With the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, San Diego believed that it could become a great shipping port on the west coast—the first in the United States that ships would have an opportunity to visit as they sailed north. To sell the idea to the world, San Diego hosted the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, drawing thousands of people from around the country to our town.
To accommodate the increased passenger traffic, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad agreed to build a new station for San Diego. San Francisco architects Baker and Brown designed the building in a Spanish Baroque style (but simplified), and it cost $300,000 to build. Today, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Even though the station is very active today, providing service to passengers riding the AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner, the Coaster commuter trains, or the MTS Green and Orange Line trolleys, stepping into its cavernous waiting room is a step back in time with its redwood beamed ceilings, bronze chandeliers, and intricate tile work throughout. The oak benches are the original benches, and one can only wonder whose derriere sat on them over the last century. Perhaps that of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt—all of whom passed through the station at one point.
The Fred Harvey dining hall that once was in the station is no more, but you can get snacks at a kiosk inside the terminal. (Or, if you prefer, “Novelties” according to the sign above one of the doors coming in from the platform.)
It’s pretty easy to walk around the station, but realize that certain areas of the platforms are for ticketed passengers only. And, just as it was 100 years ago, the station is a great jumping off point to explore the city.
What You Need to Know
Location: Kettner Blvd. and Broadway Street
Hours: 4:45 a.m.–1:15 a.m.
Website: Here are links to two sites that can give you an overview of the station’s history:
Tips: The SDMTS Green and Orange Trolley lines stop at the station itself; the Blue line terminates across the street at the America Plaza station, so it’s easy to transfer to any of those lines.
Click to see full-sized photos.
Visited: 4 February 2016