Oceanside to Fallbrook

The Fallbrook Branch

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The dirt road is the former ATSF right of way facing NE. This is the site of the Brandon Ave. grade crossing east of downtown, less than a mile from the wye that was at the end of the branch. Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2003.

This branch line, built by a predecessor of the Santa Fe, was part of the original main line between San Bernardino and San Diego. When the "Coast Line" was opened between Los Angeles and San Diego in 1888, the Fallbrook line became a branch when the Fallbrook-Temecula segment was abandoned. Fallbrook became the northern terminus of the branch; its junction with the new coast line was at Fallbrook Junction, just north of Oceanside.

Much of the line passed through US Government property, including Camp Pendleton (USMC) and the Fallbrook Annex of the US Naval Weapons Station. The 'civilian' portion of the line entered the town of Fallbrook heading generally northeast. It crossed Ammunition Boulevard at Alturas Street, crossing both streets at an angle and within 100 feet of each other. The Ammunition Boulevard crossing was protected by flashing lights. The track paralleled Aviation Road for a short stretch, and included a culvert marked "1946". The tracks diverged from the road around an avocado packing shed that was at one time served by rail, as shed had a trackside loading door -- possibly the tracks were realigned or a siding was removed in the past. Aviation curved right and crossed the tracks again (see lower right photo above) at a location that now has two self storage buildings south of the street. The alley between the two buildings follows the right-of-way. The tracks continued northeast, crossing Mission Road with overhead flashing lights and gates. There was a small wooden box culvert past the Aviation Road crossing, apparently removed now. After crossing Mission Street, the tracks curved north (behind a present-day shopping center) and crossed Fallbrook Street. The tracks ran parallel to Fallbrook Creek, near what is now a local trail. At Fallbrook Street there was a siding for the Fallbrook Lumber Company and the Green Goddess Avocado packing plant. In the 1970s the Fallbrook crossing got lights and gates. The tracks then passed a rail-served Sunkist packing house, then went a few blocks and turned northeast, cutting through town parallel to the creek. (As of late 2003 there were no rail segments left in the downtown grade crossing areas, and most of the sidewalk cuts/fills are gone.) The track ran east parallel to Alvarado Street. The site of the former rail depot -- torn down in the 1970s -- is now a Sheriff station. There was a three-track yard near the depot, including a weed-grown siding to a former packing house customer. The yard tracks would serve as team tracks for other lumber firms, etc., in town. In packing season, reefers would be stored in the yard, eventually to be filled with produce from the Sunkist plant. Beyond (east) of the depot, the tracks headed northeast, with the yard siding rejoining the 'main' at the Brandon St. crossing (see top photo). The track ended just beyond this point with a wye, with the north leg crossing Mission Rd. next to Margarita Drive. The east leg of the wye extended to what is now an industrial mall near Industrial Way. The wye was removed in the 1970s, and the engines would then use the depot runaround tracks for reversing. This branch hosted a charter passenger run as recently as 1976. Freight service ran three times a week when both the lumber firm and packing houses shipped by rail. When the Fallbrook Lumber Company closed only the Sunkist packing house remained, so freights were down to a once a week (in packing season they would revert to three times a week). In the 1970s, a couple years after the end-of-branch wye was removed, the track was cut back to near the Sunkist plant at College Ave. The Sunkist plant closed in the 1980s, and much of the middle portion of the branch in Camp Pendleton was washed out by rains. This was the "end of the line" for common carrier freight, and the remaining rails came up in the 1980s. The military portion of the track was rebuilt in the 1990s for shipment of obsolete stored chemicals (napalm), to be hauled away for disposal at a waste storage site. At Fallbrook Jct. (the western end of the branch) a wye is still in place where the branch joins the coast line. It is visible from I-5; the coast line runs in the freeway median at that point. This wye is used for storage of US Government rail equipment and occasionally Coaster commuter rail equipment is spotted there. Fallbrook Jct. can be viewed from Amtrak's Surfliner and Metrolink commuter trains. Coaster trains also pass by, but only in "non-revenue" mode between Oceanside and the maintenance/storage facility at Stuart Mesa.

Former stations on the line were Fallbrook Junction, Chappo, Ranch House, Jofegan, DeLuz and Fallbrook.

Thanks to Craig Bass for contributing information about this route.

I'm interested in making a virtual re-creation of this branch and find your map of this line very detailed. Any chance I could use the kml file for this line?

In case you wish to see some of my work, I have screenshots on SurflinerStudios.blogspot.com.

AmtrakFan462
Orange County, CA
1/1/2012

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On your map, you show a short spur branching off to the northeast near the Marine Corps Mechanized Museum. Is this a remnant of the original Calif. Sou. line that followed the river and went to Fallbrook Station, located in Santa Margarita Canyon?

David Arthur
San Bernardino county, CA
3/27/2012

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Do you have any pictures or information about The Fallbrook Branch? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.