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Trip Report

OTOL Northern California RailFest 2007

July 13-24, 2007
Section 5 of 8


Photos by Alan Burden, Lynn Hammond,
Kevin Korell, Jishnu Mukerji, and Steve Weagant.

Click small photos to see larger

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Chapter 7.19: Muni F-Market & Wharves, Fisherman's Wharf to various points

After dinner we walked back to the streetcar turnaround, and boarded the next car that would be leaving. It was already 9:00 PM, much, much later than I thought we would still be at the Wharf. When we got to the Embarcadero station at about 9:15, nine of us got off. Grace and Alan remained on board so they could travel along Market Street to a station closer to their hotel.

Chapter 7.20: End of Wednesday's travels

Lou, Jishnu, Michael, and I took BART towards the airport and then vans to our respective hotels. It was by now a long, but mundane trip, but our night ended a lot earlier than everyone else's.

This was the evening that the Hammonds would be picking up the rental car at Oakland International Airport. Since HaRRy and Eric had already missed the last ferry, they went along with Lynn, Mike, and Steve on BART to the Coliseum/Airport station, and then they all rode the AirBART shuttle to the airport. Once they had the rental car, Lynn drove HaRRy and Eric back to their respective hotels in Oakland and then she, Mike, and Steve went back to their hotel in Walnut Creek.

Chapter 8: Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday was our transition day, during which we would permanently leave the Bay Area and end up in Sacramento. In between we would ride the commuter rail lines of two agencies and the entire light rail network in San Jose.

Chapter 8.0: Alternate plans

The official fest activity was for the group of 13 to ride CalTrain's entire route from San Francisco to San Jose, and to do so on a Baby Bullet train. However, plans changed, mainly due to our decision to have Lynn pickup our luggage in San Jose.

Skip, Eric, and HaRRy opted to take an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train (723) directly from Jack London Square in Oakland to San Jose. This way they did not have to lug their baggage on the ferry or the commuter train, or the light rail trip within San Francisco between the two.

Steve, Lynn, and Mike, with the rental vehicle at their disposal, elected to drive together down the freeway to San Jose. Jishnu decided to sleep later, and take a CalTrain directly from Millbrae to San Jose. He ended up on a local train rather than the Fest train. John took a CalTrain from South San Francisco to San Jose, also a local train. Lou was delayed in getting to the San Francisco CalTrain Station, so he missed our departure and took a later trip.

In short, everyone knew the way to San Jose, but we got there by various means!

Chapter 8.1: Meeting at San Francisco CalTrain Station

Michael and I took our hotel shuttle for one last time to the airport, and then BART to downtown San Francisco. We changed to Muni at the Civic Center station, figuring we would have a better chance of finding seats than if we had boarded at Embarcadero. We then took an N-Judah car directly to its endpoint at the CalTrain station. We were the first to arrive at the station.

Out of the 13 people travelling to San Jose, we ended up with just four on the CalTrain Baby Bullet. Alan and Grace were on their way to CalTrain on the light rail. When Alan called me, they were also concerned with missing our train, so I prepurchased their tickets for them to save them some time. Luckily, they were also on an N-Judah car, so they did not have far to walk. (The T-Third stops around the corner, so it is a longer walk to the train station.) They ended up making it with plenty of time to catch our train.

Chapter 8.2: CalTrain "Baby Bullet", Train #324, San Francisco, CA to San Jose, CA

CalTrain Baby Bullet prepares to depart from San Francisco. CalTrain uses its fleet of bilevels (of the GO Transit, ACE, and Sounder variety) on the Baby Bullets, rather than the gallery cars. The four of us sat on the lower level for what was supposed to be a 59-minute trip.

Our train left on time at 8:14 AM. It was a very smooth ride, as we made a limited number of station stops. However, our flawless trip was partially negated by some signal problems approaching San Jose Diridon station. We ended up arriving at 9:19 AM, six minutes late.

Chapter 8.3: Meeting at San Jose Diridon Station

When we got off the train, and negotiated the underpass into the station, most of our group was already there. Our Oakland contingent had already arrived on Amtrak 723, and our Walnut Creek team had arrived in the rental vehicle. John and Jishnu were also there already, as their CalTrain trips arrived before ours did. Twelve of us were accounted for; we were only missing Lou, who was aboard a later CalTrain about half an hour behind us.

Our well planned luggage transfer took place here. Everyone helped Lynn get their baggage into the vehicle. Again we were missing Lou, but he had previously opted out of this arrangement, as he originally planned to return to the Bay Area after Sacramento.

Lynn and Grace would take some leisure time, taking advantage of the rental car, while we were railfanning in San Jose. They visited some Napa Valley vineyards.

Diridon Station on VTA light rail’s Vasona Line.  Note CalTrain gallery car in yard at left. The other ten of us headed out on our Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail excursion throughout Santa Clara County. We went to the Diridon Station light rail station, and purchased our Day Passes.

Chapter 8.4: VTA Mountain View-Winchester Line, Diridon Station to Winchester

Right on schedule, we departed from Diridon Station at 9:52 AM headed for Winchester. We were travelling on VTA's newest segment first, the Vasona Line. This 5.3-mile section of the system opened in October of 2005.

VTA car 900 brings our group to the Winchester station. We arrived at the Winchester station in the town of Campbell, CA at 10:03, again right on time. We had a 17-minute layover here during which we stepped off our light rail vehicle to enjoy the sun. We then reboarded to return to the air conditioned car and prepare for our northward run back to San Jose.

Chapter 8.5: VTA Mountain View-Winchester Line, Winchester to Convention Center

At 10:20 AM it was time to backtrack as we headed towards where we had come from. On this trip we did have a small issue with some signals, and we were ultimately delayed by two minutes. When we stopped at Diridon Station, we were up to eleven people once more, as Lou had finally arrived in San Jose and would be able to join us, at least for a little while.

VTA has an interesting way of promoting use of rapid transit. We continued to the Convention Center stop in downtown San Jose, which is just past where the Vasona and Guadelupe Lines diverge. When we detrained at 10:40 AM, we were two minutes down. However, right across the island platform was a train to Santa Teresa, our next destination. So we all hustled across and boarded within a minutes' time.

Chapter 8.6: VTA Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line, Convention Center to Santa Teresa

When we left Convention Center at 10:41, we were now 13 minutes ahead of our itinerary. With the lucky break at that last station, we were one train ahead of the one the itinerary called for.

It was a smooth ride down the Guadelupe Line to Santa Teresa. Most of the route was in freeway medians. We got to Santa Teresa at 11:03 AM. Here, we were able to run onto another train that was preparing to leave across the platform, resulting in another close call. Our total time at Santa Teresa: three minutes.

Chapter 8.7: VTA Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line, Santa Teresa to Ohlone/Chynoweth

Leaving Santa Teresa at 11:06 AM, we were 15 minutes ahead of our plans. On our nine minute ride in the direction of Alum Rock, we backtracked the trip we had just previously taken.

This brought us to the Ohlone/Chynoweth station. The significance of this station is that it is the junction point between the Guadelupe Line and another line that was originally to head due south of the city. However the bust of the dot-com businesses nixed those plans and the line ended up being just a short spur.

While we waited for the spur train, HaRRy's comment gave us a good chuckle. When he saw somebody driving a golf cart in a nearby parking lot, he said, "Here comes the Shuttle".

Chapter 8.8: VTA Ohlone/Chynoweth-Almaden Line, Ohlone/Chynoweth to Almaden

Shuttle train arrives at Ohlone/Chynoweth station to bring us to Almaden. The real shuttle came in a few minutes, and after a total five minutes since we had detrained from the mainline train, we were on our way at 11:20 AM. The journey from Ohlone/Chynoweth to the Almaden endpoint is just four minutes, but there is one important intermediate station stop that is probably what justifies this line's continued existence. The Oakridge stop is adjacent to the Westfield Shoppingtown Oakridge Mall.

At 11:24 AM we arrived at Almaden. The layover here by the timetable is scheduled for six minutes. However, Lou had other plans. Apparently he did not feel well and asked our operator if he could use the crew facilities. The operator was gracious to Lou's request, and we waited for him to finish whatever it was that he had to do.

Chapter 8.9: VTA Ohlone/Chynoweth-Almaden Line, Almaden to Ohlone/Chynoweth

Our departure from Almaden was at 11:37 AM, after what had turned into a 13 minute layover, putting the entire line out of kilter with the rest of the system. We were, however, still 16 minutes ahead of the fest itinerary.

It was another four minute trip to Ohlone/Chynoweth, where we got off at 11:41 AM.

Chapter 8.10: VTA Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line, Ohlone/Chynoweth to Great Mall

After just four minutes on the platform, an Alum Rock-bound train arrived and we boarded it. This would be our ride to lunch, but it would take us through the original spine of the system right through downtown San Jose and up the middle of First Street.

By the time we had reached the Tasman station, the end of the Guadalupe Line, we could see all of the industries that told us we were in the Silicon Valley.

After the Tasman station, we came to a "T" intersection, very reminiscent to the one in Jersey City, NJ on Hudson-Bergen LRT. Trains that turn left toward Mountain View run on what is called the Tasman West Line. Trains headed for Alum Rock, well southeast of here, make a right onto the Tasman East Line, which eventually becomes the Capitol Line. The Tasman East/Capitol combination essentially doubles back so that it serves points east of downtown San Jose.

We took the track to the right, and entered the town of Milpitas. After going just a few stops, we arrived at our lunchtime destination, the Great Mall of the Bay Area.

There was some confusion at the station, as some took the elevator down to street level, while those of us who took the stairs went only as far as an intermediate level that led to a foot bridge over some freight railroad tracks right into the mall parking lot. We waved to guys in the glass sided elevator as they went by on their way down, and then we welcomed them as they returned to our level. Once again together, the eleven of us walked over to the mall.

Chapter 8.11: Lunch at Great Mall of the Bay Area

The big feature of our trip to this mall was an unscheduled healthy walk. You see, when doing my homework before the fest, looking at this map I envisioned us approaching the mall from the west. However, the way this map is oriented, either we approached from the north, or the map is sideways. We walked a quarter of the way around the mall counter-clockwise, from roughly the area near the SportMart (now Sports Authority) to entry #2. If anything, it increased our appetites. Also, I had thankfully made this a longer stop when I decided to have us take ACE Train #8 rather than #6. Our walk, therefore, was nothing but beneficial!

We had a nice relaxing lunch in the mall's food court. After we were done, we agreed that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so we walked through the SportMart and directly across the parking lot to the light rail station.

Chapter 8.12: VTA Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line, Great Mall to Alum Rock

Now back on the Great Mall station platform, we awaited our next train. We would complete our trip on the VTA's Capitol Line to Alum Rock.

Our train was two minutes late when we departed at 2:07 PM. We were on our third Alum Rock-bound vehicle, and that was finally our destination too. After a 15-minute ride, we got to Alum Rock, having ridden all of the system except for the Tasman West Line.

OTOL group at Alum Rock station in East San Jose. We had a scheduled 13-minute layover here. We had seen earlier how gracious the VTA employees had been when Lou didn't feel well, and here our operator apparently read our status as railfans. As we sat on board keeping out of the sun, the driver gave us an impromptu little talk about the VTA, answering any questions we had about the system.

Chapter 8.13: VTA Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line, Alum Rock to Tasman

We left from Alum Rock a minute behind schedule, at 2:34 PM. We retraced our previous trip back into Santa Clara. We got off at the Tasman station right on time at 2:57.

We would be changing trains at the island platform. Our connecting train would be along in six minutes according to the timetable.

Chapter 8.14: VTA Mountain View-Winchester Line, Tasman to Mountain View

Six minutes turned into eight, as we finally departed from Tasman at 3:05 PM.

We found the Tasman West Line to be interesting. Along this route we passed the California's Great America amusement park, as well as one major Silicon Valley corporation after another.

Mountain View VTA station.  CalTrain tracks are to the left. We were right on schedule as we arrived at the Mountain View station at 3:34 PM, thus officially conquering this system. The VTA station here is adjacent to the CalTrain station. My original plans called for us to take a short CalTrain ride from here back to San Jose's Diridon Station. However, since we still had use of our VTA Day Passes, and also since the light rail runs on one-way streets through downtown thus a change of scenery for us, I instead changed the itinerary to have us take the light rail back.

A San Jose-bound CalTrain as seen from VTA platform in Mountain View. Lou was still not feeling well. He elected to leave the group here, catch a CalTrain to Millbrae, and eventually return to his hotel in Burlingame near the airport. By doing so, he was also bowing out of the ACE and San Joaquin trips, and the festivities in Sacramento. (We never saw him again until November in Boston!)

Continued in next section

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