Bluff collapses within steps of passenger train tracks in Del Mar after heavy rains

A portion of a bluff in Del Mar south of Seagrove Park collapsed within a few feet of passenger train tracks Friday, witnesses said.
A portion of a bluff in Del Mar south of Seagrove Park collapsed within a few feet of passenger train tracks Friday, witnesses said.
(Gary Robbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Passenger rail service on the main line between Los Angeles and San Diego faced interruptions Saturday after a section of the Del Mar bluffs collapsed within a few feet of tracks following heavy rains this week.

The cliff failure occurred Friday south of Seagrove Park in front of a condominium complex, according to witnesses.

“The first time we saw it was this morning when we woke up,” said Ken Knight, a Washington resident who was vacationing in the area. “It’s probably a foot or two from the ties on the track. It’s close.”


On Saturday, the North County Transit District, which runs the Coaster passenger line, said it would close portions of the tracks south of the Solana Beach station to make repairs. Bus service will be provided to assist travelers.

Coaster trains will run on their regular Saturday schedule from Oceanside Transit Center to Solana Beach Coaster station and passengers will be taken by bus to Santa Fe Depot, according to the NCTD. Travelers who are headed north will be bused to Oceanside Transit Center.

Service for the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will also be affected. For more information go online at or call (800) 872-7245.

Regularly scheduled train service for both Amtrak and the Coaster is expected to resume on Sunday, according to a news release.

Del Mar has seen a significant increase in bluff collapses in recent years, largely attributed to the destabilizing effects of urban runoff and erosion from ocean waves. Sea-level rise driven by climate change is expected to exacerbate failures in coming decades.

This week’s incident comes after a Thanksgiving storm soaked the San Diego region.

Regional transportation officials have planned a number of drainage upgrades and other improvements aimed at stabilizing the bluffs. Long-range plans are also being developed to relocate or stabilize the train tracks that service Amtrak, Coaster and freight operations.

Beachgoers in Del Mar and other areas are encouraged to keep a safe distance from steep cliff sides, roughly 25 to 40 feet.


While parts of the bluffs are made of sturdy mudstone, other sections are very precarious, specifically stretches that were filled with loose materials when the railroad was constructed.

Smith and Robbins write for the San Diego Union-Tribune. U-T reporter Charles T. Clark contributed to this report.