Saturday was National Train Day again, which the Militant covered last year during its Union Station festivities.
This year, the Union Station goings-on was nearly identical, so the Militant decided to take it a step further and visit the National Train Day events in San Bernardino. And not only that, but to take in the full meaning of the day and travel strictly by train the entire day - steel wheels for real - making a 120-mile round trip journey entirely rail.
He started, of course with a quick dash on the (M) Red Line to Union Station, sampling the festivities there and hopping on the (very crowded) 11:50 a.m. train to San Berdoo via Metrolink. It was then when the Militant realized this was his first Metrolink journey in a loooong-ass time; the last he remembered riding it was sometime in 2003.
The ride to San Berdoo was mush as he remembered it, yet it had been so long that it almost seemed entirely new to him: zipping past cars on the 10 east; flying through El Monte, wondering why the El Monte Busway station and the El Monte Metrolink station are not one in the same; rolling past single-story suburban backyards, rugged industrial areas and being dwarfed by the peaks of the San Gabriels; and passing by exotically unfamiliar sights like the ginormous Auto Club (California) Speedway in Fontana.
After an hour and a half, the Militant finally arrived in San Bernardino's depot, itself a historic train station even outdating Union Station by 21 years (built 1918). There he saw a historic Santa Fe steam locomotive (which the Militant got to climb into), with several restored passenger cars coupled behind it. The San Bernardino Station even has its own transportation museum, and for the day there was also a rail/transportation-related outdoor bazaar, selling model trains, railroad souvenirs, model trucks and t-shirts. And unlike Los Angeles Union Station, there was an active freight transfer facility on the other side of the tracks, with freight trains making an occasional show for the NTD crowd.
Also, one of the newly-unveiled Metrolink crash-resistant railcars was on display here, along with a modern BNSF locomotive.
The Militant returned back to Union Station on the 4:10 p.m. train, looked around for a bit, and then hopped back on the Red Line to return to his compound.
For the thousands of Metrolink riders who take the train to or from work, it's just another way of commuting to take for granted. But not having the opportunity to ride the 'Link as often put things into a different perspective for him: The Militant took to the rails on Saturday, not just because he wanted to, but because he could.