• San Francisco Train Adventure

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by MetraRy
Part 1
I decided to get some great train riding time in while recently visiting San Francisco. My first train ride of the trip was on Caltrain. I boarded at the Sunnyvale stop which is located in zone 3. I purchased a day pass from Sunnyvale to San Francisco from a ticket agent . Caltrain, a couple of years ago switched to a proof of payment system which requires passengers to purchase tickets from vending machines located along platforms, and validate 10 ride tickets by swiping them threw special machines located along the platforms. Sunnyvale is unique in that it still retains a ticket agent. Sunnyvale is a new station and it is built as part of a 4 story commuter parking complex. It is very modern and in my opinion quite ugly. After purchasing my day pass I cross over to the inbound side. While waiting for my train a Baby Bullet train set pulls in on the outbound track. The train is 4 cars and is lead by engine 924. This train however stops as it is running a local train schedule.
The bullet barley clears the platform as my train pulls in. It is made up of 5 gallery cars. I board the car closest to the locomotive and settle down for the ride to the city. Caltrain’s gallery cars seats all face the vestibule and you are unable to turn them. The seats have high backs, cup holders, and arm rest. The car provide to be extremely bumpy and rather uncomfortable. I noticed at this time that Caltrain is really updating the route and stations along the way. In fact I saw very few stations untouched. All are very clean and up kept. Caltrain deserves a well down for that. Caltrain is also working to remove center platforms from stations and construct 2 new side platforms to eliminate the hold out rule. We arrive in San Francisco 5 minutes early and I disembark and walk to the head house. Which is very bright and clean. I decide at this time to meet some family at fisherman’s Warf.
I locate the Muni light rail line next to the station and purchase a ticket and follow the signs that say f-line to fisherman’s Warf. 2 outbounds pull in and one comes back. I board the first car of the 4 car light rail vehicle. I am enjoying my ride as we speed down the center of the road that goes to the Warf.
All of the sudden I notice that we are no longer following the road but going into a tunnel. I realize that I am on the wrong train and I run off it at the first stop in the subway. Dumbfounded I what for the next out bound to the first stop out of the subway. 3 trains come, but they only go as far as Embarcadero, the station that I am at. Finally a train destined for the aboveground world approaches. I once again board the first car. I get of at the next stop and call my uncle for directions. He tells me to walk down the bay a little way to I see a historic street car line and that will take me to the Warf. I find it and board car number 1814 for a quite ride to my destination. I ask the motorman how I could have possibly gotten lost. He then told me while signs, stations, and track were in place that part of the f-line is not opened yet and currently only subway light rail trains serve the station.
My trip home was much easier as I got a ride to the caltrain station. Once there I board the 5 car baby bullet train for a super express ride to mountain view. Boy, these trains are packed. Caltrain sure gots a good thing going. I was there fifteen minutes before departure and there was only a couple of seats left on the whole train. The tri levels are very comfortable and the seat I was seating at had a table that came in handy. My trip ended at Mountain View a popular station that has recently been redone in a old style. It is very nice.

  by MetraRy
Part 2
I just could not get enough of Caltrain so I decided to do it again. My family decided also to go to Fisherman’s Warf again so I had a perfect opportunity . I once again boarded at Sunnyvale. This time I rode in the Cab Car. I noticed the when a train pulls into a station the gates , if there are any ahead of the train, raise. When the train starts moving again, after blowing the horn, the gates lower. Unfortunately the system does not work the way I think the creators wanted it to because numerous times the gates didn’t go down till the first car was already threw the crossing. Pretty dangerous and stupid if you ask me. We arrive in San Francisco 5 minutes early and we pass a Gallery and tri level hooked up to each other. It was a strange sight. Unfortunately I did not have my camera available at the time. I get off and, this time, walk right to the F-line station across from the ferry terminal. After 30 minutes of waiting , I once again board the same car as before. The car expresses to the Warf because it was jammed packed. I get to the Warf in 7 minutes.
Once there my family decides they want to go on a cable car ride and being that it is steel wheels on steel rails I decided to join them. Even the cable cars are operated by Muni, tickets for this system are not transferable between the busses, light rail, and trolley cars. A one way ticket, no matter how far you go cost 6 dollars for adults. The ride was well worth it. I hung off the side both ways and was in the very front. It was a exciting experience and something I would do again in a heartbeat. The operator was really nice and even let a guy operate it for awhile, much to the screams of the other people on the car.
After the ride, I got another lift to the Caltrain Station. I missed the last bullet by a minute and was forced to wait for a limited that left at 6:37p.m. The ride to Mountain View proved to be uneventful. This ride was the first time I saw tickets checked. I laughed to myself as about 10 people in my car had no tickets. The conduct left them all off with a warning. I guess this proves that Caltrain’s POP system is not what it is cracked up to be.
The next day my family decides to go to Roaring Camp. Two tourist lines in Fulton, California. One line is narrow gauge and operates through red wood forest and up mountains. This line is still operated using steam power. We decided to take the other line which is standered gauge. This line goes to the Santa Cruz board walk, a popular tourist spot. The train consisted on a diesel, two coaches, and 2 converted flatcars. The 3 hour round trip was very interested and include a long tunnel, a lot of street running threw Santa Cruz, grade crossings over numerous highways, a reverse move, and a trip down a active Union Pacific freight line. The train pulls up right on the board walk and is quite interesting. We then caught the next train back which left in after a hour.
I spent my last day in California video tapping afternoon rush hour at the Sunnyvale station. I captured 12 trains in a hour time span.

  by Alloy
Hi Metra--
The standard gauge tourist train at Felton is the one I took, years ago. What I remember is that it had already left the station, and we had just missed it. It was coming toward us, so my girlfriend started waving, and it stopped and let us on! I really enjoyed that ride--we were in the open cars.

Another great train trip in the Bay area is the trip over Donner Pass, in the Sierra Nevada. You can catch the Coast Starlight at Emeryville or Oakland, across the bay from SF. I usually go up to Truckee or Reno, and then back again.

  by David Benton
Thanks for the trip report , Metra , very interesting .

I think the train over the donners pass would be the califionia Zephyr .

  by Alloy
You're right, it is the Zephyr.