Vandalism, Power Outage Slow L.A.-San Diego Amtrak Trains : Commuting: The unrelated events delayed or stranded thousands of passengers. Buses eventually transported many.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vandalism and an unrelated power outage combined on Friday to slow Amtrak trains along the heavily traveled route between Los Angeles and San Diego, stranding thousands of passengers well into the evening, authorities said.

About 2,000 passengers who normally take the San Diegans train were delayed one hour to 3 1/2 hours at all 10 stations from Los Angeles' Union Station through Orange County to San Diego.

Eight trains were delayed, and four were canceled. Several hundred passengers were transported by buses, sent by Amtrak, that stopped at each station.

In Santa Ana, a station manager said trains were running about two or three hours behind schedule. "It's real hectic right now," he said breathlessly. "I gotta go. There's people in my face."

The day's problems began about 1:10 p.m. when someone vandalized a switching control center about 5 miles north of Del Mar. Ironically, at 1:55 p.m., an unrelated power outage struck a centralized traffic control system.

The problems debilitated all the electronic signals along the 129-mile route, including many track switches at several points that are wired to work in unison with the signals, a spokesman said. Trains along the route were controlled through radio contact, which slowed their travel to roughly half their usual 90-m.p.h. speed, said Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black in Washington, D.C.

He said Santa Fe rail workers had not been able to correct the problem by 9:30 p.m. Friday, half an hour after the last daily trains pull out of stations in Los Angles and San Diego.

The trip normally takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Los Angeles to San Diego. The route, owned and maintained by Santa Fe Railway, is mostly one set of tracks, with several sidings that allow opposing trains to pass one another.

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