Steam Train in San Diego: The Final Chapter

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on September 29, 2008

The steam train rounds the bend beneath Seagrove Park.

The steam train rounds the bend beneath Seagrove Park.

On Sunday, September 21st, locomotive 3751–pulling a full complement of vintage railcars-rolled through Del Mar on its way to San Diego. It was right on time. And I nearly missed it.

When this engine came to town last time-in June-it arrived a couple of hours late. Fully expecting a similar delay on this trip, I had spent this Sunday morning dwelling over an early breakfast and strolling leisurely along the beach.


Eventually arriving at our chosen photo location-at track level beneath the bluffs of Seacoast Park-my friend, Shelly, and I prepared for a long wait. We had packed our tripods and a couple of chairs in a rolling cart. Our camera packs were full of gear. We had everything we needed-except time.

A couple of minutes after we arrived, we heard the clanging of the bells and the nearby street crossing. I was exploring the east side of the tracks when I heard the bells and saw Shelly waving and pointing on the other side. Figuring she had seen something important, I quickly made my way back to the west side and barely had time to swing my camera into position from its place on my shoulder.


The locomotive emerged from around the bend to the north. I got maybe a half-dozen photos of the engine before it passed. It was nicely lit by the southern sun.

Sharing the track with a rail fan.

Sharing the track with a rail fan.

I continued to photograph the passenger cars as they whizzed by-even though we were on the wrong side of the light and the cars were all in shadow. A few dozen photos later, the final car disappeared in the distance as it rolled at high speed toward San Diego.

A passenger photographs through the window of a vintage passenger car in Del Mar, California.

A passenger photographs through the window of a vintage passenger caras it passes through Del Mar, California.

The entire event took less than a minute. Packing up was easy since we never had time to remove anything from the cart. My second camera with its long lens and my small video camera were still neatly packed in my backpack. Preparation: it’s the key to a good photo experience. And  maybe luck has something to do with it, too.

Panning as the final passenger car passes by.

Panning as the final passenger car passes by.


  • Arrive early to find parking. We got to Del Mar at around 8:30 a.m.
  • The closest free parking I found was at corner of 18th and Santa Fe, about a half-mile away.
  • Park at the Del Mar Plaza. It’s only a couple of short blocks to Seagrove Park. And, if you eat breakfast at the Plaza-the Pacific Breeze Café on the Plaza’s upper level is a good choice-you can get a parking validation good for two free hours.
  • Parking along the street near Seagrove Park is expensive and the meters are enforced every day. So, bring lots of quarters if you plan to park there.

Related Stories:

A Steam Train in San Diego: Photographing A Bit of History

Steam Train Update: Photo Locations


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