Oceanside, CA (OSD)
Opened in 1984, the Oceanside Transit Center allows for easy transfers among Amtrak, commuter rail lines and intercity and local buses.
235 South Tremont Street
Oceanside, CA 92054
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2022): 185,734
- Facility Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Oceanside/North County Transit District (NCTD)/Oceanside Community Development Commission
- Platform Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
- Track Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
Amtrak stops at the Oceanside Transit Center, an intermodal hub built in 1984 that allows easy transfers to commuter rail and intercity and local bus lines. Located three blocks from the beach and just south of downtown, the Transit Center complex sits perpendicular to the tracks. Small one-story buildings constructed of beige, textured concrete masonry units and featuring expansive floor-to-ceiling windows house Amtrak, Greyhound Lines, and other businesses. The structures are linked by a wide wooden pergola with elegant, bowed roof slats; the entire structure is covered in plastic roofing that allows gently diffused sunlight to enter the walkway while also protecting travelers from rain. The pergola continues down and along the platform, visually guiding passengers to the trains.
The Pacific Surfliner is among the most popular Amtrak routes and Oceanside is one of California’s busiest Amtrak stations. The town sits about 40 miles northwest of downtown San Diego and directly south of the U.S. Marine Corps training base at Camp Pendleton.
During the early 2000s, Oceanside’s downtown core experienced a period of growth with an emphasis on mixed-use development to enliven the streets; timeshares and new hotels were also constructed to broaden the city’s tourism infrastructure. In 2006, a 450-space parking garage opened next to the Transit Center to accommodate local commuters as well as visitors. It is envisioned as one piece of a larger transportation-oriented development focused on the Transit Center that will encourage residents to use commuter rail and other public transportation to get to work or to run routine errands. The complex will include residential, retail, and office space within walking distance of the station. City officials and the North San Diego County Transit District Development Board hope to further pursue the concept once the real estate and finance markets regain their health.
The California coast was first explored by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who worked for the Kingdom of Castile. In 1542, he claimed the region for Spain, but no settlements were planned; sixty years later the coast was mapped by Sebastián Vizcaíno. Although known and claimed by the Spaniards for more than two hundred years, they did not establish settlements in California until the late eighteenth century when the Russian Empire began to take an interest in the area.
To secure the coast, King Carlos III authorized the creation of a chain of forts and missions to protect strategic sites that could be of future use to the Spanish Empire in North America. The first “presidio” or “fort” and mission complex was established at San Diego in 1769. Although the Franciscan friars who administered the missions passed through the area of present-day Oceanside that same year, they did not return to establish a community until 1798.
Located four miles inland, the mission was named “San Luis Rey de Francia” after King Louis IX, a thirteenth century French king considered to be a Christian saint. The Franciscans worked toward the conversion of the region’s American Indians to Christianity, a stated goal of Spanish colonization. Each mission was supported by large tracts of land for agriculture and grazing worked by the friars and the converts. The lands attached to Mission San Luis Rey were extensive and fostered subsidiary communities modeled after the principle settlement.
The American Indians who willingly or sometimes were forcibly settled at the mission were called “Luiseno” (“of Luis”) by the Spaniards, indicating that they were considered to be under San Luis Rey’s sphere of influence. For the most part, the Luiseno descended from the Shoshonean tribe and for centuries had inhabited the area from the coast to the mountains. They were known for baskets woven from wild grasses, as well as for their clay containers. Early visitors to the mission recalled that the Luiseno lived in dome-like dwellings whose frames were made from branches. They gathered acorns, seeds, and wild berries, and hunted for various animals depending on their geographic location.
San Luis Rey grew into one of the largest and wealthiest missions, and boasted a population of 3,000 within two decades of its founding. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the missions were secularized and many of the buildings and land holdings were sold off to private owners, a process that occurred at San Luis Rey in the 1830s. Much of the land was reconfigured into large “ranchos” or “ranches” that survived into the American period after California and a sizeable portion of the Southwest were ceded to the United States by Mexico as a result of the American victory in the Mexican-American War of 1845-1848. While the land was still farmed, many of the former mission buildings fell into disrepair.
By the 1870s, Los Angeles and San Francisco dominated Californian shipping and railroading. The foremost railroad in the state was the Southern Pacific (SP), which ignored San Diego’s request for a rail line. Therefore, civic boosters lead by newspaper publisher Frank Kimball reached out to other railroads, eventually making a deal with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) which was then laying track westward through New Mexico and Arizona. To reach San Diego, the ATSF started building a line under the subsidiary California Southern Railroad (CS) that was intended to reach Barstow to link with the SP line that ran to the Arizona border.
From 1880-1882, the CS line drove northward through coastal swamps and bogs and inland gullies and canyons, requiring numerous trestles and other infrastructure built by Chinese laborers. After years of building and lawsuits with the SP, the line reached Barstow in 1885. That same year, the first transcontinental train reached San Diego. The original route of the CS proved treacherous, as the portion through Temecula Canyon washed out in 1882 within a year of its opening. Although rebuilt, the line was soon replaced by the ATSF’s “Surf Line” which was laid through Orange County to meet the CS at Oceanside in 1888; it allowed a safer coastal link between San Diego and Los Angeles that avoided Temecula Canyon which washed out again in 1891 and was abandoned.
The railroad primarily served inland farmers by providing them with access to new markets. In the early 1880s, Andrew Jackson Myers, a shopkeeper who lived in the small village that had grown up around the mission, applied for a homestead grant and received 160 acres south of the large Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores. Myers quickly subdivided and platted the land and the town of Oceanside was incorporated in 1888. The origin of the settlement’s name is uncertain. At the time, those living inland often went “ocean side” to relax and cool down, but it has also been suggested that early land developers enticed Easterners to California by calling the community “Ocean Side.”
The town grew quickly since it sat at the junction of the Surf Line and the old inland route through Temecula Canyon; within a decade Oceanside claimed three hotels and a pier that attracted vacationers from distant cities. Many visitors arrived by train, and as early as 1884 the ATSF stopped at a simple wooden platform that was soon replaced with an actual depot. A basic one-storey wood structure with a prominent hip-gambrel roof supported by curved brackets, its layout was typical of the period. Gingerbread millwork added a touch of whimsy and the picturesque valued by Victorian designers.
After the initial decade of expansion, growth was slow until the 1920s, which witnessed another land boom in California and much of the nation. A paved highway connected Oceanside to Los Angeles and San Diego and the downtown business district gained a number of new buildings, including a deluxe movie theater. Sewers and street lights improved the quality of life for residents, and optimism about the future resulted in the hiring of well-known California architect Irving Gill who designed a firehouse and a new City Hall. The six miles of sandy beaches attracted visitors such as early movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who might have discovered the town while working in the area since northern San Diego county’s diverse landscapes were used as the backdrop to numerous films.
World War II brought the biggest change to the region since the founding of Oceanside: the creation of Camp Pendleton. In 1942 the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores north of town and established a training camp. Named for Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton, a long-time Marine who long advocated for a major West Coast facility, it was dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in September of that year. To this day, Marines remain a common site in Oceanside, enjoying free time at the movies or the beach.
In tandem with the building of Camp Pendleton, Oceanside received a new depot in 1946 that replaced the earlier Victorian version which was torn down. At a cost of $100,000, the ATSF built a one-storey Art Moderne structure that sprawled along the tracks in the area north of the present Transit Center. The passenger entrance was marked by a segmented arch set within a projecting pavilion with an angular, stepped parapet that featured a panel displaying the town’s name. A marquee protected passengers from the elements. The simplified lines of the white stucco walls were accented at the roofline by tiles in blue and white—the standard colors of the ATSF cross-in-a-circle logo. The station was demolished in 1988 to make way for new development in the area around the Transit Center.
A center for biotechnology and medical technology companies, as well as the manufacture of recreational goods, Oceanside continues to live up to its name as a popular place to lay a towel on the sand and enjoy a day at the beach. The role of the ocean in the lives of area residents can also be explored through exhibits at the California Surf Museum which since 1986 has promoted the history and joy of surfing—a sport which has become synonymous with California.
Those interested in the history of Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps can visit a couple of museums on the base, including one that displays Marine Corps transport and battle vehicles from World War II to the present day. The other museum traces the history of the rancho and the training base. It is set up in the old ranch house that has been lived in by successive ranch owners since the early nineteenth century, and is now the home of the Commanding General. Movie goers might recognize scenes of Oceanside from Top Gun, a 1986 film about a young Naval Aviator. A Victorian cottage on North Pacific Street cast as the home of the aviator’s love interest is still referred to as the “Top Gun” house.
The Oceanside Museum of Art occupies Irving Gill’s City Hall Complex and the neighboring firehouse that he also designed. The institution focuses on the diverse arts of southern California. In 2008, the two structures were connected by a modern central pavilion that greatly increased the museum’s exhibition and visitor services space. Imaginative young architects and designers love nearby Legoland, a 128 acre theme park devoted to the plastic building blocks. It includes rides, shows, interactive displays, and scale Lego models of famous world landmarks.
Mission San Luis Rey attracts visitors throughout the year to its contemplative confines. Falling into great disrepair after the secularization of the mission chain, it was returned to the Franciscan friars by President Abraham Lincoln. Restoration did not begin until 1892 and archaeological and preservation work continues to the present day.
The mission recently hosted Oceanside’s “Dia de los Muertos” festival. It observes the Mexican holiday during which altars are constructed in commemoration of deceased loved ones and decorated with their favorite foods and belongings
The Pacific Surfliner service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM available
- No elevator
- Quik-Trak kiosks
- Ticket sales office
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 45 minutes prior to departure if you're checking baggage or need ticketing/passenger assistance
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure if you're not checking baggage or don't need assistance
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- Checked baggage storage available
- Bike boxes for sale
- Baggage carts available
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping Boxes for sale
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- Accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- Wheelchair available
- Wheelchair lift available
Station Waiting Room Hours
Ticket Office Hours
|Mon||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Tue||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Wed||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Thu||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Fri||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Sat||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
|Sun||06:15 am - 07:45 pm|
Passenger Assistance Hours
Checked Baggage Service
Quik-Track Kiosk Hours
Amtrak Express Hours