old Lamanda Park station location until this segment of the line was closed in 1994. Within the freeway median there was a siding at the same location as the connection to that spur.)
At the spot where the freeway crosses the Sierra Madre Wash, the line exited the freeway median on a girder bridge that crossed the eastbound lanes (and has since been removed), passed under Colorado Street and crossed Santa Anita Avenue at grade before reaching the location of the Arcadia depot. Today’s Metrolink Pasadena subdivision starts just east of Santa Anita Avenue, where the old depot (now located in Pomona’s Fairplex Park as part of the railway & Locomotive Historical Society’s exhibit there) was once located (MP 124.2).
The line is single track with automatic block signals, operated by Track Warrant Control (on of only a very few Metrolink lines so operated), with a 40 mph speed limit for all traffic. Its only service is BNSF local freights, operating out of the yards at San Bernardino and Kaiser. Heading southeast from Arcadia, the line crosses the intersection of First Avenue and Santa Clara Street and crosses over Huntington Drive on a bridge, turns east southeast passing over a pedestrian underpass at Fifth Street in Monrovia, crossing over Santa Anita Wash and Mayflower and Magnolia Avenues at grade. The mission-revival style Monrovia depot building (MP 122.4) is on the north side of the track just west of the Myrtle Avenue grade crossing, where the line turns due east along the north side of Duarte Road.
The line crosses California Avenue at grade, bridges over Sawpit Wash, crosses over Mountain Avenue at grade, passes the location of a former hotbox detector in Duarte (MP 121.0), crosses Buena Vista Street at grade passes signals at Butler (MP 120.2), crosses Highland Avenue at grade and then passes under several bridges comprising the north end of I-605 where it intersects with I-210. The line crosses the san Gabriel River on a long girder bridge, passes through the Santa Fe dam Recreation Area with I-210 just to its north, intersects with the north end of the former SP Azusa Industrial Track at Irwindale (MP 118.2), where there is a 6,165 ft. siding, passes the Miller Brewing Company’s Irwindale brewery (and on-line industry at) to the south of the line and crosses beneath Irwindale Avenue.
The line then crosses I-210 on a bridge while headed east northeast, crosses Virginia Avenue at grade, passes a signal, crosses over Foothill Boulevard on a bridge, passes a junction with a spur track to the north, crosses San Gabriel and Azusa Avenues at grade, and then passes the Azusa depot (located on the south side of the track at MP 116.9. The line crosses Alameda Avenue, turns east southeast and crosses Dalton Avenue, Pasadena Avenue (Azusa) and Barranca Avenue at grade. The line cross4es the intersection of Grand Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Glendora (MP 114.4) at grade, passes signals at one end of the 2,820 ft. siding there, and crosses Vermont Avenue, Glendora Avenue, Pasadena Avenue (Glendora), Elwood Avenue and Lorain Avenue at grade, crosses over San Dimas Wash and Acosta Avenue on bridges, and passes under I-210.
The line crosses Lone Hill Avenue at grade, passes signals at MP 111, crosses Gladstone Street at grade, passes under route 57, passes more signals at San Dimas (MP 110.2), and crosses Eucal Avenue at grade. The San Dimas depot (now the Pacific Railroad Society’s museum) is on the north side of the track between Bonita Avenue and Monte Vista Avenue, both of which are crossed at grade. There is an active team track business on the south side at San Dimas. The line crosses San Dimas Avenue, Walnut Avenue, and San Dimas Canyon Road at grade, comes alongside Arrow Highway (to the south of the track) and crosses Wheeler Avenue, A Street, D Street and E Street, La Verne, at grade. Near Wheeler Ave. there is an 0.6-mile spur to the north to serve the Metropolitan Water District treatment plant. There are signals at La Verne (MP 107.9). The Metrolink San Gabriel line comes alongside from the south and both lines cross White Avenue and Fulton Avenue at grade. Just east of Fulton is a busy industrial complex that usually has several cars of paper products on spot. The former Santa Fe Pomona depot (North Pomona, MP 106.7) is on the south side of the Pasadena Sub track. It is used by Metrolink as maintenance of way headquarters. There is a 3,079 ft. siding, the line crosses Garey Avenue and Towne Avenue at grade, and then the San Gabriel line joins with the Pasadena line at CP Cambridge (MP 105.4) in Claremont. From here east, the former Santa Fe line is subsumed by the San Gabriel subdivision.
San Bernardino is 200 ft. Higher than Pasadena. The line passes through urban and suburban housing areas, with some lineside industry, all the way from (Los Angeles and) Arcadia to Claremont.
To visit the Pasadena Sub is a step back in time. There are still signal pole lines, jointed rail, and (most days) blue and yellow “Santa Fe” road switchers.
As of 2004 the Gold Line is conducting preliminary engineering and environmental studies for extending the LRT line eastward. An interesting aspect of this project is that under the terms of purchase of the line from the ATSF, the LAMTA is obligated to keep the infrastructure for freight service. This is an engineering challenge because the LRT stations have high platforms and California PUC requires platforms to be set back 8 feet, 6 inches (not a realistic jump for passengers!). Options under consideration include sections of third track or gauntlet track at stations. The operating challenge is that under Federal safety regulations LRT transit vehicles and conventional railroad equipment cannot be on the same line at the same time; this will lead to some interesting scheduling.