A Southbound train at Palo Alto in 2014.

(DF4D-0070, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Caltrain logo, red, white and black.


Caltrain (reporting mark JPBX) is a California commuter rail line serving the San Francisco Peninsula and Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley). The southern terminus is in San Jose at Tamien station with weekday rush hour service running as far as Gilroy. The northern terminus of the line is in San Francisco at 4th and King Street. Caltrain has 28 regular stops, one limited-service weekday-only stop (College Park), one weekend-only stop (Broadway), and one football-only stop (Stanford). While average weekday ridership in 2019 exceeded 63,000, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been significant: in August 2022, Caltrain had an average weekday ridership of 18,600 passengers.

Caltrain is governed by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) which consists of agencies from the three counties served by Caltrain: Santa Clara, San Francisco, and San Mateo. Each member agency has three representatives on a nine-member Board of Directors. The member agencies are the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans).

Historically served by diesel locomotives, Caltrain is electrifying 51 miles (82 km) of its route between 4th and King and Tamien; diesel trains will remain in service for trains to Gilroy.


A Southern Pacific locomotive pulls a Peninsula Commute train past Bayshore in April 1985.

(Drew Jacksich, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Southern Pacific service
Main article: Peninsula Commute (Coming Soon)

The original commuter railroad was built in 1863 under the authority of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad; it was purchased by Southern Pacific (SP) in 1870.

SP double-tracked the line in 1904 and rerouted it via the Bayshore Cutoff. After 1945, ridership declined with the rise in automobile use; in 1977 SP petitioned the state Public Utilities Commission to discontinue the commuter operation because of ongoing losses. California legislators wrote Assembly Bill 1853 in 1977 to allow local transit districts along the line to make bulk purchases of tickets for resale at a loss, subsidizing commuters reliant on the Peninsula Commute until 1980; more importantly, the bill also authorized the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to begin negotiating with SP to operate the passenger rail service and acquire the right-of-way between San Bruno and Daly City.

To preserve the commuter service, in 1980 Caltrans contracted with SP and began to subsidize the Peninsula Commute. Caltrans purchased new locomotives and rolling stock, replacing SP equipment in 1985. Caltrans also upgraded stations, added shuttle buses to nearby employers, and dubbed the operation CalTrain.


A Caltrain car manufactured by Nippon Sharyo.

(Yuko Honda, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Joint Powers Board

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board was formed in 1987 to manage the line. Subsequently, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties commissioned Earth Metrics, Inc., to prepare an Environmental Impact Report on right-of-way acquisition and expansion of operations. With state and local funding, the PCJPB bought the railroad right of way between San Francisco and San Jose from SP in 1991. As SamTrans advanced most of the local fund used to purchased the right-of-way, it was also agreed that SamTrans would serve as the managing agency until San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties could repay their portions. The following year, PCJPB took responsibility for CalTrain operations and selected Amtrak as the contract operator. PCJPB extended the CalTrain service from San Jose to Gilroy, connecting to VTA light rail at Tamien station in San Jose.

In July 1995, CalTrain became accessible to passengers with wheelchairs. Five months later, CalTrain increased the bicycle limit to 24 per train, making the service attractive to commuters in bicycle-friendly cities such as San Francisco and Palo Alto.

In July 1997, the current logo was adopted, and the official name became Caltrain, dropping the capitalized “T”.

In 1998, the San Francisco Municipal Railway extended the N Judah line from Market Street to the San Francisco Caltrain Station at 4th and King streets, providing a direct connection between Caltrain and the Muni Metro system. A year later, VTA extended its light rail service from north Santa Clara to the Mountain View station.

In June 2003, a passenger connection for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Caltrain systems opened at Millbrae station just south of the San Francisco International Airport.

In 2008, Caltrain reached an all-time high of 98 trains each weekday.

Caltrain announced on August 19, 2011 a staff recommendation to sign a five-year, $62.5 million contract with TransitAmerica Services, after taking proposals from three other firms, including Amtrak California, which had provided operating employees since 1992. The new operating contract was approved by the full Joint Powers Board at its scheduled September 1 meeting. TransitAmerica Services took over not only the conductor and engineer jobs on the trains, but also dispatching and maintenance of equipment, track, and right-of-way from Amtrak. On May 26, 2012, TransitAmerica took over full operations.


Baby Bullet service was originally provided by MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives, although currently both types of equipment are used.

(Renyseneb at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Baby Bullet service

Main article: Caltrain Express (Coming Soon)

In June 2004, Caltrain finished its two-year CTX (Caltrain Express) project for a new express service called the Baby Bullet. The project entailed new bypass tracks in Brisbane and Sunnyvale as well as a new centralized traffic control system. The Baby Bullet trains reduced travel time by stopping at only four or five stations between San Francisco and San Jose Diridon station; the express trains could overtake local trains at the two locations (near Bayshore and Lawrence stations) where passing loops were added. Travel time for about 46.75 miles between San Francisco and San Jose is 57 minutes (four stops), 59 minutes (five stops) or 61 minutes (six stops), compared to 1 hour 30 minutes for local trains. The Baby Bullets have the same top speed of 79 mph (127 km/h) as other trains, but fewer stops save time. The CTX project included the purchase of new Bombardier BiLevel Coaches along with MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives. The Baby Bullets proved popular, but many riders had longer commutes on non-bullet trains, some of which would wait for Baby Bullet trains to pass.


Logos, markings, and liveries

During the initial years as the state was assuming control (1980–1985), locomotives and rolling stock were leased from Southern Pacific. The leased "suburban" and "gallery" coaches continued to wear SP's standard dark grey. Locomotives wore SP's "Bloody Nose" paint scheme.

An experimental scheme was applied to SP/CDTX No. 3187 and three gallery cars (SP/CDTX Nos. 3700, 3701, 3702), unveiled on May 15, 1982; the locomotive had a red nose and both locomotive and cars had the body painted silver (upper half) and dark blue (lower half) blue, separated by three stripes (blue, teal, and red). The scheme was nicknamed "Rainbow", "Postal Service", or "Mailbox".

When new equipment was introduced in 1985, CalTrain adopted a new logo and painted the newly acquired silver EMD F40PH locomotives with teal and blue stripes, matching the colors in the Caltrans logo.

After the new Caltrain logo was adopted in 1997, the F40PH locomotives were repainted to gray with a black roof, and the MPI MP36 locomotives ordered for Baby Bullet service wore gray with red accents.


SP No. 3193 wears "Bloody Nose" pulling 3-car consist past San Mateo in 1980. (Roger Puta, Courtesy Marty Bernard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


SP No. 3187 repainted in experimental CALTRAIN "Rainbow" livery in 1985. (Roger Puta, Courtesy Marty Bernard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

916 "California" wears blue and teal stripes under state control in 1985. (Roger Puta, Courtesy Marty Bernard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

907 "Mountain View" with Caltrans blue-and-teal stripes with the three "Rainbow" gallery cars CDTX 3700, 3701, 3702 in 1985. (Drew Jacksich, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

New logo, new livery for F40PH in 2012. (Pedro Xing, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

MPI MP36 locomotives still carry as-ordered gray and red livery, 2007. (Lucius Kwok from New York, NY, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Stadler KISS for Caltrain near the U.S. assembly plant in Salt Lake City.

A BNSF flatcar carrying a Stadler KISS EMU en route to Caltrain on Union Pacific Railroad's Provo Subdivision at the 1700 South crossing in Salt Lake City.

The EMU will be put into service along the San Francisco Peninsula as part of the CalMod project.

(Martijn van Exel, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)


Modernization and electrification

More information here: Caltrain Modernization Program
The Caltrain Modernization Program will electrify the main line between San Francisco and the San Jose Tamien station, allowing transition from diesel-electric locomotive power to electric rolling stock. Proponents say electrification would improve service times via faster acceleration, allow better scheduling and reduce air pollution and noise. Electrification would also allow future expansion to downtown San Francisco.


EMD F40PH-2. (DF4D-0070, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


EMD F40PH-2CAT. (Kabelleger / David Gubler (http://www.bahnbilder.ch), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


MPI F40PH-2C. (DF4D-0070, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

EMD MP15DC. (Mliu92, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


EMD AEM-7AC. (Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Front view of first Caltrain EMU trainset on Pueblo test track. (Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Rolling stock


Prior to 1985, Caltrain used equipment leased from Southern Pacific, including SP/CDTX 3187, an EMD GP9 repainted in prototype Caltrain livery and other locomotives that had been used for the Peninsula Commute service. Since 1985, Caltrain has used the following locomotives, which are almost all powered by diesel engines:

Builder Model Locomotive numbers Years of Service Notes
EMD GP9 3187 1980–1985 Experimental "Rainbow" livery, leased from SP during transition to Caltrain.
EMD F40PH-2 902, 903, 907, 910, 914 1985–present Ordered new by Caltrans; Overhauled by Alstom in 1999; HEP generators retained original gear drive from main engine. To be retired when electric service starts.
EMD F40PH-2CAT 900, 901, 904–906, 908, 909, 911–913, 915–919 1985–present Originally F40PH-2s; ordered new by Caltrans; overhauled by Alstom in 1999 and HEP generators were converted to separate Caterpillar 6-cylinder engines. Units 918 and 919 entered service in 1987. To be retired when electric service starts.
MPI F40PH-2C 920–922 1998–present Cummins-powered HEP generators; underwent mid-life overhaul by MPI at Boise, Idaho between 2017 and 2020.
EMD GP9 500, 501 1999–2013 Work train/yard switcher service. Leased, then purchased from Power Fluids & Metals in 2000 to support right-of-way rebuild under the Ponderosa Project. 500 and 501 are ex-SP 3833 & SP 3842, respectively. Sold to Motive Power Resources late 2012, left Caltrain on March 8, 2013.
MPI MP36PH-3C 923–928 2003–present Primarily used for "Baby Bullet" service. Locomotive No. 925 named after Jackie Speier; undergoing mid-life overhaul by Alstom at Mare Island in 2020
EMD AEM-7AC 929, 938 2023 (estimated) Ex-Amtrak AEM-7AC units 929 and 938, used for testing electrification.

Caltrain also leased a number of Amtrak F40PH's in 1998 and 1999 while Caltrain's F40PH-2's were being overhauled.


Interior of a Nippon Sharyo bi-level passenger car.

(Hydrogen Iodide at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Passenger cars

Currently, Caltrain trains consist of one locomotive and a five- or six-car consist. Trains run in a puller configuration (led by the locomotive) towards San Jose and in a pusher configuration (led by the cab car) towards San Francisco, so the orientation of cars remains consistent.

From north to south, Nippon Sharyo five-car gallery consists are arranged as:

  1. Cab/bike car
  2. Passenger trailer
  3. Passenger/luggage trailer
  4. Bike car
  5. Passenger trailer
  6. Locomotive

From north to south, Bombardier bi-level six-car consists are arranged as:

  1. Cab/bike car
  2. Passenger trailer
  3. Passenger/luggage trailer
  4. Bike car
  5. Bike car (ex-Metrolink)
  6. Passenger trailer
  7. Locomotive

Caltrain has 93 Nippon Sharyo bi-level Gallery-type cars and 41 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches in revenue service as of 2017. Each revenue train consist is made up of a single type of car; the Bombardier cars are never mixed with the Nippon-Sharyo gallery cars. Of the Gallery cars, 66 are coaches and 27 are bike-accessible cab cars. Caltrans purchased the first 63 gallery cars in 1985 when it began subsidizing the commuter rail service. The other 30 were purchased by Caltrain in 2000, and the older cars were rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo around the same time. Each gallery car has one set of doors on each side of the car.

The first 17 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches were purchased as surplus from Sounder Commuter Rail in 2002, of which 10 are coaches, 5 are cab-bike cars, and 2 are cab-wheelchair cars. Caltrain purchased additional eight cars in 2008 to meet short-term passenger growth and to increase spare ratio. These Bombardier cars were initially only used on Baby Bullet express trains, but now also used on limited-stop and local trains.

All five-car Bombardier sets were lengthened to six-car Bombardier sets using surplus ex-Metrolink cars in May 2015. In July 2016, six-car Bombardier sets replaced some five-car gallery sets to relieve overcrowding. In November 2016, Caltrain rolled out six-car gallery sets for certain trains to further relieve overcrowding; the longer trains are intended to be temporary measures to increase capacity until more frequent service can be achieved with electrification.


JPBX 165, an ex-Metrolink car in Caltrain service.

(mliu92 from San Mateo, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Ex-Metrolink cars

Caltrain purchased 16 used Bombardier Bi-Level Coaches from Metrolink in 2014 to cope with increasing ridership by lengthening certain Bombardier sets from five to six cars. The $15 million purchase was financed by a farebox revenue fund. Since the cars had retired from Metrolink service, they required up to a year of rehabilitation before being placed in service with Caltrain. The ex-Metrolink cars were of older Series 1 and 2 that have riveted bodies, instead of the welded bodies in the Series 6 and 7 cars that Caltrain had purchased starting from 2002.

Four of the cars were put into service in May 2015 while other cars await their refurbishments. Ex-Metrolink cars have retained their Metrolink blue-on-white livery, but Metrolink logos have been painted over and rolling stock numbers have been repainted with JPBX numbers.


Ex-VRE Budd cars

Caltrain bought 14 remanufactured Budd Rail Diesel Car ("Boise Budd") single-level cars from Virginia Railway Express around 2000 for use on Special-Event trains. A seven-car special train took fans to the first game at Pac Bell Park on March 31, 2000. The northbound train ran at an estimated 125% of capacity and skipped stops after Hillsdale because it was already well above seated capacity. These cars were sold in 2005 after Bombardier cars were delivered and are now in service on the Grand Canyon Railway.


Passenger Cars of Caltrain

Builder Model Type Numbers Quantity Seats Year entered service Year left service Notes
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Trailer-Luggage 3800-3825 26 142 1985 Rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo 2001–02
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Trailer-Bike 3826-3835 10 108 1985 Rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo 2001–02
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Trailer 3836-3841 6 148 1985 Rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo 2001–02
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Trailer 3842-3851 10 148 1986 3842 built in 1987. Rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo 2001–02
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Trailer 3852-3865 14 120 2000 With wheelchair space and bathroom
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Cab-Bike 4000-4020 21 97 1985 With bathroom
Nippon Sharyo Gallery Cab-Bike 4021-4026 6 78 2000 With wheelchair space and bathroom
Bombardier Bi-Level Trailer-Bike 219 1 127 2003
Bombardier Bi-Level Trailer 220-226, 229-230 9 144 2002 220 & 226 built 2003. With accessible bathroom
Bombardier Bi-Level Trailer 231-236 6 140 2008
Bombardier Bi-Level Trailer 164; 165; 167; 169; 170-173; 175-182 16 149 2015 With accessible bathroom. Purchased from Metrolink. Originally built in 1997.
Bombardier Bi-Level Cab-Bike 112-118 7 114 2002 With accessible bathroom
Bombardier Bi-Level Cab-Bike 119-120 2 114 2008 With accessible bathroom
Budd Rail Diesel Car Trailer 400-403; 406-407; 410-411; 413, 415, 425, 428 12 2000 2005 (engine removed) Built in 1952, acquired in 2000 for use on special event trains. Sold to Grand Canyon Railway in 2005.
Budd Rail Diesel Car Cab Control 1400, 1406 2 2000 2005 (engine removed) Built in 1952, acquired in 2000 for use on special event trains. Sold to Grand Canyon Railway in 2005.

A train consisting of new Stadler KISS EMUs undergoing testing in San Jose in November 2023.

(Dllu, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Electric multiple units

In August 2016, Caltrain awarded a $551 million contract to produce the trainsets needed for running on the electrified line – 96 Stadler KISS EMUs arranged into 16 trainsets will be delivered for testing by August 2019. Under the contract, Caltrain had the option to procure an additional 96 units in the future for an additional $385 million. In December 2018, Caltrain was reportedly carrying 65,000 passengers a day, and expected to have 240,000 daily riders in 2040. Therefore, after funding was received from the California State Transportation Agency's Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, Caltrain's board approved the purchase of additional cars from Stadler to increase the fleet from 16 six-car sets to 19 seven-car sets.

In August 2023, Caltrain exercised an option order for four additional seven-car EMU trainsets ($220 million) and a single four-car battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) trainset ($80 million). This will result in a fleet of 23 EMU trainsets, six diesel-hauled trainsets, and one BEMU trainset by 2030, with over 90% of service using electric trains. The BEMU trainset will be used on the non-electrified portion of the corridor between San Jose and Gilroy.

New trains will be double-decked, 515 feet 3 inches (157.05 m) long and equipped for both 22-and-50.5-inch (559 and 1,283 mm) platform heights in anticipation of sharing facilities with California High-Speed Rail trains. Units can reach speeds of 110 mph (177 km/h), though operations will likely be limited to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h).

Acceleration of the EMUs should be substantially better than current trains. The existing diesel-electric locomotives offer a starting tractive effort of 65,000 lbf (290 kN) for an EMD F40PH-2 and 85,000 lbf (380 kN) for an MPI M36PH-3C, while a six-car KISS EMU set has a starting tractive effort of 121,400 lbf (540 kN).

The first Stadler KISS was completed by Stadler's Salt Lake City factory in July 2020. It was taken to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, for high-speed testing.


Caltrain 150th Documentary - The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad

In 2014 Caltrain celebrated 150 years of rail service between San Francisco and San Jose. The founding company was the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which was incorporated in 1860. The company completed the line between the two Northern California cities in 1864. The railroad was a precursor to the Transcontinental Railroad and the oldest continuously run passenger railroad west of the Mississippi. This documentary captures the story of the railroad from its inception in 1860 until it was acquired by Southern Pacific and incorporated into one of the largest railroads the world has ever known.

Proposed Plans, Ticketing, Ridership, etc.

For more detailed information on the above and other Caltrain subjects click HERE.