Amtrak Capitols Route Guide
Along the Way
The Route Guide
For The Capitols
have played a significant role in California's transportation
system since 1855, when the Sacramento and Folsom. Soon thereafter,
rival rail lines extended up and down the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Valley and into the Sierra foothills, making the critical connection
between miners, farmers, and factories.
Today, the exciting Capitol route
trains and Thruway motorcoaches connect five of California's historic
capitals: Monterey, San Jose, Benicia (via Martinez), Vallejo,
and Sacramento. This busy corridor is still one of the most important
transportation routes in the State. In 1991, Amtrak and Caltrans teamed
up to reintroduce modern passenger rail service between Sacramento
and San Jose.
This guide highlights some of the
major attractions and points of interest along the route. It is
written from east to west from Colfax to Oakland, and north to
south from Oakland to San Jose. If you are traveling in the opposite
direction, remember to look to the left if we have indicated right,
and to the right if we have indicated left!
Named after Schuyler Colfax, who served as vice president
under President Ulysses S.Grant, this city remains a nostalgic
reminder of California's rustic Gold Rush past. Today a small
museum is operated in a "little red caboose" downtown.
Travelers may shop at stores on Main Street operating out of hundred-year-old
buildings as well as the old Fruit Exchange buildings on Railroad
Street. Nearby, the famous Donner Trail follows Bear River toward
the valley below.
Gold was discovered near Auburn in
Claude Chana on May 16, 1848, and it soon became an important
mining town, trading post and stage terminal. Auburn has served
as Placer County seat since 1851. There are many historic sites
in Old Auburn, including the Red Firehouse (circa 1891), the first
permanent post office which is still in use, Union Bar, the County
Courthouse, and a 45 ton statue of Chana.
The Central Pacific Railroad reached
Rocklin in 1864 and the town's population boomed. It was the site
of the railroad's first roundhouse and the point where Sierra
bound trains were divided into two segments in order to make the
tough grade over the summit. It also was the shipping point for
cattle, sheep and agricultural products. Rocklin got its name
from the area's extensive granite quarries.
Roseville is truly a railroad town.
Originally called "Junction" because it was established
at the juncton of the Central Pacific, Southern Pacific and California
Central Railroads, it is still the fourth largest freight yard
west of the Mississippi River.
If you are traveling with us between
June and October, You'll notice the golden brown grasses on the
hillside. This is often referred to as the true gold of "Golden"
Situated on the Sacramento River,
the city has long been a hub of California's transportation network.
Originally, stagecoaches met incoming steamboat passengers and
took them up to the mountains and mines.
The Sacramento Amtrak Station was
completed February 27, 1925 (Steve's note: This doesn't mean that Amtrak existed
in 1925! Amtrak could have worded that better by referring to the station as "what is now
the Sacramento Amtrak Station".). On the east wall of the waiting room
is a famous mural of Governor Leland Stanford breaking ground
for the Central Pacific Railroad in 1865.
Sacramento is your connection point
for Amtrak Thruway motorcoaches to Reno, Nevada City, Lake Tahoe
Within walking distance of the Sacramento
Amtrak Station, the Capitols pass behind the State Railroad Museum
and Old Sacramento State Historic Park. A faithful reconstruction
of the original Central Pacific Passenger Station is located here
Between the Sacramento River and
the town of Davis, the train travels on narrow levees and trestles
across what is know as the Yolo Bypass. Built in the 1920's,
the bypass is formed by three gate-like structures along the Sacramento
River. The southernmost gate floods the Yolo Basin, an area 43
miles long and three miles wide. In the summer the basin is spread
with row crops or grazing cattle. In winter, the train appears
to be passing over a large inland lake.
The Davis train station, built in
1913 in the famous Mission Revival style, is an historical landmark.
Nicknamed "The Bicycle Capital of the World", this university
city has 57 miles of bikepaths for its estimated 45,000 bicycles.
The University of California, Davis,
visible to the right on the west end of town, was established
in the early 1900's. Its specialties are agriculture and veterinary
and human medicine.
The well-tended agricultural fields
seen west of town on both sides of the tracks are part of the
University's agricultural sciences complex.
Suisun is an Indian word meaning
"west winds", appropriate for the gusty area of the
The Suisun/Fairfield station was
renovated to reflect its turn of the century appearance. Located
just a few short blocks south of the station on Main Street is
Suisun's waterfront, with a municipal dock, fishing and other
facilities. For the collector, numerous antique shops can be found
in the same area.
Fairfield, north of the station,
is the seat of Solano County government. Farmers in this area
work not only to make their crops profitable, but also to make
their fields attractive to wildlife. Ducks, pheasants, kildeer,
meadow larks, doves, and egrets inhabit these areas and may be
seen from the train. Tracks of deer, bobcat, and even a solitary
black bear have been recorded along Putah Creek west of Davis.
A common bird of prey of agricultural
lands is the American kestrel or sparrow hawk. Look for their
pointed blue-grey wings, reddish tail, and two black bars on the
The Suisun Marsh is the largest remaining
estuarine wetland area in the continental U.S. It consists of
50,000 acres of diked, managed wetlands; 5,500 acres of tidal marshes; and
30,000 acres of bays and sloughs. The Marsh is particularly rich
in salinity, nutrients and wildlife.
The Marsh provides habitat for the
endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, as well as populations of
river otters and tule elk. During the winter months, the marsh
supports as many as 250,000 birds. From the train you are likely
to see Canadian and tule geese, white pelicans, northern harriers,
and great blue herons.
Prominent in Suisun Bay, adjacent
to the marsh, is the "Mothball fleet," retired World
War II vintage US Navy ships. The ships are stored here because
of the low salinity of the water which prevents the accumulation
of barnacles on the ship hulls.
At 5,603 feet long, the Martinez-Benicia
Bridge is the longest and heaviest double track railroad bridge
west of the Mississippi. It stands 70 feet above the water on
10 main and 22 pedestal piers. The bridge contains 22,000 tons
of steel, 105,000 cubic yards of concrete, and requires 20,000
gallons of paint for three coats.
Martinez was the residence of famed
naturalist John Muir from 1890 to 1914. Many of his writings were
penned in the "scribble den" of his house which is open
daily to visitors and is easily reached by local transit. The
town of Martinez boasts many antique stores within blocks of the
Martinez is your connection point
for Amtrak Thruway motorcoaches to such popular destinations as
Marine World Africa USA, the Napa Valley Wine Train and Sonoma
The town of Port Costa can be glimpsed
on thee left just before reaching the Carquinez Bridge. Port Costa
was once a terminal for immense ferry boats which held up to 48
railroad cars and one locomotive per voyage!
These two bridges are among the longest
of their type in the world. The Bridge's original cantilever span
was built in 1927-1928; the second span was added in the 1950's.
Between the Carquinez Bridge and
Richmond the train passes through Tunnel Number 1, which is 604
Richmond is your connecting point
to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), which serves San
Francisco and the East Bay area.
Richmond's deep water port and rail
connections provide excellent shipping terminals for oil refineries
and coal exporting.
The old Berkely station building
is a restaurant, while the new stop is a passenger shelter under
the freeway. You can leave the train here, walk a few steps and
board transit buses to the UC Berkeley campus and downtown areas.
The Berkeley Marina and recreation pier are within walking distance
of the station, as is the Fourth Street Shopping District, a group
of factory outlets which promises a unique experience!
South of Berkeley, to the right of
the train, is Aquatic Park, a lake between that tracks and Interstate
80. It is both a waterfowl refuge and a recreation area.
The University of California Berkeley
(UCB) campus was established in 1873 with an enrollment of 191
students. UCB grew with the rapidly expanding population of California
and responded to the state's educational needs. Today, enrollment
is 21,738 undergraduates, and the University maintains the progress,
free exchange of views and rich diversity that have defined Berkeley.
Passengers traveling to San Francisco
can leave the train at the Emeryville Station to cross the Bay
Bridge on connecting motorcoaches. Once the largest meat-packing
center on the West Coast, today Emeryville boasts of its retail
and biotech businesses. Take the pedestrian walkway over the tracks
to the Public Market, or walk a few blocks to the Powell Street
Between Emeryville and Oakland, the
trains pass through the West Oakland storage yard where Amtrak
trains are serviced and supplied.
Amtrak motorcoach connections from
Emeryville Station make four stops in San Francisco: The Ferry
Building, where a full service ticket office is available; Pier
39 near Fisherman's Wharf; San Francisco Shopping Center on the
Market Street across from Powell Street cable cars; and Hyatt
Regency Hotel at Drumm and California Streets within walking distance
of most Financial District offices.
The Port of Oakland, one of the largest
containerized freight shipping ports on the West Coast, is visible
on the right side of the train.
Oakland is California's sixth largest
city. Hundreds of years ago "Oak-Land" was composed
of rolling hills dotted with oak trees. The Spaniards used to
call it Encinal or oak grove.
Oakland's Jack London Square Amtrak
Station opened in 1995. The station honors the vice president
and founder of the Sleeping Car Porter's Union, C.L. Dellums.
Popular Jack London Square is located
across the tracks from the Oakland Amtrak Station. The square
is named after author Jack London and houses many interesting
shops, restaurants, Hotels, plus a Jack London Museum.
The Jack London Square area offers
easy access to ferry and bus systems. The Oakland Museum, with
fascinating exhibits on the art, natural history and history of
California, can be reached from the station via AC Transit.
Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum
The Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum,
home of the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors, is
visible to the right as the train leaves Oakland. (Steve's note: The Golden State
Warriors, a basketball team, do not play at the Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum, a
football/baseball stadium. The Warriors actually play at the San Jose Arena, mentioned
later in this route guide.)
Hayward has a rich academic and cultural
life, with both California State University and Chabot Community
College located in the city. Capitol service to Hayward began
The community of Niles, part of the
city of Fremont, is marked by the word "Niles" on the
hillside to the left above the train. The Niles Depot, built in
1904, is now a local railroad museum featuring a large model railroad
layout. It is open the first weekend of each month.
The Canyon was a popular filming
location for westerns in the early days of movies. The best known
film made in the canyon was The Tramp starring Charlie Chaplin.
Creek Quarries Regional Recreation Area
The entrance to Fremont is marked
by the green hills of Alameda Creek Quarries Regional Recreation
Area. This twelve mile linear park follows Aalameda Creek from
Niles Canyon to the San Francisco Bay. It is popular with hikers,
joggers, bicyclists and horseback riders.
Fremont was formed when the five
districts of Mission San Jose, Centerville, Niles, Irvington and
Warm Springs merged in 1956. The Amtrak Station is located in
the Centerville District. The town is named after John C. Fremont,
western explorer of the 1840s and first Republican Presidential
candidate in 1856 (he lost).
Leaving Fremont, the Capitols pass
out into the salt marsh fringes of San Francisco Bay. On the edge
of the marsh is the Leslie Salt factory;10,000 acres of salt pond
are visible on both sides of the tracks. The factory and large
piles of white salt are seen on the right.
Francisco Bay Natural Wildlife Refuge
Passing the salt factory and light
industry area, the train enters the San Francisco Bay National
Wildlife Refuge. It is the largest urban refuge in the country.
A visitor center, naturalist programs, hiking, and fishing are
available here. The San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
provides food and shelter for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds,
and seabirds every year. As many as half the birds migrating between
the Arctic and Baja spend the winter on or near the refuge. The
refuge, along with the entire Bay-Delta system, hosts on average
600,000-800,000 water birds at a time.
In the midst of the Wildlife Refuge
are the remains of Drawbridge, once a bustling port community.
Founded in 1876 as a station stop on the old South Pacific Coast
Railroad, the village boasted several hotels and cabins. It was
a unique place to live, since it was accessible only by train
or boat. Unfortunately in the 1920's most of the buildings in
Drawbridge began to sink due to severe problems with the aquifer
system beneath the town.
To reach the Great American theme
park from the Santa Clara station, walk to the right under the
overpass to Tasman Drive. Cross Tasman and walk through the parking
lot to the gates.
San Jose is the final train stop
on the Capitol route, and your connection point to Amtrak Thruway
motorcoaches for Santa Cruz, Monterey, Soledad, San Luis Obispo,
Solvang and Santa Barbara.
The San Jose station was completed
in January 1936, and is now used by Amtrak's Coast Starlight,
Caltrain, and Amtrak California's Capitols. The building is constructed
in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. A large mural inside
depicts the colonization for the Santa Clara Valley c.1936.
The San Jose Arena is adjacent to
the station. Also convenient to the San Jose Amtrak Station are
the Egyptian Museum, the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum
and the City's Convention Center.
your train look as if it's going "backwards"?
That's because in the western direction,
the locomotive is at the rear of the train, pushing rather than
pulling. In this direction, the locomotive engineer controls the
train reaches its destination, the engineer returns to the locomotive,
which now pulls the train. Operating in this push-pull mode saves
lots of time for the return trip.
How does the locomotive
engineer know the location of other trains before he sees them?
The Centralized Traffic Control (CTC)
system and Automatic Block System (ABS) allow the dispatcher to
control hundreds of miles of train traffic from one remote location.
The engineer and crew communicate with the train dispatcher by
What Do the signals mean?
Signals on the railroad are similar
to highway or road traffic signals. The position of the red or
yellow light tells the engineer whether he should stop, slow down,
or move onto a sliding because of an approaching train. A green
light indicates all is clear ahead.
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