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While driving eastbound on Miramar Road, I spotted a classic train car sitting on an abandoned railroad spur.

The 1948 Pullman car sits with 30 other industrial freight cars on an end-of-the-line track, fenced off to the public. The three-track line runs next to Miramar Road, between Milch Road and the barbed-wire fence on the western boundary of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

The long and narrow property is one of the 18 train yards nationwide operated by the Plastic Express company — a firm that specializes in transporting, by truck and rail, bulk plastic and packaging.

The first words out of Frank, the onsite manager, were, “Do you want to buy it?” Frank said that a train-company employee was there recently, wondering what is going on with the Pullman. Reportedly, the owner, who pays the storage fees, lives in Tucson and inherited it from her dad.

Frank said the Pullman used to be unlocked, so they could go inside. But kids started hopping the fence and going inside, moving things around, so it was locked. “It’s still pretty nice inside and has all the beds,” he said.

Pullman cars were luxury cars used by the well-to-do from 1862 to 1955. They featured sleeping rooms, carpeting, upholstered chairs, libraries, and card tables. Not only did George Pullman and his company manufacture the cars, his company also operated and staffed them, paying the train companies to haul the Pullman along the various routes to the customers’ destination.

The train-sales website sterlingrail.com has a similar-era luxury sleeping car with five master bedroom suites listed for $125,000. However, a 1950 Pullman passenger/diner coach is for sale for only $18,500.

The only official signage remaining on the Miramar Pullman is the car number and name at one of the entrances — “Elm Grove 452.”

The rarely used three-track line on which the Pullman sits is one of many railroad spurs that crisscross through the old industrial portions of the Miramar/Mira Mesa area. The spurs feed off the main Coaster/Amtrak line, which travels between Sorrento Valley and Rose Canyon — owned by the North County Transit District.

However, according to the Plastic Express website, their spur is owned and operated by BNSF — the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railway company — the second largest freight line in North America.

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dwbat May 9, 2014 @ 7:36 p.m.

Anyone (with enough money) can rent a restored Pullman car, and have Amtrak pull it to any of their destinations. One such train goes from Chicago to New Orleans: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-29/travel/ct-trav-0901-pullman-cars-20130829_1_glory-days-cars-wedding-anniversary Or you can go from LA to Chicago, NYC, Boston, Dallas, etc. Not sure if you can do this from San Diego, though. But they would know at amtrak.com.


Visduh May 10, 2014 @ 7:46 a.m.

Actually, you will see private cars on a storage track at the Santa Fe depot from time to time. A few years ago, I saw a string of four or five such cars on the tail end of the regular train heading north toward LA. Such cars have to be "Amtrak compliant", meaning that their couplers must be just about the same as those used by Amtrak, and the power to them is compatible with the head-end electric power now in use. (Those older cars often go back to the steam era, and required steam from the locomotive for lights, heat, and even A/C! In the early years of diesel locos, those used for passenger trains had to have auxiliary steam generators.)

As to the ownership of those tracks at Miramar, I'm not sure it is BNSF. BNSF no longer owns the main line south of Fullerton, that having been transferred to public ownership 15-20 years ago. But BNSF did retain the rights to run freight on the line for a number of decades. More recently BNSF has assigned those rights to a local-service railroad.

Ken, that's not an "abandoned" railroad track. If it were abandoned, it would have no rails at all, or those that were still in place would be overgrown with weeds and settling into the dirt.


dwbat May 10, 2014 @ 9:45 a.m.

An abandoned railroad track in NYC is the "High Line," which is now a long public park in the Chelsea neighborhood. What a great idea brought to life.


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