Todd's Railfan Guide to
San Francisco CA to San Jose and beyond



Area Stuff:
San Jose Light Rail

Altamont Commuter Express - ACE
Caltrain - This Page
Railfanning around San Francisco

In General

Thanks to Mark C. who rides every day for letting me know that as of May 25th, 2012, Amtrak's contract with CalTrain had expired and has not been renewed.  Service is being taken over by TransitAmerica under contract with CalTrain, in an attempt to control costs.

Note: There are a lot of pictures on this page, please be patient while they load, this is not a modem friendly page if you are still using one :-(

CalTrain is a commuter rail service that originates out of San Francisco and heads south to San Jose, and for some trains, a little further south.  There are 43 northbound and southbound trains a day during the week.  Out of them, 17 SB's and 18NB's service the next stop south, Tamien.  Of those, there are 3 NB's and 2 SB's doing the Gilroy thing.  The trains to and from Gilroy are morning only for NB's to San Francisco, and afternoon only for the two SB's.

Caltrain has 29 regular stops, one football-only stop (Stanford Stadium), and two weekend-only stops (Broadway and Atherton). As of January 2011, Caltrain runs 86 weekday trains (22 Baby Bullet and Limited), 36 Saturday (4 Baby Bullet), and 32 Sunday (4 Baby Bullet). 

From the Caltrain Website: A Caltrain train is almost two stories tall, weighs close to one million pounds, has flashing lights and takes more than a half-mile to stop. Please stay out of its way.

In addition to the 92 weekday, 36 Saturday and 32 Sunday trains, Caltrain also operates extra trains for Giants baseball games and other special events.
Union Pacific Railroad runs freight trains along the Caltrain line. So, you can expect to see a train at any time on any track.

Our tips will provide you with the knowledge you need to stay safe when you are near or need to cross train tracks. If you encounter an emergency on Caltrain or see something suspicious, call the Transit Police at 1.877.SAF-RAIL (1.877.723.7245).

Mileage to San Jose/Diridon is 47.5 miles (76.4km), to Gilroy it's 77.4 miles/124.5km.

The system, for fare purposes, is split into 6 zones.  San Jose is in zone 4.  Below are the fares, current to 12/11/11.

The Hold-Out Rule:  Stations where trains on both tracks are boarded on the same side (requiring some passengers to cross an active track to board) have a "hold-out" rule, prohibiting any train from passing a train that is stopped at the station for passengers. (The rule applies even when the passing train is on the side opposite the platform.)  The rule does not apply to Broadway and Atherton stations on weekdays, when no trains stop there.  Stations where this applies are:
     -- South San Francisco
     -- Broadway
     -- Atherton
     -- Santa Clara
     -- College Park


Passenger service on the peninsula corridor began on Oct. 18, 1863 under the authority of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company.  Prophetically, some $600,000 of the original $2 million capital stock issue was owned by the voters of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties following a three-county election in 1861.

In 1870, the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company was acquired by the firm that was consolidated eventually into the Southern Pacific Railway. S.P. double-tracked the line in 1904, and operated passenger service in the corridor successfully until after World War II.

Changing commute patterns impacted Southern Pacific along with private carriers all over the country, and after protracted struggles with the state Public Utilities Commission on fares and service levels, SP petitioned to abandon passenger service in 1977.

Once more, the three Peninsula counties stepped into the breach with a temporary Fare Stabilization Plan -- partially subsidizing commuter tickets -- that reversed a long pattern of declining ridership and set the stage for state sponsorship of the Peninsula Commute in 1980.

From 1980 until mid-year 1992, Caltrans contracted with SP to provide passenger service in the corridor, sharing operating subsidies with San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.  The state assumed sole responsibility for station acquisitions and other capital improvements until the service resulted in formation of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board in 1987.  The JPB agreed to assume operating responsibilities for Caltrain effective July 1, 1992, and to shoulder 100 percent of the operating subsidy a year later.

In December 1991, the JPB purchased the rail right of way from San Francisco to San Jose.  The JPB secured trackage rights to Gilroy for another $4 million, with an option to acquire half the right of way in the future. SP retains rights to operate freight service in the corridor.

To replace SP as the commute operator, the JPB signed Amtrak, the national rail corporation, to a three-year agreement with two one-year options beginning July 1, 1992.  The contract was extended through September 2001.  Contract oversight is provided by the Joint Powers Board.  The JPB signed a new contract with Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, on November 1st, 2001.  This contract agreement will be effective for a five-year term.

As its legacy to the JPB, Caltrans has deeded 26 stations, 20 diesel locomotives and 73 bi-level passenger cars to the local agency.

As of May 25th, 2012, Amtrak's contract with CalTrain had expired and has not been renewed.  Service is being taken over by TransitAmerica.

The above is from the CalTrain website.




San Francisco

Above is the San Francisco CalTrain station.  Photo by Coolcaesar, taken 10/25/2008, from Wikipedia.

22nd Street


South San Francisco

San Bruno

Millbrae Transit Center

SB Train entering the Millbrae station.  Photo by Blimpaccident off youtube :-)

Broadway (weekends only)


San Mateo

Hayward Park



San Carlos

Redwood City

Atherton (Weekends only)

Menlo Park

The oldest railroad station still standing in California is this one here in Menlo Park.

These pictures are courtesy Marcel Marchon, who has allowed me to use them here.  Marcel has a lot more cool stuff and videos at: http://trainblog.com/tags/caltrain/ , with the homepage at: http://trainblog.com/


Palo Alto

Stanford (Games only)

California Ave

San Antonio

Taken from the ramp to the pedestrian underpass at the San Antonio station.  Pictures are courtesy Marcel Marchon


Mountain View

Two pictures showing approach lit signals at the Castro St crossing in Mountain View.  Pictures are courtesy Marcel Marchon




Santa Clara

The following pictures were found at: http://www.ssloan.net/trains/caltrain/index.html.  All pictures by Steve Sloan. 
He has many, many more pictures at: http://www.ssloan.net/trains/toc.html

College Park

San Jose Diridon



Blossom Hill

Morgan Hill

San Martin


Not sure where this is and who took it :-(


web statistics


New 12/10/2011
last Modified: 15 Feb 2015